What I’m Reading

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. The Dame Smackdown continues apace, I am told we are neck and neck. So exciting!

I was asked earlier today what I’m reading. I do think that in order to write, one must read. You learn so much from seeing how other people choose to string words together. Reading gives you an idea of tone and pacing; it helps you distinguish underlying structure, and every once in a while it gives you some pretty good thrills.

I tend not to read in the genre I’m currently writing in–for example, if I’m writing YA, I can’t read other YAs; if I’m working on an urban fantasy book I can’t read another one. Something about reading in the genre I’m writing in at the moment induces burnout in a big way. I am told this is not so for other writers, but it’s that way for me. So while I’m writing fiction I tend to read a lot of nonfiction or fiction in other genres; I have to wait until I’m working on trunk novels or in revision before I can read in the genres I work in.

So, here are the books I’m working on now:

* Unlawful Contact, Pamela Clare My writing partner tells me Clare’s heroes are almost as effed-up as Anne Stuart’s. I love me a good self-loathing hero, and it’s refreshing to read a romance with no paranormal overtones. While I can almost never write a romance without a paranormal element, I do love to read them. I’m only about thirty pages in, but the prognosis is good. Clare’s craft is solid; I am almost never jolted out of the story by the need to reach for my red pen.

* Before Stalingrad, David Glantz The battle of Stalingrad is one of my particular interests; it’s an intensification of my interest in the Eastern Front in both world wars. Not too long ago my writing partner called me and said, “I know you don’t watch TV…but there’s something on Stalingrad on PBS.” I was incredibly excited until I realized I hadn’t watched the telly in so long our set wouldn’t even pick up OPB. *sadface* But then I found the show she was talking about on the Intertubes, and harmony was restored. And what do you know–the show introduced me to David Glantz, who I hadn’t heard of before. (How is that possible? I’m wondering now. But better late than never.) So I’m indulging in a few of his books, and so far have not been disappointed one bit.

* The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon I keep hearing a lot about this book, so I’m giving it a whirl. I’m only three pages in, so it’s too soon to tell.

* Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860, Jane Tompkins I loved Tompkins’s book about the Western, and I occasionally read lit crit just for the fun of it. (The Selkie tells me I’m mad, but what does she know? She’s just my writing partner.) Anyway, this is my second time through this particular book, I’m slowing down and really picking apart sentences the way I didn’t do the first time. Tompkins’s contention that you can’t divorce a novel and the experience of reading it from cultural and social expectations and assumptions is pretty thought-provoking.

* A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, Orlando Figes Well, after reading Robert Service’s biographies of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin one after another, I really figured there was nothing for it but to read about the wider context of the world they operated in. Whenever I tell people that I’m interested in the Russian Revolution I get the same response: “I try reading Russian history, but then I stop. It’s so…depressing.” Well, yeah. Not for the faint of heart, I assure you. Figes has nice clear prose and a way of untangling events that doesn’t make me feel stupid; plus he sticks with one name for one person instead of doing a fricking Tolstoy and giving you first name, patronymic, last name, and nicknames all at different times so you think one character is four effing people. It really is sometimes the little things that make the difference.

So that’s what I’m reading now. Very little of it informs the book in progress, which is a YA. I tried picking up a YA the other day, but I could only get a couple sentences in before my eyes glazed over and my head started to hurt. I don’t know why I can’t read in whatever genre I’m writing in at the moment; I think my Muse needs a varied diet and likes to separate work and play. Who knows?

Anyway, dear Reader, that’s the answer to that question. You can check out my Goodreads page for more updates; and I’ll leave you with a question of my own: what are you reading right now, and why? What do you like (or not like) about it?

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Publishing And Misplaced Punishment

Why was I up at 6am this morning? Oh, yeah. Getting the morning run out of the way so I can hit an early open climb at the rock wall. Yes, I am going to be attempting my first open climb. I hope nobody laughs at me and I hope I don’t embarrass myself. It’s bad enough that I’m going to be wearing capris. LOOK, I HAVE TO, ALL RIGHT? They allow freedom of movement and don’t interfere with my foot and toeholds the way jeans or my yoga pants do.

Anyway.

John Scalzi, as usual, hits it out of the park with Why “Punishing The Publisher” Usually Doesn’t:

So, on one hand, the attempt on the part of the potential reader to send a message to the publisher via the refusal to buy a particular work has succeeded. On the other hand, the message the publisher has received is “this author can’t sell.” To be fair, this has more to do with the publisher than with the reader. But that doesn’t change the result for the author. (John Scalzi)

YES. *points at Scalzi* What he said.

I wish I could make some people–including some people who have recently tried to take me to task and explain to me “how publishing REALLY works”–read this. Of course, it probably wouldn’t do a lot of good, for the simple reason that a lot of people who try to tell me “how publishing REALLY works” have no fricking idea; they have an emotional hobbyhorse to ride and it involves blaming Big Bad Publishing (which, like most straw men, doesn’t really exist) for their various ills in one way or another. I’d be a lot more likely to believe them and listen if they had, oh let’s say, any real publishing experience. And no, vanity press or one self-published missive full of typos does not count as experience that qualifies someone to be nasty or condescending to me about publishing.

But I digress. Moving on.

Scalzi highlights something I wish more people understood, and I know plenty of authors try to educate their readers about: that the publisher is generally consistently trying the best they can, but they are also hedging their bets. When bets are hedged and a reader decides to “punish” a publisher by not buying a certain author (especially when this “punishment” is aimed at something like a distribution problem that is not the publisher’s fault), what happens is that the author gets screwed. Which means that the reader has shot him/herself in the foot, because it’s now harder for the author to bring you those stories you love.

I’m not saying that readers shouldn’t be angry. What I’m saying is that readers need to direct that anger at the companies that are actually to blame–companies like Amazon, or distributors of ebooks who don’t like the agency model. Those are the institutions that deserve a reader’s ire in the current brouhaha over ebook pricing. Not the author, who ends up getting the full force of the misplaced “punishment”.

If you will, allow me to suggest to you another course of action in situations like these: Rather than “punishing the publisher” by not buying a particular book you would otherwise buy, support the author by purchasing the book. Why? Because the support you give an author allows that author to have a better bargaining position with the publisher the next time the two of them negotiate a contract, and you know what? Generally speaking, authors like being able to make potential readers happy, and thanks to that there thing called “the Internets,” authors are often aware of the wishes and desires of their readers and will try to make them happy whenever possible. (John Scalzi)

I know I do, dear Readers. Every other writer I know does, too. We want to make you happy. We like you.

Over and out.

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Lucky Day

Just had a surprise visit from a very nice young man from the cable company. He found the source of the persistent problem I’ve been having, and fixed it in under twenty minutes. That was nice. Between that and the absolutely fantastic run I had this morning, today is apparently going to be lucky. Maybe I should buy a lotto ticket. *snort* Nah, I’ll just settle for getting my wordcount and errands all done in today.

Here, have a link: Ilona Andrews explains further about ebook pricing and distribution.

I have to admit I was naughty yesterday after I finished wordcount. I watched Dracula 2000 again–mostly because my hairdresser friend texted me about Gerard Butler and once I started thinking about it I was helpless and HAD to watch that movie. They don’t let him talk much, which is a good thing. He’s so pretty and brooding. Then I actually picked up smoke and reread it. I don’t do that often, and of course I see glaring errors in the book and Rose irritates me almost to tears, and I want to absolutely strangle Michael every time. But I think it’s time for me to schedule in some work on avatar.

So, yes, naughty. But I got my wordcount in, and it felt good to relax a little bit. I am slowly relearning the skill of actual relaxation. I haven’t had much call to practice it in the last twenty-eight years or so, and my fumbling attempts at taking a chill or two are probably hilarious to watch. That’s okay. At least I do it at home, where looking ridiculous is sort of expected.

That being said, I’ve got more words and appointments today. So it’s back into the fray, dear ones, where I shall harvest what luck I may. Catch you later.

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Zero Drafts And Hip Tats

I really don’t have much to report today. Yesterday was the first rock-climbing class (not mine, mine got rescheduled) and it looks like the kids are going to love it. I also visited the dentist yesterday. Big fun. They act like I’m a big baby when I insist on the nitrous, but I don’t care. It’s stressful enough enduring fillings; why suffer if I don’t have to?

Today I got the outline of the first of a pair of hip tattoos. I was kind of dreading it, but actually the hip isn’t that bad. My back was loads worse, especially around my ribs. Ouch! But the hip was ticklish-painful in a couple places, otherwise not so bad. Yes, I will probably have a couple pictures when everything heals up. I just hate looking at pictures of freshly-done tats; they look so raw. Plus, I’m pretty pale and I flush very easily (you wouldn’t think it, but I do blush at the drop of a hat) and it always looks worse on me, especially since I only get black-and-white work done.

Last but not least, I finished the zero draft of a teaser for Angel Town, the last (planned) Kismet book. I’m giving it a day to rest, polishing tomorrow, then sneaking it in under the wire for inclusion in Heaven’s Spite. Now I can turn my attention to the Selene & Nikolai short, which I planned the skeleton for yesterday. I will post more about where and how the short will appear (it will be in a print anthology if everything works out all right) as soon as we have definitive answers.

Whenever I do a short story, I usually do at least two or three “false starts” before I find the real story. Then I bang my head against the first few scenes of the real story, and finally in exasperation do a sort of halfass outline of the rest, scene by scene and planning for each scene to be 1-1.5K. Then I let the thing rest for a day, and suddenly when I go back to it everything spills out in a rush like it was just waiting for me to show up. I’ve learned not to agonize over this process too much. The false starts are frustrating, but they sometimes provide a base for other things, so I just stick them in the graveyard and be done with them.

And…that’s all the news that’s fit to print. I’m going to go back to my coffee and poking at the short story now. After that beast is zero-drafted I have a first pass on the fourth Dru book to perform, and the end of May should see me with nothing on my slate but proof pages and Angel Town.

Ahhh, that sounds like heaven. Catch you later.

PS: I am still ruminating on my next laptop possibly being a Mac. Feel free to go comment, answer questions, give me the benefit of your thinking.

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Where Did Spring Break Go?

Rock climbing classes for the kids start this week. My own class got pushed back to May for some reason. Oh well. Plus there’s a trip to the dentist in my future. Fortunately the dentist’s office understands about My Issues: “Tell me what you’re going to do before you do it. Keep me updated. If there is a chance of it hurting, warn me. If I lift my left hand or wave, stop and tell me what you’re doing. I find this stressful and this will make it easier for both of us.”

You know, once you start setting boundaries it just never stops. *snort*

I’m also trying out a new workspace, sitting on an exercise ball instead of cross-legged in the CHAIR. We’ll see if that ameliorates some of the pain issues I’ve been having. Changing around the workspace is a good way for me to really prove I can write whenever, wherever. So, we’ll see.

Also, I am considering a Mac for my next laptop. I hear good things about them. So, if The Great Interwebs can answer a few questions, I’d be grateful.

1. How’s the keyboard action on a Mac? I love my current Asus, but the keyboard really leaves a little to be desired.
2. Does MSOffice work okay on Mac? I love Word and Excel and don’t want to change to a new word-processing program. Specifically, does Word on Mac have trouble opening .docx files?
3. Is it worth the initial price? I mean, do they last longer than PC laptops?
4…oh, there is no 4. I guess it’s just three questions. Comments and answers appreciated.

Also, I am a bit silly from a late night last night. Nothing dire, just up chatting with a friend. Wrenching my schedule back to normality from the chaos of Spring Break (most days I slept in until *gasp* 9AM! Unheard-of, I know!) is predictably making me a little goony today. If you see me on Twitter, it’s probably going to be goofiness. You’ve been warned.

Last but not least, can I please write one short story that doesn’t require three or four effing starts thrown out before I get something usable? I’m under deadline here, Muse. Kthxbai.

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Biscuits, Tea, And A Sock Monkey

Yesterday I braved Portland traffic (thank God for GPS) and hopped over to Pine State Biscuits for lunch with Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, and Richelle Mead. Oh, LORD. It was great.

The food was delicious–they bake a mean biscuit over there, as attested by the size of the crowd lining up at the door. It’s a tiny place, but we scored a table. The table itself groaned under our selections, because everything looked good. I tried my first fried green tomato; I was not brave enough for the andouille corndog. Both Jaye and Mark were brave enough for that corndog, though, and pronounced themselves ruined for all other weiners for life.

You can kind of guess how lunch conversation went. This is one of the reasons I love hanging around writers. At one point we were all sitting around giving serious consideration to stalker zombies and build-your-own smut scenes. Though that was later at Tao of Tea, where we sat and had a bit of tea to wash some of what we ate out of our systems. (Note: it didn’t work. But I tried.) Anyway, if you want some good down-home biscuits (not to mention collard greens, Southern sodas, or fried green tomatoes, oh my GOD so good), Pine State is worth the trouble and the crowd. And Tao of Tea is such a neat little place!

I can’t guarantee the conversation will be as raunchy, but I can guarantee the food and tea are damn good.

I got home and did some yardwork right before a stormy afternoon rolled in. Two sessions of hail, thunder, torrential rain–March went out like a lion here in my piece of the world. This morning’s sunny, but I’m thinking the weather is playing an April Fool’s joke on me. (The Little Prince’s April 1 joke was propping a sock monkey up in my writing chair. I was uncaffeinated when I saw it, and my start of surprise made him giggle.)

In other news, I finished Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart. I realized at the end that all Murakami’s narrators are gateways–things come through them, they don’t necessarily act or react. I read Murakami because he evokes a certain mood in me, just like Duras. Sean Stewart also sometimes taps a particular mood; I’m so busy skating along the surface of the story I rarely take a look below at the mechanics of craft. Which is damn rare, for me. It seems I can’t help but read as if I’m going to edit the damn book. Which might be why I’m generally on such a nonfiction kick, occasional grammatical hoohaws and typos don’t bother me so much.

And now I must bring this ramble to a close. There’s a lot to get done today, from wordcount to correspondence.

Back into the belly of the beast I go. I’m still tasting those fried green tomatoes. And I’m happy about that.

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Audiobook Wow

My God, you guys. I just listened to the boathouse scene in Betrayals on audiobook. (Strange Angels is here.) A copy of it was just delivered today, and OH MY GOD, you GUYS, the woman reading it is spectacular. She just nails Christophe. It’s amazing. I finished listening to the scene and had cold chills.

It’s an exotic experience to hear words that you agonized over read professionally. I just about came out of my skin, I was jumping up and down and squealing so hard. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to listen to my own work in audiobook format. It’s so strange. But ZOMG, wow. I was blown away.

Little things like this totally make my day.

I have to zip, because I’m in a ticklish spot with the current book and I want to get a good handle on a showdown scene before everyone comes home for the day. But I just had to pop in and tell you that. Plus, stay tuned for an upcoming contest! I have a Reader Request for the mark Japhrimel put on Dante’s shoulder; I know what it looks like but I think I need an artist to draw it for me. I think this particular Reader is planning to do something with whatever I come up with, so that’s a consideration.

If you’re not an artist, don’t worry. There will be a contest for you to win something too!

Anyway, off I go. I am grinning foolishly and not at all calm right now.

Some days I love being me.

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