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Terri thinks

Five Things Authors Must Do From A Reader’s Point Of View

1. Respect your reader’s intelligence.

I am tired of books who spell EVERYTHING out instead of realizing the person reading the book has something of substance between her ears. Read this to see what I mean:

 

Terri spent most of the day cleaning. A clean house shows better than a dirty one. After last night’s storm, this hot, steamy, summer Georgia morning made cleaning even harder. There almost wasn’t enough time to clean up before her date with Jeff. She desperately needed to shower away all the sweat and grim typical to Georgia in the summer, the morning after a storm.

Now before you ask, I made up this passage, so please do not think it is from one of the books I have read for a review. Did you catch the issue? I think it is a very safe bet to assume your reader will know about summers in the south. If you don’t, let me fill you in, it’s hot and the morning after a nighttime storm it’s miserable.  Perhaps the reader has spent her whole life on Antarctica and has no knowledge of the weather patterns in the southern states. The author does have the responsibility to create a full experience for the reader. However, look closer at the passage:

After last night’s storm… summer Georgia morning… Georgia in the summer, the morning after a storm

We get it. It’s hot, it’s the morning after a storm, and it’s in Georgia.  Trust your reader to understand the first time she reads it. If this detail is important to the story, reiterate a different way, or better yet show the reader.

2. Know when to end your story.

I love stories. Trust me when I say that is not an exaggeration. I have withdraws when I don’t read for a few days. I actually get moody. Sometimes I feel depressed when I finish a book. If it is a series, I jump into the next book, but when that series ends- oh boy I may not be a very nice person (you could even call me that word that rhymes with ditch). However, all good things must come to an end. I can’t tell how YOU will know because it is YOUR story, but a hero doesn’t need to face obstacle after obstacle.

3. Interact with your readers socially.

Do you know why I review books? Yes, I get free books and that’s way cool. But I like working with the authors. It’s exciting to meet an author and help them promote their book. Many of the authors I work with are indie authors and they need all the help they can get. I see it like rooting for the little gal. I know these authors are busy. It takes less than a second to like a post. It takes about two minutes to share a post or respond to it. When an author responds to me socially, IT MAKES MY DAY. I totally geek out. I have printed screen shots of some of the interactions I’ve had.  See, every author has done the one thing I have been working towards- they have finished a book. I admire each author I’ve reviewed, interviewed, and spotlighted.

4. Don’t always use a thesaurus.

Read this:

Terri waltzed into the room wearing an accouterment made of dazzling baubles. Every fellow in the ostentatious room turned his craniumum to watch her flow down the staircase.

I understand not using the same old words over and over. However, it’s ok to just say:

Terri looked so hot as she walked down the stairs that every guy in the joint turned to watch her.

5. Use a professional editor.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is I cannot edit myself. When I read what I’ve written I see it the way it should be. Please pay for a good editor. Find one who will not only check grammar but will also make sure the main character stays blonde throughout the whole story. Read this and see if you can find the mistake.

Terri leaned in to talk to Jeff. The music loudly played, making it hard for any kind of polite coversation.

I’ll just share this to show you what I mean:

This post may make some mad. That’s not what I want. What I want is for every writer who dreamed of finishing a book to not only make it to THE END but to succeed.  So who am I to write this? I’m a reader who’s read over a hundred books last year and has read over fifty books so far this year. I’ve read multiple genres from both indie and traditionally published authors.  Books are who I am. They are in my blood.

NaNo- NOT!

books-690219_1280NaNoWriMo, NaNo for short, is a non-profit organization that organizes  the month-long write in to encourage participants to tell their story. The goal is to sit and write 1,167 each day with the hopes of developing a lifelong habit. So each November thousands of people work hard towards an almost impossible goal; write 50,000 words towards a novel. I say “almost impossible” because I have done it twice. But this year… well… it just didn’t happen and that’s ok.

We are committed to creating real-life, vibrant, literate communities. (NaNo website)

I tried to prepare myself mentally, by creating outlines and several character sketches. I researched the best notebook to use and if it was better to write longhand or type it all in a computer. I got the NaNo book, No Plot? No Problem and read every word. (It’s a good book, by the way). I thought I cleared my schedule. I even arranged to be away from the kids for a week to visit one of the most literary towns, New York. I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I just couldn’t get behind anything. I had some great ideas, but none of them screamed at me in the middle of the night. I wish I knew some spell or I could flick my wand and make everything better (maybe that would be something like “Expecto Justdoit”). 

I suppose I could come up with several good excuses, but November is over and like I tell my children I have two choices. I can continue in whatever funk I’m in or I can try to move beyond it. I first need to except that for me writing is not just a matter of sitting at a desk and writing or typing a random collection of letters to create sentences. For me, it feels like I always write in blood and I expose a little part of my soul each time. Even writing the posts for this blog feels over personal sometimes. I have to take the “I” out of “WRITE”.

What?!

No, I am not creating new words nor am I trying to create the next viral meme. I just need to stop taking everything so personal and worrying about what everyone will think. I have read so much about the art of writing, it is no longer fun. I focus too much on choosing the right word, creating a smooth flow of events, and developing strong characters. Writing has become more work than anything else.

That is why NaNo didn’t happen for me this year- analysis paralysis. There’s too much information about how to write and each person claims that their information is THE WAY. Now please don’t get me wrong. I think it is important to increase my knowledge in the craft, but it gets to be too much. I think I need to slowly back away from the huge stack of writing books on my desk and the even bigger collection of writing links I have saved.

One of the best parts of this blog is reading great stories. The authors who share their books with me have stories inside them that need to come out and all of them have done the one thing I’ve wanted to do since I was in the second grade. I think each of them, and every author for that matter, has done something that seems almost impossible for me to do and that is each of them have just let go and opened themselves up to share their story. Don’t really know why it is so hard for me to completely let go and just go for it. If I had to make a guess, I would say that it stems from my fear of losing control. But what would happen if I let my characters and my stories take control and just followed along? Would I finally be able to write that book?

So like I said before, I have two choices; continue down this road of not getting any writing done or fix it. I don’t think I have an instant fix, but this NaNo I did take a good look at how I spend my time. I discovered that doing homeschool in the morning right after I exercised actually gave me a bigger chunk of time to work rather than working a few hours in the morning, then homeschool, then working again. That system has too many transitions. I now make sure there is time in my schedule to exercise. I think better for longer periods when I exercise on a regular basis.

I plan on setting “the book” aside for a little bit and focusing more of short stories and flash fiction. I think the instant gratification these shorter pieces provide will motivate me more. I’m still addicted to writing books. I just bought James Scott Bell’s new book, How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing CareerI justify it by claiming that seems to fall into my new plan, but really? I guess for some people it’s shoes and for me, it’s writing books.

Maybe by preparing for NaNo 2017 now, I’ll do better. It’s a shame it didn’t work out this year, though- I really liked the t-shirts.

It’s Not Over ‘Til the Fat Martian Sings (subgenre series part 4)

ufo-788746_1920This is part of an ongoing series on the various subgenres within science fiction and fantasy. The rest of the series can be found here.

When I first heard the term “space opera”, I had visions of martians and space rangers singing in opera form on a stage. I was ignorant of this genre. A few people in my writing group talked very passionately about space operas and I had a hard time not laughing. However, in researching this series I was fascinated to find out what all is involved in this.

Space Opera is a subset genre positing a relatively optimistic future of grand technologies, space faring civilizations both Human and Alien and often a tumultuous relationship between them. Once considered a pejorative, it has slowly become an accepted term. (citation)

As with every subset of the science fiction genre, there are many arguments about what exactly, space opera is. The earliest most notable work is E.E. “Doc” Smith’s series Lensman and Skylark. Both of these series involved an almost “Old West” setting in outer space. These series involve grand universes, somewhat impossible technology, and impressive battles. The main difference between plain science fiction and space opera lies in the intent. Space opera is very melodramatic and over the top. Think soap operas set in space.

In my opinion, space opera seems like a marriage between fantasy and science fiction. For example, Star WarsStar Trek, and Dune are examples of space operas. But until I started researching for this post, I though all three of these stories mirrored fantasy as much as science fiction. I think this is a great example of how labels are not concrete, at least they shouldn’t be. I have heard people talk about Dune more as some kind of environmental fiction. (Hey maybe I’ll start a whole new punk subgenre- Green Punk).

A great example of this subgenre is a 2011 movie, Cowboys and Aliens. Set in 1873, a group of cowboys must fight against an alien invasion with only the technology available to them. Of course, the aliens are much more technically advanced, but the heroes of the movie find a way to triumphant over the bad guys. I actually liked this movie, but it may have more to do with the eye candy (hello Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford). As I watched it, I felt it was a parody and some kind of comical mashup of two types movie tropes. Now I see how perfectly this fits as a space opera.

So even though this genre doesn’t involve aliens singing in loud soprano or rich tenor voices, the drama and epic storytelling makes this a genre I enjoy and need to add more to my to-be-read shelf.

Twas the Night Before NaNoWriMo

once-upon-a-time-719174_1920Twas the night before NaNoWriMo

When all through my house

My family was sleeping

While I found my muse to arouse

I thought I was prepared

I thought I knew

But 50,000 words

Oh man, I’m screw(ed)

My snowflakes were aligned

My outline, clear as a Bell

I’d consulted the Masters

And dug deep in the Patterson well.

There was now way I could Butcher this.

For my Moleskine was in hand

I declared

I’m the King of this land.

So for the next 30 days

I’ll follow my plan

I think my main character

Will have A Tan

No matter what

It’s the fun of it all

Whether I fly cross the finish line

Or end in a crawl

Oh, by the way, have you seen my pants?

 

Spotlight Share- Cover Me Darling

easy-reading-is-damn-hard-writingnathaniel-hawthorneSince I started this blog and started working with authors, I’ve learned just how much work it takes to make a book. What takes me as a reader a few hours to read will take an author days, weeks, months, or even years to put together. It is not just about putting some words together and slapping a cover on the front of your book.

Book covers sell books better than anything else. I can’t tell you how many books I have bought simply because I liked the cover. My TBR list increases every day. Those books look so pretty sitting on my shelf, but it’s getting harder and harder to find time to read them all (sometimes they talk to me, but that is whole different post)

Book covers can be as simple as this one:

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Or as complex as this one:

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The second cover is from The Book of Now by Sherry Rentschler. I helped finalize the second cover. It was my first time doing something like this. The design comes from Marisa-rose Shor at Cover Me Darling.

I worked with Marisa on another cover. I went to the photo shoot and helped create some of the poses for the model. I have no idea how many pictures she took, but it was amazing to see how she took a little piece of this one and a little piece of that one, changed colors, perspective, and size to create the final copy. I will reveal that cover soon.

Marisa not only designs covers, but she also designs logos and branding. She designed the logo for my site. Here is the final proof:

terriwilsonbrandingstandards

Getting a professional logo designed was the coolest professional thing I’ve ever done. It transformed my site from looking like a neophyte posted a few pictures and words together to looking like a professional site from someone who knows a lot more about what she’s doing.

Check out her website, her Facebook group, and Twitter

10 Reasons All Book Lovers Should Do NaNo

typewriter-1240422-1280x8501. To see your name on a book that someone else reads.
2. To appreciate what goes into putting a book together.
3. Ya know you have a story inside of you that needs to come out.
4. Rogue 1 won’t be out until after NaNo.
5. It’s fun.
6. All the cool kids are doing it.
7. You will  fall more in love  with books.
8. Learn about new genres.
9. It will feel great when your book club reviews your book.
10. Nothing beats the thrill of setting a big goal and nailing it. 

Granddaddy Cyberpunk (part 2 subgenres)

fractal-1741167_1920This is a continuation of a series I started last week.

In researching punk genres for this series, I soon realized that some people are passionate about labels. I came across several threads in chat rooms and forums, where posters actually argued over the essence of each of these subgenres. More than one included some very not so nice names and explicatives. I find it interesting. I understand the need for genre labels, but for me, the story is ALWAYS more important than the label.

Cyberpunk, as the ones I mentioned last week, stems from an alternative world. The story is often slanted towards a dystopian or post-apocalyptic world where the advances in technology serve to hurt the masses. The characters rebel against society in some form or fashion, often starting in small ways and then ending in a massive way. These characters are often hackers who have just a little more technology knowledge than the ruling party of the time. The stories take place in the future and authors often speculate about the technology that will be available at that time. However, authors are limited to their own frame of reference.

William Gibson author of Neuromancer is credited with jump-starting this genre.  The movies Blade Runner, Mad Max, and The Matrix and great theatrical examples of this genre. The name cyberpunk comes from the short story “Cyberpunk” by Bruce Bethke.

Cyberpunk almost seems satirical in nature. It serves to poke fun of current technology and highlight the dichotomy of the haves and the have-nots.  In the early ’80s when cyberpunk began, technology began to grow faster than it ever has. With the advent of the personal computer, what was once mostly used in businesses and governments now allowed everyone access to a new world. The corporate world demanded control over technology growth while many argued the possibilities of corruption.


The cyberpunks have been the most powerful single influence on science fiction over the past two decades, an influence that is explained by their perceptive analysis of the cultural and social changes generated or threatened by “media in transition.”  (citation)


The main difference between cyberpunk and steampunk lies in world building. In steampunk, authors add to a world that already happened. In cyberpunk, authors must create a world from scratch. Though most of the technology in the stories are based on what is available today, world building is only limited by the author’s imagination. Authors cannot only create a real world but can also create a virtual reality where most or some of the action takes place (think Tron).

I admit I like watching this genre more than reading it. The Matrix Series is one of my favorites. I also enjoyed the movies Aeon Flux and Lucy. I’m looking forward to Ghost in the Shell.

Nanopunk, a subgenre of cyberpunk, is a growing part of the cyberpunk world. These stories center on the use of nanotechnologies. This reminds me of Borg technology from Star Trek. Since nanotechnology is still in infancy, this genre relies heavily on the what-ifs and world building is wide open.


Last week, I shared I wanted to design a steampunk costume for a Halloween party I was to attend. What a lot of work. I am too much of a last minute person so it didn’t happen. I did, however, come up with a different costume:

20161015_102407-1
Terri the Book Fairy.

 

What a Punk! (part 1 subgenres)

air-1133840_1280Science fiction is my favorite genre. Today, sci-fi is too broad to cover the plethora of subgenres. There is scientific romance, slipstream, social science, space opera, time travel, and first contact just to name a few. Some would argue that fantasy is a separate genre rather than a subgenre of sci-fi. Even Fantasy has many subgenres. There is urban, high, dark, fairy tale and fairy tale parody, mythic, medieval, and historical. I can’t help but wonder why we really need all these labels, but they are interesting to dive into. This is the first post in an ongoing series I want to start that will look into some of the more interesting, at least in my opinion, subgenres as well as review books from these categories.

Steampunk, Dieselpunk, and Decopunk are three examples of the “punk movement” in science fiction. In researching for this post, I had a hard time finding exactly why these labels use the word punk. The reference nods to the punk culture. Think Sex Pistols and early David Bowie. The punk movement emerged in America and England in the mid 70’s. The term was used originally to identify a new type of music. However, the term quickly became a moniker for anyone who believed contrary thoughts from the established norm. I believe the term punk is used in these types of books because they do not necessarily conform to traditional ideas.

For example, Steampunk refers to the Victorian or the early Wild West time periods. The difference stems from the use of technology run by steam. It is very common to read a steampunk novel that includes an airship which is essentially a big boat that flies. Many cite The Difference Engine, by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson as the first steampunk novel. I recently discovered Artifact Hunters, a series by A.W. Exley. This has been my introduction to steampunk literature and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to create a steampunk costume this year for Halloween (come back next week for a review of this series)

This subgenre more than any other has stretched beyond books. Steampunk cosplay is huge. Recently, I perused titles on Netflix and came across this show, Steampunk’d. Makers compete every week to create a winning project. This popularity causes many purists to argue that the genre has been watered down from the original intent of showing a gritty dystopian world. It is now way more shiny and lacy than from the beginning. Being a steampunk virgin, I don’t know any difference.

The need to create a world that paralleled the advances of the time gave rise to Dieselpunk. Dieselpunk moves forward in history; taking place between 1930 and 1950. Technology is now run more by diesel than steam and has been greatly influenced by the needs that arose during two world wars. Technology is more advanced and appropriate for the realities of this time period. One of my favorite examples of this subgenre is Agent Carter. A recent addition to this subgenre is Storming: A Diesel Punk Adventure Novel by K.M. Weiland. (come back next week for a review)

Between these two time-based subgenres, lies Deccopunk. This is one that I am very interested in because I love the 1920’s. Imagine a world seeped in bootlegging, bob haircuts, speakeasies, flashy outfits, and shiny technology concerned with function and aesthetics. That’s Decopunk. Many feel that this is taking the subjugation of steampunk and dieselpunk too far. I don’t hold fast to labels of subgenre anyways, but I love the look and feel of books from this subgenre.  I’m having a hard time finding books in this category. I found a couple I want to read. If you know of any please let me know.

Part two of this series will cover the granddaddy of all the punk subgenres; Cyberpunk. Part two will post on October 20.

Powerful Method to Silence Inner Demons

chains-433541_1920This past June, I posted a little insight as To Why I ReadSince posting that, my summer only grew more hectic and my fall is shaping up to follow suit. Yet, no matter how stressful life got, I always found time to read. It soothed me. Once I finish a book, I had to start a new one in just a few days or I actually got cranky.

My fellow book lovers joke about our bibliophile disorder, but what if reading keeps us sane?

The Atlantic Monthly coined the term “A Literary Clinic” in 1916 (citation). Bibliotherapy, as it is known today,  is a cost-effective treatment used to support good mental health and supplement certain types of therapy (citation). Therapists use it with individuals and groups and adults and children. Many teachers and librarians use this with patrons on a daily basis.

I remember when I worked in the library, students came in specifically looking for books about issues experienced. I recommended fiction books and nonfiction. I also made sure that a book recommendation never replaced the need to speak with a mental health professional when needed. Ironically, many of the books I recommended were banned books (I wonder if there is a connection).

Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin , the authors of  The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies deliver a course at the School of Life in London to train professionals in the use of bibliotherapy. Their book is designed in the same format as a medical dictionary; listing “ailments” and then prescribed treatments. I checked out their book from the library. I was not familiar with many of the books listed. I found the book a little overwhelming

In his 2011 book, Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction, Keith Oatley writes “Fiction is a kind of simulation, one that runs not on computers but on minds: a simulation of selves in their interactions with others in the social world…based in experience, and involving being able to think of possible futures” (citation). Any bibliophile that I know intimately understands this. Books are cherished friends and mortal enemies. We grieve when a beloved character dies and we plot revenge when they get screwed, but this goes beyond that. Certain books have the power to move us and transform our current way of thinking and feeling. Angela’s Ashes is a very difficult book for me to read. Reading The Color Purple  and The Women of Brewster Place kills me to read. These books tackle issues that are very raw and personal to me.

This summer, I listened to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail while driving back and forth to see my mom at the hospital and then in a rehab facility. The timing of this was also significant because I started a new job. As I listened to the struggles of the main character, Cheryl, I knew if she got herself out some incredible messes, I could too. I could tackle my job and succeed wildly.

There are different types of bibliotherapy.

  • Prescriptive bibliotherapy, which is also referred to as self-help, involves the use of specific reading materials and workbooks to address a variety of mental health concerns. Self-help may be conducted with or without the guidance of a therapist. A cognitive behavioral therapist teaching someone deep breathing and emotion regulation techniques may provide that person with a practice workbook to use at home, for example.
  • Books on Prescription is a program where reading materials targeting specific mental health needs are “prescribed” by mental health professionals, who might use resources such as the Bibliotherapy Education Project to find the appropriate books. Most libraries in the United States carry a set of books from the approved list for this purpose, often providing as a book list on their website. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburg is one such library. Their website also lists books for children, which cover topics like adoption, self-esteem, grief, divorce, and more.
  • Creative bibliotherapy utilizes imaginative literature—novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and biographies—to improve psychological well-being. Through the incorporation of carefully selected literary works, therapists can often guide people in treatment on a journey of self-discovery. This method is most beneficial when people are able to identify with a character, experience an emotional catharsis as a result of this identification, and then gain insight into their own life experiences. A therapist might use Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson, a story about a brother and sister who live with their aunt due to their mother’s neglect, with a child who has experienced abuse to build interactive discussions and activities around the child’s experience of the story.

(citation)

Here is a partial list of some of the books I have read during certain times in my life and how they helped:

My Posse Don’t do Homework, Louanne Johnson & Freedom Writers, Erin Gruwell- My first teaching job was hard. After my first day, I went home and cried for two hours straight. I couldn’t quit. I had bills to pay. I desperately wanted to be a teacher and I decided I needed to dig in my heels. These two books, which are both better than the movie, encouraged me to stay.

The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger- I read this book shortly after the birth of my first child. I was not prepared for the reality of being a new mom. It was nothing like the books I read. I suffered some mild depression and found myself doubting every part of my life including my role as a wife and my relationship as a husband. As I read this, I thought about the love shared between the two main characters. It reminded me of why I married my husband and what he meant to me.

To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee- I know many will agree with me that this is a powerful book. I often find myself thinking about Atticus and what he represented. Remembering that this story is told from Scout’s perspective, who was young at the time, it is amazing that he made that much of an impression. This book often shapes how I parent and even how I relate to others on a human level.

The Red Tent Anita Diamant- This book influenced my thinking of myself as a female and the role I play in this universe. I read this while I was pregnant with my second child. We decided early in the pregnancy to have a home birth. This book grounded me to my earthly soul and my connection to the life force we all have.

I need to say that I know books will ever replace the guidance of a trained mental health professional and in many cases, it is important to work with one. Books add to mental health therapies the way sprinkles add flavor to ice cream. Next time you are struggling with a decision or maybe a crazy demon in your head, try reading a book about a character who is experiencing something similar. It might just help.