Does what you bring to a book matter?

If you give a group of writers a prompt, you might be amazed at the variety of tales that result. The same photo of a rose might inspire one to write about a first love, another to write about his mother’s funeral, and still another to write of a serial killer who leaves one in the hand of each victim. Your life experience influences what you write. In the same way, it influences how you read a book.

If you give a group of writers a prompt, you might be amazed at the variety of tales that result. The same photo of a rose might inspire one to write about a first love, another to write about his mother’s funeral, and still another to write of a serial killer who leaves one in the hand of each victim. Your life experience influences what you write. In the same way, it influences how you read a book.

My novel The Brevity of Roses has received a number of reviews, mostly at Amazon and Goodreads, and I’ve read them all. I didn’t think I would. I said I wouldn’t. I should have known I’d be too curious not to. I know reviews are meant for other readers, not the author, but the varied responses to the book I wrote interests me.

The latest reviewer wrote:

For the record, I am a 100% male reader. I am not a love story genre fan but I found this love story to be compelling.

The Brevity of Roses is NOT a romance novel. It is a thought provoking story of the love between people of different age groups and social backgrounds.

The writing is very well crafted. The characters are developed carefully and seem to spring to life. I felt like they were staring back at me from the page.

This fine debut novel is a story of complex relationships. The complexity level is dependent on the amount of thought given by the reader.

The emphasis on NOT was his. I assume he was disagreeing with the previous reviewer (on Amazon) who titled his review “A good romance novel”. I didn’t set out to write a romance novel, so I don’t view Brevity as one, but if some readers do, I understand that. And maybe it’s only a contradiction of terms; what one calls a love story, another calls a romance novel.

One thing I love about reading is the individuality of the transaction between the author and myself. I ask for a story, and the author gives me one, but I might not be able to drink every drop of the story the author tells. The author can only fill the glass I bring to it. To some extent, the size and shape of that glass determines the story I imbibe.

As a reader, I suspect that sometimes part of a story ran over the side of my glass and dribbled off my chin. What can I do? I drank what I could. As an author, certainly, I’m thankful for all my readers, dribblers or not, but I admit that the deeper they drink, the more gratifying that is.

e-Reader polls revisited!

Nine months ago, in the midst of weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing, I asked you to vote in some polls on e-readers. At that time, I did not own an e-reader, but later received a Kindle as a gift. I imagine some of you have since either acquired one or changed your thoughts on them, so I thought it appropriate to revisit three of those polls and to add a new one.

Nine months ago, in the midst of weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing, I asked you to vote in some polls on e-readers. At that time, I did not own an e-reader, but later received a Kindle as a gift. I imagine some of you have since either acquired one or changed your thoughts on them, so I thought it appropriate to revisit three of those polls and to add a new one.

I’ve used the generic terms e-reader and e-books in these poll questions.

  • If you vote Other in Poll #2, please explain under Comments.
  • If you do not yet own an e-reader, but use a reader app, please respond in Poll #3. Examples of reader apps are Kindle or Nook for PC or Mac, and Stanza for iPhone.

Absentee votes? May I ask those of you who prefer to read my posts “secretly” to please participate? Come to the blog and vote. I promise, you will remain anonymous.

Polls will close on 18 July, 2011

Thank you for participating. If I could ask one more favor, would you please re-tweet this post? More votes result in a better research sample.

Please feel free to discuss these polls in the comments section.

Friday Fruit Salad

Today’s post is both literal and figurative … and yet, the whole thing is virtual because this resides on the Internet, which doesn’t really exist. Yes, I’m going to talk about how I make fruit salad in my kitchen, but I’m serving up a mixture of topics, so it’s also another kind of salad. You can figure out the Internet on your own.

Today’s post is both literal and figurative … and yet, the whole thing is virtual because this resides on the Internet, which doesn’t really exist. Yes, I’m going to talk about how I make fruit salad in my kitchen, but I’m serving up a mixture of topics, so it’s also another kind of salad. You can figure out the Internet on your own.

I’ve been craving fruit salad lately. Everyone has their own recipe. The mixture of fruits in mine changes, depending on what’s in season and what I have in my refrigerator and pantry. Pineapple, mandarin oranges, and bananas are staples in my salad, but it also contains one or more of these: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, apple, pear, peach in natural juices maybe with a bit of the syrup from the canned mandarin segments. Simple, colorful, delicious.

I’m deep in the beginnings of a new novel, but I have only this weekend to work on it before I take a break. Family activities will take precedence during the month of July. I may have a few normal working days, but for the most part, I’ll probably only manage to keep up with blogging and email during the next five weeks.

What will happen to my fledgling book? I’m going to trust that my Muse will keep working on it. From experience, I know that sometimes, when you take the pressure off, fantastic things happen: a plot problem unknots; a key scene, clear and complete, slides into view; a brilliant twist is revealed; a perfect line of dialogue floats to the surface. Stealth writing.

Okay, time for a little fun. I’ve been following Cathy Yardley’s series at Rock Your Writing on forming a profile of the “right reader” for your work. One of the ways she suggests doing this is to know which authors’ work is similar to yours. She shared a link to this tool: Gnooks Literature Map.

Actually, the Literature Map was designed to help readers find authors they might like. When you type in your favorite author’s name, it will appear in the middle, with the names of similar authors floating around it. Books by the authors who hover closest to your fave, should be ones you’ll most enjoy. Go now, play with it.

What’s wrong with my reading?

Recently, I’ve read several novel reviews that gushed about how the book had a powerful impact on the reader’s life. In a couple of cases, the reader said the reading experience actually changed their life. I can’t remember when that last happened to me. I want to know why.

Recently, I’ve read several novel reviews that gushed about how the book had a powerful impact on the reader’s life. In a couple of cases, the reader said the reading experience actually changed their life. I can’t remember when that last happened to me. I want to know why.

Pierre Auguste Renoir -- The Reader

I don’t think it’s necessarily my reading choices. I’ve read some of those same books said to be so powerful. They just didn’t have an overwhelming effect on me. Am I too cynical? Am I too dense? I know it’s not that I’m so perfect I couldn’t use a good life-changing experience.

Might it be that I’ve forgotten how to read in such a focused way that I’m open to receive that experience?

I have a pile of books to read and a backlog on my Kindle. Those dwindled a bit when I went back to reading as I ate lunch. Reading in little chunks that way is probably not the best way to experience a novel, though it might work for short stories, essays, or poetry. Then I started writing again. Now I eat lunch while I try to catch up on email or check in on Twitter. That means little or no reading.

What would happen if I took a few days off and did nothing but read? The first thing I’d have to do is fight the urge to put down the book and write. I know that every perfect word choice or gorgeous metaphor I read would have me chomping at the writing bit.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about filling up on reading before I can write. This time, I’m writing well, the words are flowing, yet I feel I’m missing something by not reading. Strange.

Maybe I need to disappear for a while and completely, absolutely, totally, deeply immerse myself in a life-changing book—if I can find one.

What was the last book that had an impact on you? Why?

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Are you writing with zest?

Nothing like a sex scene to get you in the mood! That was the original title of this post, but since it’s partly about subtlety, I nixed that one. Plus, it occurred to me how many disappointed searchers Google would send here.

As usual, I have more than one iron in the fire. I’m working on my next novel, and yes, I did write a sex scene today, but if you’re familiar with my writing, you know I love the art of the tease. In her review of The Brevity of Roses, Christa Polkinhorn said: “And, without any explicit love-making scenes, she creates a highly charged and sensuous atmosphere.” Yes, I do, and I’m doing it again in the next book.

Another thing I’m working on is determining what I do well in my writing. According to at least two of my beta readers, one of my strengths is subtlety. I expect my readers to think—not the drain your brain, reach for the how-to on literary analysis kind of thinking. I like to serve them delicate layers of meaning and just enough detail to incite their imaginations. I want to invite them into the story.

I’ve also just started reading a book that more than one person recommended to me before I finally took the hint. It’s Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and here’s a passage that jumped out at me:

“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is—excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health.”

So yes, I’m writing again with zest and loving it. And writing subtle sensual scenes adds a little gusto … as well as alliteration apparently.

Are you only half a writer?

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