Archive for the ‘#amreading’ Tag

A Leaning Tower   5 comments

How do you keep track of the books you read?

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I’m old-fashioned and prefer my books of the paper variety, although I also read books on computer because they’re cheaper and easier to carry with you on the airplane.

In the Event of An Earthquake … RUN!

Keeping track of the books I read is pretty easy, then. There’s this double stack in the corner of our bedroom. One stack are books I want to read or am in the process of reading. The other stack are books I’ve read. Eventually that stack will be distributed to the bookshelves in our house because – well, that stack gets so high it starts leaning and that could be an injurious situation. We do have earthquakes here, after all. Our shelves are (loosely) organized by genre. My anal husband wants them to be alphabetized. I wish him well in that endeavor.

If I want to know which physical books I’ve read, I can just look through the earthquake-risky stack or check out the bookshelves in the house. Except for my husband’s shelf of technical manuals and my daughter’s double shelf of books in the living room (my son has a similar shelf, but he keeps his in his bedroom), I’ve read just about every book on those shelves — some of them multiple times. And we literally have hundreds of books. For years, we kept a spiral- bound notebook where we wrote down titles. I’ve been working on an electronic version so the books will be Excel-searchable, mainly because our daughter acquired some books that were already on our shelves.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Although I prefer books I can hold in my hand and smell the paper and ink, I do sometimes read e-books. I’ve recently been trying to learn how to write a romance and to me, the best way to do that, is to read some (good) romances. Since romance tends to irritate me (and did even when all books were physical), there’s no reason to seek a visceral experience from them. I am, after all, analyzing them to improve my own skills rather than to enjoy a bit of escapism (though that’s part of the analysis), so I buy them electronically. Kindle keeps track for me. Easy-peasy. And, I am not a member of Kindle Unlimited because I prefer to own the books I read. I conducted an analysis of my reading habits and determined that KU would be an extra expense because I’d still go out and buy most of the books I read.

Some books are EXPENSIVE to acquire in hard copy. Most non-fiction books are crazy priced and then you have to factor in shipping time to Alaska (it can take a week with “overnight” shipping) and shipping costs to Alaska (the Jones Act adds 30% compared to the Lower 48), so electronic is often easier and the only way to read non-fiction affordably. Pretty much my entire library of libertarian literature is electronic. Some are acquired through Kindle, but a lot more are free downloads from Mises Institute or one of the other generous libertarian think-tanks. Those are stored on a disc under a file “Books to Be Read” and I keep track by moving the books I’ve read into a sub-folder listed “Read”. I recently created another sub-folder titled “To Read Again” because there are books that I know I only scratched the surface on. I’m on my third reading of Lysander Spooner’s “Treason: The Constitution of No Authority” and I feel like I’ve caught 10% of what he wrote in what is essentially a long essay. And, you might be catching a theme — few books are ever read-and-done. If they’re good books, keeping track of whether I’ve read them is immaterial because I’m likely to read them again. Hence, why I prefer to own the books I read.

Ethical Considerations

I don’t borrow books from the library much anymore. I prefer to own, but the primary reasons for not borrowing from the library are two-fold.

As a libertarian, I’m ethically challenged by a library supported by property taxes paid by people who may never use the library — so why am I using it? Well, I’m working on not using it. That’s a topic we can discuss outside of the blog hop.

For this article, my principle reason is I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I want to be efficient about it. While I can tear through a non-fiction looking for the ideas and information I need for my next novel, I am going to slow down and enjoy a fiction read, recognizing that it’s going to take longer than the two weeks the library allows. There are a few fiction books out there I read decades ago that I wish I could find now, but I can’t remember the title or the authors name. It would have been so much better if I’d bought the book. Yes, there’s a cost to buying books electronically, but if it’s a good book, I’m going to want to own it anyway, so borrowing from the library is just an extra step I’m not convinced is worth it (nor am I sure it’s ethical). Our library here is thoroughly in the 21st century (now), so I can borrow books electronically and listen to audio books (which my brain isn’t patterned for). My library account comes with an electronic system for keeping track of the books I’ve read, whether I’ve returned them (useful!), and it also pesters the snot out of me to read related books (not so useful). Again, easy-peasy, except I get halfway through a good book and go to Amazon to buy it because, again, I prefer to own the books I read.

Old Fashioned Methods

So, I keep track of which books I’ve read by browsing my home library, scanning through Kindle, or my computer. I want to be a real nerd and have an Excel spreadsheet because it’s tiring looking through hundreds of books and because about a year ago I bought “Ender’s Game” for my son only to find my copy of it tucked back into the second rank of books on a bottom shelf in our sci-fi section where I’m pretty sure I looked before I bought him his copy.

I wonder how my fellow blog-hoppers keep track. Maybe I can learn something.

When Pleasure Becomes Difficult   6 comments

We’ve talked about writer’s block. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

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Defining Terms

Image result for image of reader's block

I’d never heard of “reader’s block” before the question was asked, so, definitions are in order:

  • Readers Block is a phenomenon where a person cannot proceed with a book. They are frequently distracted from the book or after flipping a page realize that they have been reading individual words mechanically without processing and understanding the meaning of the text in their mind. It has been named in sync with Writer’s Block, where a writer suddenly loses interest in writing.
  • Reader’s Block
  • This can happen because:
  • a) You have no interest in the book.
  • b) The book is itself bad and not written to generate interest.
  • c) You are too tired and exhausted to read pretty much anything.

What is Common To Humankind

The answer is – yes. Pretty much everything other human beings have suffered, I have suffered also. I’ve said I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s because I’ve never allowed myself to be mugged by it. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced the processes behind it, but that I’ve taken control of them and used them to my advantage.

Reader’s block, however ….

I don’t know when I first experienced it, but I do know when I became aware of it for the first time.

In high school, a friend gave me a copy of The Hobbit. For a fantasy and science fiction geek reader, it was right up my alley and I eagerly sat down to read it. I read the first page. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until college when someone was raving about The Hobbit and I felt like I couldn’t claim to be a fantasy geek if I didn’t read it. I picked it up and I read maybe a page and a half. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until my daughter was a new reader and she begged me to read the story to her.

I read 10 pages to her that night and then she had to go to bed and I finished the book before morning, then read it aloud to her over several nights following.

The Hobbit starts with an info-dump and I struggled to get past it to the meat the story. It kept boring me and that boredom “blocked” me from the story. I didn’t have a teacher (how I got through the info-dump that starts The Tale of Two Cities) or my dad (who expected me to read all the classics) pushing me to keep reading and so, I didn’t — until a seven-year-old pushed me to do it and then I got past the hard part and found a lovely story.

Too Rich for My Blood

But I’ve also blocked on Conceived in Liberty by Murray Rothbard because it just is so historically dense. It’s hard to read big chunks of it because it’s so rich. Reading is an intellectual exercise, and not always an easy one. I’ve never encountered a book that demanded more than my intellect could handle, but I’ve definitely been humbled by an occasional struggle with how smart a writer might be. I am still reading Conceived. It’s just that I’ve learned to take it in small bites.

Life Happens While You’re Reading a Book

When my son was a baby and my daughter was an elementary schooler, time for reading became the constraint. Yeah, there were the frequent “Mommy, will you read this book for me?” moments, but the times to sit down and read a book for pleasure just wasn’t happening. There was about five years there when reading for pleasure was a forlorn hope and writing was squeezed into minutes between life events. I totally don’t regret not having much time to read during those years.

Try a New Genre

Sometimes there’s no explanation but that you’re tired of reading. Frankly, I’d been in a reading slump for a while this summer. I had several books to read and I wasn’t reading any of them. I felt badly about not cracking the spine on Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer after I’d longed to read it for over a year. Then a friend suggested something totally outside of my usual interest – a romance. I do occasionally enjoy mysteries or thrillers that have romantic elements, but pure romance where the focus is man meets woman and they fall in love, usually after disliking each other for a while — naw, not my style. I am a skeptic of Happily Ever After, especially for people who have nothing in common but sexual desire. But my friend suggested I read Ghosted because it involves a second-chance romance between a recovering alcoholic and his baby mama who is deeply angry at him. I could feel myself yawning even as I opened the Kindle file, but I truly enjoyed the story — probably because it was more true-to-life than most romances — and that got me back reading other books (almost entirely non-romances — still haven’t changed my opinion on the genre). I realized something from my foray into this genre. Several of the reviews for Ghosted mentioned it was long. For me 450 pages is nothing. I’m a fat fantasy reader. I guess that’s pretty long for a romance (which might be why I keep thinking “nobody falls in love that quickly”). But — wait, maybe that was why I was in a reading slump. Fat fantasies are a commitment. You start it and it will consumer your evenings for a while – days, sometimes weeks. And maybe that’s why I couldn’t start it. I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. After I finished Ghosted, I still wasn’t ready to read Oathbringer.

Revisit an Old Favorite

Rereading an old favorite is one of the best ways to cure the book blahs. When you revisit an old favorite, you remember why you love to read, how a fictional character could resonate so deeply with you, what ingenious word-play exists in the world, and what diabolical drama a writer is capable of concocting. You can reignite your love of reading. After Ghosted got me reading again, I went through several old favorites that have been sitting on my shelves for years and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I then cracked open Oathbringer and finished it in about 10 days.

Downside

The downside of igniting your love of reading when you’re a writer is that you may be inspired to write your next novel. Or is that an upside? Hmmm?

“Gathering In” Excerpt #2   Leave a comment

The night of the pulse, Geo Tully and Wes Marcus were in the basement of Wes’ aunt’s home that had become their safehouse.

Wes, a wiry com tech barely old enough to shave regularly, held up a photo album that showed a man standing in front of the post-World War 2 bungalow with a shovel. The front door stood behind him, but not the view of the house that Geo recognized. The articulated arm of a backhoe could be seen on the edge of the frame.

“The porch is an addition,” Geo acknowledged.

A Navy Seal from Kansas, Geo towered over his Seattle-raised compatriot. They’d thrown in together when Bunnell & Wilson’s Knights Industry division seized control of the city by murdering military personnel. Wes’ uncle Fred had been an urban survivalist before he died a few years ago and his aunt Connie had died in Portland’s bomb attack. Their house had been a safe haven for two fugitives, so far.

“And look at how deep the hole is behind him.”

Geo turned to the front wall of the basement. The shelves had kept him from investigating here. They appeared to be attached to the wall, but when he ran his hand along the back edge of the shelving unit, he found a throw-bolt. He pulled it down and tugged on the shelves, swinging them out away from the wall. Hinged on the far side, they glided on hidden casters. Behind the shelves an open space stretched the length of the porch. Geo tried the light on the ceiling, but it didn’t turn on. He used the flashlight on his phone to illuminate the small room. A ham radio sat at one end, covered with plastic, while storage boxes filled the other end.

“I knew that tower had to still have a use.” Wes squatted down to look under the table the radio sat on. As an Army communication tech, he knew radios. “He left it disconnected. It’ll take me a moment.”

The light bulb in the main basement flared and popped off. Wes smacked his head on the underside of the table. Geo’s phone light went out.

“What’s that smell?” Wes stood, sniffing.

“My phone just fried, I think.”

They fumbled around in the dark to find the stairs and make their way to the kitchen. Duke, the Labrador retriever, stood in the living room, staring at the window and whining.

Geo peeked out the curtains as the neighbors came out on their porch, staring around.

“You smell that?” Wes asked. “I’m going to go check for fire.”

“Do you hear that?”

Duke whined louder. Raucous voices filtered in through the glass. Geo watched as the neighbors ran off their porch. Wes swept the front door open.

“What the hell?” Geo growled.

“They need help.” Wes ran into the street.

“Stay, Duke,” Geo ordered and followed his stupid partner into the street, where the neighbors could get a full view of their high-and-tights. They’d agreed they wouldn’t do that, but Wes had forced them all in. A municipal bus sat at the corner, smoke pouring out of its windows as the people inside tried to get out, screaming, kicking, punching at the glass, but when one window shattered, it just fed the fire that doomed them.

Wes ran to the rear passenger door and tried to pull it open, convulsing and chewing his tongue, smoke rising from his body.

Fantasy & Philosophy   8 comments

What are the best two or three books you’ve read this year?

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Books to Enjoy & Enlighten

My fiction choice is fat fantasies, which take a long time to read. So it might not be too surprising that the best book I’ve read this year is –

Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive by [Sanderson, Brandon]

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

It’s Book 3 in the Stormlight Archives, focused on a land of humans faced by invasion from a group of non-humans. The series has a sweeping scope and a vast land that is very different from what we know on Earth and an ensemble cast of characters. Although the first two books were fascinating, the third book really starts to delve into an amazing series of philosophical questions. And for a political philosophy junkie like me, the fact that a couple of main characters are trying to create a new government is intriguing.

The second best book I’m reading is –

Conceived in Liberty by Murray Rothbard

It is the history of the America colonies from before the first colonists left Europe to the American Revolution. It’s a massive book – actually a series and I’ve been working my way through it for more than two years now. It’s amazing because it focuses not so much on events as on the philosophy (liberty) that motivated the events. Time and time again, Rothbard showed how one faction was striving for individual liberty and another was seeking to tyrannize individual choices.

I’m reading a couple of other non-fiction books, but mostly I’ve been reading libertarian essays by the great luminaries of the philosophy because in my book series Transformation Project, my people are about to create a new society for themselves and I’m trying to figure out how they’ll do that.

I know, some weighty topics there, but you have to research to write a good novel with a political-philosophical basis.

I reread Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Bratt Farrar by Josephine Tey also.

I’m also rereading The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams because I felt I should brush up on the old Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (Osten Ard) series before I read the new series starting with Kingdom of Grass.

There are so many books I’d like to read, but I only have so much time and I’m writing a novel series. Maybe next year I’ll be able to read more for pleasure and less for intellectual stimulation. We’ll see.

Posted September 9, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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How Not to Lose a Reader   10 comments

Why would you, as an author/reader, abandon (stop reading) someone else’s book?

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Confessions of a Book Glutton

I was practically born with a book in my hand and my parents weren’t very sympathetic to complaints about “boring” books — unless they were math books. They even made me read deadly dull history books that were clearly written to induce coma.

Consequently, there’s not much that has made me stop reading a book by another author. That makes me a good beta reader. (I’m looking for volunteers on my latest book, by the way, email lelamarkham@gmail.com if you want to swap).

Mental Adultery Avoided

There have been books I haven’t finished. Fifty Shades of Grey is one. I got about 50 pages in and returned it to the coworker who had challenged me to read it. Why? I felt like I was mentally cheating on my husband and the BDSM didn’t look at all loving to me. And, then the writing SUCKED and it wasn’t a beta swap so I couldn’t correct it, but felt like I should. Bus man’s holiday, much?

Bad Writing & Implausible Plots

The Twilight series was also a bust, mainly because the writing SUCKED. (Seriously, the movies were better and that happens so rarely it’s a miracle event). I was reading the first book with my then-teenage daughter and one evening we met in the hallway between our rooms and she actually asked me what I thought. I didn’t want to be Nazi Mom – she was 15 1/2 and at some point they have to decide their own standards — so, I reversed the question. She said “I can’t get over the fact that she loves this guy and she can’t see that she is food to him. Yeah, he’s enjoying playing with his prey before he kills her and maybe he’d like to mate with her before he kills her, but she’s still his food.” Yeah, that was pretty much what I thought too and I was proud of myself for raising a smart kid. I stopped reading at that point. She read a couple more of the books (the whole series was loaned to her by a friend who thought they were great books), but she finally returned the series unfinished. We did have a few shared laughs reading a blog that mocked the series. It was really the first sense I had of the power of blogging. Up to that point, I thought they were fluff online diaries by people who were more than slightly narcissistic, but that helped me to see that some serious analysis could go on in this new medium of discourse.

The Left Behind series also has gone unfinished. I always found the writing technically good and a little manipulative and shallow, but I could put that aside until my willing suspension of disbelief couldn’t go any further when a nuclear bomb landed on the heroes and they lived. It’s not that I don’t believe God could deliver such a miracle. I absolutely believe that God can do whatever God wants to do so long as it doesn’t violate His character, but I just didn’t feel pleased that the characters survived and I kind of felt like their survival violated God’s character. I looked at the next book in the series on the bookstore shelf and I just couldn’t plunk down the money for it. And then the longtime collaborator left and I really lost all interest.

Get out of the Cul de Sac

I almost stopped reading The Wheel of Time series. The last book Robert Jordan wrote just felt like he’d written himself into a corner and he was milling about trying to find his way out (I didn’t know he had cancer, which might have been what was going on). I swore to myself that I wouldn’t buy the next book. I just couldn’t face another description of Aes Sedai clothing and Rand beating himself up AGAIN for his failures. And then I heard that Jordan died and I was actually a little sad that there would be no ending, while consoling myself with the sense that there didn’t seem to be an ending anyway. And, then Brandon Sanderson took over and I decided to give him a chance (I’d not read books by him before). He is now one of my favorite authors and my poor husband will have to put up with me binge-watching the Wheel of Time television series if it ever makes it to streaming.

Can I Improve It?

So, what would cause me to stop reading another author’s book? Well, if it’s a beta swap, I’ll probably go the whole nine. If it’s boring, manipulative or poorly written, you’ll know that from reading my comments. I don’t hate you. I want to make you a better writer. You’ll notice that I praise some things. Do THAT and change what I was negative about to something like THAT, and you’ll be a better writer when you’re done. I hope you will give me the same courtesy. Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings. I’m asking for critique. Give me what I asked for.

It’s a Business! Show Me the Quality!

If it’s a traditionally published writer – I have a low tolerance for bad writing when I’m paying to read your book. Seriously – books are pretty danged expensive these days (mainly because I still love to curl up with the physical copy of them and I read a lot of fantasy which tend to be fat books). The least you can do is give me a high-quality product. I now sample the beginning, the middle and something toward the end of the paperback I’m thinking of buying before I purchase it. Thank you, Barnes & Noble, for the great comfy chairs by the fire pit so I can be comfortable while deciding if a book is worth an hour of take-home pay.

Watch for this by year’s end

I’ll stick through a little boredom from writers, if it’s in a good cause — like world-building. I’ll stick through an occasional eddy where the writer creatively works out a narrative cul de sac (after all, sometimes characters have to return to their own vomit a few times before they fight their way out of whatever’s got them trapped). I’ll skim over the occasional sex scene (that’s how I got through the otherwise excellent Song of Ice and Fire). I’ll even put up with the occasional description of fancy dress. So long as these negatives exist inside a compelling story – I’m okay with that UNLESS there’s too much of it, in which case, yeah, I’ll stop reading it at some point.

Hey, Historians, Employ a Ghost!

And, by the way, I still read deathly dull history books, but here’s some advice to the historians who write books – thank you for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us, but seriously, if you can’t write, hire someone who can. What is killing the study of history is not that IT is boring, but that your writing about it is BORING. A good writer would make all the difference. There’s reasons David McCollough and Amity Schael sell books in the millions to ordinary people instead of a few hundred to academics and history-buff novelists. It’s because their writing is entertaining and avoids the passive voice. While some of us are committed enough to history to study it even when it is written in passive voice and drags on and on without any compelling story lines, ordinary people won’t. And, that’s a shame because those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted August 26, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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A Place Apart   1 comment

April 23, 2018 – Images of reading nooks or bookshelf designs.
Is there such a thing as a bookworm who doesn’t appreciate photos of cozy reading nooks or gorgeous bookshelves? We think not, and have found success rounding up these types of bookish images. Choosing a particular season or unifying theme helps to keep the content focused and repeatable, like outdoor reading nooks or DIY bookshelves. Pinterest and Instagram are great channels to repurpose this image-based content.

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1 Green and window

I have always wanted a reading nook, and when I was in high school, I actually did create a nook in a closet behind a knee wall in my bedroom. Of course, that house didn’t belong to me and the homes I’ve lived in subsequently have had them. Brad promises me that some day he’ll be finished with the restructuring of our house and the family room will end up with a window seat surrounded by bookshelves, with enough room to stretch and maybe a curtain across the front and, given that Brad is an electrician, adequate lighting.

For now, here are a couple of my dream nooks. I like the idea of books being close at hand, but I also like being able to look out a window. The one thing the first nook misses is a blanket. That’s an Alaskan thing, I think.

1 Wood beams and window

I’m not a fan of white – we see too much of it outside, but I like how this one is tucked back out of the room. It’s similar to one of Brad’s potential designs make us of a garreted-second story above our family room that really needs to be insulated better. His idea is that we could build out a nook under the garret. But mine would not be white.

3 Under stairs, blue, books

Before we moved to our current house 16 years ago, we lived for 18 years in 640 square feet, so I truly appreciate architecture that makes use of every inch, like this nook in a coworker’s basement that fits in under the stairs. My perfect noon has a window, but this is pretty cool and, not counting the books, cost him less than $1000 to build and furnish.

Image result for images of reading nooks

But there are so many nooks to choose from. Like this final one that I would quite happily curl up in with a good book. It’s got a window, lighting, a curtain to close out the world. I hope the books are right across the room. I can imagine being the heroine of a mystery, falling asleep behind the curtain and overhearing a critical conversation that leads her on a red herring goose chase that then leads her to the solution.

Whatever nook I might use, I can imagine sitting in any of these nooks not just with a book, but also with my laptop, my muse inspired by these awesome settings.

Posted April 23, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Anaerfell 3   3 comments

anaerfell-promo-coverExcerpt 2

His brother looked at his hands, now covered by great warm mittens. “Drast?”

“Mm?” Drast grunted, mimicking his brother.

“How are they going to remember us?”

“Who?”

Tyran shrugged his heavy shoulders. “The Stuhia. The Vucari. The world, I suppose.”

“By our apotheosis.”

“Does it always come down to glory?”

Drast snorted. “Yes. If we fail we will not be remembered. It must come to glory.”

Tyran shook his head. “But is what we are doing glorious?”

“We are off to kill a god. How could it not be?”

Tyran stopped and turned. “But if we are wrong. If killing Wolos is somehow an evil act. Or, if we fail and we are remembered because of our tyrant father—”

“Tyran the Tyrant,” Drast interrupted, chittering.

“I am serious. How do we know that we should even be doing what we are planning on doing? How do we know it is right? How do we know we can?”

“Tyran, you are overthinking this. Why do you even care how people will remember you to begin with? It will not matter. We will either succeed, in which case we are allowed to tell whatever tale of our victory we choose, or we fail and are dead and it doesn’t matter. Regardless, people will remember us for the height of our lives, when we faced a god.”

“I want to believe that I did something right for this world before I died.”

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