Reading, Writing, and Resolution

Now that we’re safely past the end of the year wrap-ups and new year resolution posts, I can move on without obsessing over either. Well, okay, just a little obsession. There were no end of year lists or greatest hits for me. I don’t have anything to recount. I listened to older music, read a hell of a lot of books in all genres—Kindle Unlimited is to thank for that, and emails that offer books in genres I like. There are plenty of free and cheap books that offer a quality read. Saves my money for buying even more books I covet.

I also picked up a lot of poetry books at end of year sales. Reading is stocked for the new year. The great thing about all the reading I do is I’m not tempted to look at the news. Much. Sometimes I get sucked in just to run screaming at the idiocy of it all. And bad journalism.

One thing reading a lot does is give you a keen sense of what good writing is, and what’s not working. It’s been valuable as I final edit my manuscripts, and not just from reading fantasy. All genres have something to offer for writing novels, even non-fiction. Poetry brain also latches on to a deft turn of phrase. I found interspersing poetry with novels helped me do more writing. Not sure why that is, but I find poetry rejuvenating in the crazy world that is COVID.

Step Outside

The hardest part has been reading things totally out of my comfort zone and gathering the gems from them. My instinct is to put up a wall. I don’t like horror, not interested in thrillers, mysteries do nothing for me. But still, I read them now and then. Unfortunately, it’s often to enforce the idea I still don’t like them. I keep thinking they’ve changed since I last read one. Or I have. Recommendations from friends tend to get me more interested in picking up a book I might have passed by due to my prejudices.

On to my New Year’s resolution that’s not a resolution. More an affirmation. Keep reading. Read everything. Suck it up, and then when I go to write, hope that all the good stuff stuck and is reflected in my work. I’ve made reading a habit, and it’s stuck. If you don’t feel like reading, don’t. Use the time to daydream instead. It’s valid also and helps your brain. For me, reading is my brain prewriting. So I read widely, and assume everything is valuable. Everything IS valuable, and even the smallest change can have deep consequences, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that.

Links to some of my other Reading posts:


Reading, Writing, and Reviewing

Reading, an Opinionated Overview

Other Links to book reading:

How to Make Reading a Habit 

14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit

46 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021

48 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Releases To Look Out For In 2021

Genre Reading and Writing. Arithmetic Free.

Book Love

When it came time to choose a genre to write in I chose fantasy. As a longtime reader of Fantasy, Scifi, and everything in between, it seemed a natural fit. I was a latecomer to women’s literature and romance. It didn’t hold me the way fantasy did, although I like some romance in my fantasy, and not just Mage/queen/plucky necromancer meets heroic other, falls in love, and produce intrepid little sorcerers. 

I love the big, sprawling messiness of a good fantasy story. The world so different from ours, yet populated by the same type of people with the same problems. How to escape evil, which magical academy to attend, how to pacify rampaging dragons, and oh yes, love among the smoking ruins of a just razed village. 

Not a big fan of dystopian fiction, I must admit. It’s depressing to think of all the ways civilization could go wrong. The survivors – because it’s always lucky by birth survivors – trudging through a ravaged landscape, rummaging through hollowed-out Wal-marts for food and bullets. Fighting off others of their kind to rise to the top of their pathetic food chain. No groups ever join together to try to make their lot in life better, to try and jump-start an improved civilization unlike the one that got them into this mess in the first place. Are we that narrow-minded a species?

Don’t answer that.

I do have a space opera novel I worked on and it’s sitting in limbo. It falls prey to the things I hate about dystopian novels, hence my reluctance to go on with it. Time to strip it down for parts. Apparently, though, doom, doom, doom makes for good reading. I do like exploring other worlds and cultures in sci-fi also. Big problem there is the vastness of space and zooming around in it. I get hung up on the technical (im)possibilities because I know just enough science to be skeptical, but not enough to make everything plausible. Which is probably why I chose space opera rather than hard science sci-fi. Much easier to hand-wave the science like a Jedi excusing droids than get lost in the physics. Even though I do love me some physics. 

Romance novels both fascinate and repel me. There’s something to be said for the formulaic model and a HEA (Happily Ever After) at the end. Maybe it’s the optimist in me, wanting the world to turn out for the better. The cynic whispers in the back of my mind, you think real life is like this? Ha! Have I got news for you. Romance dies under the weight of children, laundry, and whose turn it is to mow the backyard. 

Which leaves women’s fiction, formerly called ‘chick lit’. About women, mostly written by women. A lot of it is depressing as hell, chronicling modern-day problems in a long, and death marchy manner. Dead/missing children, cancer, parents with dementia. Why do I subject myself to that? Because it’s real. I guess I can’t live on fantasy alone, and sometimes need to come down from my dragon-patrolled castle and deal with life before I scurry back to my fairy fortified citadel.

All of these genres figure into my fantasy writing, however. I like building worlds, I like creating creatures, but I also like my characters to want love along with their magical abilities. Perhaps love helps or hinders their abilities. Or captures the unicorn. Or saves a kingdom. Or destroys it utterly. The people in fantasyland have the same problems you and I have; we just can’t use magic or a sharp sword to solve them. Although it would be oh so satisfying to turn your boss into a spotted hog-sloth. 

My heroines and heroes are your everyday folk who just happen to be caught up in something bigger than they are. Reluctantly shoved into saving the world, they rise to the occasion or give it their best shot while dodging death. This is what I want out of the real world. Since we, as a society, currently can’t have nice things, I want to write stories about a world where it can happen. And once my letter from Hogwarts gets here, watch out. I’m going to change the world.

Reading, an Opinionated Overview

I remember the first book I took out of the not picture books side of the library. Not the title, but the fact it was a real book with more words than pictures. It was about a dog. When I held it in my hand, I was awed at the idea of whole different worlds were now available to me. I just had to pick them out. For an introverted child, that was heaven.

I think I read every book in the children’s section by a certain young age, and with the blessings of the children’s librarian, moved downstairs to the young adult and adult books. It helped that I went to the library with my mother every Friday afternoon after I got home from school, and took out 10 books, the library limit. Afterwards, we would go out to dinner at some cheap diner and talk, while in the back of my mind I would savor the idea of all those new adventures waiting.

Savoring is what reading is all about to me. Eyeball the cover, crack open the book, read the title page and its reverse (because I’m weird that way), ponder the dedications. Who were all these people? Writers had help? A deep breath before the rollercoaster like plunge into the story. Once in a while I was fooled by a prologue. I didn’t develop an overwhelming hatred of them, more a resignation and impatience. I wanted the main story, and I wanted it right now! Good thing I’m not a mystery reader, right?

It wasn’t until high school that I learned the joys of non-fiction. Histories, biographies, how things work books. Books about other countries. It all fascinated me even as I worked my way through the fiction on World War II, dipping into histories as seemed appropriate. Then on to the Vietnam War. I grew out of war stories into philosophy. My favorite art teacher, knowing my rabid reading habits, gave me a worn copy of Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. He said, “We’ll discuss it when you finish”. Talk about being thrown into the deep end. Then came another philosophy book. And another. Lots of discussion. Thanks to him, I dual majored in philosophy in college. The places reading takes you shouldn’t be underestimated.

I still have diverse interests and read voraciously. There is so much I want to know. I’m grateful for my e-reader. Yes, it’s nice to have a real book to hold, and I like my non-fiction to be a physical book, but as many novels as I go through in a month, my house would be an episode of Hoarders with books. I’ve also noticed as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to a realization. I don’t have to finish a book. I can close it and walk away. Or throw it at the wall and not read another word. I couldn’t do that as a child. I felt obligated to read every word of the book until the end. Even if I hated it.

As my eyesight gets worse, I like e-readers more. I’m learning to like audiobooks. I use them to drive the long distances across Wyoming, but I notice I tend to grab books I’ve already read to listen to. Kind of like a reread, a comfort? Audio books don’t distract me from driving, like they do for some people. I remember getting to my destination one time, and sitting in the car for another thirty minutes, just to hear the end of the book. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The magic, the need to hear the end, but not wanting the book to end? The same with a series. I’m down to the last two books in an author’s series right now, and I’ve put off reading them. I don’t want my trip into her world to end. Eventually, I’ll dive in and read them. Then start looking for another series to turn my obsession on.

I want adventure, I want knowledge, and I want a peek into someone else’s life. I want to experience the pleasures without the physical pains. I want to sink into a book like it’s a bathtub full of exotic water, slip down to my nose and luxuriate. I want to transform, transcend, traverse. I want to pick up my first chapter book and start reading all over again.

Where does reading take you?

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