Where have all the good men, ahem, books gone?

…in which I lament my taste in books.

I finally found a book I absolutely loved last year. It was THEFT OF SWORDS by Michael J Sullivan. I blasted through it and then snatched up the next two in the series and literally cried at the end for having such a wonderful experience. Okay, the tears might have been a little insane, but it has been so long since a book/series has swept me away. I have recommended this book to a close friend and my daughter, and turns out they have felt the same way. In fact, my daughter told me she hasn’t been able to read another book since because she’s afraid it just won’t live up to the experience. I know what she’s talking about. I have since read a book I enjoyed enough to follow up on the series, but not with the same enthusiasm. But the series has to wait until I finish reading some required reading. And I’m not enjoying these books at all.

My Harry Potter Shelf--books in German and English
My Harry Potter Shelf–books in German and English

Yes, they are fiction, and they are in a genre I supposedly love, but they are nothing books. Nothing about them makes them stand out. One was readable; one was riddled with errors a good editor could have easily fixed (other than the weak protagonist); the others have been, well, nothing books. Nothing about the stories was original. If one subscribes to the theory that no plots are original, then nothing about the books was fresh. It’s not that they were bad; they were all forgettable.

It must be my taste. It seems like every book I read in this particular genre these days are the same. Not the plot; just, forgettable. I don’t know who’s to blame. Is it the editors in charge of buying books and who are afraid to take a chance on something different because something unproven is risky? Is it the readers who glom these tepid books because they’re comfortable? Is it the authors who are writing to what they think the audience wants (and apparently the audience for such books is huge because they are selling)? As I said, it must be me.

HARRY POTTER blew me away. READY PLAYER ONE blew me away. BEWITCHING blew me away. THE LOST DUKE OF WYNDHAM blew me away. I, ROBOT; DANDELION WINE; THE MARTIAN; TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; these all blew me away.

Then there are the next level books that I enjoy enough to be glad I found, and if they’re series I will continue with them. Heck I even re-read some of them. But for the most part, I end up with forgettable books.  Nothing books. My taste. Then again, what do I know. It isn’t as if I have “best-seller” after my name. In the meantime I search for the next book that will blow me away.

Because being blown away is absolutely the best experience in the world.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

Networking . . .

. . .Or the big fail. At least for me. In which I look at networking.

I admit it. I suck at networking. After twenty plus years in this business, attending major conferences almost yearly, having been published by some of the big five in NY, I should have contacts out the wazoo. I should have lists and lists of author friends, sheets and sheets of readers’ information, editors and agents I can call by first name or just call on the phone. The fault is mine. It isn’t that I haven’t met these people–I have–and they were all very nice (with the exception of one agent I met early in my career before my first sale, who shall remain nameless but basically told a group of us that if we weren’t Nora Roberts, he wasn’t interested in us). I’ve been on panels with big name authors, had lunches and dinners with editors,  always behaved professionally and politely, and I can boast that I have NEVER missed a deadline (the latest I turned in a contracted novel was the day before it was due). My novels have required little revision (seriously, two scenes in ten books), I’ve had more than one copyeditor say that mine has been the cleanest manuscript they’ve ever seen and more than one write me a special note that they loved my book, and, for the most part, I’ve received positive reviews (There would be something wrong with my writing if everyone loved everything I wrote.)

So what’s the issue?

I am hopelessly shy.

Who could be afraid of this face?
Who could be afraid of this face?

Put me in front of a room of people and make me speak, and I do great. In fact I love it. I love to teach, elucidate, share my knowledge. But I don’t know how to reach out one-on-one to the people who could forward my career. I don’t want to “bother” them. This is the special dichotomy many writers share. I KNOW my stuff–grammar, story structure, formatting, etc.– and because I do, I tend to go it solo. So because I’m competent, I don’t bug people. Yet I am filled with self-doubt. I really crave recognition, acknowledgement, and frankly, if I’m so good that I don’t get editing, why am I not on the best sellers lists? Something is missing and I think it’s personality.

I know authors who are people magnets. They walk into a room and make everyone feel as if they are their best friend. I walk into a room and try not to feel uncomfortable. I try to push myself into talking to people, but that’s an almost insurmountable obstacle for me. It’s rare that I can bubble in front of my close friends, much less in front of strangers. If however anyone comes up to me and starts a conversation, I am so grateful. My readers have no idea how much their reviews or emails mean to me. I do enjoy learning about the daily lives of editors and agents. I just suck at initiating such conversations.

So here’s my tip to you.  If you ever meet me somewhere, come up and say, “Hi.”  Please. I will love you for it. Or just drop me a line. Or review one of my books (Even if you hated it–one of my favorite reviews was one from someone who didn’t rave but wrote a thoughtful account of my novel that she enjoyed, but didn’t love. But the review was so fair and well thought out, I had to reach out and thank her.) The same is true for any author. They will probably appreciate it.

Remember: I am more afraid of you than you are of me.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Can’t say. It’s RITA time again.

The Whole Truth?

In which I look at how much is too much and what to share.

I follow some authors on social media who put their political and social viewpoints out there for the world to see without qualms. I admire them for that. Many of them are popular, successful in their careers, and have continued success after airing controversial opinions. I have strong opinions about politics and society, but I’ve limited my sharing to clicking the “like” button and the occasional link to Snopes to counter sheer stupidity. I’ve never been comfortable sharing information about many aspects of my life or my views. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had security in my chosen career–I can’t afford to offend potential readers. Of course that hasn’t garnered me best-selling status either. Maybe it’s because I don’t do confrontation well. Of course, who does, and that really is a ridiculous excuse. Maybe it’s because I can’t express my thoughts clearly, and one can’t do rebuttals well on social media (comment sections aren’t conducive to civilized debate or discourse). The world is not made of sound bites. Of course, I do enjoy the sound bites and memes that make the rounds and reflect my views.

So I struggle between the what to tell you and what to keep hidden. In person I am very open about what I believe and what is happening in my life. That’s because I once heard a wise woman (Jennifer Crusie) tell a roomful of people at a conference the reason she doesn’t let her workshops be taped: (paraphrasing here) If it isn’t recorded, I can claim you all were high on mushrooms and don’t remember correctly what I said . (She is welcome to deny she ever said this). I’ve used that line more than once in teaching (toned down for my eighth graders to omit the drug reference) and also at our local sci-fi, fantasy conference, Bubonicon. If I say something and you don’t have it recorded, you can’t prove I said it.microphone-626618_640

Which leads me to this blog and social media. Here, I am writing down my words. Here the words are etched in stone (figuratively). Here, I can’t escape what I’ve said, and I have been smacked down more than once for something I’ve written and I don’t have the power or influence to combat negative repercussions. I still want to attract readers; I still want to be “popular”. I mean, they still invite Mel Gibson to the Golden Globes after some of the things he’s said. Brad Pitt is still listed as one of the world’s sexiest men and his social leanings are out there for the world to see.

So I don’t know whether I’m a chicken or if I’m cautious. What do you think?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Ryria Chronicles by Michael J Sullivan (I mention this one again because it’s spoiled me for other books at the moment. I loved this series. Which is the reason I’m reading …)

Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Azkaban by JK Rowling (rereading an old favorite, albeit in a different language, because I know its good and won’t disappoint me after the above series.)

The Joy of Reading

In which I look at the magic that happens when one is transported into another world.

The longer I write, the harder it is to find books that will carry me away to another world. I don’t know whether I look at the text too clinically, or if I’m automatically deconstruct the novel’s structure in my mind, but most books don’t carry me away to that magical place where you are in the story. Movies do that easier for me maybe because the visual is so overwhelming I can turn off the rest of my brain.

But when a book succeeds, the experience is so much richer than a movie.

Harry Potter did that for me. So did Ready Player One. Courtney Milan, Jill Barnett, and Julia Quinn have written books that had the magic for me. I just finished The Riyrian Revelations by Michael J Sullivan which swept me away into another world. I cried at the end because I was so happy to have experienced it. (Seriously.) Unfortunately most books leave me feeling meh. Not that they were bad, but that they didn’t spark the magic.

The odd thing about the magic is that it doesn’t work the same on everyone. I have a friend that raves about two best selling series. She loves the books,is a megafan, and talks about the experiences all the time. I read one of the series and wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t even finish the first book of the second series. I believe it comes down to subject matter. In one book, the premise calls for the heroine to do something the heroine that for me is unforgivable, but for her it was so casual and never caused her to even hesitate.

We all bring different baggage to our reading experiences. Don’t expect the magic from the books that transported me to do the same for you (although I’m pretty good at leading people to the right books even if they didn’t work for me). And don’t be surprised if what you love doesn’t impress me. Within my family alone, I know that I can’t share my book magic with everyone.

I can only hope that one of my books has created magic for someone else.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now

Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan

Rise of Empire by Michael J Sullivan

Heir of Novron by Michael J Sullivan

Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Azkaban  by JK Rowling

 

 

My Very First Political Post. . .

in which I probably won’t change any minds, attract harsh or hurtful comments, and you won’t change my mind either. So why am I doing this? I can’t take it any more.

I am the first to admit I like to live by emotion. I am airy-fairy, or would like to be. My taste in books and movies runs to the fantasical or near fantastical. Seond Hand Lions, Notting Hill, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Leverage, Ready Player One, The Martian—these are among my favorites. I look up spoilers regularly because I don’t want to spend money on something without a happy ending. I read the ends of books first. I really do. I like stories about the triumph of the human spirit. I want to believe in the goodness of mankind. I want to believe in the humanity of mankind.

Recent events have tested that desire. Not only the horrific events themselves, but also the reaction to those events.

Because despite my desire to cling to emotion, I also believe in facts and logic. Science trumps beliefs. Logic trumps emotion. So let me throw some numbers at you.

In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in drunk driving accidents.1 In 2013 all firearm deaths (includes accident, homicide, and suicide) totaled 33,636.2 The estimated number of murders for 2013 was 14,196.3 There were an estimated 79,770 reported rapes in the same year. (ibid.) These numbers are just for the US. These numbers are also all trending downward from earlier stats. That’s great news. There were 53 shark attacks worldwide that year too.

There were 10,000 terror attacks worldwide in 2013, causing 17,958 deaths. Of those deaths, 14,722 were in five countries: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.4 Those numbers are going up. The number of terrorism deaths of US citizens abroad in 2013 was sixteen.5 Nineteen terror victims died domestically.6

Every one of these numbers represents a mother, father, sister, brother, friend, relative, mentor, student, or any combination thereof; most represent a tragedy to someone somewhere. Those numbers are human lives. And even one is too many.

The events in Paris, Egypt, Beirut and elsewhere this week are tragedies, and our emotions get riled up.

Here’s the other point about humans I want to believe: we can be rational creatures. I honestly believe, biologically, the male of the species isn’t meant to be monogamous. But if we claim to have a brain, then we can overcome those urges (which is why I never have sympathy for politicians who are caught cheating; it’s stupid behavior and I can’t condone stupid behavior; even if you’re tempted, you use your brain and empathy not to act on your impulse; and don’t believe your own press. Sheesh.)

Back to the more serious subject. That there are people out there willing to hurt innocents makes them less than human (Not just terrorists—the drunk drivers and the criminals too; not the sharks—by definition they are less than human). Action should be taken against them.(Not the sharks)

But if you can’t look rationally at the numbers and realize that the odds are greater that you will be a victim of homicide or drunk driving than a terror attack, and your emotions override your humanity and allow bigotry to rule your actions, then you are less than human too.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan

 

1 http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/about/drunk-driving-statistics.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

2 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm

3 https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/violent-crime/murder-topic-page/murdermain_final

4 http://www.visionofhumanity.org/sites/default/files/Global%20Terrorism%20Index%20Report%202014_0.pdf

5 http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224833.htm

6 http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/wrjp255a.html