Saturday, 27 February 2016

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

It is easy to find articles that put forth the doom and gloom of a failing publishing industry, of closing bookstores, of declining readership and of the lost souls of writers desperate for sales. While these cries echo the crisis/panic approach to all things that seems to be the media norm now, there are always some nuggets of truth hidden in the dramatic claims.

Publishing companies have had to navigate the waters of the digital age and there were some rough currents along the way. And, there is news again this week of another seemingly successful publisher closing down. But, many have found a balance between offering digital and hard copy and are doing well. The dearth of independent bookstores is slowly being refilled with a small resurgence of demand for more intimate and personal environments away from the conglomerate chains. If these things are true, then readership must be on the upswing and, by default, authors beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

But, we must not be complacent, we lovers of the written word. We must support the industry if we want to have access to a wide selection of affordable reading material. How? First of all, buy books and read. Then, buy more books and read. Repeat.

What else? Tell people about what you are reading. If you love a book, say so. Get on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever your choice of media, and tell people about the book. Comfortable expressing your opinion in written form? Review it…on a blog, on Goodreads, on Amazon…wherever you can. (Reviews, on online bookselling sites, put those books on the radar and up their rankings for searches.) If you belong to online forums, chat it up. Or join a live or online book club and share it. Tell your local bookstore how much you enjoyed it. If they hear that enough times, they'll start recommending it. Speak to your local librarians. They can support through purchasing and recommending.

And, if you are so inclined, reach out to the authors and let them know you enjoyed their books. Most have websites, Facebook and/or Twitter feeds. Yes, they need to put food on their tables, but who doesn't like to be told they've done a good job?

I try to do these things as much as possible. I share, I praise and I promote. Not because I write, but because I read. There is nothing sweeter than curling up with a good book. I am doing my part to ensure that always remains a possibility.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.” ― Robertson Davies

Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird was required reading in high school. I was always a voracious reader and I recall enjoying it and the discussions that ensued. I don't remember adoring it as so many others have but, since I remember it well all these years later, it clearly did resonate on some level. The brouhaha around her "discovered" novel did not move me enough to want to read it. But her death urges me to reread To Kill a Mockingbird to see where it fits in my schema now that I'm all grown up and have seen a thing or two in my life.

I've never been big on rereads. There are so many books and only so much time. Yet, lately, I seem to be drawn to check out how I would react now to books read long ago. Can they stand up to the test of time or do they belong to where I was in that moment? I suspect there's a bit of both. I have reread Outlander and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. But, there was only about six years between those readings—not a whole lot of change in my world or psyche in that time.

Last week, I mentioned that I had reread Mary Stewart's Wildfire at Midnight. It is a good story but, truly, it is her Merlin series that I fell in love with. So in love, that I wrote her a gushing fan letter begging her to continue. And, she answered. A measure of her worth as a writer, and of the generous power she yielded to make this young girl feel valuable, lies in the fact that I still have her letter many moves and 38 years later. Her writing has, and will always be, an inspiration for me both as a reader and a writer.

Rest in peace Harper Lee and Mary Stewart. You may be gone, but you will not be forgotten.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

What's on your reading list?

It is said that if you want to write, read. It is also important that you read widely. While I do tend to go on reading tangents in a particular genre, lately I find myself consciously following the sage advice of selecting from a diverse range of material. I also have discovered that I enjoy having more than one book on the go at a time. Who knew?

During my blue pencil at the Surrey International Writers' Conference with Susanna Kearsley, she recommended I check out Genevieve Graham as a comparable to my 18th century historical novel. Her novels definitely parallel the time-frame and setting of Raven's Path. And, despite the implication of the covers, these books also challenge the category of romance. They are historical adventure with a strong element of romance, but break the tropes in too many ways to pass as a traditional romance. It is what I hope I have accomplished with Raven's Path. I couldn't read just one and quickly devoured the trilogy. She is dabbling in another era now and her latest, Tides of Honour, is near the top of my TBR pile.

I just finished The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys. As historical fantasy, it was a departure from my normal reading selection. I was engaged from the opening sentence, and following the quest of the warm humorous characters was thoroughly entertaining. I have his Jack Absolute series on my bookshelf and will be delving into those in the near future. As an added bonus, both Graham and Humphreys are Canadian. I love supporting our own.

I had a yen to rediscover old favourites and read Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart on my Kobo. Since I enjoyed the French Executioner so much, I think I will need to dig out Stewart's Merlin series. When I was thirteen, I fell in love with Mary Stewart and that series in particular. Yep. Definitely up for some more historical fantasy.

I find my time on the elliptical tedious. Reading makes it pass, but it has to be light. My brain is too busy trying to convince me to stop the torture to focus on anything dense. Plus, it must be a Kindle download, so that I can read it easily and change the page with a quick tap on the iPad. My current elliptical reading is a book by a fellow member of the writers' forum I haunt. Hands-On Therapy by TL Watson is pure erotica and, by the end of each session, I'm not quite sure if it's the exercise or the reading that's making me sweat. J

I dip into craft books regularly, often revisiting ones that have been most enlightening. I bought Stephen King's On Writing while at the Surrey conference, but have only just started it. It is perfect for bits and bites reading, much like DH approaches his magazines.

As I write within such a spectrum of genre now, I try to continue researching much in the way I read the craft books. I have a variety of nonfiction books strewn about the house at any given time, and pick them up when the mood strikes or when I need a change of pace. My latest purchase is The Profligate Son by Nicola Phillips. It is a little different than my usual research books as it is literary nonfiction—a reconstruction of a real Regency-era family from letters and court documents.

While I read many a young adult novel in my role as adolescent literacy consultant, I have let my collection slip. Now that I am writing in that genre, it has begun to grow once again. This weekend I plan to lose myself in Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. It has been highly reviewed but probably the best, most telling praise, came from the clerk at checkout. She picked it up and caressed the cover. "Oh, this is so good!" That certainly made it go to the top of the TBR pile. J

And finally, the reading material that has not left my side for the last few weeks and makes me smile every time I look at it? West Coast Seeds' Gardening Guide 2016. It is early February and I can read this now and not just dream about spring. This weekend I will start seeds in my new little greenhouse and, get this, I can sow some in the ground by the end of the month! How can I not smile?

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.—Stephen King

I've been sitting here, drinking in the vista, daydreaming and, basically, avoiding writing the blog. Because, I got nothin'. Zilch, zero, zippo. I have scanned my brain, and I have come up empty. Nil, nada, naught. The well is dry, drained, depleted. So, I will continue to sit and stare off into the distance and, perhaps, peruse the thesaurus for more alliterated synonyms. In the meantime, dear readers, have a fantastic, fabulous, first-class week!