September Round Robin – Reading is Cool!

A couple of years ago my son informed me that he hated reading. Being an author, this made my heart hurt and I set out to fix this viewpoint by writing a story for him. I kept it short because he is young, but I did not spare him in language, plot, or character.

41SPrUMbf+LI even published it myself so that he could have a real book to read in his hands, something he could point to on Amazon. The novelette featured a man cursed into wolf form by an evil witch and it’s titled Torven. You can find it on Amazon if you’re really curious.

But I also had my son involved in the making of it. So he heard the rough draft as it was written, chapter by chapter. I paused frequently so he could ask questions, which often turned into suggestions. It amazed me how much he wanted to be part of the process, as opposed to simply reading it.

I’d written him into one of my novels once already, and that had him at least partially interested. Mostly he wanted to hear the parts of the story that featured his character, but at least he listened as I read it.

When it came to Torven, though, he was really excited to tell me where he thought the story was going and we ended every session with a conversation. He asked how Torven was cursed, and I reminded him that this was part of the story and if he wanted to know then we had to keep reading.

And when we met the witch, he wanted to know if Torven killed her. Again, I told him he had to keep reading to find out. But with this one, he adamantly informed me that Torven HAD to kill the witch or it wouldn’t be a good story.

Interestingly enough, he also went into how the witch became a witch. As an author, I like to twist things around and see how wicked people were good once and got corrupted, but in my son’s view, there was never any good there.  If I recall correctly, he said the witch was born from a bog.

That never made it into the book but I remember praising him for such a creative backstory. The image of murky, stagnant water boiling and swirling until the deadly witch rose from its depths has always stuck with me and I may ask him for permission to use that one day.

As for other people in my life who claim they either don’t have the time or don’t like to read, there isn’t much I can do. It seems to be popular to hate reading these days, people shrugging the task off and saying they’ll watch the movie when/if it comes out. I’m sure all writers find this attitude disheartening, but that doesn’t stop us from creating novels.

Happily, I married a man who enjoys reading, and my son is warming to the written word. In the grand scheme of things, I think I’ve done all I can to remind my family that reading is cool and creativity shouldn’t be underestimated.

Check out what my fellow authors do to help encourage reading in this month’s Round Robin:

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ly

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)

Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

 

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Book Review – Indexing by Seanan McGuire

First of all, I loved the concept of this book. The idea that fairy tales are real and that magic is constantly trying to bring them about was entertaining to the extreme.

At least for me it was. But I grew up loving Sleeping Beauty, so that’s no surprise.

A word of warning: this is not for younger audiences.

While I recognize that rough language is used everywhere and every day, I am also a parent and know that many wouldn’t want their 14-year-old kids reading a book with swear words in it.

That being said, if you’re a fantasy lover like me, you would probably enjoy this novel. In fact, I’ve already found the second book in the series and intend to start reading it soon.

I don’t do spoilers, so I am doing my best not to gush about my favorite parts. Suffice to say, I had to look up one or two fairy tales during the reading of this book because I hadn’t heard of them before.

One thing the author did supremely well, was the villain. I had my suspicions about said villain early on, but with all the action and with the way the villain was presented in the beginning, I had mostly forgotten about them before the reveal.

Well done, Ms. McGuire. Well done, indeed.

If Urban Fantasy is a favored genre for you, then I recommend taking a look at Indexing. It was a great deal of fun and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Side Note: While our names are similar, I can promise you that we are not the same people.

What I Write vs. What I Read – July Round Robin

I haven’t always loved to read. As a writer that seems like a scandalous admission but honestly, there had been too much going on inside my head for me to fully appreciate the work of other writers.

In my defense, this was sometime between grammar school and high school, so when I say “younger” I mean pigtails and Barbie dolls. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy writing back then because I did. And in fact, I have a cousin who used to swear I made Barbie dolls more interesting than anyone else. Instead of just going to work and coming home, Barbie (who was given a different name because honestly, who wants to be called Barbie?) we would go on adventures through time or try to avoid dying in some major natural disaster.

I don’t mean that to sound pretentious. At the time I had no idea that the way I played with my toys was any different from other girls.

But all of these stories and “play” in my imagination where I created the rules made reading about someone else’s rules and worlds a little more difficult. And then … Wait Til Helen Comes traumatized me in the 6th grade. I read the whole thing in a day, hiding it under my desk during school because I absolutely had to know what happened.

I’m pretty sure the teacher knew and didn’t say anything.

After that, it was like reading exploded into my life. My Aunt Debi has always been a big reader and every now and then I’d get one of her books. That’s how I found Jurassic Park. And The Hobbit. And this one novel whose title I can’t remember but it was about a big octopus/squid thing that ate people.

Genre’s didn’t matter, and they still don’t. I will read anything and everything, which is probably why I write in various genre’s as well. I broke into this business with Fantasy novels, moved to science fiction, then historical fiction, and I have a horror novel waiting to be edited in October.

The one thing I haven’t been able to write, but I will certainly try it again at some point, has been the murder mystery. I’m not sure why, since I love Sherlock Holmes and intelligent mysteries of that ilk, but those books tend to linger in a dark place. You have to understand your murderer, after all, and I find that unsettling.

I used to watch Criminal Minds but stopped because it was leaving me with that unsettled, distrustful sense too.

Anyway, I’m not sure what attracts people to read any one particular genre. I’ve never been able to restrain myself to just one, so I find it a trifle bizarre anyone could say; “Oh, I only read Urban Fantasies.” Or, in the most snobbish voice I’ve ever heard; “Fantasy and Science Fiction aren’t real fiction. You should read literary fiction. Or at least the classics. Anything else is just drivel.”

… No, really. I’ve heard that.

My response to that was to avoid the literary fiction section of the bookstore for a couple of years. Which I suppose wasn’t fair to literary fiction authors.

See what my fellow authors have to say in this month’s Round Robin …

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea/view/542

(YOU ARE HERE) A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/

Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/rhobins-round-robin/

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Kay Sisk http://www.kaysisk.com/blog

Book Review – The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

I liked this book so much, I listened to it twice. The first time was just for myself, and the second time I played the audible version for my son in the evenings before bed. Admittedly, the book is about a female magician, but my son liked it just the same.

Without giving spoilers – because I hate giving spoilers in fiction – I can tell you that this book is tightly written. The story follows Ceony Twill as she begins her apprenticeship as a paper magician.

The idea of magic being connected to different materials and crafts was interesting to me, and to my son. It was fun to “watch” as paper was made to do amazing things with magic, and in fact I believe this is what kept my nine-year-old son listening.

The magic system alone kept me fascinated, even if I did find some of the descriptions in the book a little clunky. This happened a couple of times in the book for me, drawing me out of the storyline because the descriptions seemed so odd, but it’s nothing to stop a reader from going on.

As an author, those descriptions are something that I’ve highlighted for further review and I’ll touch on them in a later post. Suffice to say, the book as a whole is excellent, Ceony is a relatable and proactive character that I was able to get behind and root for until the last page.

I’ll be grabbing the next book in this series and highly recommend it.

Book Review – On Writing by Stephen King

Let me start this review off by saying that I do not often read Stephen King. I started The Stand a long time ago but my son was all of three years old at the time and the dead children disturbed me so much I couldn’t move forward with the book.

I’m sure I could read it now, but at the time I wasn’t ready for that sort of reality. I needed to keep my happy bubble of pretend-safety around my little boy. (C’mon, now, as safe as we try to keep our kids we all know there’s only so much we can do.)

While I haven’t read much of his work, I know who Mr. King is and have great respect for him. I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up – it looks like it was written during my senior year of high school – but I’m pleased that I finally did.

This book is freeing.

Yes, he reminds us about some of the mechanics of writing such as the dreaded adverb or adverbial clause, but he only touches on these for a moment. But for the most part, Mr. King’s “memoir of the craft” feels like a commiseration.

He proves that reading and writing are magic. And he invites authors to embrace that magic, reminding us why we enjoy this craft in the first place. I recommend this book to any and all writers out there who haven’t already picked it up. It’s a worthy read.

 

Authors Who Inspire Me

My son knelt beside the sofa, his Lego toys spread out on the cushions as he created little stories involving Star Wars and Batman and the occasional Ninja, while I curled up nearby with a book. It was a familiar book, a favored volume with yellowed pages and a cracked binding from too much use, and I had chosen it in spite of the many unread novels surrounding it.

I’ll get to those other novels another day.

For now, I’m content to relive a story that has managed to stay with me for over a decade; Sara Donati’s Into The Wilderness. 

I’ve read other works by Donati as well, but this one is my favorite. There’s a richness to it that draws me in, a vivid depiction of life in another time and complex characters all fighting for what they want, and I can get fully engrossed in its pages.

This is a book that inspires me. It challenges me to be a better writer and reminds me that being an author is not merely about telling a story, but about the art of telling a story. Donati knows the art of language, as does Diana Gabaldon and Cassandra Clare.

I’m sure there are others but these are the authors who inspire me. I find that when I read them, my own work improves. Not because I’m emulating them or anything, but because they remind me to focus on my word choices, on the internal conflicts of my characters, and on the setting in which those characters live.

I know that there are more books in the world than I could ever read in this lifetime, but there is something to be said about re-visiting a work that you love.