Friday, August 12, 2016

Reading - Writing - And Change...

Recently I was asked, "Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?"

How many times have you, reader, been asked this same thing? And have you also run into the problem of trying to answer it?

Here's the problem I, as a reader and a writer, always run into when I try to answer it - CHANGE.

Change is inevitable and it applies to everything. I mean everything from bubble gum to hair color to how the sun rises and sets! And this goes 100 times more for readers, because you grow and experience life and delve into new genres of fiction or different fields in non-fiction. You often find when going back to a book or author you read in the past and enjoyed, that your reaction to the story is much changed from what you remembered.
Some of my romances on
one of my 3 sets of book-

Now, there is always the fallibility of memory, but - in this case - I'd put my money on change. Eventually, what was once your favorite novel or story isn't any more. And that's not a bad thing. It's actually very reaffirming. It tells you that you're growing as a person, following a path you've chosen to explore at this point in your life.

I am an avid reader and have collected romances - and a few other genres - since the late 1970s (yes, I'm that old). Although, in recent years I have actually pared down my book collection. In all my moves - Las Vegas to Alaska; Alaska to Montana; Montana to North Carolina - I carried with me as many of my books as I could - 60 boxes give or take a dozen. Now, I'm down to about 20 boxes. Only kept the books I'd read every year.

As a writer, the question of favorite books and authors can be tricky, even if you don't take into consideration the great friendships that develop between writers. It can expose a side of you you might not be comfortable revealing. For me, it was a wake up call...after I'd taken some time to think it over, of course. The question made me think of two things - How I read and Why I write.

How I read:
I have always read for enjoyment and still do so - for the most part. Since 2010 though, I have spent a great deal of time studying the craft of writing. Lots of non-fiction books and seminars and workshops. My friend and critique partner (CP), Claire J. Monroe, has helped me in processing through all the things I've been learning, which I greatly appreciate.  She recently wrote an interesting blog post about writing and it being a solitary venture that played into my thoughts about my reading favorites and writing habits, and the progress I've made since the Writing Challenge began a month ago. Big result from all the information I have sifted through regarding plot, subplot, character development, pacing, etc., is the impact my knew knowledge has had on how I read for enjoyment. Immensely!

Before 2010, when I read it was to relax. Perhaps catch up with a series of characters. Definitely see how the "competition" was  doing their thing. And above all, to have fun and enjoy submerging myself in a world crafted by an author with a story to tell.

When I pick up a book now, I seem to subconsciously and even unconsciously, analyze a book for all the elements necessary to create a compelling story. This often affects my enjoyment of the book, because if my subconscious spots something an alarm goes off in my head. I work at the problem until, consciously, I can see where the problem exists. I think about how it impacts the story. Then, I stew on the bloody information trying to figure out how I'd fix it if it were my book. In many cases, if there's an issue that I need to work out, I'll set the book down and walk away from it for a while so I can process through the information provided. I try to extrapolate the potential ending of the story and figure a way to fix the problem my subconscious has communicated before returning to read the story. Until the next plot/character/story issue crops up.

The stories that I don't put down, are the ones I enjoy the most. Yes, there may be issues, but those issues in plot or character or story line, are usually directly connected to the growth of the main character and the evolution of the story arch, so those problems, I can usually gloss over and stay wholly immersed in the story...until my subconscious and unconscious minds tell me I can't. Then it's back to the pacing and planning until I've fixed the issues in my head and can return to the book.

Six of my favorite books or authors:
Maya Banks' Forged in Steele & Darkest Before Dawn,
Linda Howard's Mackenzie's Mountain & Game of Chance,
J.R. Ward's Lover Revealed, and one of the Executioner series
created by Don Pendleton
This in turn, makes me hyper-aware of my own errors in a story that could send me - and sometimes still does - down a path of bullying, abusive self-talk and insults aimed at my writing ability, that does nothing to fix the issue. Often only exacerbating situation until I refuse to write another word (Hello, Writer's Block part II). That is until recently.

The Writing Challenge has helped me in how I deal with myself and how I view my writing and reading time. Which leads into the next part -

Why I write:
I don't remember a time I haven't been able to read. I know that in my elementary school I practically read out the entire fiction section of its library by fifth or sixth grade. By seventh or eighth grade I'd latched on to romance novels (series romances mostly) and spent every dime I earned babysitting buying them. But my favorite authors simply did not write fast enough for my habit. Above is a picture of six of my favorite books and authors. In another 10 years this group may change, and it may not. Especially Lover Revealed and Game of Chance. In middle school and high school I could easily devour three or four books a day, reading before and after school, between classes and during lunch. I read all the time. I still do when I'm not writing or working the day job.

At my 20th high school reunion, a friend mentioned how he remembered I'd keep at least four books in my bag wherever I went. I laughed and showed him the bag I was carrying - inside I had three books and one of the early Kindles - he groaned. Reading is and was my passion.

Unfair Advantage
Mattie & Bryce
Rite of First Claim
Mike & Lyssa
That need for something to read led to my picking up a pen and telling my own stories. Admittedly my early works were similar to the fan-fiction of today, but I also created characters that were unique to me. Mattie's and Bryce's story, Unfair Advantage - and to a lesser extent Mike's and Lyssa's story, Rite of First Claim - were begun in those early years - when I was 12 or 13 years old. And as I grew and changed over the years, the stories I wrote and the ones I read did as well. Mattie, Bryce, Mike, and Lyssa came along for the ride. There stories evolved as my reading interests and my writing abilities evolved and changed - for the better, I think.

Yet, no matter how much I've changed and my taste in books has evolved, one thing hasn't. When it comes to the story - it's the characters that catch my attention. How they handle situations, how they act and react and roll with the punches. Those elements are what keep me going, keep me reading - and keeps me writing. Telling those stories; introducing readers to the people in my head; providing fun and enjoyment and a bit of escapism for a few hours - or days - depending on your reading speed. All of those things what keep me picking up the paper and pen and transcribe the words in my head onto the computer screen in front of me. It's what I'm good at. I love reading and writing. I don't see myself ever stopping either endeavor.

So, now I put to you readers, what is your favorite book and your favorite author...and why?
Give me some recommendations (I read horror, mysteries, YA, and science fiction, so don't think you have to stick to romance) so that the next time I'm waiting on an appointment or waiting on edits, I'll have something to read.


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