Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Do high school reading books breed readers?

My youngest is in high school so he’s getting used to the fact that he can’t pick his own books to read when it comes to his reading class.  I’d say he probably misses both middle school and grade school, when the kids were allowed to choose books from a fairly long reading list before taking a test in order to gain points towards their reading goals.
Now, however, the choice is not up to him.  I have to admit I feel his pain.  I do recall those days in high school when we were asked to read books we just didn’t quite understand; whether it was because of the writing, the characters, the era or all the above.  The one book which totally sticks in my memory is “1984” by George Orwell.  I can’t recall if I thought the story was odd or inconceivable but I know it is the only book that struck some sort of chord.  The others…not so much.
High school didn’t ruin it for me though.  I was an avid reader so I did as requested by reading the required book for class and then I would read whatever held my interest in the evenings or weekends to my heart’s content.  I’m fortunate my son is the same way, as he also gained an early love for books.
For any child who isn’t into reading and for any child who wasn’t able to keep up with the required reading in grade school or middle school, I fear they easily become lost in high school.  At that point, they only do what’s required of them and nothing more.  If they had no interest in reading before, the high school reading requirements will not likely help them find the interest. 
And that’s too bad.
I understand the desire to demonstrate various types of writing to the students but is there anything against moving on from Shakespeare to a lighter, easier read before heading back into unchartered territory again?  My son is currently reading Romeo & Juliet so I asked him how his reading class is going.  His response wasn’t very positive.  He just doesn’t understand it.  This kid is a straight-A student but regardless of that fact, I’m not surprised he doesn’t understand Shakespeare.  Not many kids these days really do.  Heck, I doubt I could say I do.  But he did say he figured out ‘thou’ means ‘you’ so I guess there’s some promise.
While high school reading may teach my son and other students about the different types of writing available to them as readers, it will also either make them desperate to get to a book of their liking or, in sad circumstances, it will give the student absolutely no interest in picking up another book whatsoever.
So the question is…do high school reading books breed readers?
I believe, sadly, that the answer is in the negative.  If a child isn’t brought up to love books before high school, then they may be lost forever.  So the next time you see a sign at your local grade school or middle school about how important it is to read to your young child 20 minutes a day, take to heart just how important those 20 minutes might be.  Not only is it precious time with a child, it is a precious mind you are engaging as you read with them to develop an interest in books that will hopefully last their lifetime.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Taking a Break for the Holiday Weekend

It’s a long holiday weekend for the Memorial Day holiday and while the extra day off work should give me more time to write a post, it’s actually given me more of a reason to work on other projects instead.   

So I’m taking a break for the weekend to finish up those projects, spend time with family and solve a new dilemma I’ve discovered with regard to the cover of my second book.  I’ll be back mid-week so until then, I hope you have enjoyed your weekend and that your week kicks off to a great start.

In Remembrance

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Books: An escape for Adults; an Adventure for Kids

If someone were to ask you the types of books you read as a kid, could you remember?  Generally, you probably could…but could you remember the exact titles of some of your favorites or which books you held dear because they were a special gift?
For those of us who might not remember that far back, here’s where a little thing called keepsakes comes into play.  While I am not a hoarder, I will admit to being somewhat of a packrat but I have a better title for what I am…I am a collector of memories.  I keep anything and everything that will generate some sort of memory for me, good or bad.  It’s probably one of the reasons I got into scrapbooking. 

So the other night I was going through some old keepsakes and I found a bunch of books I kept from when I was a kid.  I won’t deny it made me extremely nostalgic.  Not just for how exciting it was to be a young reader always on the lookout for a new and exciting story but also for the days when I used to read books to my boys when they were small children.  Books are a wonderful escape as an adult.  For children, books are not an escape so much as they are an adventure.  Children get lost in the story because of the wonder and the possibilities and just because the story excites them and makes them feel good.  
Some books are simple, such as these hard bound books I had when I was a very young reader…

Other books are for beginning readers but offer fun as well, such as Peggy & Me, which let me turn the pages to dress both girls in the book differently.  Or my Lolly Elephant book which, if you could actually feel through the computer, you’d discover Lolly is covered with a soft, fuzzy material. 


At one point, I moved on to Disney stories and a favorite of mine included read-along books with records.  I even had two 45’s!


Eventually, I moved up from read-along records to actual paperbacks of some of my favorite Disney stories…


Except Run Wild, I don't believe that's Disney.  I even remember when I was really into animals – well, I’m always into animals but there was a time when I adored books about animals and these are a few favorites I kept:


Another change in my reading habits began when I loved comics and one I got a kick out of was Spy vs. Spy.  Think of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner…but not as cute and a bit more devilish.

Of course, my first favorite series was Little House on the Prairie, before I moved on to the Nancy Drew mysteries. 

It wasn’t long before I realized that mysteries were my favorite.  I have no doubt my early interests in mysteries led to my later interests in investigating and now my interest in writing mysteries.
These are just some of the books I grew up with.  It may be hard to believe I still have them after all this time but really, if you know me even a little, you know it’s not very hard to believe at all.  These books are very important to me.  Not only are they a part of my past and how I became an avid reader at such an early age, but they are also a part of my future as the love I found for books back then has only continued to increase as I grow older. 

How about you?  Are you a collector of memories?  Do you still have books from when you were a kid and if so, what types of books hold the fondest memories for you?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What keeps the Imagination Fit

When it comes to the imagination, I believe it needs continuous feeding…to keep it fit and free from lack of use.  There are many ways to keep the imagination fit:  reading, writing, puzzles, drawing, painting…take your pick from these or the many other ways you can choose to use your imagination.
While there are many ways I keep my imagination fit, one of the ways I feed my imagination is with writing prompts.  As I began to add to my collection of writing books, I found a book titled “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves.  It has become one of my favorite books when it comes to a mix of sound advice, useful information, great quotes, quirky tidbits about the writing life of authors, as well as writing prompts for every day of the year.

The writing prompts are an odd mix.  As you can imagine, 365 ideas to write about might be a very long list to come up with.  But they are an odd enough mix so as to make your imagination work hard at coming up with ideas when each one is so different from the other.
To give you an idea, here is one example:

Prompt:  “A summer garden”
I came up with: 

A summer garden with dew lightly covering petals and leaves.  Bees, dragonflies and butterflies touch, taste and linger.  The sun rises and tantalizes all it touches with soft warm rays of light.  As the sun rises to its peak, the sunflowers cheerfully follow from their place in the summer garden.  A kitten stretches out on a garden bench, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun.  As the day passes slowly and the light begins to fade away, the ground cools, the garden sleeps and soon the summer garden is ready for a brand new day.
Here’s another…

Prompt:  “Nearing midnight”
The moon might be a sliver of light, offering very little comfort on a dark and foggy night.  Or the moon may be full, the evening free from shadows except those cast by the moonlight.  It is a time of quiet as we settle in for the night; it is a time of discovery for the critters who feel safer in the dark.  Nearing midnight we look forward to a brand new day.  Maybe better, maybe brighter, but a new start nonetheless.  As midnight draws near, we may look back at the results of the day behind us and hope to have few, if any, regrets.  Nearing midnight we say goodbye to one day and hello to the next, as to witness the beginning of another new day we can only feel blessed.

What do you think?  Don’t you agree how writing prompts about various subjects can only do good things when it comes to keeping your imagination fit?  Try it yourself…choose a random topic, write freely and see what you come up with.  Here are a few off the top of my head:
What if we had a memory like an elephant?

What is the most vivid dream you can remember?
If you had to trade places with any animal…which would you choose?

What if an alien landed in your back yard and asked you to take him on a road trip?
Hmm, all of those prompts have me thinking…now I have something to feed my imagination as I think of my own answers while I take care of routine chores for the evening.  While I fold laundry this evening, I will especially enjoy coming up with ideas on what kind of road trip I might actually take an alien on.

Think hard, play hard and enjoy your week!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Little Help goes a Long Way

As I stare bleary-eyed at the computer all day during work and then again in the evenings as I continue to work on the edits of my book, I find that there are times when I’m not quite sure what to write about on my Blog when it comes to my writing. 
I’m writing. 

I’m editing. 
Basically, I’m feverishly attempting to make the deadline looming ahead of me. 

I feel there really isn’t any more I can say when it comes to what I’m up to lately with my writing.  I guess I could say more but I’m very involved with the story and I worry about giving away any spoilers should I actually talk about the characters or the book. 
So…I’ve looked around for some help in the area of blogging.  While I had every intention of putting together an editorial calendar to make blogging easier, I’ve discovered I just don’t want to think that far ahead.  I would also prefer not to lock myself into any specific topic because I know there will be days when I’ll come up with other ideas about what I want to say.

This is where helping hands come in.
Where I finally found some help was on one of my favorite Blogs, the Self Publishing Team.  Toni and Shannon took the time to put together a HUGE list of prompts for authors who blog.  Really, it’s so large there are enough ideas for two posts a week for an entire year! 

*Heavy, contented sigh* 
The work has been done.  The ideas are there for the taking.  I just have to pick a prompt and start typing away.

Now, I can’t say I’d actually choose to write about every single prompt on this list but it certainly gives me enough ideas to keep my brain from completely over heating as I continue to Blog while I’m in the midst of finishing my book…or any other time when I feel I need the extra boost to help me on my way.
Getting this sort of help, as a busy working mom and author, is a treasure and I’ve decided I must put this treasure to good use.   When I do use these prompts to share my thoughts, I’ve decided to label them “Pick-a-Prompt” so you’ll know I’m working from the list.  If you’re an author, check out the list yourself if you’re in need of some blogging prompts.  If you’re a reader, I hope you’ll enjoy the prompts as I share them and if any of the prompts I choose to write about end up prompting you to share something or ask a question, please do!

Until next time…will it be live or will it be prompted?


Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mother’s Day Weekend

Mother's Day basket
Mother’s Day is usually a busy day for me…I spend the morning with my boys and my husband, if he’s not working, before heading out the door to see all the moms in my family.  Between my mom, my stepmom and my mom-in-law, it can make for a busy day. 
This year is probably the first year I will not be running around on Mother’s Day and I have to say it’s really quite nice.  I’m enjoying a day at home with my boys and taking on whatever project tickles my fancy. 

My morning began with a nice surprise waiting for me on the front porch when I stepped outside to feed my cats...a hanging basket from my boys.  Then I had coffee and French toast made for me as a nice Mother’s Day breakfast.  I relaxed a bit afterwards with more coffee as my youngest son and I watched one of the Harry Potter movies running all weekend for Harry Potter fans.  Now, after puttering around the house a bit, I thought I’d share how the rest of my weekend went.

Baby shower gifts
Yesterday is the day I spent running around, which is more of a reason to enjoy relaxing today.  First, my mom and I drove up to Everett for my sister’s baby shower.  I haven’t seen my sister in quite some time so this was a long-awaited treat for me and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the afternoon with her.  I really can’t recall the last time I attended a baby shower but it was so much fun to watch my nephew as he helped his mom open all the baby showers gifts.  Even though the gifts weren’t for him, he enjoyed it as much as his own birthday or Christmas.  He also treated us by reading the cards as best as he could but he was stumped with cards which were written in cursive…I’m certain the handwriting probably looked like a foreign language to him!

All good things must come to an end and after a nice visit, good food, tasty treats and an array of gifts to oh and ah over (baby girl clothes are so cute!), it was finally time to say goodbye.  But not for long…my sister is very, very close to having her baby and I look forward to visiting again soon so I can hold my brand new niece in my arms.

Tulalip Resort Casino
Since it was Mother’s Day weekend, my mom and I decided to spend some extra time together after the baby shower doing something we both enjoy…plunking down a bit of cash in the casino slots.  I don’t get up to that area very often anymore so it was a treat to visit the Tulalip casino after not having been there for quite awhile.  It’s a very large, beautiful casino and aside from the fact that Saturdays really aren’t the best day to visit a casino (the slots were not very kind), it’s a nice casino to visit because crowding or lack of machines really aren’t an issue.  Another positive was the air quality which, for someone who has become allergic to cigarette smoke, is something I was very impressed with because I didn’t have a reaction and didn’t smell smoke unless I was right up next to someone who had just lit up.

Water feature at Tulalip Resort Casino

But again, the fun has to end and it was time to leave for the long drive home because I still had someplace else I needed to be.  My brother’s birthday was also this weekend and I had made plans to meet my family at his house to celebrate, plus it also gave me the opportunity to see my stepmom for Mother’s Day.  After a nice drive back home with my mom, I finally made it to my brother’s where I was able to give my stepmom her gift and then spend the rest of the evening playing games with the family.  I’ll admit, by the end of the evening when we finally drove home, I was exhausted.
My Mother’s Day weekend was a busy one, which is par for the course, but it’s nice to actually relax today after such a busy day yesterday.  If you’re a mother, I hope you are enjoying your day as well doing whatever it is you wish to do. 

Happy Mother’s Day!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

What Writing has taught Me about Myself

When I decided to finally relent to my passion and begin writing “for real” not quite two years ago, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself in to.  Sure I loved to write.  Of course I wanted to complete a whole novel.  You bet I wanted to publish that same book and start the process all over again.  The whole idea was exciting.  But at the time that’s all it was…an idea.
And then the work began.  I wrote and read and researched and wrote some more.  I began this Blog.  I went back to my book and wrote some more.  I researched a lot more and I continued to write even more.  Eventually, a book appeared…out of the mist of my imagination, a story emerged with characters I enjoyed meeting as each made themselves known to me. 

I thought writing a book would be hard.  That turned out to be the easy part.  Honestly, one of the most surprising aspects of writing is that drafting the first draft of the story is not the hardest part of writing.  All you need to write a book is an imagination, a computer, or pen and paper, and a chair to sit in.  Write what comes to you, what the characters tell you to and what your imagination wants you to.  The real work begins after you write the story as you tweak the manuscript with edits, revisions, formatting, a name and a cover that’ll catch the eye, and then all the marketing involved once the book is finally available for sale.
While it may be a lot of work, it is very enjoyable and rewarding.

So what has this process taught me about myself?  Not as much as you might think…
I already knew I was determined.

I knew I had a good imagination.
I’ve always been creative.

I’ve always been stubborn, especially when I make up my mind.
I’ve always been organized (yes, even if my desk is buried in piles) and detail oriented.

What writing has actually taught me is that I already had all the traits necessary to begin this journey.  Without those traits already in place, I may not have gotten to this point at all.  The bonus for me is that this journey has shown me I also have patience (most days) and perseverance.  Writing has let me utilize the traits I already had and it has helped me strengthen the traits I needed to work on.  While I have much to learn, there is also much more to gain and this gives me so much more to look forward to...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

There are many opinions with regard to whether or not an author should include a prologue in their novels and there are many articles and blog posts written about this very subject.  From the research I conducted on the topic when I was writing my first manuscript, I would have to say many appear to be completely against prologues.  I just can’t say with certainty exactly why.  I’m guessing it’s due to the fact that some authors have misused prologues in some way or only use them to dump information, thereby alienating or misguiding the reader.

It’s possible some people just don’t like prologues.  Period.  While others really don’t mind either way.  Some authors wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole while others feel they are necessary to introduce certain elements of the story to the reader.  I’ve actually read quite a few articles where the claim is made that readers skip prologues completely.  As an author, it gave me pause…but only slightly.  As a reader, I was actually surprised by these statements.  I’ve never skipped a prologue if the author began the story with one.  If it’s there, I expect it’s there for good reason.

I was also surprised at how forceful some opinions were about the reasons authors should not use prologues.  While I took to heart what I learned from those opinions, none of the advice I read from others was going to change the way I planned to introduce the reader to my story.  When I first began writing No Mother of Mine there was no question the initial part of the story had to be a prologue.  After the book became available for sale, much of the response I heard from readers was that the prologue hooked them so that they wanted to read more.  From an author’s viewpoint, comments like that are encouraging.
While I would not call it a place I “dump” information, I am using the prologue to “provide” information to the reader that my protagonist, Jorja, will not learn for some time.  Even then, the reader is left wondering as they take part in discovering the truth alongside Jorja.

For me, using a prologue is what works with these particular types of stories.  I feel the prologue corresponds to how events play out in real life and I very quickly decided it is the best approach when introducing the story to the reader.
My reason for appreciating the use of a prologue has to do with my professional life as a private investigator.  Every single case I take on as a criminal defense investigator is after the fact.  After an incident has occurred.  After a crime has allegedly been committed.  After someone has been arrested.  Beyond those actually present during the initial event, only a fly on the wall can know the whole truth about the circumstances surrounding a crime.  The incident or crime itself is the prologue and not something the main character, in fiction or in real life, is ever personally privy to. 

That’s my reason for using a prologue.  While the reader might not be given all the information they need to understand exactly why something has happened, I feel a prologue gives them necessary information to become vested in a case before they tag along with the protagonist in their attempt to discover the truth.
As I dabble with other types of writing and stories that aren’t mysteries, prologues probably won’t be my first choice.  But as an author, I retain the right to do what works best for the story regardless of whether others believe I’m bending some sort of unwritten rule.  It is what makes writing such a great endeavor; through writing you get to create and through that creation you provide to others what is unique to you.

So what are your thoughts?  Do you enjoy prologues?  Or do you skim or completely skip them?  Maybe you have no feelings about the subject either way.  But if you do, I’d like to hear from you so don’t hesitate to share your opinion or your thoughts.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Merry but Busy Month of May

Honestly, it’s only the second day of the month and I feel like I’m hitting it with full force.  It’s just a crazy, busy time of year for me.  But it’s a good kind of crazy…
I’m doing my best to finish up with the edits on my second book.  I know many who have read the first book are anxiously waiting for the second…but it’ll be available soon.  I promise.  I do have a deadline I’m working under and each day that passes is one more day when I have to ward off a potential panic attack.  Regardless of that fact, I’m always up for a challenge. 
I had planned to hold another book signing this month but I need to focus on the finishing touches of the book and work on other areas related to marketing.  There will be much to be done when I have both books available for sale this summer and I want to be fully prepared…or as prepared as possible anyway. 
After that, I look forward to beginning the third book and I already have plans to offer a few short stories as eBooks, hopefully before the end of the year. 
But I’m getting ahead of myself. 
For now, the focus is on Jorja #2, which is how I will label the book here since the name has eluded me, as I described in a post not too long ago.  Recently, I was reading a post by another author (I can’t recall her name at this moment) who said she thought naming a book was the hardest task of all.  After my first book, I might have argued with her but with this second book, I whole-heartedly agree. 
With so many thoughts running through my mind about what needs to be done, or what I plan to do, you can probably sense why I’m not very focused on any one particular subject at this moment.  And right now, my focus is in another world, with Jorja and the other characters who entertain me and my thoughts daily.  That being said, I’ll get back to them so that I can continue to work on bringing them to you very soon.