Top 2 Bottom Reviews has an interview with me today, so hop on over and read it. I'm talking about reading, writing, and... well, that's pretty much all I'm talking about. Since that's pretty much all I do:).
And yes, I'm back from holiday and have some, uh, interesting photos to show you. So very interesting. I'm not going to reveal anything, but: Men in kilts. Oh, yeah.
So, there I was, three days ago: I had stocked up on delicious food, equally delicious brownies and a good book - you know, just to get warmed up before I began editing the sequel to A Russian Bear (yep. The same one I've been talking about for ages now). I was deep into Kate Sherwood's latest Dark Horse novel when I began noticing that it was really cold in my apartment. So cold that I was shivering, in fact. Well, it was a good book, so I kept on reading, and it wasn't until I had finished that I realized that I was sick as a dog. As in "somebody please take me out of my misery"-sick. Food poisoning, in other words. It turned out that the delicious, fancy food really was fancy - in a bacteriologically not so good way.
So, now I'm spending my precious days off being sick and not editing my book. And yes, I'm feeling really, really sorry for myself. As a matter of fact so sorry that I'm comfort-buying books. I need it, you see. For your information, Kate Sherwood as well as Vaugh R. Demont are really good reads (they actually kept me sitting up in bed - gasp!). Now I'll begin Alexandr Voinov's Dark Soul. I've read his Scorpion and loved it.
So, if you need comfort reads, those are good choices. And by the way, you should never begin three paragraphs in a row with a "so". Just sayin'. But I'm sick, so I'm allowed to.
I've had a lot of deadlines lately in one of my other jobs. I'm a book critic, and last weekend, I had a stack of books waiting for me. I did the math, and with a sigh, I realized that I had more than 1500 pages to get through. I reached out for the first book, determined to get through the pile, and then I hesitated.
1500 pages. Yeah, that's a lot, but there used to be a time when that meant a lot of excitement. When had I started thinking in pages instead of books, in simple math instead of the amount of literary adventures waiting for me - in work instead of pleasure?
Being a book critic is work, of course; I get paid to do it, and I don't get to choose what I want to read. But it's a great job, as well. As a matter of fact, it's a dream job (even though it doesn't feel that way when you're forced to get through a less than stellar crime novel. No, Detective, don't go into the woods; the murderer is out there, you idiot). It was in that moment that I realized that I had to get back to how things used to be; otherwise even this dream job would end up being just another chore.
Luckily, it turned out I had some really great books waiting for me - as in books you remember, for the good and the bad and for everything inbetween. It gave me back some of the faith in literature I had obviously lost sometime along the way, reading all those bad books and experiencing all that horrible editing.
Now I have to take a look at my writing as well to make sure I don't make the same mistake there. If that means writing a little less or editing a little more, then so be it. The most important thing is to remember the joy of it.
So. I've been a bit quiet lately - in real life as well on this blog. The reason is that Christmas is getting closer and closer. And with Christmas comes drama.
My family loves drama, and they especially love to put me in the middle of it, it seems. The reasons are many, and convoluted, and for a large part, incomprehensible to me. It has something to do with the fact that I've chosen to live my life differently, including getting a university degree and insisting on using it, even though it's posh. Sigh. (And no, there's nothing as boring as reading about other people's family issues, is there?)
Well, here's what I do when I've got the blues, Christmassy or otherwise: I read. And I don't read just any book; i want Comfort Lit. So, if you've got your own family hassles, here are some good escape tips:
Kate Sherwood's Dark Horse stories. I've mentioned her before, but her work is still wonderful - and some of it is even free.
The Gaucho Code. I've read and enjoyed Julia Talbot's stories before, but this is really a gem. I also like her Just Like Cats and Dogs.
Baker's Dozen. I read this book a couple of years ago and really, really loved it.
And something quite different: The Administration. A free online story which absolutely isn't feel-good Comfort Lit. But hell, sometimes you want something different.
Another free story is Noel Blue's The Groupie. I'm saving the last chapter for when I've survived my Christmas ordeal:)
I hope that's helpful in fighting your own Christmas blues - or just reading some good books.
Well. The good kind of Hell, if such a thing exists. I worked my ass off this week on my Real Life job, and it was so much fun - but dear God, it was exhausting. I actually felt hung over yesterday from sheer fatigue.
I can't really write when I'm this worn out, which is a shame, because writing gives me a lot of energy - and it's been months since I've really been able to do it. I had a day off last weekend, and I read through my sequel to A Russian Bear. It was so long time since I'd last had my hands on it that I actually caught myself thinking "oh, wonder what's Mischa's going to do now?" I'm really looking forward to having more writing time!
But, in the meantime, I used my semi-comatose time to read some really good stories. I've read a couple of books by Kate Sherwood - Dark Horse and Out of the Darkness - that I really, really loved. A warning: They will make you cry, but God, they're good. Alas, yesterday I found out that the wonderful author actually has three free stories out about the same characters! I've read two of them so far, and they're excellent.
You can read more about Kate Sherwood here.
Oh, and I almost forgot to tell that the lovely Kate plans to give us more free stories! Read more on her website.
So. Something happens when you start writing: You start reading differently, too. I already kind of knew that since I'm a book critic - and reading for fun and reading to critique something are two very different things. When you read for fun, you (I) read to get a look into another world, to get a break from reality, or perhaps even to escape it (the story of my childhood). As a "professional" reader, you read to be able to form an opinion which then hopefully enables your reader to decide whether she wants to buy the book or not. Both kinds of reading is fun AND interesting.
Reading as a writer is just plain annoying, though. You start noticing things like personal pronouns (if there's more than one "he" in a sentence, do they all point back to the same person?), plot coherency (does our hero just have to go out into the woods alone, even if it's the most idiotic decision ever made - just to make the plot work?) - or simply the difference between the Oxford comma and the AP Stylebook comma (and that's just plain stupid to pay attention to).
It does have the advantage of making you a better writer, though, so I guess I just have to toughen up. Or to ignore all those wayward personal pronouns.
... and loving it. The only thing wrong with this author is that she hasn't written any more books than she has. Reading her latest novel Hourglass (or any of her other stuff for that matter) is just like eating large amounts of chocolate. Well, without the guilt, of course. And the unfortunate effect on your waistline.
We're in the middle of peak season in the book market; every self-respecting publisher wants to have most of their books out now, ready for Christmas shopping. That means lots and lots of hopeful debuts and brainy zeitgeist novels and the compulsory "how hard can it be to write a thriller" thrillers. All sent to the poor book critic (me) three days before the publishers hope for a glowing review (by the way, if you're one of those publishers: Rethink that strategy. Really rethink it).
I'm not complaining, it's a good job; it keeps your reading skills where they need to be, and you know what happens in the industry. But: There's just hardly any time for comfort reads. Especially not if you want to write something of your own stuff, too. That's why I sometimes reach Christmas with a desperate need for less paper books and more comfort reads (those are always e-books for me). And, above everything else, time to write.
I guess it's all part of the rhythm of the year: I write in the summer, read in the fall and edit during the winter months. Springtime I use for collapsing with stress...
I've recently bought the latest book in the Deviation series by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne, "Safe Words". And read it, too, unfortunately. I was almost reluctant to do it, because I knew for every page I read, there would be one less left to read (does that make sense? It does to me). Then I got another story by Syd McGinley, "Little Fishes" (part of the Charity Blitz Sip, by the way), and that was the same, just worse: I really can't get enough of her characters. It took me a while to warm up to Tommy (he just wasn't Dr. Fell), but I'm there now. So there. Only, I've run out of pages there, too.
Now I'm sulking until I find something else to read.
I read and I write - everything from corporate to kink. My naughty fictional friends are always there to make my life interesting. And pester me, of course. Pesky creatures.