General · Reading

My hate to love relationship with books

I’m a slow reader. If I could devote all my free time to reading I could probably get through 4 books a month, but 2 is more realistic. Thing is, that’s speed reading compared to what I used to read. When I couldn’t read even 1 book in a year… Or a decade.

It bothered me a lot. I felt there wasn’t a point to me reading, because it took me so long to get through a book. Which slowed me down even more, because I’d set a book down, frustrated by how slowly I was reading and that I kept falling asleep (not because I was bored, but because the physical act of reading put me to sleep) that by the time I got to the end I’d forgotten the beginning.

This, on top of many school/teacher related discouragements about WHAT I liked to read (“Fantasy isn’t real literature”) drove me to the conclusion that I wasn’t meant to be a reader, because I didn’t read the “right” books, reading put me to sleep, and I was way too slow.

My husband tried for a long time to help me get past these terrible thoughts, but I’d already decided I was a lost cause.

Until about 2 1/2 years ago, when I decided I wanted to write a novel (which is a whole story in and of itself I will tell sometime,) and I knew, if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to read. (It can’t be a coincidence that I gave up reading and writing at about the same time…)

It was not easy. All the problems I had were still problems. The worst of them being falling asleep, no matter where I was, after no more than a page or two.

So, how did I fix this? I trained. Yes… Just like an athlete training their muscles to run further or jump higher, I trained my brain to read longer.

Everyday, or every chance I got, I sat down with my book (not in bed, since we all know that triggers the brain into sleep mode) and read just to the point I felt I might fall asleep. But never to the point I DID fall asleep. Then I put the book down and did other things.

It was difficult to do this and be OK with it. I worried I’d fall back into the old habit of getting frustrated I wasn’t reading fast enough, put the book down and never pick it up again. I think what made a difference though, was immersing myself not only in reading, but in writing. I was brainstorming, outlining, and started my first rough draft. I also discovered BookTube and Brandon Sanderson’s BYU lectures. I wasn’t just reading, I was neck deep in the bookish world and it kept me going.

After a few days, I was reading a few more sentences. A couple weeks went by and I was reading several pages. After a couple of months, I was reading multiple chapters in one sitting.

It worked!

And now, I fall asleep reading, but only because I stay up way too late to read just one more chapter.

The thing is, I’m still a slow reader, compared to many long lived readers, and I don’t think that will ever change. But now, I don’t want it to. All I ever wanted was to enjoy reading. I do now! Reading a book I love, slowly means I have more time with it and I love that!

I don’t know. This was on my mind, so I thought I’d share.

How about you? Have you always been a reader or did it take time to fall in love with books?

Take care!

Ann Marie Swaim icon

Monthly Updates · writing

Writing: Monthly update for April

It’s the first of the month, or close enough lol Time for another writing update!

Querying:

Things happened. Not going to go into detail today, but I am no longer going to be publishing with Fyre and Brimstone. So, I’m taking From Stars, Come Dragons back on the road! I submitted it to 2 agents and 2 publishers. Have already been rejected by one agent. Onward!

Current WIPs:

From Stars, Come Dragons – Submitting again.

 

TDB – I really need to get a proper working title for this thing. If you don’t remember, this is my epic fantasy novel. I made some great progress on this in April. I wrote several thousand words and am currently over 21K. I’m not worrying about getting this done too quickly. I’m a pretty impatient person and the fact I’m not anxious about getting this done is a weird and good thing. So, I’m embracing it.

Short Stories:

April was the beginning of my short story journey! Why? Because I want to put something out there. I feel awful that I’d hyped the publication of my novel and have had to go back on that. This is my way of making up for it, and to hopefully get some feedback to improve my writing. Seriously, when I post my first short, Under the Amethyst Sky on May 15th, please please please give me your honest opinions. It’s the only way for me to improve and I so badly want to.

These shorts are not going to be professionally edited. I can’t afford that, but they will have gone through several revisions and at least two critiques. One with my husband and another with my critique partner, Lindsay. This should give you a polished product that will be fun to read!

So, for the shorts I’m actually working on…

Under the Amethyst Sky – Will probably do another revision before releasing on May 15th. If you didn’t see already, here’s the cover!Under the Amethyst Sky

I doctored, slightly, a free image I found on Canva.com and used the Canva tools to add the text. Great site! Highly recommend!

Short Story 2 (for release on June 15th) – No title for this one yet, but I have started writing it! Another fantasy. TBH, most, if not all, of my stories will be fantasy. It’s my favorite genre. lol This one has witches!

Reading:

Read two books in April, which means I’m still on track with my 2018 reading goal! Though, technically, I finished the second book on May 1. I’m cheating a little including it here. xD

This month I only included my Goodreads review for one of the books I read. I didn’t include the other, because it contains a lot of spoilers. I did link to my Goodreads page and you can find my review there if you wish to read a spoiler review.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads rating: 4 starsACourtofMistandFury

Goodreads profile (If anyone knows how to link directly to a review, could you please tell me? I couldn’t figure it out. Thanks!)

 

 

Dreamer’s Pool (Blackthorn & Grim) by Juliet Marillier

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

DreamersPoolI can’t express how much I loved this book. Sure I figured out the mystery early on, but this book is absolutely about the journey. The characters pulled me in. Grim is one of my favorite characters ever! And I love the bad guy in this. Not the typical baddie. I love this and loved Cybele’s Secret. I’m getting more of her books!!

 

 

 

BLOGS:

I’m still behind on this. May should be better since I’m starting to find a groove with my writing schedule, the changes and added responsibility at my day job, and everyday family activities. Our lives are nuts! Maybe, one day, I’ll let you in on how crazy and abnormal our schedule is, but don’t have the time today. lol

 

Well… I think that does it. Some ups and downs. One down I would have liked to avoid, but all in all an OK month. At least writing got done, and a lot more than I had expected!

How was your April?

Take care!

Ann Marie Swaim icon

writing

Writing & Goals: Weekly Update

If you didn’t see my last post [here,] I’ll give you a quick recap.

Starting in May, I plan to post a short story on the fifteenth of every month! I’m excited and a little nervous about this, but I think it will be good for me. A great way to keep me moving and hopefully improve my writing skills.

As soon as I can, I’ll reveal the title of the upcoming story. I also want to give each story a cover. So, not long after I reveal the title, I’ll reveal the cover.

Set your calendars! May 15, 2018 I’ll release the first short story on my blog!

Since I’ve been focusing on my short all week, I haven’t gotten any more writing done on my other WIPs. But that’s OK. I wrote a little over 1K words on my short story and started editing it!

This week, my goal is to finish editing my short, title it, and create the cover art. Once that’s done, I’ll jump back into writing on my epic fantasy, TDB, and brainstorm another short story idea.

WOO! So much to do!

How was your week? What are your goals?

Thanks for reading!

Ann Marie Swaim icon

General · writing

Writing, Goals, & Question: Weekly Update – Is my WIP Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, or both?

OMG! Such a great writing week! I wrote around 7K words and expect to write at least that much this week 🙂

I wrote on my new WIP. Which, so far, only has an abbreviation, TDB. In my last monthly update, I let you know it was an epic high fantasy. I’ve always been a little confused about how epic and high fantasy are different, so I poked around the internet for a bit and found these two definitions pretty well sum up the vast majority of the opinions I found.

Epic Fantasy:

*Generally tales of a young nobody, thrown unexpectedly into a massive “Good vs. Evil” struggle, where he must learn to uncover his own latent heroism to save the day. Often also includes a “grail-finding” quest – regardless of whether the ‘grail’ is an icon, a person, a magical talisman or any other form of symbolic token.

High Fantasy:

*The type of fantasy that most people expect when they regard ‘fantasy’ as a genre. Includes lords and ladies, medieval styles and settings, kingdoms and castles, and dragons and knights. High fantasy, while generally rooted in classical mythology and medieval European legends, focuses its themes on Good versus Evil. Sometimes called “Epic fantasy”. Often plotted to encompass three or more books.

*I found similar definitions in many places, but decided to use this specific definition from this source

TDB fits pretty darn well into the Epic catagory. Actually, I think I check every box in that definition at one point or another.

But now I’m going back and forth on whether or not it’s High fantasy. TDB has a medieval style, though it’s not a classical medieval setting. I have a kingdom, but my royals live in a palace not a castle. Yet, there are fortified cities throughout the land. There are plenty of creatures lurking in the dark and some in the light, but none of them are dragons. And there are armies with ranked soldiers and such, but not specifically knights.

Right after I started seriously writing again, I watched Brandon Sanderson’s BYU writing lectures on YouTube. I think one of his students asked his take on the differences between these sub-genres or maybe he just mentioned in passing, that he considered anything not of Earth, and specifically with “alien” races to be high fantasy. If I take that alone as the definition, then TDB is high fantasy.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the subject. What do you think the difference between these sub-genres are? Do you even care? Does this definition affect whether you pick a book up or not? Tell me all the things 😛

Take care!

🙂

Monthly Updates · writing

Writing: Monthly Update for January

It’s the first of the month! Time for another writing update!

Querying:

While I’m deep in the revising trenches preparing to publish, querying will be on hold.

Current WIPs:

From Stars, Come Dragons (The Seven Stars #1) – Had a great month with this. I received feedback from my content editor. Not as bad as I expected. I spent two weeks revising and handed my revisions in. This guy is is now back with my content editor and I’m waiting on my next round of feedback!

What revisions did I make?

There were some clarity issues. People in one place suddenly appearing across the room with no indication they had moved. It was a bit disorienting.

No structural changes. But I did add and change some minor world building things to allow for the development of other characters and the direction the series is going.

General clean up! It had been many months since I touched this manuscript. My writing has improved a lot in those months. There were several passages that were clunky. Descriptions that were too shallow or on the nose. Not that I went purple with my prose or anything. That’s not how I write. It just needed beefed up a bit to bring you into the scene better.

Title coming soon (The Seven Stars #2) – The beginning of January, when FSCD landed on my editor’s desk, I dove into book two of this series! I’m having a great time with it. I love where it’s going! As of this morning I’ve already written 16,752 words. It’s coming right along. My goal is to finish the rough draft by the end of February. Though, revising FSCD could push that back. Publishing comes first!

 

Reading:

Read two books in January, which means I’m on track with my 2018 reading goal!

Below, I included my reviews of the two books I read in January. TBH, I wouldn’t say I review books as much as I give my initial thoughts after closing it. Anywho, here they are!

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson51kirZzj7BL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

I’m not really sure what to say. A beautiful story told even more beautifully. Yet… I was left feeling off balance. Not bad, necessarily, just… Off. A lot happened in this book for it being a little less than 300 pages and yet, I didn’t feel like anything important was missing. Then came the end and the epilogue, and I just felt like there was so much more could have been told between them.

I suppose my only complaint is the one I should have… I wanted more.

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

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Goodreads rating: 4 stars (I really wish they’d implement at least half stars)

4.9 really, but can’t quite bring myself to round up. This was such a fantastic journey. It was so deliciously dark. I even teared up at one point. The poor children! Truly, I loved this book. Until the last chapter. Not that I didn’t like it at that point. I was just so far on the edge of my seat throughout, I thought for sure the end would push me off. But I just felt like… is that it?

I still highly recommend it! It’s a journey worth going on. The fairytale telling. The characters. OMG the Defaiders! The use of religion… Deep breaths… I don’t know if the author was inspired by it or not, and this story is not this, but the tone, many times, reminded me of the movie The Village. I’d say if you like that movie, you’ll like this book. Just don’t expect the M. Night twist 😉

Ok that’s it. Really liked this book. Probably read it again sometime.

Beta Reading:

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for beta reading in January. I have volunteered to read for one of my beta readers. Should see that soon and read it in February.

BLOGS:

This week I set a new goal to read more blogs! To keep myself honest, I’m also tweeting about the blogs I read. I’m doing pretty well with it so far. Here are the links to the tweets about the blogs I read this week.

S.E. Isaac

Lindsay Newton

 

Well… I think that does it. Some ups and downs, (let’s be honest, mostly ups) but all in all a great month!
How was your January?

General · writing

Writing and Goals: An even minier update?

Well, I thought things would get back to normal after my son got over Influenza A, but nothing is ever that easy, is it?

Poor kid had one good day last week, then came down with the stomach flu. 😦

Fortunately, he’s come out on the other side a little tired, but functional. Ready for life to be normal again. And so am I!

It was not at all a normal week for anyone in our house, and sickness wasn’t the only reason, but I digress. And because of the abnormalities, I didn’t get any new writing done for the second week in a row.

BUT…

I did get my revision of FROM STARS, COME DRAGONS done and turned into my content editor last night. ON SCHEDULE!

Now that I’m waiting for new feedback, I can start writing again. Our lives are still a bit uprooted and we’re trying to find new footing, but I’m shooting for the moon with my goal this week to try to get myself back on track!

My word count goal this week (always available in the What’s the buzz? widget in the sidebar) is 8K words.

Image result for wish me luck gif

And writing isn’t the only goal I have this week. I would also like to read more. And not just books. I’d really like to read more blogs. I follow so many now and I haven’t had the time to read any. And, to be honest, reading them kind of intimidates me. I can’t tell you why. I know it’s weird, but it’s true.

So, this week, I’m going to set another goal. I’m going to try to read one blog post everyday. And when I finish reading one, I’ll tweet about it! Keep me honest 😉

What are your goals this week?

General · writing

Raising the Stakes has me like hmm…

Just had sort of an ah-ha moment listening to the the Writing Excuses podcast. For those of you not familiar with this cast, it’s a group of published writer, from different genres, discussing different aspects of the writing process. The episode I was listening to, that made me go hmm… was 12.41: Raising the Stakes.

So, this cast was all about what a writer should and shouldn’t do to raise the stakes in their novel to keep the reader engaged without wearing them out. It was all well and good. I was hearing a lot of things I had heard before, then Mary Anne, I believe (it’s very hard for me to put a name to a voice. Not to mention another author on this cast is named Mary) said this about a book called Hild by Nicola Griffiths…

“Mostly it’s very domestic. It’s about a little girl learning how to navigate her world,[…] but you can feel the looming disaster.”

This immediately made me examine my own work (specifically From Stars, Come Dragons,) because I have often worried it focuses too much on the domestic and not enough on the fantastic, at least at first. I raise the stakes for my main character, Henry, very slowly and I worry I will lose people looking for blood.

Then Mary chimes in after her and starts speaking to the plight of new authors and how they feel the need to throw everything at the reader right away to keep them engaged. And how that isn’t the best way to get the reader engaged either because, where do you go from there? How do you raise the stakes, when they’re already so high? But then, this is what most people who read fantasy expect. Or so it seems.

Not me. Not always, anyway.

I love fantasy. But my favorite fantasy books are the ones that burn the slowest. The most recent example I have of this is Cybele’s Secret by Juliette Marillier. Everything in this novel burns slowly. The romance, the plot, the magic, the character development, all of it. It’s now one of my favorite books. This is probably why I tend to write this way. Where the fantasy, and sometimes the plot, takes somewhat of a backseat to the characters and what they’re going through and how what they’re going through affects them achieving or not achieving their goals. But if this isn’t what fantasy readers expect, what do you do?

My answer is, do it anyway. Write what you love. Write the story that begs to be written, in the way it demands to be written. But be mindful of the consequences. Know you’re story will not appeal to everyone’s taste and hope it reaches the audience who will love it for what it is.

I’m happy with my writing. I love my book. I just worry, like I’m sure most writers do, how readers will react to the story that wouldn’t leave me alone.

Anyway, this probably wasn’t super coherent or sensible, but that podcast hit really close to home and I felt the need to spew my thoughts.

I Would love to know what you all think of this and how you handle keeping the reader engaged to the end. Or more to the point, how you deal with the worry of not being able to keep them engaged. And what keeps you engaged as a reader? Is all about the action?

So, yeah… Hit me up with a reply. I’d love to discuss!

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