Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Month: April 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Weekend Reading

As you can see, the blog (and eventually the related sites) is undergoing some changes. But that doesn’t mean I am willing to give up my weekend reading. What I did earlier was ask some trusted friends to send me reading recommendations. The only proviso was they had to have read the book. Here are a few of the titles they suggested.

From D. Jason Fleming, I received these two recommendations:

Through Darkest Zymurgia!: A Ripping Yarn (The Known World Book 1)

by William H. Duquette

A ripping yarn of exploration and adventure in a world almost—but not quite—entirely unlike our own. Join the Anglish expedition to the fabled land of Zymurgia, legendary home of brewing! On the way you’ll brawl with the opera lovers of Lyricum Town, carouse with the sailors of Cuprios, and survey the antique monuments of Seros as you cruise up the ever-lengthening Aram! Mythogeographic discoveries lurk around every corner.

Vikings at Dino’s: A Novel of Lunch and Mayhem

by William H. Duquette

A novel of Lunch and Mayhem. Michael Henderson has questions. Why is he so small for his age? Why did the blonde pull a gun on him? Why are Vikings trashing all of his favorite lunch spots? And will he ever be able to eat a cheeseburger in peace?

From David Pascoe, I got the following recommendation (one I can agree, having read the book myself):

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series, Book 1)

by Kate Paulk

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

Kate Paulk suggested the following book, one we both had the pleasure of beta reading. It is available for pre-order and will be released May 2nd.

Darkship Revenge

by Sarah A. Hoyt

After winning the civil war in Eden, Athena returns to her calling, collecting powerpods with her husband Kit. Now weeks away from Earth, she goes into labor. To make matters worse, a strange ship attacks Athena and Kit’s Cathouse and kidnaps Athena’s husband. That ship is called Je Reviens. It’s a named steeped in history—and not the good kind of history.

Hot on Kit’s trail, Athena discovers that you shouldn’t name a ship Je Reviens unless you intend it to return. The genetically modified Mules are back, and they have a plan to prevent themselves from being exiled ever again. And if the Mules win, the best thing humanity can hope for is slavery.

The worst is death.

While a bio-engineered plague wreaks havoc on the forces of liberty, Athena must risk herself, her husband, and her child for the survival of humanity.

The Mules may be about to find out what revenge truly is: one angry mother.

There are more books that I’ll be linking over the next week or two. But these are a good place to start if you’re looking for something to read. Of course, you could also check out any of my titles from the sidebar to the right. Simply click on a cover and it will take you to the Amazon page. Thanks!

Working Weekend

Sorry for the lateness of today’s post. Between staying up late last night writing and getting up this morning and doing some more redesigning of the site, actually writing a blog slipped my mind. So, what to blog about?

I guess we’ll start with this site. You’ll be seeing more changes over the next few days. I’m going to combine the blog site (this) with several other sites I have so there is only one actual site to log into and keep up to date. Back when the pen names weren’t open, it was necessary. But now, not so much. So URLs will need to be redirected, some more redesign of this site will be done and, hopefully, by Monday or Tuesday, everything will be in place.

You’ll notice I’ve added cover images of most of my titles in the sidebar to the right. there are a couple of short stories that haven’t been added as well as one series. Eventually, the series will go up but only after I get new covers for them. Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, the books are broken up by author and series. Yes, I know there needs to be some tweaking on alignment but, like Faceplant, WordPress often works to make what should be simple functions more than a tad difficult.

On the writing front, I commented the other day that I was having problems with Battle Wounds. The opening just didn’t feel right. I worked on it, massaged it, tweaked it and finally tossed the opening. I tried a couple of different things that I thought might work and nope, nada. Until last night. It suddenly fell into place and it works.

Of course, that sort of major revision means there will be some tweaking to the story arc. I don’t think it will delay me too much but it does mean the story isn’t coming out this weekend like I planned. The goal now is to have it go live on Amazon on Tuesday the 9th. Although I may delay it to the 16th.

This Tuesday will probably be a reading day. Why? Because the next book in one of the few series I still religiously follow comes out. It’s been too long since we’ve had a new Jane Yellowrock novel and I’m looking forward to this one. Faith Hunter doesn’t write sparkling vampires — thankfully. Her fantastical characters fit into the New Orleans setting and I have yet to be disappointed in her books. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, click on the image to the left. BTW, this is one of the very few non-Baen books I will buy as an e-book and pay release date prices. Of course, the fact that price is $7.99 as opposed to the $12.99 or high I all too often see is part of the reason why.

Now I’m heading back to work. I have a short story to finish and I really, really like how it is coming along.

Honor is Everything

Last night, our local ABC affiliate did a piece on the evening news about a case of Stolen Valor. The piece started out with a Marine making a very simple but obviously heartfelt statement. “Honor is everything to a Marine.” That’s what makes this case so hard to stomach. Brandon Blackstone, a Marine himself (and I use that term loosely) was sentenced to 21 months in less than a week ago on several charges stemming from forgetting what honor means.

This story really starts with Casey Owens. This brave young Texan served in Iraq in, if I remember correctly, 2004. While out on patrol one day, his Humvee hit an anti-tank mine. Owens lost both legs and suffered traumatic brain injuries, among other injuries. Owens survived and returned home. He received a Purple Heart for what happened. Unfortunately, after a decade filled with pain and surgeries and the continuing effects of his brain injury, he took his life in 2014. Casey Owens was a Marine, a hero and he served with honor.

The other key player in this story is Brandon Blackstone. Like Owens, Blackstone is a Texan. He was also a Marine and, while I know there is no such thing as an ex-Marine, I think the Corps might make an exception for Blackstone. You see, even though Blackstone went to Iraq around the same time as Owens, he did not suffer the trauma Owens or so many others did. Approximately a month after arriving there, he suffered appendicitis. He never returned to Iraq from what I can tell.

For whatever reason, Blackstone forgot what honor means to a Marine. Instead of doing what he could in the Corps or to honor his fallen comrades, he stole Owens’ story. After returning home, Blackstone embarked on a journey of fraud and misrepresentation. He told any and all who would listen about how he had been in a Humvee struck by an anti-tank mine. He traveled around the country as a motivational speaker based on this lie.

Worse, he managed to con I don’t know how many people and charities with his tale of woe. He received monies, in the thousands it’s estimated, as well as a free house because of his deceit. I have no doubt he’d still be out there conning folks if he hadn’t been caught.

According to the Dallas Morning News, in his guilty plea, Blackstone admitted to lying about receiving a Purple Heart (which got him a mortgage free home from a charity set up to assist wounded warriors. He also managed to draw disability checks for something like nine years based on his stolen valor tale. The latter entailed him forging statements from two Marines who were supposed to have witnessed his injury.

This man, and I use that term loosely, has to serve 21 months in prison and pay the VA $322,654 in restitution for the disability payments he received over the years. Even though he could have been sentenced to more than 20 years, federal sentencing guidelines mandated he serve nor more than this pittance of time. He got credit for taking responsibility for what he’d done. He will also receive credit for time he’s already spent in jail so, at most, he will serve 18 months.

That is not enough, in my mind, not nearly enough.  He has done nothing to shine honor on the Marine Corps. He had dishonored the memory of every man and woman who served this country and sacrificed their lives for the rest of us. Part of me hopes he finds himself sharing a cell with another Marine, one who might have fallen from the side of the righteous but who still remembers what it means to be a Marine.

As the mother of an active duty member of the military, as someone who comes from a family where serving in the military is something we honor and respect, Blackstone gets nothing but my contempt. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Casey Owens. He sacrificed everything for this country. Other Marines I know and respect, Marines who may no longer be on active duty but who will always remember what it means to be a Marine and who will always honor the Corps, all it stands for and, most of all, their brother Marines, deserve so much more than knowing someone like Blackstone once wore the uniform they still hold dear. As for Blackstone, he deserves nothing but contempt and he sure as hell deserves more than 21 months in prison.

When a story goes off the tracks

When you ask a writer what their process is, some will tell you they outline others will tell you they just sit down and start writing. Some will look at you and then shrug before saying it changes with every project. For me, it’s a little of all that. One thing is usually true, however. When I finally sit down to write, I have an idea where the story is going and how to get there. Oh, I might struggle with the opening paragraph or first few pages, but I know what the story’s about.

Sure, there are times the story might take a left turn before finally getting to the end. Sometimes, characters decide they don’t want to die even if I think the plot needs it. But very rarely do I get into a story and realize that it has gone completely off the rails and there is no nope of saving it. Usually, what happens is that I realize the short story I planned is really part of a novel and, if I begin the story, I will find myself having to write the novel.

The going off the rails is what happened with Battle Wounds. Or, more precisely, it never got on the rails. Yes, I had the story drafted but it just didn’t ring right with me. If it was a standalone short story that wasn’t populated with characters who already have a backstory and all, it would work. But, as part of the Honor and Duty universe, not so much.

Well, to be honest, it would work as a prequel novel.

And, no, I’m not going down that road. Having short stories that take place before the series opens is more than enough. (Yes, yes, I know I just jinxed myself. Without warning, Myrtle the Evil Muse will hit me over the head with the book and not let me go. Sigh.)

Does this mean the short story is off the schedule? Absolutely not. In fact, it should be ready for publication next week some time (assuming my beta readers and editor are available the first of the week). The reason is that about three minutes after I realized why I’d been so bothered with the original draft, I also realized what the story should be. It came to me pretty much full-blown. Now I just need to sit down and write it. That’s my goal over the next couple of days.

Knock on wood.

That means I’ll be announcing its release soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t read the other titles in the series, be sure to check them out. Links to the short stories are included below. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, I’d really appreciate it if you would leave reviews over on Amazon. They really do help. Thanks!

Taking Flight

Duty, honor, sacrifice. That motto meant everything to newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Ashlyn Shaw. She thought she understood the meaning of those simple words. Little did she know.

Challenged by those who believed she made it through the Academy on her family’s coattails, a roommate who just wants to see “some action” and a gunnery sergeant determined to make a real Marine out of her, Ash soon realizes what it means to be a Marine. As the signs point to war on the horizon, she is determined to do everything she can to serve Fuercon and do the Corps proud.

Battle Bound

Newly promoted, Captain Ashlyn Shaw has been ordered to take Delta Company to the Bennington System. Their mission is simple: secure groundside defenses and seek out the Callusian invaders. It should be a simple assignment. The Fuerconese Navy had proven itself time and again since war had been declared to be more than a match for the Callusians. Once Taskforce Liberator, under the command of Admiral Tremayne, secured the system approaches, Ash and her Devil Dogs could get to work.

Except no battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy. This time the Callusians are breaking pattern and it will take everything Tremayne and Ashlyn have to lead their people to victory.

The Devil Dogs will get the mission done, no matter what the cost.

 

Writer’s Life and an Announcement

I love being a writer. For as long as I can remember, this is what I wanted to do. Oh, it went through different variations. At one point, I wanted to write for Hollyweird (I was very young). At another, I wanted to follow the family tradition and become a journalist. Then I realized that I had, for as long as I could remember, made up stories, not just for my own entertainment but for that of my friends and family as well.

For a very long time, starting back in grade school, I wrote stories. They’d be called fanfic today. As I got older, I realized I could use my imagination and make up my own worlds and characters and write about them. I’ve blogged before about how my cousin Clarice, God rest her soul, encouraged me to do just that. She told me the story of her father, my Great-Uncle Herb, who wanted to be a playwright. He wrote two plays — she gave me one of them, one Uncle Herb labored over his typewriter to produce — and copyrighted them. But then life happened and he decided making sure his family had food on the table and a roof over their heads was more important. Even so, he never lost his love of writing and one part of him regretted that he hadn’t been able to pursue his dream.

Had he been born later, at a time where he could take advantage of the opportunities writers have to go indie, that might have been different. I don’t know. All I know is Clarice’s words stuck with me. Even as I slogged through jobs I hated, I always did my best to find time to write. Oh, it wasn’t every day but when I could scratch out the time, I did.

So let’s fast-forward to today. Writing and freelance editing are my main sources of income now. I love it. Sure, I bitch about editing from time to time but that’s when I’m having to edit my own work. I know very few authors who are good at editing and proofing their short stories and novels. You see, we know what is supposed to be on the page and our brain thinks it sees it. That’s why we have editors and proofreaders, not to mention beta readers, to help us out.

We know we’ve done our jobs when we start seeing reviews going up on Amazon or elsewhere and when we see comments on social media or get emails telling us how much someone has liked our work. We tend to worry — okay, obsess and fret and threaten to never write again for whatever reason — when the reviews are slow to come. It’s hard to remember that not everyone who buys our work is going to run out and review it.

So here’s the thing, folks, I’m looking for reviews. What I’m considering, as a way of not only jostling a few elbows in hopes of getting folks who have read my work to go post a review on Amazon but to also bring in a few new readers, is a giveaway. I’m still working out the details and will announce them in the next day or two. So, there is your reason to check back here from time to time. I have the basic idea in mind — post a review for one of my books, send me the link and I will send you a free copy of one of my other titles. But, as I said, I need to work out the details. So, more to come.

Until then, let a writer know you appreciate their work. Writers need virtual pats on the back too.

Sharing

The other day, I saw a story about a mother who told her child he didn’t have to share his toys with the other kids at the playground. I’ll admit, my first inclination was a knee-jerk one of “who does she think she is?”. Then I read the story and, not surprising, the headline had miscued what actual facts were. Color me not surprised.

The basic set up was that a mother took her young son to the park. Almost as soon as they arrived, a group of kids descended upon the child, wanting him to share his toys with them. That’s not so unusual. What the headline failed to note was that these were not kids he knew. They were strangers. So, when the little boy, obviously distressed at having to give up his toys to people he didn’t know, looked to his mother for guidance, she told him he didn’t have to share unless he wanted to.

There’s the key and what so many of those who are now criticizing the mother seem to overlook. She gave the child permission to wait until he was comfortable sharing with kids he didn’t know.

There’s something else I wondered that so many of the mother’s critics seem to have overlooked. Where were the parents of those kids wanting the little boy’s toys? Why weren’t they there making sure their children introduced themselves and perhaps offered the little boy their own toys to play with in exchange for playing with his?

But no. The criticism has all fallen on the mother who told her son he didn’t have to share with strangers if he didn’t feel comfortable doing so at that time.

I really hadn’t planned on blogging about this because it is so stupid, imo. The mother was well within her rights to tell her son he didn’t have to share with children he — and by implication she — didn’t know. But national media picked the story up and you would think this woman is the worst mother ever. This morning, on Good Morning America, they were going on and on about how wrong she had been in how she handled the situation (at least it seemed that way. I’ll admit, I do my best to tune the show out when my mother has it on)

Here’s the thing, if you are sitting in the park, enjoying a sandwich or cold drink and a stranger walks up and asks for what you are eating or drinking, would you give it to him? I’m not talking about someone who is obviously in distress and needs a helping hand. I’m talking someone much like you. They just happen to like what you have and want it.

Do you have any obligation to “share” your things with them?

Let’s take it a step further.

Say you have taken your drone out to the park. Are you going to let someone you don’t know play with it? What happens if they crash it or, worse in some ways, just leave with it?

How about your dog?

See where I’m going with this?

What this mother did was simple. She made her son feel less pressured to do something he wasn’t comfortable doing. I bet if we followed the story — something the media isn’t doing because there are more “exciting” things going on now — we would find that the kids are making friends with one another in subsequent visits to the park. They are sharing their toys and having fun. That’s what kids do — as long as adults don’t get involved. Which, unfortunately, is what happened here. Not with the mother initially saying her son didn’t have to share if he didn’t want to but with other parents condemning what she did and with the media picking up on it and attacking her.

As parents, our first duty is to make sure our kids are safe and cared for. That includes their mental and emotional well-being. This mother knew her son wasn’t comfortable and she did her best to diffuse the situation. Is it how any of us would have handled it? I don’t know. None of us do because we weren’t there and we didn’t see the look in that little boy’s eyes. We can guess and we can pontificate but we don’t know.

So, kudos to the mother for doing what she thought was best for her son. I hope that when they return to the park, the kids are allowed to get to know one another without the Big Brothers and Sisters of whatever getting involved.

For more, including the mother’s response to the dirty looks she got at the time, check this post.

When the writer brain is tired

Over the weekend, I spent some time painting part of the inside of the house as well as doing other “chores”. Very little writing was done because, to be honest, the writer brain was tired. I’d spent the week before doing prep work for the next several projects, as well as updating my promotions plan and more. So, because I didn’t have the brain power to read or write, I watched movies. To be specific, I watched some really bad movies. The lesson learned was I really do need to pay attention when my friends tell me a movie is so bad you don’t even want to watch it when it’s free on TV.

The first was a short, perhaps part of a series. I’m not sure and not interested enough to find out. The premise wasn’t unique by a long shot. The world is coming to an end soon and it is up to one martial artist to prove himself worthy and to save us all. We’ve seen it a million times. The difference this time was that the martial artist was an African-American government agent of some sort. The plot itself wasn’t bad but the fight scenes were so poorly choreographed as to be laughable. Anyone knowing anything about fighting, much less martial arts, would be able to spot the problems with what they were doing. Because of the way these sequences were filmed, the tension of the fights, the excitement that comes with a well-done fight scene was lacking. If the short had been anything longer than half an hour, I would not have kept watching.

The second was the first of several movies I watched — or tried to watch. It was the new version of Ghostbusters. Now, I loved the original. It was fun and didn’t take itself seriously. This new one, nope. I didn’t think it possible to make a movie with effects worse now than they were 30 years ago but you can. And they did. The writing was anything but inspired and it was not funny. Sure, I may have smiled, slightly, in a couple of places but it was nothing close to the original.

There were some talented actors (male and female) in the movie and that is what makes it such a crime. I blame Hollyweird for not being creative. It is easier to take something that was a hit years ago and remake it or rebrand it ot whatever. The problem is, that rarely works. We’ve decades of examples the bean counters should have looked at but didn’t. All they saw was that the original worked so surely this would.

Nope and nope and nope. The best thing about the movie was knowing it was over and I had the option of deleting it from my DVR. Which I did.

The biggest disappointment was another movie I’d heard was a disappointment but I had to see for myself.

Independence Day: Resurgence had the potential of being awesome. The original, despite screwing the science up so badly, was a fun flick that I have watched more than once. Part of that was the “we can and will prevail or die trying” attitude of the main characters. Part was the relationship between some of the characters. Then there was the comic relief of Randy Quaid. There was enough fun in the movie as well as explosions and evil aliens, etc.

This new installment. Nope and nope and nope again. If I had paid to see it in the theater, I’d have asked for my money back. The acting was, on the whole, second and third rate. The plot, which could have been great, was predictable and, there’s not way around it, If they explained what happened to some of the characters from the earlier movie, I missed it. (I think I dozed during part of the film. Either that or my mind shut down out of self-protection,)

It comes down to this, if you are going to do a sequel to a much-loved movie — and it doesn’t matter how cheesy the movie is — you need to do the original justice. You can’t simply slowly stroll through the plot and hope folks will stay with you just because they expect aliens and explosions at some point. For example, the original ID4 opened with that great sequence of something passing by the moon. You saw the footprints on the surface and the flag and then it was darkened as something very big and ominous passed by. That immediately signaled something big was about to happen and it might not be a good thing. In the newest installment, you don’t have that. There is no hook, nothing to keep you — or at least me — interested.

So, in a way, I guess the weekend viewing was a lesson for me to remember as a writer. Hook the reader right out of the gate. On that happy note, it is time to get to work. Later!

Busy, busy, busy and more

This week has been, in a word, busy. Hence the silence on the blog. One thing I’ve learned over the last several years is that when the fiction flows, the non-fiction (blog) takes a backseat. For that, I apologize, sort of. But I now have several short stories/novellas  (Battle Wounds, and two in the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe) rough drafted but I also have basic plot notes for several more novels. Add in the current works-in-progress and I know what I’m going to be doing for the next year or so  and that all assumes Myrtle the Evil Muse doesn’t hijack me with something along the way.

I’ll be honest, another reason I’ve stayed away from the blog is the fact that I did not want to go ballistic over some of the things I’ve seen in the headlines. Between Bill O’Reilly and some of the accusations against him to the Antifa protesters at Berkeley and just Berkeley itself, not to mention a local city council candidate, I sometimes wonder who in the hell we managed to claw our way out of the sea, much less the caves.

When you have (allegedly) college professors donning hoods or masks and attacking unarmed people just because they don’t agree with you, you have to wonder what those profs are teaching our children. When you have a university that prides itself on backing freedom of speech finding what seem like spurious reasons to prevent conservatives from speaking on campus, you have to wonder if they interpret the First Amendment the same way you and I do. When you have the media and public forgetting that we are assumed innocent until proven guilty, you have to wonder how far we are from the lynch mobs.

But the cake goes to the candidate who, allegedly, said that people who don’t feel they can afford to pay the taxes in our town should move to one of the neighboring towns. On the surface, the statement doesn’t appear too bad. However, the cities named might have lower tax rates than we do but, if you look at property valuations there, someone moving from here to there, even if they moved into comparable homes, would wind up paying more. While I understand the point the candidate attempted to make, the lack of knowledge of what is going on in our surrounding communities is dumbfounding.

Then there is the candidate who wonders why the city isn’t handing out — for free, one assumes — special food so people can feed the ducks at the local pond. Let’s forget about the cost to the city to provide the food, find a way to dispense and to clean up after it is put everywhere in the park but in the ducks’ mouths, I can certainly think of other things our town needs more than free duck food. The fact is the city passed the no feeding ordinance based on recommendations and, iirc, regulations from the state’s Parks and Wildlife Department.  The city spent thousands of dollars updating and cleaning the “lake” where the ducks live, and one of the driving reasons for that was the health of the ducks. But, damn, to hear it from a very small part of our populace, you’d think the city council hated all animals and were all named Grinch because they could no longer go feed the ducks.

Yet this is their big concern. Not the fact we are landlocked with very little area to expand our tax base. They want our town to be more than a bedroom community but they cry because they can’t feed the ducks and want the city to pay more for it. Where the hell are the priorities? Worse, why is this sort of mindset — attention on the very small and irrelevant details — what seems to be driving so many today?

Okay, enough of this. Deep breath and remember that just because a few yell the loudest, it doesn’t mean the majority backs them. In fact, my guess is that the majority is busy keeping their heads down and trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Like me, they would rather those running for office — and those reporting on them — looked outside their small bubbles and realized there were others out there besides their own echo chambers. If they had before the last election, they might have realized not only that none of the usual suspects, er candidates, were going to win the presidency but that a TV personality and millionaire would.

Now, I’m going to put my head back down and get back to trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head.

Business

This is going to be a short post today. Over the weekend, I had a long talk with myself and one of the things I need to do is take care of business. In this case, it means more than writing, although that’s a big part of it. I need to go back and check my sales trends for the last quarter, six months and year. If adjustments need to be made, I need to figure out what they are and start taking steps in the right direction. That might mean changing the price on some items and updating covers on others.

It also means looking at my marketing plan and bringing it up-to-date. For those of you who have been following me here and at Mad Genius Club, you know I hate promoting my own work. I know. I know. It’s silly. I’m a writer. That means I ought to be shouting from the rooftops when I have a new book coming out. It also means I should be reminding everyone about my books and short stories that are already out. Unfortunately, like so many writers, I’d rather keep my head down and just write.

Part of that is how I was raised. My folks would have smacked me up side the head, figuratively if not literally, if I started bragging about my accomplishments. Oh, it was okay for them to brag on me but not for me to do it. So, after that upbringing, it’s hard to break the habit. But, I have to remember that I’m not bragging on myself when I promote my books. They are my business and that promotion is advertising.

So, I need to look at what I’ve been doing and deciding what works, what doesn’t and what would if I was really doing it the way I should. That means adulting and being businesslike and that makes for a grumpy Amanda. 😉

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask. If you’ve read my books, please go to Amazon and leave a review. Believe it or not, reviews really do help with the promotion end of the business because Amazon has certain levels we have to reach on the number of reviews and how many stars before they start including the books on the “if you liked this, you might like that” sort of recommendations.

Now, I’m off to be businesslike today. Back tomorrow.

Readin’ and Writin’

Five or so years ago, I wandered into an online discussion where a wannabe writer was doing a perfect imitation of a stubborn two-year-old. You could see this person stomping his foot, arms folded across his chest and all but threatening to hold his breath until he turned blue. The reason wasn’t because he’d gotten a bad critique. It was much more basic. This wanna be was pitching a fit because he didn’t understand why others were telling him it was important to read.

Yes, a writer didn’t understand why it was important to read.

But it gets better. This writer, and I use that term loosely, didn’t understand that it’s important to read the genre you want to write. Now, on the surface, the excuse might seem reasonable. According to this person, they were afraid their “unique” voice would be contaminated by anything they might read. We tried explaining that the voice wouldn’t be, not if it was solidly entrenched in the writer’s mind. We explained how a writer needed to know what current trends and tropes were. There was more and none of it got through to this wanna be. He kicked and he stomped and he pitched a fit before gathering up his toys and going home, figuratively. What he did was leave the group and not return.

It isn’t the only time I’ve encountered writers who truly believe they don’t need to read in the genre they write. When asked, some give similar answers to the writer above. Others will say they don’t like reading that genre. That last answer always throws me. How can you write a genre you don’t like to read? I guess some folks can but not me.

And I do read. Mind you, I don’t always read the genre I’m writing WHILE I’m writing. That’s one of the nice things about writing in several different genres. While writing sf, I can read mysteries. While writing mysteries, I can read sf. You get the picture.

It is rare to find me without reading material close at hand. I love e-books for that reason. I can read on my phone, my tablet or my laptop. Six or eight months ago, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader. I had always loved my e-ink Kindles but they had the drawback of not being lit. It meant I had to have an external light source at night or in ill-lit areas. Friends had suggested a Paperwhite and, when it went on sale, I splurged.

I’ll be honest, I loved the lit screen. What I had problems with was the touchscreen. I missed the page turn buttons and it wasn’t always easy to get the control bar to come up. It was me, not the device. But it kept me from using it as much as I would have. So I continued reading more often than not on my tablet — and getting the accompanying eye strain. (More on that later)

Earlier this week, I was wandering through Amazon and saw they had the Kindle Oasis E-reader with Leather Charging Cover for sale where you could pay it out over several months. I hesitated. The price of the Oasis was still much more than I wanted to pay for a dedicated e-book reader. I could buy a cheap Chromebook or a decent tablet for it. But, the pull to buy it was there. It was the reader in me. I wanted to read a book — and, yes, and e-book is a book — without the distractions offered by tablets or laptops or phones.

So I did some research and talked to some friends who already owned the Oasis. Finally, after a couple of days of back-and-forth, I ordered it. I knew I could return it if I decided I didn’t like it. So I waited for the delivery to arrive, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

All I can say is, “WOW!”

Even though the screen is the same size as the Paperwhite — or near enough to make no difference — the actual footprint of the Oasis is much smaller. With the leather charging case, included in the cost of the reader, it feels more like a “real” reading experience. Better yet, the case has navigation buttons. Actual buttons.

But there is more to set it apart from the Paperwhite. Like its predecessor, the Oasis has screen lights. What makes it better is the number of lights on the Oasis number more than on the Paperwhite. Coupled with the glass screen instead of paper, it helps make the text appear sharper. The overall lighting of the entire screen seems to be more uniform than on the Paperwhite. Better yet, because of the smaller size and weight, I find myself taking the Oasis with me everywhere and I am reading more than I had been.

And that brings me back to my previous comment about eye strain. Like most writers — heck, like most anyone who works in an office — my days is spent looking at computer screens. A couple of years ago, my mother’s retinologist talked with her about how the flickering of screens (admittedly much better now than in years past) as well as reflection off of a computer or tablet screen, is a prime cause of eye strain and headaches. He preferred she read using an e-ink display. He preferred e-ink over print as well.

While working on my last book, I realized something. I wasn’t reading as much after I finished writing for the day. It didn’t take long to realize a big part of it was eye strain. After hours at the laptop, my eyes hurt and my head hurt. Changing the lighting or where I worked helped a little but the source of the problem was still there — the screen.

Since getting the Oasis, I’m back to reading. So I’m keeping the Oasis and going to give the Paperwhite to my mother. And I highly recommend for anyone who finds themselves not wanting to read e-books after a long day at the computer to consider one of the e-ink readers. Amazon has a line of them as do other merchants. Besides not having the reflection problem tablets have they have the added benefit of no distraction. No email. No games. No internet. You simply get lost in your book.

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

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