Tag: reading

Reading Recommendations

Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. I can’t remember a time when books haven’t been a part of my life.  Even now, when I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, I still find time each day to pick up my Kindle Oasis and read something. This week has been a good one. Two of my “must buy” authors have new books out. Another favorite had books on sale. Yep, my tbr stack just got larger.

Awakening is the second book in Margaret Ball’s Harmony series.

Orphaned and taunted as an Unlicensed child, Devra grew up determined to expiate her parents’ crime by being the perfect citizen – which means never, ever questioning or defying the rules of Harmony’s totalitarian government. When one of her students is threatened with “medical rehabilitation,” she finds that her personal values are incompatible with good citizenship. One instinctive act of defiance sends her on a downward spiral towards unemployment and homelessness. But at the very bottom, sometimes you meet someone who shows you a new way up….

Shattered Lies (Web of Lies, Book 3) by Kathleen Brooks. Ms. Brooks is one of my guilty pleasure authors. Her books are fun, quick reads and this one is no different.

The time has come to step out of the shadows . . .

Valeria McGregor was a better shot, a better fighter, and smarter than everyone she’d ever gone up against as an agent for the DEA. Then she’d uncovered illegal activity within her own organization and was fired as part of a cover-up. That was how she’d joined the secret group who reports only to the president. Valeria fully plans to find the men and women hell bent on ruling the world from the shadows, but she also has revenge on the mind.

Valeria left the secret team thinking she could go undercover and get to the bottom of how this shadow group was funded. Valeria discovered too late that when it comes to true evil, it’s best to face it with your team at your back. Alone and on the run, Valeria is being hunted by some of the most dangerous people on the planet. She has learned how the shadow group has been funded and what they have planned next, but she still has to find out where. If the shadow group pulls it off, then there may be no stopping them.

Desperate to escape, Valeria calls her team only to find they aren’t close enough to help her. Grant Macay, a trusted Air Force Pararescueman, is brought into the fold and sent to rescue Valeria. With her past at the DEA alive and threatening her survival, and the world’s most vicious drug lord hunting her, Valeria and Grant must make their way back to the team to prepare for the battle of their lives.

For those of you old enough to remember Mary Stewart, a number of her titles are now available as e-books. Better yet, some are available for $0.99 – $1.99. Check out her author page for a full list of her titles.

One of her books I bought was Touch Not the Cat. This book has sentimental value to me because it is a book my father bought me when I was in college. He bought it just before he suffered a serious heart attack. For weeks, we didn’t know if he would survive. So that book was loved and treasured because, for much too long, I didn’t know if it would be the last thing I ever got from him. Here’s the blurb:

Ashley Court: the tumbledown ancestral home of the Ashley family, all blessed with ‘the gift’ of being able to speak to each other without words. When Bryony Ashley’s father dies under mysterious circumstances, his final words a cryptic warning to her, Bryony returns from abroad to uncover Ashley Court’s secrets. What did her father’s message mean? What lies at the centre of the overgrown maze in the gardens? And who is trying to prevent Bryony from discovering the truth?

Tell Bryony. The cat, it’s in the cat on the pavement. The map. The letter. In the brook. Tell Bryony. My little Bryony to be careful. Danger.

Finally, a reminder about my own release this week.

Vengeance from Ashes (special edition with exclusive content) is now live on Amazon. You can order the digital version here or the print version here. This version has approximately 20k additional words included that were not part of the original version. It is only available on Amazon. It is also part of the Kindle Unlimited program there.

The second reminder has to do with the original version of Vengeance from Ashes. You can order it through the following outlets with more to come: KoboPlayster, Tolino (link not yet available) InkteraBarnes & Noble, and iTunes. This is the same edition that had been available on Amazon.


Reading and Writing: Can they co-exist?

Yesterday, I blogged about some of the books I’m either currently reading or have recently finished. As I wrote the post, I recalled some conversations I’ve had with other writers, not to mention online comments I’ve read, about their own reading habits. Then, this morning, I came across another post where a writer lamented the fact they can’t read fiction while writing. And a post was born.

Before I go any further, I want to address one of the misconceptions I’ve seen new writers express on more than one occasion. These writers have said they don’t read while writing because their product is so “unique”, they don’t want to dilute it by exposing it to other people’s work. Uh, nope. If it is that unique, reading how other people write will only enforce that uniqueness. Of course, reading other people’s work might also point out that your “uniqueness” might not be as unique as you think.

Now, if you are afraid you’ll start imitating the style of the writer you’re reading, or copying plots or plot devices, that’s something else. And there is an easy fix for it. Just don’t read in your genre, at least not while you are writing. After you finish your project, then go back to the genre and read. Why? Because you need to see what’s selling. You need to read it to figure out why it’s selling. You need to read it study story structure, the tropes being used (and not being used), character development, etc. After all, if you don’t read a genre, how can you successfully write in it?

I also read to make sure I’m not writing something that has basically already been done to death. For example, when it comes to urban fantasy, I do shifters. But I try to add a different twist to them. I don’t do vampires. For one, they’ve never really hit me as romantic figures — and let’s face is. Most of the UF featuring them have them as romantic figures. There are some exceptions but not all that many and if we look at paranormal romance . . . — I don’t know if I will ever write vampires. The very thought of doing so and I hear my friend Kate, her Aussie accent full of humor, as she wonders how a vamp can “get it up” since there’s no blood flow. Then she goes on to speculate on what sort of sex toys would be needed. Nope, I so do not need to go there.  😉

It’s a bit harder with romantic suspense to find a new twist. That’s where you have to make sure your characters are different. It has to do with craft and that leads back to reading. One of the best ways to not only see where you need to improve your craft but to see examples of what to do and what not to do is to read in your genre.

An example of this came across my timeline the other day. There’s a book that shall not be named (for fear someone might foolishly go to Amazon and buy it) that is not only an example of all the things you shouldn’t do as an author (from poor cover design to poor story structure, character development and so much more) or say as an author (this guy takes the award for how not to respond to criticism). The book in question has become part of my examples of what not to do when I talk with new writers. It is truly an example of why so many people hesitate to buy an indie novel.

Fortunately, it was the only novel out there of its kind. Or so I thought. And yes, there is a specific theme to the book that breaks my suspension of belief meter. Except, as my timeline proved the other day, it’s not. Someone else has written a book using basically the same theme. Worse, reading the blurb, it is written pretty much as badly as the first book. Different author. Same theme and many of the same issues. A little bit of research could have helped this author, as would reading the original book (gag) to learn where that author had gone wrong.

I guess this is all saying read. You might not be able to read your genre while writing and I get that. But read your genre after you finish a project. That’s my reward to myself. I still read though while writing. I read non-fiction and I read genres not related to my current work-in-progress. I’m not sure I could go an entire project without reading.

Now I’d best get to work. Until later.

Busy writer is, well, busy

First off, today is my day over at Mad Genius Club. Please check it out. I talk about changes in plans and writing habits and a little bit more.

As noted over at MCG, one of the things I’ve done over the last week is set up my publishing schedule for the next year or so. I say “or so” because Myrtle the Evil Muse made sure to infect me with several titles I hadn’t planned on. One of them I am really excited about. It is in the Eerie Side of the Creek series and introduces some new and, I think, exciting characters. Yes, our regular cast of zanies and not-so-zany is there as well. I know the basic plot and my subconscious is already tweaking some of the plot points I noted down. More on this when I start writing it.

I also want to thank those of you who have bought or borrowed Nocturnal Rebellion. I’d really appreciate it if, after you read the book, you went over to Amazon and reviewed it. Those reviews help.

Yesterday was spent writing a series of blog posts, some for here and some for other sites. I’ll post links to them on this blog when they go live. It was fun writing them but it also meant little fiction was written yesterday. So today I have to double-down.

One thing that surprised me after finishing Rebellion is my reading. Usually when I finish a project, I tend to spend several days reading fiction. The first day is light, easy reading. Titles I don’t have to really think about. This is reading to escape and relax. After that, I might go to more challenging books. This time, it’s been non-fiction from the start. Among the titles I’ve either read or am reading right now are:

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell.

Now it’s time to get to work. Until later!

A few Friday thoughts

I’m busy trying to finalize the edits on Nocturnal Rebellion. This book has been interesting, often in the proverbial way, during its creation. Between the hot water heater deciding to go out, the house flooding after too much rain and the storm door exploding — and we still haven’t figured out what caused that to happen, nor have we replaced the door yet — the editing process has taken longer than usual. However, I’m hoping that the light I see is the one at the end of the tunnel and not a light marking a cross-tunnel.

In preparation for Rebellion’s release, I have discounted Nocturnal Origins, the first book in the series to $0.99. This is a limited time discount and it will go back to full price after Rebellion hits the shelves. Hopefully, it won’t take Amazon too long to show the sale price.

Edit: I just checked Amazon and the price has now been dropped.

I have loved writing this series. When I started it, I never thought it would turn into a series but the characters demanded it. Even though Rebellion ties up one major plot line, there is more out there and I’m looking forward to seeing where Mackenzie and company go from here.

I’m taking the weekend off from serious blogging — unless something happens that I feel needs to be addressed. I’d like to get as much of Rebellion’s edits finished as possible. Tomorrow, I’ll continue the reading recommendations. I’ve really enjoyed taking weekends this past month or so and just reading. I can almost see the bottom of at least one of my many TBR lists.

I will make one recommendation today. This book is one that was recommended to me by my mother’s pastor. I will admit, any book on theology that starts by saying there are only three topics worth discussing — sex, politics and religion — is going to pique my curiosity. I haven’t read much yet, but so far it is interesting and certainly not what I expected. (Here’s a hint: I was raised Episcopal in a “high” church. Mom is Presbyterian. Biiiiiig difference in a lot of ways and not so much in others, as I’m learning.) Anyway, here’s the book:

Christian Doctrine – Revised Edition

by Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr.

Christian Doctrine has introduced thousands of laity, students, and theologians to the tenets of the Christian faith. This edition reflects changes in the church and society since the publication of the first edition and takes into account new works in Reformed theology, gender references in the Bible, racism, pluralism, ecological developments, and liberation theologies.

Now I’m off to find more coffee. I probably ought to drag the trash out for pick up. Then it’s another day of edits.

Until Later!


Friday thoughts and reading recommendations

Just a quick post today. I’m doing my best to stay away from politics — my blood pressure thanks me as does the mush of what calls itself my brain. Why is it that the first few days after finishing a book are lost when it comes to accomplishing much more than getting out of bed and vegging for the rest of the day?

Monday, I start the final review of Nocturnal Challenge and then it is off to the beta readers. Yay! Of course, Myrtle the Muse is already hitting me with more stories, including more detail about what the next Nocturnal Lives book will be. I’m going to try to make a few notes today so I don’t lose the thread. That’s important since this next book will tie up the final threads of the current story arc. Myrtle, being the evil muse that she is, has also given me the threads for the next arc for the series.

I’ve spent the last two days doing things that needed to be done — cleaning my office. It’s amazing how much stuff I accumulate while writing a book. Everything from slips of paper with notes on them to research materials to who knows what. I’ve also been reading. That’s always my reward for finishing one novel. Before moving on to the next, I get to hit my very large TBR stack. I’ll post some reviews over the next few days.

In the meantime, Next up are a short story (possibly a novella) in the Eerie Side of the Creek universe as well as the next Honor and Duty novel. It looks like I will be working on them at the same time — we’ll see how that works. But both are being very loud right now.

In the meantime, here are a few good books to try if you haven’t already. Oh, there may be one or two of mine in the list as well.  😉

Dipped, Stripped & Dead

by Elise Hyatt

A Dyce Dare Mystery

When she was six, Dyce Dare wanted to be a ballerina, but she couldn’t stop tripping over her own feet. Then she wanted to be a lion tamer, but Fluffy, the cat, would not obey her. Which is why at the age of twenty nine she’s dumpster diving, kind of. She’s looking for furniture to keep her refinishing business going, because she would someday like to feed herself and her young son something better than pancakes.

Unfortunately, as has come to be her expectation, things go disastrously wrong. She finds a half melted corpse in a dumpster. This will force her to do what she never wanted to do: solve a crime.

Life is just about to get crazy… er… crazier. But at least at the end of the tunnel there might be a relationship with a very nice Police Officer.


by Dave Freer

Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this.

He has a raven and a cheese as… sort of allies.

And of course there is the princess.

If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.

The Chaplain’s War

by Brad Torgersen

The mantis cyborgs: insectlike, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is humanity’s last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

Nocturnal Origins

by Amanda S. Green

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Vengeance from Ashes

by Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Of print and digital and all that jazz

One of my goals over the next month is to not only get Dagger of Elanna released in print but to make sure I have updated print editions of all my novels up for sale. The problem with this is not knowing what Amazon is doing right now. Createspace is still in place — or it was last week when I last checked. But Amazon also has a new service through your KDP dashboard where you can set up your print book there as well. The problem being this new setup doesn’t have all the same functionality and benefits as Createspace does.

But what has me wondering if I ought to just wait a bit is the fact you can now transfer your books from Createspace over to this new print side of KDP. Does that mean Amazon is going to phase out Createspace? If so, do I want to set everything up over there and then have to transfer it over to KDP, risking something going wrong?

And there are things that can go wrong. The first thing is that they are already saying there may be issues with the covers set up for Createspace not necessarily working with this new interface. I don’t want to have to recreate my cover flat — or ask my cover artist to do it.

Then there is the potential of the interior files not printing the same way for the new venture they did for Createspace. So, you can see my quandary.

There’s another reason why I’m hesitating on doing quick re-releases of some of the print books. Setting up new print files as well as new cover flats takes time away from writing and editing, both of which I not only need to do but want to do. That seems to be my constant conflict as a writer. I’d rather write than do the promo work I should, the “business stuff” that needs to be done, etc. But it will be done. I’ve just got to decide whether to wait a bit longer and see what Amazon has up its sleeve or not.

And no, I am not interested in going with Lightning Source right now. It is wasted money because I don’t make that much on print books and, at the moment, can get author’s copies for less from Createspace than from LS.

As for digital, there are a couple of books I want to do re-issues of when I have time to go back and look at them. No, nothing major will change, but covers need to be updated and new back material put in. All of that takes time, something I don’t have an incredible amount of right now.


Because the writing is starting up quicker this time after finishing a book than it usually does. Hopefully, that’s a good sign. I’m about 1/3rd of the way through Nocturnal Rebellion and it is a fun book to write. I’m hoping you guys enjoy it as much as I am so far.

Now I need to run. I have an appointment in a few minutes. When I get back, I’m hoping to update my main site. I’m liking the new look of the blog and hope you do as well. In the meantime, tell me what you’re reading. I need something new to read before bed.


Of Mondays and time changes and pre-orders and more

I want to go on the record here and now that I hate the time change. I understand, sort of, why the government instituted it back oh so many years ago. But now? Sorry. I don’t like it. Let’s choose a time and stick with it. I know that I’m going to be dragging the rest of the week as I adjust to the new time and I feel for all the parents out there who have to drag their kids out of bed, kicking and screaming because they’re still tired. I remember those days and do NOT miss them.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I hope you guys had a great weekend. I’m moving slowly today, not only because of the time change but because I spent the weekend doing prep work and then painting part of the interior of the house. It was supposed to be a small job. When we replaced the HVAC last month, they moved the thermostat. That, in turn, left a hole in the wall. Said hole had to be patched which required the paint being touched up but. . . .So, the hallway had to be painted.

And, in the way of all things in my household, that lead to much more than the hallway needing to be painted. Well, needing isn’t exactly the right word. You see, Mom is of the mindset that you stop painting when you come to a closed door — a closed door into a room that is painted another color. Except there are only two rooms in the house painted in another color.

You get the idea. Over the next week to 10 days, I’m going to have a lot of painting in my life.

But that’s okay because it gives me time to plot and plan the next couple of books. Nocturnal Challenge is well on its way. I know the next book after that should be Victory from Ashes but I’m not sure that’s how it will work out. I could force it but I’d rather write the book when it is ready to be written. I know that doesn’t make sense but I learned a long time ago that I write better when I’m not trying to force a book to come. I think that’s why, on occasion, I get waylaid by books I hadn’t planned on writing. Those books wind up being a lot of fun and they give me a fresh mental slate for the books that really need to be written.

Something else the next week or so will include is reading. Not reading to do research but reading for pleasure. I look forward to the week after I finish a book because that I when I give myself permission to not worry about putting in a certain amount of time at the keyboard every day.

Reading’s important for a writer. At least I believe it is. We need to know what is going on in the genre(s) we write in. We need to know what is selling — and I don’t mean what makes the NYT best seller list but what Amazon and the other retailers report is selling. We need to look at other writers’ styles and compare it to our own. It helps us learn and when a writer quits learning her craft, she might as well turn off her computer and walk away.

Which is why I get more than a bit perturbed when I hear other writers say they don’t read. Some are proud of it. They talk about how they don’t want to spoil their voice by reading other people because their voice is so unique and special. It might be but if you don’t read, you don’t know what is out there and you sure as hell don’t know what readers are responding to.

Then there are those writers who say they don’t have time to read. This I can buy more than the other but it still is a crock. If you have time to watch TV or sit in the morning reading blogs, you have time to read. You don’t have to read a book all at one sitting. But read. You have to. As I noted above, you need to know what is going on in your genre, you need to know what readers are being exposed to and what they are buying. Besides, reading exercises your mind and that is something we all need.

Okay, climbing off my soapbox with apologies. Mom has GMT on this morning and Danielle Steele just said she didn’t have time to read anything but her own books and that set me off. So I’m backing away from the TV to finish up this post before getting to work.

Finally, don’t forget that Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is available for pre-order. Publication date is — gulp — in two days. I’m so proud of this book and where it takes the story begun in Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I also had a blast writing it. I think that’s why I’m biting my nails. I’m hoping you enjoy it as much as I did. Anyway, here’s the blurb.

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Bedtime reading and more

There are times when I wonder if I’m still asleep and everything going on around me is some weird dream brought on by the three day old pizza I had before going to bed. If that were the case, at least it would explain some of the idiocy going on around us. Really, guys, those times make me wonder why I bother writing novels when reality is so, well, unreal. An article I saw yesterday falls into that category.

“THE ABC has questioned whether parents should read to their children before bedtime, claiming it could give your kids an “unfair advantage” over less fortunate children.”

Yes, you read that right. Now read it again. Did your head explode? Mine sure did. Especially when I saw that it was followed up with this piece of idiocy, “Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?”

It seems there is this British “academic” by the name of Adam Swift who believes that there is a bigger difference between those who are regularly read bedtime stories and those who aren’t than there is between those who get to go to exclusive schools and those who don’t. But it was the reaction of the presenter, one Joe Gelonesi, that really got me.

“This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”

When contacted by another news organization, Gelonesi tried to justify what he said — and frankly the entire interview — as a way of getting attention for the uneven playing field. But — and this, to me is the most telling — he admitted that they hadn’t even discussed the possibility of encouraging more parents to read to their kids. I guess it is just easier to tell folks they are being bad and mean by reading to their kids.

Talk about moving the bar down to the lowest common denominator instead of raising it.

And yes, I know there will be those who condemn me for my privileged view point. Screw ’em. The truth of the matter is, the further we lower our expectations, the worse things will be in the long run for us. How far have we slipped when it comes to how well our kids do against school aged children from other countries? How badly do many of our college students do when compared to their counterparts elsewhere? What happened to the U. S. being at the cutting edge of technological developments?

Instead of pushing our kids, we are coddling them. We focus more on how well they do on standardized tests than on teaching them how to think critically. We coddle them to the point where they face few, if any consequences, for their actions in school or at home (this is an over-generalization but you get my point). And now we have someone, even if only half-serious, suggesting that we take away one of the best bonding times parents have with their children as they grow.

Give me a break.

Parents, ignore the stupidity. Set the example for your kids. Read to them. Let them see you reading in your spare time. Talk to them about what you and they have read. Talk to them about what is happening in the world around them. Take an interest in their lives and their friends. Do not fall into the trap of believing we will all be better off if Big Brother takes over parenting.

coverI guess this really hit me because of a conversation I was having yesterday morning with some friends. We have been hit over the head so much recently about “privilege” and other buzz words that I found myself second-guessing the opening chapters of Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). You can see, if you read the snippets I’ve posted on this blog or if you read the sample on Amazon, that it starts like any number of other books do. Someone is in peril and needs help getting out of it. Nothing new, right?

Except I make the horrible mistake, in the eyes of a certain group of so-called enlightened people, of having the character in peril be female who is saved by a male. Gasp! How dare I?

No, the real problem is that all their yelling and screaming and condemning of all things male made me stop and think twice about what I was writing. I have never before done that and I swear I never will again. That particular plot thread was what the story required. But I’m pissed at myself for even thinking about changing it.

And all because of the mass condemnations and stupidity that comes from the mouths of some of the progressives. No, we aren’t all equal. We never will be. We each have our own talents and our own weaknesses. If you want to be equal, you might as well make us all automatons.

As for reading to your kids being a sign of privilege or whatever, bullshit. I know more lower and middle class parents who make the time to read to their kids than upper class. Sure, those with less money might have fewer books in their homes but they do such revolutionary things like go to the library to check books out. They find a way. As every parent should. If you work at night and can’t be there to read at bedtime, you can record yourself reading to your child. Or you read with them at another time during the day. It is the taking of time to be with your kid and share a story with them that counts, not the time of day that you do it.

So, ignore the idiots who say you are doing a disservice to some unnamed person somewhere in the world at some point in the past, present or future and worry about your kid. Sure, teach your kid about things like service and charity, responsibility and honor. But do not hinder your kid for some idiotic philosophical idea.

Read to your kids. Read for your own education and entertainment. Read.


Parents, set the example

Cedar Sanderson’s post over at Mad Genius Club this morning really hit home with me. Part of it is because she writes about a topic near and dear to my heart — children and reading. Another part is because it ties in with a conversation I had with some of my fellow library friends members at our meeting Thursday night. Then there were the articles about the “School of No” in New York where a series of articles by the NY Post about the lack of text books — as in no math or English text books, iirc — a failure to hire substitute teachers and an absentee principal finally brought down investigators from the Department of Education and even then it is alleged the principal failed to hire subs.

All of this brought back some terrible memories of my son’s third grade and how one teacher came close to forever killing his love of reading. That year was followed closely in the annals of school years I came to hate by my son’s fifth grade year where the principal decided it was more important to cancel the gifted and talented classes — without telling parents — so teachers could devote more time teaching to the test so the principal looked better in the eyes of the administrators. The only reason I found out was my son came home and said something and I, being the concerned parent, went up the next day and the school counselor, a wonderful and caring young woman, stopped me and took me into her office where she told me everything that had been going on. When I finally got to see the principal, she first denied the classes had been canceled and then she tried to say she didn’t know anything about it (funny, she seemed genuinely surprised that I didn’t accept the premise that every GT teacher in the school decided on their own or together to cancel classes they’d fought so hard to get in the first place). It took about a week of what were really nothing short of confrontations between this so-called educator and other parents with the same concerns I had to get the classes reinstated.

While that was bad, the third grade situation is still one that brings my temper to a boiling point after all these years. Before that year, my son loved to read. He grew up, as did I, in a house where reading was always encouraged. He was read to before he could read and then he read to himself and to me. Trips to the library were things to be treasured and enjoyed, not dreaded. Then came the year from Hell.

The portents were there from the beginning that this was not going to be a good year for my son. I wasn’t too concerned when he came home at the end of the first week and said his teacher hadn’t been there after the first day. But, over the course of the next month to six weeks, he had substitutes on a rotating basis more often than the teacher herself was there. I worried about what the lack of consistency might do to his learning. I should have worried about what would happen when the teacher came back.

Which she did and very quickly I learned that was cause for concern. Remember, this is the third grade. Suddenly, my son no longer had assignment sheets to review at home to remind him what his homework for the night was. That meant I had no way of knowing if he was getting his work done. When the first set of progress reports came out after the teacher had been back for a month or so, it was clear something was wrong. An “A” student was suddenly close to failing. My son didn’t know what was going on other than the teacher always seemed to be mad at him and the other boys.

So, like concerned parents, his father (my ex) and I made an appointment to talk to the teacher and that’s when we realized that there was a very real problem. This woman, this educator who supposedly understood her students, was trying to teach her students responsibility. She’d write their assignments on the board and leave it there for a few minutes — less than five — before erasing them. It was up to them to make sure they wrote the assignment down. If they didn’t, too bad. No, this wasn’t in accordance with school or district policy and she hadn’t gotten approval to vary from the policy. But she was going to make men out of the boys, by God.

Our response was to meet with the teacher and the principal — well, vice-principal because the principal didn’t want to deal with the issue (see above about the GT classes. It was the same one.) — who basically told the teacher to quit and go back to following policy. She did. But she was still going to get those evil male children. That’s when she started using reading as punishment.

I don’t know how many recesses my son and the other boys missed for so-called “infractions” of her rules. She’d make them stay in the room and read the worst books she could find. Then they had to report on them. If their reports didn’t meet her standards — which weren’t written down and which were never shared with the parents — they were penalized even more. By the end of the year, I’d spent more time in the principal’s office trying to deal with the issue than I did in my entire time as a student. Worse, my son no longer wanted to read.

Nothing could tempt him. It was like pulling teeth to get him to read the summer reading list — not that I blamed him on most of the books, but there was the occasional good book included. I had to sit right there with him to make sure he finished his reading during the school year for the next two years or so just to insure he got his book reports done. His teachers those years, both excellent teachers who cared more about their students than they did about the politics of kissing the principal’s ass, worked just as hard as I did to re-instill the joy of reading in my son.

Finally, ready to hunt down the teacher responsible for this sad state, I talked with one of the children’s librarians at our local library. She only worked there part-time because she was full-time in a neighboring school district. When I explained the situation to her, she was as outraged as I had been. Then she sat me down and asked me what my son liked. What did he watch on TV? What games did he play? What subjects interested him? Before I knew it, I was walking out of the library with an armload of books, including a collection of manga.

My son ripped through the manga like someone who hadn’t eaten in days. The next day, he came in and asked if I’d take him to the library to get some more. Part of me rebelled. These were, after all, nothing more than glorified comic books. But he was reading. That really was all that mattered.

So we went and before long he’d read all the manga the library had to offer and it was bringing in more through inter-library loans.

That’s when something else happened that surprised me.

As I said, I’m a reader. So, whenever I’m in the car for long, or when I know I’m going to have to wait somewhere for long, I have a book or audiobook with me. At the time, I was going through the audiobooks of Diane Mott Davidson’s “Goldy the Caterer” series. I hadn’t paid much attention to the fact that, as we’d drive to and from school, my son fell quiet after telling me what happened that day. But then, one afternoon as we drove home and there was no audiobook playing, he wanted to know why. He wanted to know what Goldy was up to. Didn’t I have another book for us to listen to?

Flabbergasted, and pleased, we spent the rest of the drive home talking about the books we’d been listening to. Later that day, I asked what books he’d like to listen to. We’d tried reading the first Harry Potter book together but the bad taste from third grade had lingered on. So I was a bit surprised when he said he’d like to try Harry Potter. So, off to the library we went to check out the audiobook and the rest is history.

My son once more enjoys reading. His kindle is always with him. He’s found authors he likes and he doesn’t hesitate to share them with me — just as I do with him. But it was a close call, thanks to one teacher who didn’t think — or perhaps who didn’t care — about the consequences of her actions. What I learned from all this is that you not only have to set the example for your child that reading is something that is fun but that you have to protect them from those who would strip that source of enjoyment from them. You have to be flexible and driven when looking for ways to keep them interested in reading despite the crap the schools would have them read “for their own good”.

As Cedar said, it is up to us, as parents, to set the example when it comes to reading. We can’t rely on anyone else to do it. So, pick up a book and read with your kid. You won’t regret it.

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