25 April 2021

55 Quirky Questions for Readers

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

Today's blog post comes courtesy of The Literary Lollipop. Considering I'm reading a lot of stuff to familiarize myself with the YA fantasy genre, I'm finally in a place where I can probably answer more than one question about books! Plus, it'll be nice to talk about things I read outside of YA, too. 

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1. Favorite childhood books: 

The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series; Goosebumps; Fear Street; Bad News Ballet, and many others. 


2. What are you reading right now?

The Invincible Compendiums. I'm in Japan right now and while Invincible is available on Amazon Prime for me to watch here, they did not include the original English cast that I want to see so badly -- it's all dubbed over in Japanese with no English subtitles. While I can remember the gist of the couple issues of it I had back in the day, I forgot most of it and never finished the series, so I decided to just read all of Invincible because I can't wait anymore to see what happens. 

3. What books do you have on request at the library? 

I don't use the library here because I don't know enough Japanese to figure out how to get a library card. 

4. Bad book habit: 

For a long time, I wrote my name in pen on the inner cover of all of my books. I did this for at least a decade. Dear God, WHY?!?!

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? 

Nothing; see answer to #3.

6. Do you have an e-reader? 

Yes, I have a Kindle Fire and I might invest in a Kobo, too, because I have books on the Kobo app that are exclusive to Kobo, and I can't access the app on my current devices here. 

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? 

I prefer to read one book at a time, but I do read multiple web comics at a time. Right now I'm actively reading 28 comics on a single app alone. I subscribe to five different web comic apps.


8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Yes. This blog is ten years old and over the course of its existence my reading has waxed and waned. When it started out as a homework assignment, I read all the time because we were required to, and I wrote about what I read in actual reviews. Then it became sort of a journal about my writing journey and I stopped reading for a very long period of time. Then I started reading more because of Speculative Chic, and now that I'm doing my YA reading project, I'm back to reading regularly. However, I don't know if I'll ever go back to writing book reviews like I've done in the past. This is largely because I dislike way more books than I like, and I don't want to put that negativity out there into the world. 


9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far):

Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw.  

10. Favorite book I’ve read this year (so far):

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I buy books out of my comfort zone all the time -- nonfiction and literary fiction, mostly. But reading them depends entirely on my mood. The last time I read nonfiction was over the summer...so it looks like I'll dip into something else once every six months or longer. 

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

Fantasy, horror, and comics (manga/manhwa).

13. Can you read on the bus?

Nope! 

14. Favorite place to read:

In bed!

15. What’s your policy on book lending?

I do not like doing it. Every time I have done it the book never comes back to me or it comes back damaged. I don't like to borrow books, either, because I think of the anxiety that I feel when I'm separated from my own books, and I wouldn't want to wish that on anyone else. Plus, I take way too long to read if I'm not overly enthused about a book being recommended to me, so I feel guilty if I end up borrowing a book for months on end. 


16. Do you dogear your books?

I did when I was little. *SMACK*

17. Do you write notes in the margins of your books?

Not unless they were textbooks for school, otherwise they're sacred!

18. Do you break/crack the spine of your books?

NOOOOO!

19. What is your favorite language to read?

English because that's all I can read. I have attempted to read manga in Japanese several times and I'm literally just sounding out noises as I do. I don't actually understand anything that's happening. Sometimes I can still remember a little French if it pops up, but I'm not fluent in anything except English.

20. What makes you love a book?

The characters!   

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

If the characters and story are memorable and the pacing is excellent. If the book has solid imagery, too, I'll recommend it.    

22. Favorite genre:

Fantasy.   

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did):

Romance. I've read maybe three in my life but I feel like we all have something to learn from romance authors when it comes to writing. 

24. Favorite Biography:

I don't really read biography so I'm just going to say My Life by Isadora Duncan because that was the first biography I ever read and my mother gave it to me as a present because I was a dancer.


25. Have you ever read a self-help book? (And, was it actually helpful?)

I read writing and publishing self-help books all the time. As I read them, I feel like there's power surging through me, and then when I finish the book, I instantly forget what I learned. 

26. Favorite Cookbook: 

I don't read cookbooks so let's just bless whatever cookbook or family recipe handed down through the generations that enabled my mother (and I!) to make the best damned cake frosting in the world.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction):

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron ended on a surprising inspirational note!

28. Favorite reading snack:

Popcorn, but only if it's light on the butter! (Don't want it on the Kindle screen or on the book pages!)

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:

It didn't hurt my reading experience while I was reading it, but while I reflected on the work itself afterward -- Holly Black's Folk of the Air series, starting with The Cruel Prince. 

30. How often do you agree with the critics about about a book?   

I usually disagree with the "blurbs" authors put on each others' books for each other, and I disagree almost always with the "for folks who like Title of Book by Author" because I think those comparisons are almost always wrong and they're only connected in the loosest ways. I tend to avoid critical reviews from the New York Times and similar publications altogether, so the only other time I look at criticism is through Amazon and Goodreads. Reader reviews are very important to me. I pay attention the most to the two-star reviews because I think most books I've read lately have been two-star books, and I read those reviews for validation of any negative experience I've had with a book. I find one-star reviews and sometimes five-star reviews wildly off the mark. 

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I used to be open about sharing how much I disliked a book and didn't really censor how I felt about it. Sometimes I got downright snarky. But I'm a writer and I'm friends with writers and now that I've seen behind the curtain I *know* how personal it is for writers when they are given any feedback whatsoever. So I think I want to curb how and where I criticize a work. I will still openly admit what I've liked and disliked, but I don't think I'm going to bash anything publicly anymore. I might razz heavily on a book in private, but I'm not going to devote time on my blog to negative reviews anymore. 

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?

I want to read in Japanese SO BADLY! I have soooo much manga on my Kindle that I can't read! I keep buying it without understanding any of it!

33. Most intimidating book I’ve read:

I was going to say Les Miserables but I just remembered I didn't read an original version, just an adaptation...so now it's The Lord of the Rings. If you haven't picked up on it yet, size is very intimidating.

34. Most intimidating book I’m too nervous to begin:

Every book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I will probably never read them. 

35. Favorite Poet:

Edgar Allan Poe. He's the most-memorized poet, anyway.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out from the library at any given time?

Usually eight to twelve books.  

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?

 Pretty often, if the book doesn't grab me right away. But I do try to at least skim books before returning them. 

38. Favorite fictional character:

Josephine March   

39. Favorite fictional villain:

Loki   

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation:

Comics  

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading:

I've always been reading something, but good old-fashioned fiction novels had an almost ten-year break there.

42. Name a book you could/would not finish:

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker. I dumped this within a few pages. I could NOT stand the narrative's simultaneous pretentiousness and whimsy.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Sound and movement.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel:

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation. I'm surprised it's still held up over all these years!   

45. Most disappointing film adaptation:

Ok, I *never* read these books but I couldn't get through about 20 minutes of the Mortal Instruments movie before finding it absolutely ridiculous, so I'm sure if I was a fan of the books I'd be devastated because the movie made those books look awful.    

46. Most money I’ve ever spent in a bookstore at one time:

Over $100, easy.  

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

Maybe just the first couple pages of the LOOK INSIDE feature online or physically in the book store. Sometimes I do skip to the end.    

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?

It's been happening a lot lately. I will stop halfway through a book when I realize all of the other things I could be doing with my time and that spending my life on something mediocre isn't worth it. It shouldn't be effortless, but it shouldn't take a huge amount of effort to wade through a book, either. If it feels like a punishment to get to a reward, or there is no reward in sight, I'm done.    

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

I do but I can never *keep* them organized.    

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once they’ve been read?

I prefer to keep them but over the years I've gotten rid of them by giving them to Half-Price Books when I've been in desperate need for cash. Hence my frustrations at writing my name in the front covers of my books for many years. I've essentially ruined them.   

51. Are there any books that you’ve been avoiding?

I follow book twitter and read Goodreads reviews a lot, and trust me, once I know an author is problematic, I avoid their work. 

52. Name a book that made you angry:

The entire Folk of the Air series by Holly Black.  I loved reading these books but they pissed me off.

53. A book I didn’t expect to like but did:

 Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

54. A book I expected to like but didn’t: 

Between the Water and the Woods by Simone Snaith. 

55. Favorite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading: 

Yaoi! 😘

18 April 2021

"If Your Dreams Do Not Scare You, They Are Not Big Enough"

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
The title of this blog is a quote from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which popped up in my inbox recently. It got me thinking about my big dream, which is to publish my novels.  

The good news, which sounds braggy, is I already hit some other writing dreams during the course of my life. I always wanted to write and produce a musical, and in my twenties I did that with Melancholia (2006). I always wanted my writing to be published, and I've done that through my poetry with various online journals. (It's been quite a long time since I've put something out, though, given all my free writing time is currently devoted to Son of the Siren). 

The next big whopper is seeing my books out there in print, on the bookshelves, in major bookstores across the nation, and maybe across the world, too. 

But I have some fears with this goal.

This post might take you on a different journey than what the inspirational quote intended. I'm going to vent about the biggest thing that scares me about publishing my work. 

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I'm writing YA and I feel an incredible responsibility towards my readers to be inclusive, to not tell the stories that do not belong to me or to appropriate cultures that are not mine, and to proceed with heavier content with the utmost care and consideration. There is the fear that my work will harm others, because I legitimately think the stuff I wrote in the past did harm people to some degree. 

I remember a friend of mine apologizing for leaving one of my plays before intermission, In the Hands of Mr. Hyde (2007), because his girlfriend was exceedingly uncomfortable with the attempted assault depicted on the stage. She had to leave because my work harmed her. There's no other way to describe what happened. 

We had no notice printed on our advertisements nor in the program that we were going to depict some adult themes, violence, and sexual situations, and we totally should have. It's one of my great regrets that the shows that I wrote -- which shared similar content -- did not contain these notices, and I did not consider my audience or my actors as I wrote these scenes.  

I see nothing wrong with content warnings. I don't think they encourage people not to read. I think they are a way of alerting readers to activate whatever coping mechanisms they have developed for themselves to handle topics that may be a challenge to them. A content warning is the mysterious old man in the cave who tells the hero, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!" and the "this" is what you need to get through a text, the thing every reader determines for themselves to equip when they encounter heavier, darker subject matter. We should have had them with my work, and I should use them going forward when the situation calls for it. 

The book that I'm writing, Son of the Siren, contains similar sexual situations as in my earlier works, because it's based on the fairy tale Donkeyskin. In that story, the king tries to marry his own daughter and the implications of that are horrifying. In my story, the Queen goes after her own stepson, Lirien. I do not depict rape, but the Queen technically assaults Lirien by forcing her kisses on him, or touching him against his will. I am proceeding cautiously but there's still the fear that what I'm doing may be a lot to handle, especially for YA audiences. Sometimes it's even too much for me, as it's brought up a lot of trauma from my past as I write. But I'm working through it and I'm using it as a barometer for what readers may potentially feel. I hope I'm doing my readers right by the way I've approached this content, and it's part of the reason why I've been taking so long drafting the book. 

I have so many other fears about putting my work out there with the goal of mass consumption. What if I never get an agent or become published? What if my books won't sell? What if people hate what I have to say? How the heck do I write and publicize at the same time? How well known do I want to be? Should I have used a pen name instead of my real name? I was a shitty person in my past during the early era of my bipolar disorder  -- will my mistakes come back to haunt me even though I've worked through them, paid for them, and changed myself completely? What is the price of becoming a public figure, even if nobody knows who you are? And you can add 37 different et ceteras to my laundry list of fears. 

A lot of these are irrational. A lot of this is putting the cart before the horse. I get that. But sometimes when I'm doubting myself or going through imposter syndrome, these fears hit me hard. 

It's something I expect to be working on over the course of my life as a writer. 

Much thanks to all of my friends, family, and writing colleagues who have, over the years, listened to me ramble about this stuff. You've helped me cope immensely; now the rest of the work lies with me. 

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