Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I Want To Go To There - The Coolest Places to Read A Book

Where do you usually read? For me, it's usually in my bright red Alice in Wonderland style chair by the window or in bed at night. But always reading in the same place can become a bit...boring. According to Mark Twain, "In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” I couldn't agree more. So I started thinking about super cool places to read and here's what I found.
1) New York Public Library Reading Room: This huge room the length of two city blocks is definitely a sight for sore eyes. From its gorgeous architecture and murals, you'll feel right at home reading alongside fellow bibliophiles.

2) The Long Room, Dublin Ireland: This library contains over 200,000 ancient books and is lined with marble busts of philosophers and writers. Can you say good company?

3) University of Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning: Aside from its badass name, this historical landmark is something straight out of Harry Potter. Seriously. I recently had the pleasure of touring this building and literally said "I feel like I'm at Hogwarts" a dozen times.

4) Rijksmuseum Research Library, Amsterdam: Visitors can explore the impressive collection of journals and reference books, or simply admire the stunning architecture.

 5) Hearst Castle Library, California: Want to read in a castle? If you answered "hell yeah" then you're in for a treat. This fanciful Gothic study houses more than 4,000 books and showcases the Castle's most treasured collections: 150 ancient Greek vases. Did I mention that this hilltop estate has breathtaking views?

6) Livraria Cultura, Sao Paulo, Brazil: One of Brazil's largest bookstores, this place looks great for lounging and perusing. Love the massive dragon statues too!

7) Libraria Lello e Irmao, Porto, Portugal: Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling’s inspiration to write Harry Potter began here. Rowling lived in Porto for 10 years working as an English teacher and routinely visited the shop for a cup of coffee. There are indeed many similarities between Lello’s bookstore staircase and the one described in Hogwarts. The exquisite architecture alone is worth the trip.

8) Libreria El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina: I don't know which is cooler. The fact that this bookstore was an old glamorous movie theater, or that it's old theater boxes are private reading rooms. It's easy to see why a million people visit this majestic place every year.

9) Stuttgart Library, Germany: If Gattaca had a library, this is what it would look like. This cavernous white wonder is unobtrusive in design, where the books and visitors provide the color to an otherwise neutral environment.        

10) Jay Walker's Private Library, Connecticut: Stuffed with eye-grabbing historical objects, this mazelike 3,600 square foot library is extraordinary - especially the 20th-century volumes with jeweled bindings and rare anatomical sketches. I could so see the real Strange Luck shop looking something like this.

Where is your ideal reading spot? Are you inspired to visit any of the places listed here? I know I certainly am! Share your thoughts and any recommendations below.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How Do Writers Deal With Criticism?

Dealing with criticism is one of the most difficult things about being a writer, especially since there are a zillion ways people can zing you these days. Reviews can range from honest attempts to evaluate your work with insightful, albeit negative, feedback, while others just plain attack you. So how do authors muster the strength to keep writing? Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind so you don't lose sight of the big picture:

1) Seek Out Reviews: No writer is 100% perfect. Every writer - no matter how long they've been writing or how famous they are - is always improving. Good or bad, reviews are a free way to gain valuable feedback so you can improve your writing. If the same issues are repeatedly brought to your attention (e.g., structure, pacing, etc.), you might need to change some things in your next book, which could result in an even better book. Is that so terrible? The important thing to remember is to let as many diverse people as possible read your book because everyone’s opinion differs. Here’s what the lovely Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, says about criticism: 
“No one should be so precious as to refuse criticism of their work. But to respect an opinion, we have to know that it was given honestly and with proper thought. Reviewers who haven't read the book (one of my novels was once described in a national newspaper as "another of Harris's sweeping historical romances" – it was actually a crime novel set in the 20th century) run the risk, first, of making themselves look ridiculous, and, second, of alienating still further the very readers who keep them – and all writers – in business. Similarly, those who deliberately give away key moments in books or films (as just happened to me), thereby spoiling the experience for anyone who reads the piece, are guilty of the worst kind of arrogance, abusing their position to score one over a colleague at the expense of the general public.” (from Criticism is Fine, But Do You Have To Spoil The Plot?, via Independent)
2) As Much As It Sucks, You Can't Take It Personally: It’s hard not to take negative feedback personally because your work is, well, personal. It can totally shatter your confidence. Ice cream and bonbons anyone? The truth is that the more you get used to hearing feedback, including negative feedback, the easier it gets. It’s important to mention that not everyone is going to like your work. For example, if a critic loves cozy mysteries and gave your epic alien sci-fi novel a thumbs down, it’s probably because your book never had a shot to begin with. Personally, I dislike a lot of mainstream authors, not necessarily because I think they suck, but because I just don’t like the genre or their writing style in general. It’s nothing against them personally, and it’s nothing against you.

3) Ask Away: If you just can’t fathom why you received a negative review, don't be afraid to ask questions. Not only will asking questions help you fully understand why the critic said what they said, it will also make the critic feel validated. If you feel that the critic’s suggestions are valid, incorporate them accordingly and possibly resubmit later. They might actually love the next thing you write. If they don't respond at all, then oh well. Maybe steer clear of them in the future.

4) Don’t Accept Every Criticism: Sometimes critics are just plain wrong. It’s up to you to assess whether or not the criticism you receive is founded. This brilliant quote from Neil Gaiman puts it perfectly: 
When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

5) Focus on the Positive: Did your family and friends love you book? Why? What did they specifically say? Do you have a five-star review on Amazon or Goodreads? What did the reader(s) say? Even if it's just one person, you touched their life in a meaningful way because they cared enough about your work to say something awesome about it.

6) Bad Reviews Increase Sales: Say what? It’s true! Studies by Stanford and Wharton Business Schools show that books written by relatively unknown authors saw a 45% increase in book sales after their books were hit hard by critics. Why? Harsh criticism makes readers aware of a book, so haters are actually doing you a favor.

7) Re-Evaluate Why You Became a Writer: Did you start writing to become world-famous, make a million dollars, and have everyone adore you, or did you become a writer because you had a story you wanted to share with the world, and if the other stuff happened, all the better? If you're in this for the latter, then don't lose sight of why you became a writer in the first place.

8) Look to Your Heroes: How do your favorite authors deal with criticism? A simple Google search, or visit to an author's website can change your whole perspective. And, because it's coming from someone you adore, you're probably more likely to listen. 

9) Build A Community: A supportive community helps you build resilience. Don't do it alone! Join people who are going through the same thing. You might be surprised how incredibly supportive other writers are. When I was first starting out writing, I was still trying to find my voice and genre, and for a brief period was a member of Sisters in Crime. Each year, they hold a "Queen of Rejection" contest for members to submit how many times they've been rejected by agents for a single title. Yours truly won! It was a fun, interesting way to embrace rejection. Didn't hurt that I won an Amazon gift card either. :P

10) Ignore It: Still feeling down in the dumps? Ignore it. As an author, it is impossible to control the opinions of readers. It’s just one of those things you have to learn to live with. If you spend all day poring over what other people said about your work, you're simply wasting time. Get back to what's important - writing!

Agree? Disagree? How do you handle critic smack-downs? Share below.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

TBT Writer - X Never Marks the Spot

It's #TBTWriter! Time to share some embarrassing pics and things I wrote back in the day. If you’ve got a writing throwback, post it with this hashtag so we can all read your story.

Before I started writing full-time, I explored a lot, and I mean A LOT, of career paths. One of those paths was archaeology. Maybe I kinda had an unrealistic fantasy that it would be like Indiana Jones in some sense...any sense. Maybe I thought I'd get to travel to exotic locations and find really cool things...then, a lot more really cool things would happen. Reality check! It's more like spending 8 hours in a hole in the middle of nowhere in the hot sun, and you can't sleep at night because your back hurts so much from having been hunched over all day. I really did enjoy the excavation part and not knowing what I was going to find though, but it didn't take me long to realize that archaeology just wasn't for me.

Here's me doing something archaeological.

Anyway, I was flipping through one of my old writing books and found a story I wrote in elementary school, ironically about being an archaeologist, and thought it would be fun to share. It didn't have a title, and I'm not sure if I purposely ended the story like this (you'll see what I mean), but here it is in all its glory. Enjoy!

A snapshot of this story in my first writing journal. I can't make this stuff up!

"Boy it's hot." Today is another big day for me. I'm finding dinosaur fossils. 
"Amie. Help us over here. I think we found something," my friend yelled.
"Just a minute," I yelled. I walked over to a rocky cliff and saw down below track marks. I skidded down the bumpy slope to get a closer look. I saw something amazing.
A small animal dashed out of nowhere and a giant animal headed for it, leaving track marks behind. Then I saw a circle which had millions of track marks scattered everywhere in the circle. It looked like the big animal had ran after it and attacked it (*I wrote 'attached' in the original. lol.). I think the small animal didn't survive because I saw only the big animal tracks leading away from the circle. 
I yelled, "I found something," to my friends.
They dashed down the slope and stared, for what we saw lay in front of us was very important.

What was so important? I have absolutely no idea! I don't understand this story at all. I saw the animal, then I didn't? I'm assuming I was writing about seeing real dinosaurs, but who knows. I was ten. It was still a blast re-reading this and sharing it with you. I seriously look forward to these posts each month.
Mini-me on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland wearing an Indiana Jones hat.

If you haven't done so already, please check out my other #TBTWriter stories and pics:
What did you think about my story, or my shattered dreams of being an archaeologist? Do you have something from way back when you'd like to share? Post your comments below.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Women In Publishing Discussion Recording Available!

If you missed the Women in Publishing/Strong Leadership live discussion panel on April 10, you can watch the recorded video. We had great questions from Twitter, varied opinions and ideas, and overall a fantastic discussion. This is a video you don’t want to miss! 

Special thanks to Christie Stratos for moderating the panel and Joe Compton for hosting. It was a blast and I'm so happy to have participated.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I'm on the Women in Publishing Panel!

I'm so excited about the upcoming Brain to Books Cyber Convention - a huge event that takes place on Goodreads April 8-10. They'll be tons of games, giveaways, and other cool stuff. Go Indie Now is hosting 72-hour live coverage of the event, panels, interviews, and more!

I'll be participating in the Women in Publishing/Strong Leadership Panel on April 10 from 11-12 EST. The lovely Christie Stratos (author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart) will be moderating the panel consisting of Angela B. Chrysler, Marnie Cate, Markie Jordan, Claire Plaisted, Jessica Wren, and myself. You can ask me and any of these lovely ladies questions between now and the show by using the hashtag #b2bwomeninpub. 

I hope you'll attend :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Disney Meets The Devil - What's on My Nightstand

Random. The only word to describe how I select books to read and the order in which I read them. I do it because it’s, well…fun. If you’re looking to read some totally random (good) books, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what I’ve been reading (in this order):

1) The Lurker at the Threshold By: H.P. Lovecraft: The more books I read, the more I realize that Lovecraft is my favorite author of all time. He was not only a genius with creating a complex pantheon of gods, but his style of writing has a way of getting in your head. Lovecraft never really tells or shows you anything to evoke fear; instead, it subtly creeps into the story on its own. The Lurker at the Threshold is one of the very few actual books he wrote—the rest are all short stories—and it does not disappoint. This horror story not only had me clinging to every masterfully written word, there were a few moments when I didn’t want to read it alone. I’m so sad that it’s over now :(

2. Anne of Green Gables By: L.M. Montgomery: I watched the movie and show growing up, but for some reason never read this beloved classic until now. It’s filled with wholesome, Disney-style antics and plenty of heart-warming moments, and I liked that every chapter had a different adventure. Montgomery’s descriptions of Prince Edward Island are absolutely breathtaking.

3. Meditations By: Marcus Aurelius: I always like having a non-fiction book to read, and I usually pick one that’s philosophical in nature. I’ve been obsessed with Stoicism for a few years now and have read many of Aurelius' insightful passages, so I’ve been really enjoying reading his complete insights in Meditations.
4) Lost Souls By: Poppy Z. Brite: Billy Martin, professionally known as Poppy Z. Brite is a trans man and prefers male pronouns and terms, which I will do so here. Much of his work features openly bisexual and gay characters in dark, gothic scenarios. Years and years ago, I read Exquisite Corpse and LOVED it. Then I tried reading one of his newer books, Liquor, and really didn't like it. I had completely forgotten about him until my hubby recently let me borrow Lost Souls from his library, and I’m so glad that he did. This book has me completely and totally hooked! The essence of New Orleans is effortlessly captured. Dark, twisted, and unbelievably addicting, this is the real McCoy of vampires books!

What are you reading at the moment?  Have a recommendation for me? Post your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.