You have found my dusty little corner of the Web. Feel free to poke around. I mostly write about writing, reading, sometimes other things. Who am I anyway? I frequently share on Google+, so follow me, if you’re there. Thanks for visiting.
Some interesting links I’ve stumbled across lately:
- On annotating books (BookRiot): I personally cannot mark up a paper book, which is another reason why I like my Kindle–it makes highlighting painless.
- More marginalia (New York Review of Books).
- A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another (Brain Pickings).
- What’s reading for? by Jo Walton (Tor).
- Why our future depends on reading by Neil Gaiman (The Guardian).
I have a side job right now where I review “indie” books, which mostly means self-published books, although some small-press books are also thrown into the mix. Reading on average one self-published book a week for the past several months has made me very pessimistic about the quality of self-published books in general. In fact, it’s pretty insulting to readers, some of the dreck that’s being sold to us in these days of instant self-publication. A book may be a piece of art, it may be your baby, but it’s also a product that is being sold, and readers deserve a professional product. I view my little reviews as something of a public service, either a message to the author that the book was not nearly ready for publication, or if that’s not something the author wants to hear, then a message to the reader to beware.
It’s not all bad news. Self-published nonfiction tends to be better quality than fiction, I think because nonfiction is more likely written by a professional in his or her field. When it comes to fiction, though, I have a hard time recommending any of it. Of all the books I’ve reviewed, I’ve only given an unqualified recommendation to books published by a small press, which had obviously received the attention of an editor, a copyeditor, a designer, and a cover artist.
Based on my forays into the world of self-published books as a reviewer, I’ve developed a prejudice against them as a reader. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s the natural result of being exposed to so much amateurish self-published writing. I can assure you that I’m not the only reader who is rapidly learning never to touch a self-published book. I would caution any new writer to think long and hard before choosing to self-publish. For a small subset of writers, self-publishing may be a good way to build a readership and maximize profits. However, most writers won’t be able to distinguish themselves in the rapidly expanding ocean of self-published books out there, and they may be putting their work out for judgment before it’s mature enough.
For further reading, here’s a small collection of links about deciding whether to self-publish:
- The case for self-publishing by Neal Pollack, who by the way was already a traditionally published author when he decided to self-publish; self-publishing may be a good career move for writers who have already established themselves.
- Is self-publishing a viable option for literary fiction writers? by Jane Friedman. An important question to consider is whether your chosen genre is a good fit for the self-publishing market.
- Self-published authors have great power, but are they taking responsibility? by Sangeeta Mehta, tackling the question of quality when it comes to self-published writing.
- All the things that are wrong with your screenplay in one infographic: I love this because it gathers together all the problems I’ve seen with self-published fiction into one handy chart (these problems are not limited to screenplays, not by a long shot). I often use this a cheat sheet when I’m trying to pinpoint exactly what’s gone wrong with a book I’m reviewing. Print out the recurring problems and pin them above your workspace.
Finally, if you decide to go the self-publishing route, make sure that your command of spelling and grammar is impeccable. Readers should not have to read your book with a red pencil in their hands. And please, I’m begging you, learn the difference between passed and past.
I don’t often read series. I don’t like commitment, at least when it comes to reading. I like one-night stands with lots of different authors. I don’t want to get tied down.
So I surprised myself by reading not one, but three sequels in the past few couple of weeks–all middle books in a trilogy. And I can recommend all of them!
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: I read Ancillary Justice way back last fall (here’s my review), and to be honest, I forgot a lot of the details, so I felt a little lost diving back into this complex universe. This could almost be standalone novel, though, except for the mystery left hanging at the ending. I dug the character development and the space station setting, and I’m now eagerly awaiting the final installment, Ancillary Mercy, due in October.
Finders Keepers by Stephen King: I actually liked the follow-up to last summer’s crime novel Mr. Mercedes (review here) even better. That’s because it’s about readers and how obsessed we can get with our favorite books, writers, and characters. It’s also a page-turner — just what you’d expect from King.
Authority by Jeff VanderMeer: Wow! I tore through Annihilation just a month ago (here’s my review), and the sequel did not disappoint me. It’s very different in terms of character and style of book, but just as disquieting, atmospheric and weird. Also, there’s this one part… Well, let’s just say I yelped when I read it. Already got the last book, Acceptance, on hold at the library.
For my yearly reading project in 2015, I have been focusing on women writers, specifically of speculative fiction. This project has led me down lots of wonderful side alleys discovering new writers, revisiting old favorites, and thinking about what they have to say. It’s also helped me understand the bias that women writers continue to face when it comes to getting published, reviewed, and honored. Here I want to share some related links and also encourage every reader to seek out more women writers to add to their To Read lists.
- Shit people say to women writers – A Tumblr dedicated to the shit women writers have to hear all the time
- One of my favorite women writers, Margaret Atwood, lays down her 10 rules of writing
- Daphne du Maurier, women writer and badass
- Is there a double standard for judging domestic themes in fiction?
- Madonnas and whores: on mothers writing about sex
- How to pose like a man for your author photo
- How to analyze male characters in book reviews
- Ban men from literary readings
I am putting together a list of great books by women writers to read. It is now over 150 books. I’ll probably share it when it gets up to 200 or so titles. In the meantime, here are some women writers who I have been reading lately to go out and discover right now: the aforementioned Margaret Atwood and Daphne du Maurier; Shirley Jackson; Patricia Highsmith; Ursula K. Le Guin; Octavia Butler; Jane Austen; Stella Gibbons; Dorothy L. Sayers; Harper Lee; Tana French; Mary Doria Russell; Kate Atkinson; Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie; Ruth Ozeki; Jhumpa Lahiri; Ann Leckie; Emily St. John Mandel.
A beautifully written piece by Amanda Palmer: Playing the Hitler Card: “We live in an age of endless, foaming outrage. The only answer is to try to feel empathy for other people, no matter who they are.”