Monday, January 26, 2015

Reading Does a Body Good

From 78 degrees to 35 degrees
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was the sharp, cold air that filled my lungs. Yup. I was back in the Midwest. I was already missing the warm Orlando sun.

I had a good trip. Even though I was working, I did get to have a little fun. Plus, I watched the rocket take off from Cape Canaveral. Very cool! Every yin must have a yang, however. And to counterbalance the awesome time in Florida, I had to deal with a gnarly injury.

I will spare you the details and just say that I needed a bunch of stitches on the bottom of my foot. Luckily, the sight of blood doesn't affect me. Believe me, there was lots of it. Yeah, that made walking hard. So I needed to get crutches from the hotel. By the way, crutches suck.

So I'll be recuperating the next few days, working on a presentation I'm going to be giving to a bunch of middle school kids. I'll be talking about storytelling and why everyone should be reading fiction. I've already spent a little time doing some research, and I found some fascinating stuff about reading and its benefits.

Reading fiction:

- Stimulates the central sulcus of the brain - the region of the brain responsible for movement
visualization. Readers immersed in their books were able to experience movement and motion in the brain's motor cortex. This is especially useful for athletes.

- Stimulates the left temporal cortex, which in charge of language. It's obvious that people who read have much better language skills.

- Fiction readers had a much stronger "theory of mind" than non-readers. Reading fiction helped people develop better empathy. Readers are much better at seeing things through other peoples' point of view and reading/interpreting non-verbal cues.

- Reading brought test subjects to a much more relaxed state faster than listening to music or even walking. Blood pressure, heart rates, and muscle tension were measured, and readers not only were able to relax faster, but they slept better.

- Just 30 minutes of reading fiction a day = 68% reduction of stress

I wonder if reading fiction will help my stitched up laceration heal faster. Maybe I should go grab a book!

Monday, January 12, 2015

It'll Get Betta' With A Beta

Home sick, so I finished Woven in one day
Wow. It feels like January. Not only is it bitterly cold with dreary, freezing weather, but my "to do" list is getting out of hand. My Christmas lights are still hung on the outside of the house. That's how bad it's been. I promise, the first day it gets above freezing (and it's not sleeting or raining or snowing), I'll get to that next.

The last half of 2014 had me to a lot of beta reading. A few were full length novels, some were novellas and short stories, and many times, I was asked to read a chapter or two. Woven, by David Powers King and Michael Jensen is easily the best ARC/beta work I read all last year.

Unfortunately, most of the pre-publication stuff I read had a lot of problems. Here are just a few things I've noticed with a lot of what I beta-read:

* 80% of prologues should just be labeled "Chapter One." I think so many writers have been abusing prologues lately, and it's an ugly trend. 50% of the time, a book doesn't even need a prologue. If you must have one, make sure to separate it from the rest of the book in some way. Maybe the action takes place WAY earlier. Or write it in a different POV, verb tense, etc.

* Speaking of POV (point of view), make sure you stay consistent. I see many writers using third person limited (intimate). Personally, that's my POV of choice for my own writing. If you use this POV, don't head pop! In other words, if we're experiencing the book through Character X, then we shouldn't be able to get intimate with the thoughts of Character Y. And it gets tricky getting a character to describe herself with 3rd limited, and I see writers suddenly pop into 3rd omniscient or 3rd objective to do so. Actually, a few writers I've read for have no idea what I'm talking about here. Um, that's a problem.

* Once again, nothing is wrong with the dialog tag said. It's invisible to the reader. They fly right over it and never give it a second thought. Obviously, you want to vary up your dialog tags and dialog beats. Just don't get fancy with tags. Make your actual dialog the star, and keep your dialog tags nothing more than stagehands. And if you don't know what a dialog tag or a dialog beat is, REALLY should know.

* What's up with all of these dream sequences? When done right, they're fine. But we don't need pages and pages and pages of one. A dream scene pulls the reader away from your main action, and it's a drag. If you need to have a dream scene, keep it short and to the point. Movies love dream sequences, but they just don't work as well in books.

* Fight scenes. Oh man. It's so obvious many writers have never been in a real fight. I've done whole posts on this. Don't give us a blow-by-blow account of the action. It's not fun to read. It's indulgent.

* Speculative fiction needs some diversity. I beta read 13 pieces of work in the science fiction, fantasy, paranormal genres from October-December. Guess how many of these 13 works had a non-white main character...NONE. None. We need to do better.

* Finally, please stop abusing the comma. Whether you're putting in too many or not enough, it gets VERY hard to read. If you're joining two independent clauses with a conjunction in between you NEED a comma. If one of your clauses is dependent, don't put one in there. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, PLEASE...for the love of Thor....go seek some good grammar workbooks and learn. Your betas and editor will love you for it.

So yeah, these are just some things I'm noticing quite a bit with the stuff I'm reading for my fellow writers. I hope this quick list helps a few of you.

I'm super behind on visiting everyone's blogs. And it's going to get worse. I leave for Orlando next week. Unfortunately, it's not for vacation. Fortunately, it's pretty darn nice out there. I will do my best to catch up with everyone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 2015 - First IWSG Post of the New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. For me, January always seems to really drag. Maybe
it's because I'm so busy from November through the end of the year. Plus, the Arctic Blast we're getting here in the Midwest isn't helping.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group just keeps growing, so it's probably a good idea to introduce myself to our newest members. Couple quick hits:

1) I write science fiction and young adult paranormal novels
2) Blogging is a part of my life, and it has been so for going on ten years now
3) My day job consists of me talking to doctors and clinical staff. Since I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms, I've become a germaphobe
4) I love the 80s
5) I'm a better editor than I am a writer. I'm armed with a degree in English and a red pen

I love the IWSG. It gives me a chance to really vent. And I vent A LOT. I can be a big whiner.

Which leads me to January's IWSG topic: I'm pretty insecure about a lot heading into 2015. Last year was huge for me. I was finally published, I sold some books (I averaged 1.2 books sold per day from January - December), and I ran into the proverbial marketing brick wall.

So I'm trying some new things. Just the other day, I jumped into Kindle Select/Unlimited. I figured I've got nothing to lose. I haven't sold jack since the middle of December. And my sales on Nook Press and Smashwords (iTunes) has averaged about one sale per month. Yuck.

This year, I also plan to attend more cons and shows. I love them. For reals, this is my comfort zone.

In 2015, I will finish my first trilogy in my steampunk series, The Mechanica Wars. I plan on starting a new trilogy in the same world, but I've been writing about these characters since 2009. It will be weird moving on. And a little sad.

2015 will be the year of stepping into the unknown. Tweaking (not twerking), changing, and experimenting. My goal by the end of this year is to have a total of seven books published. Right now, I stand at three. Yeah, I know. Crazy, right?

* * * * *
This week marks the release of Outsider, the second book in Becca J. Campbell's New Adult Paranormal series Flawed. To celebrate, Becca is hosting a giveaway and a book sale!
The Prize Pack

The giveaway at the end of this post is for a prize pack that includes: one autographed paperback of Outsider, one 12" x 18" poster of the cover art, and two square collector's buttons (one of Empath and one of Outsider). Please note, this giveaway is open to those with an address in US or Canada.

The regular price of the Outsider eBook is $3.99, but for the first week, you can purchase a copy for only $2.99 (ends January 12th). On Jan. 13th, the price increases to $3.99, so make sure to get your copy now! Here are the purchase links:

Becca J. Campbell is the author of the Flawed series as well as Science Fiction
novels Foreign Identity and Gateway to Reality, and Sub-Normal, a series of short stories.
An avid lover of stories that tiptoe the line between fantasy and reality, Becca looks for new angles on bridging the gap between the two. She holds a special place in her heart for any story that involves superpowers or time travel. Her passion is defying the limits of her own creativity. You can find her on her Author BlogFacebookTwitterGoodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.

Enter the Outsider prize pack giveaway below:
aRafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 - My Year In Review

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season!

This is the time of year when I always like to stop to take the time to reflect just before we turn the page on the "old" year. Time is a funny thing. In our day to day lives, we measure it with clocks, but I like to measure time with all the stuff that I've learned.

1) Even though I published my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior, in mid-December of 2013, I still consider my publishing experience to have really launched in 2014. I really had no idea what was in store for me, and the not-knowing was both thrilling and scary.

2) Publishing is not only constantly changing, but it's seriously one of the hardest things to do. Not just the writing - but the marketing and promoting. All of it. Very tough. If I would have known it was this tough, I probably would not have thrown my hat in the ring.

3) I became an Amazon Best Selling author with my three releases this year. That's pretty cool to think, but the reality is, I didn't sell a ton of books. Apparently, it doesn't take much to crack the Top 10 in many categories on Amazon. I averaged a little more than ONE book sold per day for all of 2014. 380 books. From what I've heard from others, that's about average for an indie these days.

4) I love selling my books at shows. Love it. I love everything about it. The best part is getting to talk to all kinds of people. I plan to do more of this in 2015.

5) I turned 42 years old just six days before Christmas. Starting to feel a little old. I really thought I would know more by this age.

6) I made the same mistake twice...I once again devoted a lot of time and energy into mentoring a young writer who just wasn't ready. The ego is something that always gets in the way of us moving forward and improving. A person can only learn when they're ready to learn. Did Bruce Lee say that once? Or maybe Obi Wan Kenobi?

7) I changed jobs and industries this year. I completely underestimated the stress and emotional toll such a move would make. Still trying to get my feet under me, but I'm going to stay positive and keep on truckin'.

8) Just like I did last year...and the year before...I did not see many movies in 2014. I did, however, see the final Hobbit movie last week, and it was awesome. Honestly, I can count on one hand the number of films I saw in the movie theater this year.

9) Along those lines, I also neglected television. I did not watch Sons of Anarchy or Walking Dead. I just don't have time. And in my spare time, I'm usually surrounded by little kids. So those two shows are out. I did catch up on Green Arrow, however. And I have been following The Flash.

10) Finally. I have to say that 2014 was a tough year. In recent memory, I can't think of a year where I've experienced such highs and lows all wrapped up in one year. Pretty sure it all has to do with entering the publishing world. I want to thank you for all of your encouragement and support with this endeavor, and I hope to keep learning.

2015 will be my (gasp) tenth year blogging, and I hope to make it my very best year EVER.

Happy New Year, my friends, and I will see you in 2015.

Every new year is like a Phoenix being reborn

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Songs - The Good, The Meh, and The Ugly

Now that the holidays are in full swing, I allow myself to listen to Christmas music on the radio.

Over the years, I've found that there are some Christmas songs I still love. Others are just okay. And then there are the holiday songs that is akin to fingernails screeching against a chalkboard.

The Good... (in no particular order)

1. Christmas Time is Here (from A Charlie Brown Christmas). We watch this animated movie every year. Love it! The song itself is a Vince Guaraldi masterpiece. It's sweet and gentle...and it always gets me in the holiday mood.

2. The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole. It's Nat King Cole! 'Nuff said.

3) Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth - David Bowie and Bing Crosby. I remember seeing this
video on MTV as a kid, and I was mesmerized. My brain flipped out just seeing these two very different artists singing together. Apparently, David Bowie hated Little Drummer Boy, so the Peace on Earth part was written for him. Bing Crosby died just five weeks later.

4) Home for the Holidays - The Carpenters. To this day, there isn't a voice that possesses as much purity as Karen Carpenter's. So sad how she died, but hearing her sweet vocals makes me smile...and hungry for some pumpkin pie.

5) Star Bright - Vanessa Williams. I believe Vanessa Williams is highly underrated as a singer. This song showcases her talent. I associate this song with my oldest child, as he loved this song when he was little. It's a gorgeous song with a beautiful, smooth, jazzy melody.

6) 12 Days of Christmas - The McKenzie Brothers. It's crude, but it makes me laugh. I know many people hate this song, but anything that cracks me up is a winner. I learned a lot about Canadians from this song.

7) Christmas Eve/Sarajevo - Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This song packs one helluva punch. I imagine Santa on a giant sled being pulled by fire breathing dragons. He raises his battle ax as thunder and lightning fill the dark sky. Yeah, I know. I'm weird.

8) Mary Did You Know - Pentatonix. Yes, this is a brand new song. I've been a fan of this a capella group since they won The Sing Off. This song is simply amazing. It's hard to believe there's no music here; all all five members' voices are perfect. This version blows Kenny Rogers and Clay Aiken out of the water. Especially Clay Aiken.

The Meh...

1) All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey. I used to own her Christmas album. Maybe I'm burned out on it. I don't hate it, but I don't like it like I used to.

2) Jingle Bell Rock - Hall & Oats. I'm a fan of this group, but I'm not as keen on this holiday staple.

3) Same Old Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg. This song used to make me stop and listen to it every time it came on the radio. It's just so...sad. It's still a good song, but it's depressing. Don't let sad alcoholics hear this song.

4) Feliz Navidad - Jose Feliciano. I actually don't like this song very much, but it's fun to scream it at the top of your lungs in the car. It takes 0.231 seconds to learn all the lyrics since there's only about a dozen words. It's the song that never ends.

5) Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid. When this song came out, it was a big deal. I was in the sixth grade, and it was on the radio all the time during the holidays. These days, the song's lyrics are pretty condescending when you think about it. Half of Africans are Christians!

The Ugly...

1) Winter Wonderland - The Eurythmics. I think this song just sounds terrible, and I love The Eurythmics. The whole thing is a mess. Makes me want to throw a sleigh bell at Annie Lennox.

2) Last Christmas - Wham! My daughter loves this song. Me? I hate it. I often stick up for George Michael. Just not here. This is one fart-of-a-Christmas song.

3) Baby It's Cold Outside - Every version of this song. This song is creepy as hell. It's like the guy is slipping Roofies into the girl's drink. Just wrong. Date rape ain't festive.

4) Christmas Don't Be Late - The Chipmunks. I want to jump off a cliff when I hear this.

5) Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer - Elmo and Patsy. I've got a sense of humor, but this song frays my nerves. It's a bad song with bad lyrics...and an equal bad message. When I was a kid, it was funny, sure. But not so much now. I guess it's because I know how expensive it would be to fix a mortally wounded Grandma.

6) Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney. This song sounds like a 7 year old wrote it. The keyboard playing sounds like a horrible video game soundtrack from 1982. Yuck!

7) Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt/Madonna. Gold digger!!!

8) Christmas Shoes - Newsong. I'm sorry, but this has to be one of the worst Christmas songs EVER. Cheesy-to-the-max! It's over-the-top melodrama that makes me physically ill. I'd like to smack the songwriter in the head with my own Christmas Shoe.

So I don't end this post on a negative note, I'd like to leave you with Pentatonix's Mary Did You Know.

I will be taking a little Christmas holiday, but I'll be back before the end of 2014. Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and take care!