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:
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