Nine Reasons Why You Or Someone You Know Should Actually Read Fiction

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I recall a conversation with my mom. We were talking about reading and how that compares to watching movies and she said something that has stuck with me like superglue. She said, “For those who don’t read for pleasure, they never know the richness that comes with reading a book.”

So often, I tell people that I am a writer and get this response: “Oh, I don’t read anymore.”

It makes me wonder, why the hell not? It makes me mad. I don’t say you shouldn’t watch TV or movies, but does this have to be mutually exclusive? I mean, come on!

So, here’s my list of why you should ACTUALLY read fiction:

1) Reading makes you smarter. Once upon a time, I did a jewelry show. It was a sales gig. I took the job because I got to travel and I wanted to sharpen my sales skills. Well, I ended up learning a lot about the shopping habits of women, but in the bargain I made this strange little discovery. Every once in a while, someone would come to the booth who I could relate to. Strange to say, but I mean, me personally. Not me the sales guru, the Fabio of semi-precious stones, but lil’ ol’ me.

These people, about 1 in 75, were wonderful. They got all my jokes and my references to seemingly random things. They were articulate. They were…literate! It was actually uncanny how well those people could carry on a conversation about all kinds of things.

Well, everyone of those 1 in 75 were readers. I know because I got wise to it and I started asking them. They read. So, I concluded: WOW, READING MAKES YOU SMARTER!

2) The book is better than the movie: Everyone has heard that one a thousand times, but I will say it again a different way: the book is A LOT better than the movie. Get it? Almost every movie is based on something written, and I don’t mean the script. I mean a book, a comic book ,a short story, a written story. So…seems like a no brainer to me!

3) Reading is more enjoyable than watching movies or TV: Now, at first you could debate this, reasoning that you can get the whole story in two hours versus, say, twenty-five. Yes and no and more at no. The movie or TV show, only has an hour or two to engage the audience.

That means they have to edit the story down to the highlights. It’s like watching the Cliffs Notes. YOU MISS A TON! And that ton is what gives you the richness my mother was referring to. That ton is why the book is always better than the movie. It’s the multi-layered, sophisticated and in-depth version. In other words, the highest quality rendition of the story.

4) Reading allows you to use your own mind to create stuff and therefore allows you to create the story too: Okay. So, ever watch a movie and say, “Hey, that’s not what (that character) looks like!” Or “That’s not how I would have imagined it.” Well, when you read you look at your own imagination. Your mind makes up the images you are reading about. Well, so what? It’s more enjoyable when it’s yours, that’s what. And the character and the world and the universe, become yours.

A visual medium overrides your own mental constructs and just gives you an image. It’s like this, ever had to find your way around town using a map? And then after a few times of using said map, you don’t have to use the map anymore because you learned the route. Well, let’s say you go and use a GPS. A funny thing happens. No matter how many times you travel that damn route, you don’t ever seem to learn it. Why? The GPS takes the place of your thinking mind, that’s why!

Well, if someone else has to provide images for you all the time, after awhile, you won’t be able to provide your own and you’ll just wind up a gaping, drooling fool.

5) Reading is cheaper: I mean, go to the movies and eat five table-spoons of popcorn, then compare that with an e-book or a big, fancy hard copy book. Or buy Game of Thrones episodes. Yeah, pretty obvious!

6) Saying “I’m not a reader” just sounds really bad if you think about it: I mean, what if someone said to you, “I’m not a watcher” or “I’m not a thinker” or “I’m not a speller.” Saying “I’m not a reader” makes it sound like you are unable to read, which is bad for the old personal public relations department and won’t impress any girls!

7) Reading promotes literacy and literacy preserves the language: It’s important that we preserve the language. English is the most expressive language in the world. It’s quite beautiful. No other language has the color and depth that English does. We have so many words to describe so many things and the same thing. It really defies belief. Other languages are cardboard by comparison. We should use it so we don’t lose it!

8) Reading imparts wisdom: When you read, and I am talking fiction here, you find these little pearls, these kernels of wisdom planted in the text. They just happen. They are spontaneous. These nuggets of wisdom are part of what makes reading so rich, as my mother was saying. And you simply will never, never, never get that from a two-dimensional movie or TV show. That medium is just not expansive enough to hold that much culture.

9) And all that leads me to my last and, probably, most important point of why you should read. It’s like this: A government has a very, very hard time controlling a free-thinking and educated populace and that needs no further explanation at all.

Oh, it might take you awhile. More than one book to get back in the groove, if you’ve fallen out, but as surely as I am sitting here writing this, I can tell you, that if you read, you will, sooner or later, prefer reading books to watching them. You will grow tired at the pale and vapid, by comparison, versions of your favorite stories that you pay so much for in the fancy, modern-day cathedrals called movie theaters. You will return to your roots, as a reader.

Indie Author Digest #102

So many developments since I decided to jump out into the abyss I figured I should install an update. I was going to wait for some major achievement, but it’s the little steps that are so important. 

For years I had been doing this thing as regards my art: trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Man, what a sink hole that is. You get so desperate for feedback and approval, it reduces you to a lump. And that’s how I had approached my art for several years. 

As a lump. 

Once, my wife said to me, “I can count on one hand the number of days your writing has made you happy.” 

My God, what a statement. What a statement. I wondered how something that is supposed to bring me such joy and happiness and fulfillment only brought such heartache. 

Last year when Damnation Books offered a contract to publish DOM, I cried. I cried. Because finally something was good enough.

Recently, I’ve changed on the subject of my writing. And its good. A couple things happened. One, I decided to just do this indie thing. I mean, no more doubts. Off into the water. That alone brought relief. Because the absolute worst thing is doubt. It will stop you more than any cement wall. You just end up holding yourself back. So, I dispensed with the Doubting Thomas routine. 

Second, I decided to blog about the intimate details of it. To hell with trying to keep some public facade going. All sunshine and rainbows. No, I will give the real nitty-gritty. The hope, dreams, loss, hopelessness. All of it. Well, doing that made me real. At least to myself. I’m not a clown trying to make the kiddies laugh at my jokes, anymore. I’m the drunk clown now, getting grease paint all over my cigarette. 

(joke)

Third, I decided to do this: experience my emotions and see what happens. That is strange. I was so used to reacting to the situation and feeling bad about not being some famous icon that I was just drowning. So, I sat back and let them go. This last week I just roller coastered between hope and despair. I considered giving up. For real, just saying “fuck this” and making more money or feeding the homeless or something. Then I thought, Yeah, you’d just go out and write a fucking novel. 

That didn’t let me off the hook.

Then I realized. I am a writer. I just am. Always have been. Always will be. I’ll be a writer even if no one ever reads anything I write. That put some demons to rest. The demon that just loves to tell you how much time you’re wasting. And the other sonovabitch that tells you what a loser you are. I’m not a loser, I’m a writer. 

This is all rather personal melodrama, I know, but I am putting it here because these are MY barriers. These are the reasons I haven’t succeeded the way I want to. 

Then at some point this week, I became enamored with another idea: opportunity does not always appear in the guise you think it should. I had watched something happen with my business. Something magical that I had never dreamed of and it meant taking my day business in a direction that was profitable but not what I had planned. But who cares? It’s still opportunity. 

Well, the internet gives a lot of opportunity to writers. You can publish your stuff. Duh. So, I decided it was okay to accept the opportunity, rather than fight it because it didn’t or hasn’t appeared in the form of me being miraculously discovered and given a $100,000 advance, or a Twilight or Harry Potter phenom. Because maybe I’m not writing that kind of book anyway.

The Buddhist principle of being like water became my new philosophy this week. Flow like the river, not crack like the oak tree.

And then I decided to communicate en mass. To just let it go and not be ashamed of what I had to say or write. To not worry about whether I am being socially acceptable, presenting a “right face” or whatever. But to be genuine, to be myself as a writer and an artist.

These things have been plaguing me for so long, I can’t tell you. I didn’t really even know what they were. I was just…punishing myself, I guess. 

Then I got to work and started playing around with cover design. I never knew MS Word could do so much stuff. I designed two covers for short stories and cut my cover design bill down from $200.00 a pop to $15.00 for stock imagery. I would post them now, but haven’t bought the images so don’t think I’m supposed to yet.

This was huge for me.

I had thought that I HAD TO HAVE an artist. And could not do it without an artist. Well, actually, I had been designing covers and telling the artist what to make already. So…if I could just learn a little bit about MS Word’s design templates, I just might be able to do it.

The first one got a thumbs up from the wife straight away, while the second one got shot down out of hand. Then I redesigned it and got a “Wow.”

This, for me, is freedom.  It takes the limit off what I can post on Amazon. It takes the stress off, financially. You have to realize that I have about 1,000,000 words of material that I have been saving to my hard drive. Some of it is previously published, most not. That’s a fair amount of material and it all needs covers.

I also began formatting my first Smashwords short story. I am using Mark Coker’s book called Formatting for Smashwords, or something similar and he just walks you though it. There again, I found, hey I can do this. I am learning all about Word too and feeling better. 

 

Then I went back to DOM. It just isn’t getting reviewed. And it actually galls me and breaks my heart at the same time. You see, I know it’s a good book. I just know it. But…nothing. Makes me crazy.

So, I decided to apply my new attitude to the problem and went online to see who the hell reads stuff. I found this: I am all about helping you out in any way I can. I would also love to do interviews to go along with your reviews if you are interested. I would love to help promote your book in any way that I can.

I about fell out of my papasan chair. And that is not easy to do. You can break the base, but hard to fall out. Anyway, the penny dropped.

I have been barking up the wrong tree.

Next penny.

I have been engineering my own defeat.

Next penny.

I have been making the whole world responsible for my failure.

I would do this: approach my friends to read my book. Well, they are my friends, right? Wouldn’t they, shouldn’t they read my shit?

Yeah, but they’re not readers. Many even say, I just DON’T read and I feel bad about this?

I feel shunned about this?

You hear all the time, know your market. I never knew what that meant.

I looked up someone who agreed to do a review for me awhile back. A reader. I found 2,000 books on their to-be-read list. What?

I started to understand.

Stephen King calls them the Constant Reader. Well, they read ALL THE TIME. That’s who you want. Not the mother-in-law if she’s not also a reader. Not the Non-fiction reader. Of course, if you bark up the wrong tree all the time, you’re going to be disappointed all the time. And you have to understand that readers have huge lists of books to read. I do too. I buy books I never read. And I only review because I am a writer and would want someone to do the same for me. I wouldn’t normally write a review. 

It made me stop taking it all so damn personally. 

 

And I am not talking about being the obnoxious social media guy who only wants to talk about his book to every would-be reader he can find. I just mean, there are people who want to help and you should approach those people.

That’s it. Makes it pretty simple. No more banging my head against the wall because all my Goodreads friends don’t go out and buy my titles or whatever.

Anyway, it’s the simple things. This week saw a lot of simple, but powerful changes in me as regards my writing, my writing career and what I am doing.

I am taking control back from my demons. And I’m pretty sure that has to be done before anything else can be. 

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps someone else out there who may be feeling…well, frustrated. 

Getting More Done with Monk Magic

I’ve had to take a break from blogging. Many reasons, so many. A move for one, from Los Angeles to Seattle. Sweet! Oh, but the rains haven’t come yet and so I am waiting to melt once they do. Seattleites are like that, they just love to tell you how much rain they endure on an annual basis. They wear it like a black eye, proud and winsome. 

Well, we shall see. I’ve got my rain gear, snorkel, galoshes. Waiting, waiting for the great deluge. 

Another reason, I have done a full-on re-write of my novel Prizm. I had to. I know you’re not supposed to do that, I know you’re supposed to “never look back” but I had to do it. Well, you see it all started over the cover. I don’t like the cover it has right now so I thought I would see about what I could do about that. Then I thought, well, if I’m doing a new cover, might as well fix up some of them typos I knew were in there and then…all up hill from there. Got into it and my Gad, couldn’t resist. Had to re-write. Well, I’m damn glad I did because the product is so much better. I mean, night and day if you ask me. Not the story, the story was all there, always all there. Just the writing, use of English. I just hadn’t had the technical skill to bring it off before but now, I think I got it. I mean, I think I managed to do the work justice. I think now I have at least approximated the vision. 

I am also having a new cover done. Using 99 Designs to do it and so far so very good. I am getting some really great renderings and I am very happy that the new cover will also do the work justice. Very important, covers. I also restored the full title because, it just wasn’t the same. Prizm. You know, what is that? So, I restored it. Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan, Book One of the Jen Cycle. 

It introduces the second one, which will be called Prizm: Liberator of Sulan, Book Two and so on. Anyway, it will be up in a couple weeks, I think, at the most. New cover and new improved all the way around. 

Let’s see, more reasons for not blogging. Sleeping. Reading (China Mieville you never cease to amaze! Anne Rice, if you ever read this, let it be known I shall sit at the foot of the master to learn what crumbs of knowledge thou mightest cast at me! Yeah, she’s one of favorites. Oh, yeah, Roger Zelazny, Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson. The list grows. 

Oh, another reason, I am going great guns on Thomas Hunter. I am currently describing it thusly: Harry Dresden meets Corwin of Amber at the Vatican to fight Cthulu. Though, I am searching for something less bombastic. Any ideas, let me know. Excited about that one and considering just going straight into the next book. You know, strike while the iron is hot and all. Better maybe to do it while its still so fresh in the brain. 

Let’s see, let’s see. Oh, yes, I did a reading of Demon of Montreal at a coffee shop here in Seattle and while I would chalk the whole experience up to “practice” and “an exercise in NOT promoting to see who comes anyway” I did find that my voice is oddly perfect for the piece and so have decided to do the audio book. Yes, I am really looking forward to that. My friend Paul M. in Minnesota is hooking me with some really great pricing on a real honest to goodness recording studio complete with pro-tools. So, just after Thanksgiving…somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will have an audio book out. Demon in audio just in time for Santie Clause. 

What else, what else…well, that kind of brings me to the name of this blog post. I have a word. One word. This is how we can a) get more done b) solve crimes c) save lives and d) have our doppelgangers too. One word: bilocation. 

Yes, bilocation. It’s so easy, I have no idea why I never thought of it before. 

Actually, this is monk magic. For some reason and I have no idea why, monks, devout monks of a certain faith have had attributed to them such strange powers, like levitation and bilocation. The famous Padre Pio apparently bilocated on many many occasions, meaning appeared in body in two or more places at the same time. His body mind you, not his spirit that is a very important part of bilocation. Its not spiritual its physical. Padre Pio of course saved people from imminent destruction and guided people through near death experiences and what not.  

Levitation is another one. One priest in particular…hang on let me check my sources…St. Joseph of Copertino Italy in 1600 something, used to have wild, spastic episodes of uncontrolled levitation whereby he would bounce around the chapel, bumping into things and breaking things. Yes, he termed it “my giddiness” of all things. I guess he was so filled with religious ecstasy that he just couldn’t help himself from flying. 

Well,  I don’t know about you, but all that sounds like a pretty good way to a) get more done–doppelgangers in the flesh can do actual work presumably and b) get there faster. 

I’m going to try that with writing. After all, its working great for Patterson. 

 

When Idea’s Dry Up

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Does anyone ever get writer’s block? 

I used to say no to that question, because I never thought I did. I would boast proudly when friends would ask and act as though such notions did not apply to me. Well, I have come to learn what is meant by this funny little expression: Writer’s Block. 

We all know the stereotypical version where the writer just slumps in abject apathy and stares at the page. That’s a fairly serious kind I think.

But I believe there are many versions of this mental affliction. I think it is wrongly named also. Doesn’t really specify. I think we’d do better if we called it Writer’s Dry Up or Writer’s Engine Cool Down or Running Out of Writer’s Fuel. Because I think what happens is that we simply run out of research material.

Aside from simply slumping at the key board, you can also go on writing well after the point it got boring. A sort of hectic puppeteer way of writing where you just bang out words that don’t resonate anymore. A sort of pound the pavement method of novel writing. I believe this is writing despite Writer’s Block. 

Notice I don’t say you have to be inspired to write, at least not beyond the initial inspiration to want to write at all. But if you get that feeling like it’s “dry” or it’s “just hitting a quota” or “I ran out of ideas” I suggest a couple home remedies that seem to work for me every time. 

A) Read. Books recharge your artist’s acumen. I think you should read and write at a ratio of 50/50. Don’t write month after month and neglect reading and vise-versa. Reading makes you a better writer just like writing makes you a better writer. Simple. 

B) Research. Study something. Go interview a cop or a doctor. Go get a part time job as a logger. I don’t know, whatever you’re writing about. If it’s straight sf/f and you can’t go to another planet, I suggest researching other planets in general. Vampire, research blood and how much blood a person could stand giving up or something like, or maybe you research the original myths and legends. Anyway you get the idea. It’s nothing for me to write surveillance scenes because I’ve personally logged hundreds of hours. So, I know how you feel, the boredom, the excitement, the nerves. And what’s more, how to follow someone in a car and not get burned, and I can tell you this, the movies get it wrong every time!

C) Run. Or take a walk. If we say run, than we can say The Three R’s which is cute. Regardless, I can’t tell you how many times after I get up from my computer and go walk around or take a shower even, that the idea comes together and I find the path again. Space seems to assist the flow of ideas. It gets you out of your head. And sometimes that’s all you need. 

And one other thing that seems miraculous if you just can’t seem to get into the spirit of things when it comes to carrying on. Edit the last thing you wrote. This pulls me down into the story every time and once I’m in the groove, I roll.

Well, those are my home remedies and as you can see they are all homeopathic.