Attention Grabbing

Why do we choose to read the stories that we do? Lately, I’ve engaged in several casual conversations with new-to-me people, who have asked who/what I like to read, and why. It was a surprise to find that I struggled to answer the questions. For the who, the challenge was where to start my list! I love reading, and there is an ever-growing list of authors that I recommend to others.

But, how to boil down what captures my attention into a small-talk-worthy sentence or two? That has been a struggle, so I’ve been thinking about it for the past week or so. I still don’t have an answer, but I’m actually enjoying the self-analysis!

Currently, I’m re-reading a fun and incredibly well-written series (the Ordinary Magic series by Devon Monk). Set in the fictional town of Ordinary, Oregon, the stories revolve around three sisters who represent both traditional law enforcement for the town, as well as specific roles related to managing the gods that vacation in Ordinary.

Yep, gods. Death, War, and so on, come to Ordinary, Oregon to put down their god powers and vacation like normal humans. Great premise, right? I highly recommend the series (five books so far, with short stories as well). Here’s the beginning of the blurb for book five, Dime a Demon:

Myra Reed’s life is going great. . .Being a cop is great. Guarding the library of arcane secrets is great. Even dealing with the monsters and gods vacationing in the little beach town of Ordinary, Oregon is great. Then the demon, Bathin, strolls into town and steals Myra’s sister’s soul. So much for great.”

Whoa! Grabber, there. But, what about this series captured my attention before I even read the blurb? Why, when Amazon is driving me crazy by putting seven books by the same author, who I have NEVER read (and will never read; can I please have a “stop showing me this” option?!?), in my “recommended for you” list, for weeks at a time, am I choosing something else? (Other than a wee bit of passive aggression, of course.)

When selecting a new read, I usually start by checking for new books by my favorite authors; books that we’ve mentioned on this blog; or books by authors speaking at a conference I’m planning to attend. When none of those options result in a new book to read, I’ll scroll through the options presented by Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Interesting titles, great blurbs, an appealing cover are things that draw me in, but even after some thought, I can’t really define why one book sounds better than another – especially when the blurbs are similar.

I’d love to know what captures your attention – what makes you buy or borrow a book? Is there a particular theme that you are particularly drawn to? What magic draws you in, readers?

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Happy July!

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Good morning, and happy July! My apologies, but I do not have a fascinating post for you today. Instead, I’d love to hear what you’re planning to do – and READ -this week!

I’ve been catching up on my Kristen Painter books. This author is FANTASTIC and I adore her paranormal work. Such strong character and story development! Definitely recommend. I’ve been thinking about revisiting some Elizabeth Peters soon, too. For less fun, I’ll be reading about Emotional Intelligence and Change Management (thank you, Harvard Business Review books).

No big plans for our family, mostly impromptu outings and – the best part! – working on my current novel out on the deck. Send good weather wishes!

I hope you all have something fun on the horizon, good weather in your area, and plenty of books to read!

An Explosion of Ideas

As the weather warms up (and dries up!) here in the northeast, the resulting pollen count is a beast. Everything is yellow-cars, puddles, furniture (even inside), and grass. However, watching the gardens fluff up with new shoots and buds, realizing that suddenly I can’t see my neighbors yard because the trees have leafed out, and spotting those bird species that are only around in the summer makes the sniffling and sneezing worth it (mostly).

In my last few blogs, I’ve been writing about the crazy that is my life, really most people’s lives, and the renewal of my writers’ group. We had another meeting this weekend and there were a few takeaways that I wanted to share.

  1. The importance of accountability. One of our members has really taken our discussion about commitment to heart, and has stepped into role of accountability maven. She’s set some expectations for us, and I so appreciate her willingness to do so; it makes me want to share that burden, partly by arriving to our meetings prepared and partly by also holding myself and others accountable. It’s exciting to feel that shared energy and responsibility!
  2. Energy and creativity beget energy and creativity. (Disclaimer: I’ve done no research and gathered no data on this; it’s purely my conclusion.)

Driving to Saturday’s meeting was rejuvenating for me, because for the first time in months ideas were bubbling and bouncing and tumbling around in my mind. I hadn’t realized how much I missed that feeling and experience! The more the ideas came to me, the more my excitement grew and the more ideas bubbled up. The feeling was similar to when you get a solid 8 – 10 hours of sleep and awake refreshed and ready to go. Happily, I’m revisiting that place where I’m slightly annoyed that I can’t just drop everything and WRITE because there are so many ideas ready to explode out of me. (Picture joyful child clapping hands and giggling with glee. That’s exactly how I feel right now.)

What’s next? We’ve made a commitment to attend our next meeting, new writing in hand. There’s a plan for our meetings for the rest of the summer, and even some proposed group writing time, too. We’re taking the time to celebrate success, whether that’s new writing, completed editing, or pursuing an agent. All milestones represent success!

My plan for the summer to is to let my ideas explode out and onto the page; all while enjoying gorgeous weather, the beauty of summer gardens, and the camaraderie of my amazing fellow writers.

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

Today is my day to post.

I’m late.

I have excuses, but I won’t bore you with them.

Well, not all of them.

Life has a funny way of sending you in unexpected directions, have you ever noticed? For instance, you’re driving to a destination and road work requires a detour, which takes you through a neighborhood you’ve never seen, and you realize there’s this lovely little gem you’d never have known about otherwise.

My company (the day-job) announced a merger last July, and we began the journey to becoming a single, cohesive entity. We’re both not-for-profits, a similar size, and exist within the same industry; however, we have different areas of focus, so the merger is advantageous to us both without requiring a lot of layoffs or other unpleasantness. Of course, culturally we’re quite different, as we’re merging a northern company from New Hampshire with a southern-based company from Georgia, but overall, things are going well.

Except.

My division did some restructuring in October, as a result of task force findings. The new plan made sense, but October is the beginning of our busy season, and our progress has been slow. Improvements are occurring and staff have been remarkably supportive.

Except.

We thought we were done “re-orging.” There was a plan, execution, and active progress. Three weeks ago, we found out we were – wait for it – being “re-re-orged.” *sigh* It’s good for me (I’ve gotten two promotions), and it’s good for the company (the changes make sense), but this is a LOT of change for people to consume in a very short period of time. If you’ve ever done some change management study, you’re aware that each individual processes and proceeds through the transition from original state to future state in their own time and at their own pace. We’ve worked hard as a management team to support this, while still finishing our operational work and meeting client expectations. I spent most of last week on our Georgia campus, meeting new colleagues and helping to develop the roadmap for our division transitions.

On top of this, my daughter is wrapping up the school year by studying for finals, anxiously awaiting time to take her driver’s test, and needing to shop for a bathing suit for a party happening this Thursday.

I’m overwhelmed.

Here’s the good news: my writers’ group met on Sunday, and we spent our time discussing how to reset, reinvigorate, and reinvent ourselves. The conversation was lively and I feel as though we reconnected. We set some individual goals, and can hopefully work toward them.

So, that’s my June. It’s sunny today, I re-arranged my office this weekend to make it more useful for writing, and I’m looking forward to meeting with my writers’ group in two weeks – new writing in-hand!

Happy Summer!

Re-building the Village

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of finding your village or tribe or support group. You had the most lovely comments and contributions – thank you! Since that post, my writing village has begun the process of re-building.

We started by agreeing it was time to re-start! Today I’d love to ask for more advice about how we begin again; how do we re-energize, rejuvenate, and so forth (I’m running out of “re” words)?

There’s a post from when I first became a Mysterista, where I spoke of the genesis of my writing group, but I’ll give you a quick recap. A dear friend and I met when our children started kindergarten. As we went through the “get to know you” conversations, we realized we were both interested in writing fiction (she was already a published non-fiction writer) and were looking for a group to join with no luck. We decided to start our own. Over time, as members joined and departed, we settled into a comfortable group of four – our third member was found at a “Writer’s Night Out” event hosted by a state-wide writers organization (New Hampshire Writers Project), and the fourth member we met through our children! She’s a now-former middle school English teacher.

Over the past few years, as a group we’ve experienced health issues, divorces, moves, retirements, other job changes, more moves, and plenty of typical ups and downs. We’ve all published now, although none of us has placed a novel yet (in fairness, only one has tried!), but two members are ready and their work is magical.

But, we’ve lost focus. We’ve become comfortable with one another (which is good), and we’ve lost that balance – the one that says, yes, family and day job often come first, but the writing has an important place, too. We’ve slipped from supporting to a bit of, dare I say, enabling a lack of productivity or diligence or focus? Yes, I dare. You see, I am one of the guiltiest of prioritizing everything above my writing.

There’s a bit of imposter syndrome. If I step back, I can say with honesty that I think I have potential – I placed my first ever short story, and my third as well. My odds for short fiction publication are pretty good so far! But, well, if I don’t place the next piece I’m down to 50/50, aren’t I? Oy. That is the wrong mindset, but I’m stuck there.

I need my village.

So, last week we discussed our schedule and came to agreement: we start over in June, and meet every other week for critique. We’re looking at a new location, as we come from four directions and we learned early on that our homes are too personal, too comfortable, and much too distracting. We acknowledged that we need to start early (9:00am for us), otherwise we are less productive. And we still think we’d like to find another member or two, with a limit of six.

What other ideas do you have? Lessons learned from your own groups? (I’ve got a list from the last post, and thank you again for your thoughts!) Wish us luck, please. I’m really excited to get (re) started.

Finding Your Tribe

Writing can be a solitary exercise, a group endeavor, or a bit of both. It all depends on the writer and the writing. As an only child and an introvert, you’d think I would fall into the solitary writer bucket, but no. In fact, I’ve done some of my best writing sitting with friends at a busy Barnes & Noble store! There’s something about the energy of a group that really works for me.

Finding the right group, however, can be a challenge. My current writers’ group started accidentally. I hadn’t actually done much fiction writing, but I’d always wanted to do so. During a casual conversation with another mom (and brand-new friend) after school one day, I learned that she was a published non-fiction writer, one who wanted also to write fiction. We were both looking for some sort of group or organization to participate in, one that would encourage and support us on this new journey, but we’d not found anything. We joked about starting our own writers’ group and voila! Writers on Words (WoW) was born.

Once we had made our decision, we realized we wanted more than two of us, so we went looking for more people to join us. We attended a regional “Writers’ Night Out” sponsored by our state’s writing organization, and mentioned we were accepting new members. Michele and I developed a set of basic criteria: all fiction is welcome, with the exception of memoir, and we don’t do poetry; each writer reads their work aloud (10 minutes); critique is round-robin, and everyone participates.

We also attended a writers’ conference hosted by the same writing organization. That wasn’t super helpful; our state’s organization is lovely, but heavy on women’s literature, memoir, and poetry. There’s rarely mention, must less emphasis, on crime fiction or mystery. Plus, most events are a solid hour or more away, which is not feasible on week-nights. The state next door has an amazing organization with many crime fiction and mystery writers – Julia Spencer-Fleming, Gerry Boyle, Bruce Coffin, and Tess Gerritsen to name a few – but their focus is local writers (they are welcoming of all), and events are also an hour or more away. Of course, there’s a stellar regional Sisters in Crime chapter, but I’m the only mystery writer in our group, and again – events are typically a long drive away, and with members having young children and full-time jobs, it’s hard to attend anything. I wish our state had our own SinC!

Over time we developed a pretty consistent membership of five, with a few others who came and went over time. Although we recognized that six was probably our sweet spot for healthy critique, enough time for discussion, and so on, four is where we’ve landed for the last few years. During the 10 years we’ve been together, all of us have been published, and most have published our first (and second in some cases) piece of fiction. One member is shopping the most AMAZING novel, and I can’t wait for it to find it’s home. Another has one ready for a solid polish and then it, too, will be ready for shopping (also an amazing story!).

However, we’ve mostly stalled. We realized a while ago that with only four of us, the group has become a lovely group of friends, one that is very supportive. What we do not do is hold each other accountable. Its become acceptable to not have anything new to read. We don’t push each other the way we used to do – it’s almost as though we’ve gotten too comfortable. But finding new members is a challenge. We’ve tried to put the word out among friends and acquaintances, on Facebook, and even tried the Writers’ Night Out again, but no luck.

I love my tribe and I look forward to spending time with them; their writing is amazing, and we’re all so different that it’s a lot of fun to hear each other’s work. What I’ve realized, however, is that I need my tribe to help give me a good hard shove once in a while because I lack the self-discipline to consistently motivate myself. Instead, I need some external encouragement.

There’s no amazing wrap up to this post, as my tribe is on a journey together, and we’re nowhere near our destination yet. But, our journey does continue! We’re starting a conversation about how to re-start, with enthusiasm and energy, and deciding if we want to seek new members again. My excitement is growing and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for us.

I’d love to hear about your tribe – or your preference for no tribe!

Best Binges

Last week I was planning to sit in a parking lot for an hour or so while my daughter was doing her driver’s ed driving time. (We live too far from the driving school for the instructor to pick her up, so we meet in a hotel parking lot. Sounds sketchy, but it seems to work.) I also knew I’d be sitting outside her driver’s ed class for two hours on Sunday morning (too far to drive home, too early for anything to be open). These are rare opportunities to read uninterrupted, unbothered by a sink full of dishes, unmolested by a dog who wants a third or fourth meal, and undisturbed by work email (mostly), so I planned ahead and went searching for a new book or two to download to my tablet.

Jackpot! One of my favorite authors, Kendra Elliot, had something I’d not yet read – in fact, somehow, I was THREE books behind on one series! Of course, I grabbed all three. My binge reading of choice was books 4-6 of the Mercy Kilpatrick series. However, Ms. Elliot writes several series, and I know at least one other (Bone Secrets) is just as juicy as the Mercy Kilpatrick series. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I highly recommend the romantic suspense of Kendra Elliot.

It’s rare that I get behind on series reading, usually because I’m anxiously awaiting the next entry. This is what drives me to find new-to-me authors – impatience! One of my favorite things is discovering a new-to-me author who is fabulous AND already has quite a few books published. Sadly, this is not good for my sleep. But, I love being able to read through three, four, five books in the same series, within a few days. Perhaps its because I get to dive so deeply into the world the author has built, following along as the characters and relationships develop. This might also explain why I’m an avid re-reader. When I’m between new books from my faves, I’ll often go back and read a series from the beginning.

Who’s your favorite binge read – is it the author, a series, or both that interest you? Do you have a favorite binge?