The X Author Files

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Image courtesy Morguefile free photos

I want to talk about fear. The fear new authors have after publishing that first book or two, when they run out of steam for a while and wonder, “How many more books are in me, and can I get them published?”

I know an author who has gone back to a day job after publishing one book of her own and collaborating on another. Her name will be forever in the ex-author files if she doesn’t return with another book, even though once you’re an author I don’t suppose that label can be removed.

But the big question is, who will remember authors like this? Especially if their books go out-of-print. New authors come onto the scene every day.

With only two published novels in the Bird Face series, I don’t want that to happen to me. I’m under contract with the same publisher for a third book in the series, but it’s taken longer to complete than I’d hoped. To say I procrastinated may be a bit strong. There have been unforeseen personal delays such as a 500-mile move, sickness, adjusting to my husband’s retirement, a death in the family, … but that’s life.

However, I asked my publisher for an extension with a deadline of May. I need tight deadlines; it’s how I operate best. Must be a throwback to my newspaper days.

It’s easy to convince myself that, because I need to write a blog post or online article or anything else, I don’t have time to write fiction that day. So I plan to eliminate as many distractions as possible to get the job done and avoid the X author files.

I’ll see you back here on The Scriblerians in June!

profile_pic Cynthia

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Giving Thanks for Books and Reading

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA As both an author and a reader, I am thankful for everyone and everything that contributes to creating and enjoying a book.

I’m thankful for my eyesight, which I’ve come close to losing a number of times. I would’ve learned to read Braille, but how would I have been able to appreciate beautiful fonts and book covers?

Which leads me to being thankful for artists, designers, and photographers who make the presentation enjoyable. And the manufacturers of computers, layout programs, ink, paper, binding materials, printers, and large presses. Plus all the individuals who invented them or use them to produce books.

Although I’m a fan of printed paper, I’m also thankful for electronic devices that allow people to read more books conveniently.

I’m thankful for editors, publishers, and literary agents who never tire of reading others’ work and improving upon it (at least that I’ve seen admitted).

Speaking of improving another’s work, I cannot express enough thankfulness for critique groups. The critique partners I’ve had the honor to share manuscripts with are worth their weight in gold. And I give thanks to beta readers who read pre-published work for the love of reading and who offer their invaluable opinions.

I’m thankful for bookshelves and those who build them (including my loved ones–and you know who you are). And everyone who sells and buys books for bookshelves in schools, stores, and public libraries.

I give thanks for electricity and reading lamps and, on behalf of readers from centuries past as well as those who use them still, gas lamps and candles.  Oh, yes, and sunlight. May darkness never hinder our reading.

Most of all, I am thankful for my Creator who guided me to write and for my country, where I am free to think, to write, and to read what I wish.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope it includes reading a good book!

cynthia-toney Cynthia

Why I Don’t Give 1-star Book Reviews

plasticstars  Have you noticed a disparity between the rating systems of Amazon and Goodreads?

On Amazon, a one-star rating is “I hate it.” On Goodreads, “Did not like it.”

Let me start by saying I seldom use the word “hate” in any situation, and if I do, it’s usually in anger over something profoundly evil. And books I don’t like are not necessarily evil.

Anyway, I don’t ever give fiction a one-star rating because if I think the work is poorly written or not a story I would like, I don’t read very far into it. And if I don’t read the whole story, I don’t rate it.

I can usually determine from the first few pages, first chapter, or a sneak peek of the middle that I won’t enjoy a particular book, but that doesn’t mean the next person won’t. With excerpts available in so many places online, including  author websites and reviewer blogs, I don’t think a reader needs my one-star rating of a novel or novella to decide whether to read it. For me, if an excerpt doesn’t grab me, I don’t buy the book — and probably won’t look for it at the library either.

I’ll often give an author a second chance if I reject the first of his or her novels I pick up (not always the first one written). Most of the time, I’m glad I did.

This brings me to the other rating levels.

On Amazon, two stars mean “I don’t like it.” On Goodreads, “It was okay.” To me, there’s a huge difference between them. I give two stars to a book on Goodreads if I was able to stick with it and read all the way through but it didn’t impress me in any way (therefore, it was okay). On Amazon, “It was okay” would be three stars, whereas three stars on Goodreads is “Liked it.”

The rest of the rating systems for Amazon and Goodreads compare as follows:

4 stars: Amazon – I like it. Goodreads – Really liked it.

5 stars: Amazon – I love it. Goodreads – It was amazing.

If I review a book on one site, I copy and paste the same review on the other, but my star ratings usually differ. For a book I “liked” on Goodreads (three stars), I “like it” (four stars) on Amazon. For a book I enjoy a lot, if I “Really liked it” on Goodreads (four stars), it’s probable “I love it” on Amazon (five stars).

Good books are like my friends. If I “really like” you, you can assume that I love you too (in a nonromantic way).

Do you rate books on either site? What are your personal rating criteria? Do you ever stop reading a book because you don’t like it, or force yourself to read one, and then give it a low rating?

cynthia-toney  Cynthia

Hair Color of the Character That Bit You

cynthia-toneyI’ve often wondered why women and girls color their hair. And why, increasingly, men and boys do too.

I’m not talking about covering gray with a color close to your natural one. I mean a drastic change, which I admit to making every couple of years now. It didn’t start until long after I graduated from college, because it simply looked like too much work, when I already had a perfectly serviceable color. (Why do girls as young as middle-school age start altering their hair color–and why do parents let them? That may be a topic for another day.)

Highlighting, frosting/tipping, stripes of another color, all-out bleaching, Vampira black, and that burgundy color that’s found nowhere naturally on a human head. I personally haven’t tried them all, but they are so common that most of us don’t take a second look any more.

I tend to change color when: something major in my life such as employment, where I live, or a relationship changes; I feel my true personality isn’t reflected by my hair color; or I simply want to do it for fun.

I’ve been Marilyn Monroe blonde–short too. Was told I looked like Madonna, which I didn’t care for. I’ve been a fiery redhead when I had anger and aggression issues (no offense intended toward redheads). And when I wanted to look exotic or ethnic like Sophia Loren or the Native American women I saw on a trip to Santa Fe, I chose a dark brown.

So maybe I like playing a character when life becomes a little too ordinary or other changes get me down, and I use hair color to do it. I may even change color to become one of my characters in a future novel. Other writers, when attending writing events, deck out in costumes depicting their chosen genre. Some of my wonderful fantasy-writing friends enjoy wearing elf ears.

And there’s nothing wrong with us. Really.

Do you use hair color, makeup, dress, or anything else to escape from the ordinary or play a character from a book?

Where’s the Passion?

JackIsOurHero When I read fiction, I try to guess the author’s passions.  Or on which side he stands regarding issues in his story.

That happened last month when I read The Appeal by John Grisham. It was tremendous fun to look for clues concerning his personal feelings about the two sides of a fictitious legal case and the events surrounding it. Like seasonings in a gumbo, his political sympathies (he is a former Mississippi state legislator)  flavored the plot and the characters–exactly how I like it to be in a novel.

Whether I agree with the opinions of a fiction author or not, or align with his causes, I expect one or more of his passions to be revealed in his story.

I can usually distinguish between a story element carefully researched (but neither loved nor loathed) and one the author has experienced that has deeply affected him. And fiction is so much more exciting when the latter happens.

In my debut novel, Bird Face, it will probably be obvious to readers that I love dogs and creative people. And as I’ve gotten to know my Scriblerian partners on a personal level, I’ve learned of their passions, which I see woven into their manuscripts.

What love or loathing have you incorporated into a piece of fiction you’ve written, and how did you do it? Is it subtle or obvious? Whether flash fiction, short story, or novel–soon to be published or a work in progress–please share and feel free to mention the title.

cynthia-toney