Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Have Digital Books Changed Reading?

I grew up on hard-covered books of printed paper and have a library of probably close to a thousand books today, but I'm also in the process of sorting them out and getting rid of some. Most of those are non-fiction books, although I do have some classic fiction books too. Most of my reading today is done on my Kindle. I'm on my second one.

I like Kindle. They came on the market in 2007 and I bought my first one in 2012. Since then, the majority of my fiction reading has been on that device. I had been reading e-books on my computer almost since they first became available. I love my Kindle for reading fiction because it is less bulky than a paper book. I read in bed at night, and it is lighter than most books and the pages are easier to turn with the touch of my thumb. I can stick my Kindle in my purse and take it with me, and it has thirty books on it right now. I can add more or remove them from the device. I also like that I can search a book to find a certain passage, and can hit the back arrow to get back to where I started. E-books also open to the last page read, another feature I enjoy.
How reading has changed! Yet I still like certain books in paper form, especially those with images.

It is a well-document fact that reading fiction changes readers, opens their minds to new ideas, helps them develop empathy, new knowledge, increases vocabulary, and in general accomplishes many mental feats. All good things; but has device reading degraded this?

Today anyone can read novels on computers, reading devices, or almost any mobile device. Some are wondering if these devices are changing how people read and what they read, and how this has affected writing fiction. During a Nation Public Radio Morning Edition interview with author Lev Grossman, back in 2009 shortly after many reading devices became available, he wondered about readers not having to handle the pages of a book, turning and savoring them. He said digital reading was “Very forward moving, very fast narrative ... and likewise you don't tend to linger on the language. When you are seeing a word or a sentence on the screen, you tend to go through it, you extract the data, and you move on" 

Since the invasion of mobile devices others worry about user distraction, and the devices being more important than talking with the person they are with. I think the dangers of device addiction are known and people are beginning to at least wean their children off their devices, but maybe not themselves.

Does faster reading mean less comprehension? Does it mean readers are not receiving the benefits of reading given from print copies?

My opinion is it probably depends on the genre of fiction I am reading. When reading literary fiction, admittedly not one of my favorite genres, where what is stated and what is implied is so very important, I might like print form better. However, I have discovered digital hasn’t changed my enjoyment or anything else in reading and allows me to become deeper involved in the story even if I have to leave it frequently and pick up where I left off later.

(This blog post is also posted on my personal blog.)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

What Are Boomer Lit Novels?

My last two novels belong to a genre referred to as Boomer Lit. I wasn't aware of the label until I stumbled across the term while surfing the Internet for tag lines for my books—"Old Ways and New Days" and "Darkness Beyond the Light"—now part of the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

In a sense, Boomer Lit is a continuation of the young adult novels that sprang up in the 1960s, such as "The Outsiders." You might include "Catcher in the Rye," since it was almost required reading for boomers when they were teens. 

Those readers have grown up and many want to read about their contemporaries, who range in age from 54 to 72. By the way, as you have probably guessed, I'm in that group. 

Those born in the United States between Jan. 1, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1964, are referred to as baby boomers. After the war years, there was an increase in the number of births during that period. My "Greatest Generation" parents produced five boomers.

According to statistics released a few years ago, that number reached about 76 million. A recent figure has it at about 65 million, meaning the generation is aging and dying.  

Except for two young-adult novels, my other novels have focused on middle-age adults dealing with life's trials and tribulations. They were boomer lit before boomer lit became a label. Reminds me of the Barbara Mandrell song, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," if you know what I mean. 

Wikipedia defines boomer lit as "any genre that features mature characters, in contemporary settings, addressing any aspects of today's world."

I'm sure many of the novels offered by Wings, especially the romances, contain elements of Boomer Lit if the protagonist is a boomer. Check out the many titles by clicking here

For those interested in Boomer Lit, check out these sites:

I'm currently rewriting the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. We'll let you know when it's released.

Until the next time . . . 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Using Hemingway App

I took a different approach to the first rewrite of my work in progress. As mentioned in my previous post, I used the Hemingway App to edit the manuscript, the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

I did find it time consuming, having to copy and paste several times. But after awhile, I got used to it as it became second nature in the editing process. I'm sure it will be easier to use after I learn a few shortcuts. 

The software was useful in keeping me focused. The color-coded program highlighted possible problems, such as passive voice, adverbs, and complex sentences that might be difficult to comprehend. It also suggested simpler words for clarity.

I followed the advice, stripping out perceived problems to cleanup the manuscript. Along the way, I found myself deleting or rewriting sentences. I also noticed repeated words that needed to be trashed or replaced (most were deleted).

As mentioned, the app doesn't like long or complex ("wordy") sentences. Sometimes the suggestions for simpler sentences are simply too simple. That's simple enough but writers vary the length of sentences to gain rhythm and convey thoughts. Writing is not simple. I'm sure Ernest Hemingway would agree.  

I told my editor that I've made significant progress so now  on to the second rewrite.  

Until the next  . . . 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More on Readers

William's post on connecting with readers left me thinking about readers. I am an avid reader and have been since early childhood. I won't bore readers with topics like how reading improves your mind (I'll do that later! ;). I have definite genre preferences in fiction reading: science fiction, fantasy, historical, romance, suspense, and cozy mysteries which pours over into TV and movie preferences. 

Of course these basic genre are now broken into many subcategories. I don't like some directions the different genres I enjoy take over time and stop reading them; historical romance is one, and regular, no explicit sex contemporary romance seems to have changed to Amish Romance. As a reader, I know this is important because decades ago the same basic Regency romance plot kept being told until many readers gave up reading the genre, and lets face it, publication is a profit-based business.

I like stories with direct linear narratives that follow a logical line of forward motion in time, plots written in easy to understand language without constant unannounced flashbacks or switching from past to present tense. I also like stories with changing viewpoint from different characters, but I had better connect with at least one character or situation quickly for me to keep reading. 

I'm not fond of reading in present tense. I also prefer the voice to be third person from a specific character's viewpoint, but have read many first person narrations. I'm not fond of an omniscient voice telling me what to see or notice or think. I do not like being addressed directly with second voice you, either. I might share that preference with other readers as few stories are told in second person. I'm into reading for the story: my emotion and visceral reaction to characters and situations, the identification of the characters for either their goodness or their abhorrent evil; I like picking up clues, guessing what might happen next and the suspense involved.

Right now I'm reading a book that has some of that, but not much. It is a medieval historical with a murder that might be an accident or a suicide, but the narrative constantly jumps backward in time or changes location with little notification. It has its interesting points including a character reputedly doing God's work but who seems more like the devil. The narrating character is eloquent in his description, sometimes too much so.  I keep reading out of curiosity, but can't say I'm enjoying the journey. It is often confusing, stopping me from reading to figure out what happened. It certainly lacks the read-it-over-night compelling interest of some novels I've read.

Here is the point. This is only what interests me as a reader. Every reader is different with different reading preferences. Which is great because, as William said, every writer is different, too, and allows for the amazing variety and ever changing milieu of stories everyone enjoys. Time also affects story tellers and what happens in the stories they tell, yet William was right about connecting emotionally with the reader. The author must pull the reader into the story, and do it fairly quickly. This doesn't have to happen in the first page, but hopefully in the first chapter. Luckily, readers are also hunters on a challenging quest to find the great read.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Connecting With Readers

When authors gather it seems there is always someone, often new to writing, who questions why a well-written novel (like his or her own 😁) fails to make significant sales, while a novel written in an unorthodox style or rudimentary pros can be a best-seller. Of course, many factors can influence a novel’s success; like if your book was featured in Oprah's book club, but I think for a novel to be successful, it needs to connect emotionally with an audience.

When I read the first Harry Potter novel, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, I was taken aback at J.K. Rowlings’ writing style, thinking it was below my grade level. I read the story long ago and remember little of the plotline. However, I do remember that Harry had to sleep in a tiny room built under the stairs, and live with foster parents that treated him poorly. I remember a young orphan, trying to piece together his life, while malevolent forces were gathering around him. Rowlings masterfully seeded the story with brief glimpses of his parents and and the mystery surrounding them. Like millions of readers of all ages, I was entranced in the story.

Another book comes to mind, “News of the World”, by Paulette Jiles. In this story Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a professional newspaper reader who, shortly after the civil war, goes from town to town in Texas reading the News of the World,  newpaper aloud on street corners, collecting dimes from his listeners. After a reading in Wichita Falls, he is asked to take a young girl, who had been captured and raised by Kiowa Indians back to her only relatives in San Antonio. The young girl speaks no English and identifies completely with her Kiowa upbringing. The trip to San Antonio takes several weeks and they encounter many adventures that serve to break the barriers between the hardened ex-army officer and savage girl. When he finally drops the girl off with her uncle, the Captain realizes that they would be an abusive family and in a crowning moment he steals the child back and fosters her himself.

At first, I found the writing to be strange. The syntax and style echoed rural Texas. Much of the punctuation was omitted, including quotation marks. Those thoughts were short lived. Paulette Jiles welds together a touching and exciting relationship between the unlikely travelers that had me eagerly turning the pages. 

Writing fiction is a creative exercise and there are infinite ways for authors to put words to paper. It is just— that sometimes the words reach out touch the reader. For this, I can only offer that you must feel the emotion as you write it. I read somewhere: “If you don’t feel it, no one else will.” I took that to mean: if you don’t get a tear in the eye or lump in your throat as you write, neither will the reader. And this isn’t just for sad stories. Your comedy better make you laugh and your action better get your heart racing. Feeling the words deeply yourself is your chance of reaching out to a reader. I used to joke when I was writing commercial brochures that I was really writing poetry. It just wasn’t in verses and didn’t rhyme. Okay, it also wasn’t very emotional either, but I was trying to connect with a inreader. Now that I have learned this valuable secret; do I have a best-seller? No. But I believe these words and I am feeling the dream when I write and enjoying it.

William H Russeth 

Check out my books on Amazon.  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Why I Write Romance Novels

Writing is so much fun. If you’re thinking of writing a book, one of the first things you’ll need to do is pick a genre.  I picked romance.  Out of all the genres out there, why did I pick romance?  Lots of people write romance.  
Well, I picked it for several reasons.  I think that first of all, most folks are fighting some kind of battle in their lives.  Maybe they’re in a relationship that went bad, and they’ve lost the one they love.  Whether it was by divorce, death, or just walking away, it tears a huge hole in someone’s heart. Maybe the problem is health-related. Someone has to accept that there are now limitations placed on them.  Have you ever dealt with unemployment?  How do you feed your children with no paycheck?  My romances always have a happy ending which gives us hope that tomorrow things will be better.  We can believe that ‘this too shall pass.’   
Remember what happened at the end of Gone With the Wind?  Scarlett lost Rhett and collapsed in tears, but then she decided to go home to Tara where she can think of a way to get Rhett back. Human beings are designed to hope. 
I also think that romances possibly satisfy our craving for justice.  In the real world, things don’t always end happily.  Children are abused, the missing teen is never found, or our possessions are stolen.  In the vast majority of romances you know the bad guys are going to get what’s coming to them.  My heroes and heroines sometimes face determined villains, but you can rest easy in the knowledge that the bad guys will never win.  
Last, I write romance because I’m a romantic at heart.  I just adore a good love story.
Readers, what about you? Why do you read romance?  Leave a comment and tell me what you think.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rewrite and Editing Software

I've been sitting on my work in progress for more than two weeks and haven't lifted a finger on the keyboard to give it a second look. 

I know some folks who have waited months, perhaps even a year or so, before going back to a first draft. The longest period for me was five months.

I'll probably venture back into the manuscript very soon. While I haven't looked at it, there has been some mental activity about the novel, the third book in my John Ross Boomer Lit series. And I have done some research as well, taking down a few notes so I can hit the manuscript running when the time comes to begin serious rewrite.

I've also looked into to some editing tools to supplement what's already installed on my computer. I'm giving serious thought to the Hemingway App program. It appears simple and easy to use, things that I find very attractive at this point in my life. And it's affordable at $19.99, which makes it even more attractive to my frugal eyes. If I decide to splurge, I'll let you know how it works out.

I've read about other programs but they seem to do more than what I want for my manuscript. I keep handwritten notecards and notebooks (even a few scribbles on Post-it notes) about characters, places, and other items that I can easily access. 

Furthermore, I don't like going back and forth within a program. It might be an age thing (you know, light on tech savvy) but I don't want all the bells and whistles. I did try a program a few years back that was more trouble than what it was worth (and it was free).

You can call me old fashion, and you'd probably be close to the mark. I get more that way as the weeks, months, and years fly by. 

Here are a couple sites that rate programs: Click here for a list of top 10 creative writing software programs and click here to see a top six list. 

Any recommendations out there?  

Until the next time . . .