Tag Archives: Reading

Book Club Brilliance

Every year, February’s brevity catches up with me, no matter how many times I remind myself it’s a short month. In my effort to keep on schedule, I’m squeaking in my second February blog with a few hours to spare. Whee! I’m lucky, though, because I have a fun topic for this post: book clubs. More specifically, my first invitation to attend a book club and to join the discussion as the author of the group’s chosen monthly read! What a freaking treat for me. : )

Through the most excellent graces of my friend Monika—she talked me up to her friend Melissa who’s part of this club—I was introduced to a wonderful group of authentic, candid readers who are in love with books.

As much as I appreciate book clubs, I haven’t participated in one before, even as a reader. And it hadn’t occurred to me to offer to speak to or participate in a book club discussion as a writer. Those of you who’ve followed my blog from the onset know I feel challenged by marketing and putting myself out there as an author.

And I’ll share this: discussing books and telling stories to friends is one thing, but stepping into the spotlight of this group felt so intimidating. It’s an entirely different experience to sit before a group of intelligent, time-pressed individuals who purchased your book on someone’s recommendation and then be held accountable for your words, creativity and entertainment value. I mean, what if these people hated my book? Or found inconsistencies? Or thought it too simplistic? I’ll say again, a tad bit intimidating.

That was, until I met this group of lovely people. Well-read, well-traveled, outspoken and outgoing, these women welcomed me and treated me like a friend while being honored I, “a local author,” joined their discussion.

And let me tell you, these guys do Book Club right: their once-a-month evening meeting begins with catch-up chats over a welcoming glass of vino and simple starters, is followed by a delicious, no-fuss meal (we enjoyed chicken chili, salad and fresh fruit; I’m hoping Natalie will hook me up with that recipe!), and culminates in the discussion of that month’s selected title. Their discussion format is straightforward and begins with the host opening with a book-related question or discussion topic to get the ball rolling. The conversation is free-form, with members commenting and asking additional questions until by consensus the evening ends. Simple, fun, effective, entertaining.

Vino
Cheese Platter

 

 

 

 

 

Every writer I know struggles with the desire to share stories but not to feel rejected by those who dislike, don’t understand or fear them. And we struggle with how to tell those stories the best we possibly can. The club’s questions were engaging and thought-provoking and even gave me ideas for a couple points I plan to work into the sequel I’m writing now, TB. Though a bit unnerving in the anticipation, in all ways, this experience was fantastic: the welcome, the interest, the engagement, the thoughtful and valuable questions and comments.

Bunch of Books

Though the group said they felt honored by my presence, I have to say I’m the one who was pleased and humbled by their invitation. They welcomed me and my story, Emerald Obsession, into their lives for a time; they allowed themselves to be carried away by my characters’ antics and transported to unfamiliar locales where they feasted on exotic fare. How fortunate am I?

Special thanks to: Melissa, Natalie, Leslie, Carolyn, Sarah, Kathy, Eleanor, Maggie, the fab ladies of (mostly) Davis Shores for their warmth, interest and welcome. Also, for your encouraging response to the vignette I read from Treasure Bound, my work-in-progress sequel.

You guys rock. Read on, ladies!

So, readers, do you belong to a book club? How does yours work? As I mentioned, I haven’t been in one before, but this experience really made me want to start. How about you? Let me know below or by email (carolyn@carolyngreeley.com). Thanks!

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An Editing Trick for World Read Aloud Day

I’m still writing the first draft of TB, Emerald Obsession’s sequel, which is great and frustrating at the same time. I’d hoped to be finished with this first run-through by now, but no dice. When I set writing goals, I like to think they’re realistic, but somehow I can’t always make them happen on schedule. That said, when I look back to where the time has been spent otherwise (whole-house reno!!), I’m not too disappointed that this first round is taking longer than I’d hoped.

But as I near the writing end, I’m beginning to think about the edits I know I’ll need to incorporate in order to improve the flow and arc of the story. That’s kind of cool for me. Editing is a challenge that requires different creativity, different vision and different skills. I edit my manuscripts at least four or five times, looking for specific elements on each revision. For example, here’s a sheet of proofreader symbols. One of my review rounds focuses entirely on this level of editing:

Proofreading marks

Today is World Read Aloud Day, so I wanted to share my take on how this helps during early-stage editing. You may already know it’s smart to read your work out loud. Reading, either to yourself in an empty room or to some sort of audience (cat, hub, writing buddy, etc.), allows you to focus on how the language sounds, whether you’ve chosen the best words, whether the story flow is natural and realistic. And a biggie: whether the tone and voice are consistent.

Reciting your story is a crucial part of editing and one I enjoy. I admit I read out loud frequently, sometimes unconsciously, which makes my hub laugh (I suspect this’ll happen a lot more now that we’ve moved into to our renovated office, yay!). I just tell him geniuses often talk to themselves, so he’s lucky he married up. ; ) ; ) Hahaha. Yeah, he laughs at me for that. And if you don’t want to go the “genius route,” you could read to your neighbor cats; here’s a photo of mine who randomly travel through our yard:

Neighbor cats sneaking in for a listen

So, while reading your own material is a great idea, how about next time you try this trick with your critique group or a writing partner: swap stories and read each other’s piece out loud. Not only will you focus and hear the words differently, you’ll hear how someone else interprets your words. Did the story flow naturally? Did the reader stumble over words or ideas? Did the plot progress realistically and believably? Hearing your words in someone else’s voice will give you a whole other level of insight about how readers might experience your story.

And you know me, I hope my stories sell, but first and foremost, I really want to tell my stories in a good, logical, fun, exciting way. This you-read-me, me-read-you technique can help build a great story. It’s super helpful to receive feedback from other readers, too, but I digress. Finding beta readers can be a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I love a good writing tip, I’m sure you guys know reading aloud has more benefits than simply helping you edit. I’m no expert, but do a search online and you’ll uncover many more pluses to reading for an audience, especially to kids. Think of the impact on imagination and vocabulary! Love that. <3

Tell me, readers, writers and friends, do you read your work aloud when you edit? Or just for fun? ; ) What other benefits do you find to reading out loud? Do you read to yourself or to others, like your critique group or writing partners? Me? Definitely a combo of both. Boy, my hub’s gonna get an earful!

I’d love to hear your answers. Let me know in the comments section below or by email at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks for hanging out.

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Lucky Work

Every once in a blue moon, the stars arrange themselves and surprise me with something ridiculously happy. I’m incredibly grateful for those alignments, and I’m aware not only of their rarity but of their fleeting nature. I also realize those configurations often occur through more mundane efforts. This adage, often ascribed to Thomas Jefferson, is one I really get behind: I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

I consider myself very fortunate in this little life o’ mine. Plenty of less-than-good inhabits my daily world, but I’m one lucky SOB most of the time. I’ve learned, though, better things come from when I work hard to reach my goals.

That said, I try to remember to be grateful for all I have (especially when it’s hard to remember!), and I really try to share that appreciation with all those who have supported me on my somewhat-randomly chaotic ride.

So, where am I going with this? A big shout-out to all of you for championing my first mystery novel, Emerald Obsession.

The latest, brilliant news for me and my book is that we just won 2nd Place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards for Published Mystery!!!!

Emerald Obsession in print
Emerald Obsession in print
RPLA, 2nd Place, Mystery
RPLA, 2nd Place, Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooo hooo. I am beyond over the moon! And still—a bit—in a state of disbelief. On a fun-factoid note, my win came on October 22, 2016, which is the one-year anniversary of Emerald Obsession’s publication! Unreal. October 22 also happens to be the birthdays of my Uncle John and Aunt Marge, so I think it’s a pretty fabulous day on many levels. : )

What a wonderful shock, a needed jolt for my next challenge. I’ll do my very best to keep up the hard work, to use this win as motivation to continue writing, especially when the brain spews sludge or simply dumbs down into temporary oblivion. ; ) (Don’t worry: I spew, therefore, I edit.)

Before I sign off and get back to writing EO’s sequel, TB, I’ll say one more quick thank you. Who knew where my novel would take off to all those years ago? In my wildest dreams, perhaps I’d thought of winning an award, but wow. In reality, all I’d like is for more people to enjoy my stories. I hope that continues. Thank you for helping make this ride possible. <3

I’m happy you visited. Please spread the word and tell your friends about my website, so they can sign up for my newsletter and read all the latest. See you again soon!

PS—Wishing you all an early, fabulous and Happy Halloween! Want to see what the hub and I are dressing as this year? Be sure to visit again soon. : )

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What Are You Reading?

People often ask what I’m reading. Who my favorite authors are, what topics I like to read about. Unequivocally, I love reading mysteries, because I love solving puzzles, unravelling riddles. My love of mysteries started young and hasn’t stopped. And I suspect that won’t change any time soon.

But that aside, I enjoy reading other works by a variety of authors. Experts say (and I agree), reading in quantity and breadth will improve your writing. Since I’m all for refining my skills, I read as much as I can.

The month of May opened with two cool celebrations, Children’s Book Week and Teacher Appreciation Week. Stories in the news and online made me think of my childhood reading habits and how they affected where I’m at today.

I don’t remember a time when books didn’t surround me. Thank goodness. My mom and dad read me so many wonderful stories: Francis the Bear, Curious George, Just So Stories. And my dad made up incredible tales of his own. He captivated my brothers and me with sagas of The Land of the Kingdom of The Land of the Kingdom of Wuff, fruit that fell upwards off trees, tse-tse bushes and elves. I remember we’d beg him every night to tell us more about his make-believe world.

First my parents and later my teachers helped grow my love of reading, learning, adventure. Sure, as a kid I had my moments, but then—and now—I put my nose in a book when I want to learn something new, experience a new location or solve the mysteries of someone’s life.

What began as a child’s obsession—I fell in love with the Nancy Drew mysteries (with a penname of Carolyn Keene, how could I not?)—continued as a young adult’s, then a grown woman’s. After I tore through those teen adventures, I moved on to Grandma’s Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen novels. Hooked from the start, it seems.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe reading is a substitute for living; it simply opens up worlds I might otherwise not experience first-hand. Reading is a door to new discoveries. In many instances, though, I learned how to do new things, then I went out and did them. Now in writing about those experiences, I can share my adventures and maybe encourage someone else to explore.

Take Emerald Obsession. Six years ago, I found myself in dire need of a relaxing vacation. I’d read about one of the Bahamian Out Islands, Eleuthera, and decided that would fit the bill. Did it ever! It remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. And its beauty, culture and vibe inspired me to write Emerald Obsession, which became my first published mystery novel. Talk about freakin’ cool.

Eleuthera Sunset
Eleuthera Sunset
Sharks in Eleuthera
Sharks in Eleuthera

I’m in the throes of writing Book 2 in the Found Mystery Series. I’m calling it TB for now. This, too, is partly set in the Caribbean, and all I can say is the more research I do, the more I’m jonesing to travel again. I can’t wait!

So, before I sign off and head back to the Turks and Caicos with TB, I’d like to leave you with two thoughts.

First, a couple of my favorite* reads: And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier. The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Allan Poe. Everything written by Michael Crichton. Along Came a Spider, James Patterson. Ice Cold, Tess Gerritsen.

(*Hard to say “favorite,” because I have so damn many.)

Second, this weekend marks the celebration of Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer here in the States. For many folks, this translates into the first weekend to laze on the beach with a good book. However, Memorial Day is also a time to reflect on the lost lives of the service men and women who fought for our country’s freedom. Whatever your beliefs, men and women died fighting for us and our country, and I respect and am grateful for their service.

I wish you all happy and enjoyable weekends. And please consider sharing your favorite books and what you’re reading now in the comment section below. I always appreciate suggestions for new reads. : )

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