Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
January 2nd, 2012

Of books and puppies

Happy New Year, people! Okay, it’s January 2, but it’s still a new year, and better late than not at all. Yesterday, I was busy cuddling up to my friend’s new puppies, Jem and Scout, who are adorable mini Goldendoodles, and here’s a heartstring-tugging picture of them:

Jem and Scout, photo courtesy of Theresa H.

Are you totally melting? Believe me, they are just as adorable as they look.

As you literary types know, Jem and Scout are characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, brother and sister, and Scout is the narrator. This is one of my favorite novels, so in honor of Harper Lee (and all of you who named your children after the esteemed authoress), I’m sharing a list of the books I read in 2011. I started keeping track of what I read each year about 10 years ago, when friends kept asking me to recommend books and I could not readily recall any titles off the top of my noggin. My mother-in-law also inspired me to try completing a book a week, for she sets herself the goal of reading 52 books a year. I’ve never reached that, although I came closer than I have since first having kids, reading 38 books last year.

I do wonder if my Kindle and e-reading programs on my iPad, iPhone, and computer have something to do with this. I’m certainly not less busy than I was in 2010, when I read 27 books. Far from it. A writing colleague, Claire Light, mentioned on her blog that reading on the Kindle had increased her speed of reading by about 100 percent, if my memory serves. And if you check out her blog, you’ll see her 2011 reading list reaches 130! How would reading on these electronic devices help? I’m guessing it’s their portability, or the fact that when I check out e-books from the library I have to get them back in 3 weeks. What do you think? Has e-reading made you a faster reader?

OK, here’s my list:

  1. *Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  2. Matched by Ally Condie
  3. *The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  4. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
  5. *Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  6. Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
  7. Evermore by Alyson Noël
  8. *Refresh, Refresh by Benjamin Percy
  9. Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett
  10. The Matchmakers by Jennifer Colgan
  11. *The Genius in Children by Rick Ackerly
  12. †Octavia Boulevard by Yvonne Daley
  13. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
  14. *The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
  15. *I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
  16. †Family Poems by Larry Beresford
  17. If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black
  18. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  19. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  20. Switched by Amanda Hocking
  21. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  22. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  23. Torn by Amanda Hocking
  24. *One Day by David Nicholls
  25. *State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  26. The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer
  27. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
  28. †It Only Happens Now and Then… by Mary P. Hamilton
  29. *A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  30. †Roads Without Hills by Charles McKinnon
  31. *†Damascus by Joshua Mohr
  32. Ascend by Amanda Hocking
  33. *The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  34. *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  35. †Count Edweird Lefang’s Rhymin’ Halloween by Eddie Morales
  36. †Cold Comfort by Ellis Vidler
  37. Sleeping With Paris by Juliette Sobanet
  38. *You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

* Olivia’s Favorites  Read for a review or article

November 9th, 2011

Getting down to the funky business of writing

Not to toot my own horn, but [beep beep!], it’s Day 8 of NaNoWriMo, and so far, so good. I’ve somehow exceeded the 1,667-per-day requirement (to make it to 50,000 words by November 30), and even managed to write over the weekend when my family was in the hizzie. And they actually did not feel neglected as I shut myself away for a few hours to get the job done!

I don’t have many “writing buddies” on NaNoWriMo, so if you are doing it, be my friend there! My handle is livyink. I’m also doing a Facebook NaNoWriMo page with fellow scribe Jeremy Nisen, so check that out too, and leave your comments, observations, gratitudes, affirmations, complaints, etc.

By the way, Anne Milano Appel, a translator of Italian works into English, mentioned my post about reading your work aloud in a Hersilia Press blog today. Read what her experiences have been like.

In addition to finally getting some writing done, I have to say, the best thing about this year’s NaNoWriMo (Could I please just shorten it to NNWM? Does that stand for something horrible I don’t know about?) is engaging with other writers about writing instead of concentrating the conversation so heavily on publishing. Of course, publishing is a business, but it feels like the past few months have been spent by yours truly doing nothing more than marketing and promoting something that I haven’t even had the time (or made the time) to do.

That’s not to say I’ve escaped the business side of publishing all together this fine November. Family and friends who haven’t logged on to this blog o’ mine yet have been “hearing” from those who have that I’m “starting a publishing company.” Say what? I did not get that memo. I suppose I’ve been living in denial that I will have to approach self-publishing (if my book gets rejected by all the e-publishers I’ve queried—there’s still hope, folks! A golden sliver of hope.) as a business. Yes, I have skimmed Amanda Hocking’s extremely inspiring and honest blog posts about the hard, sloggy work involved (not to mention the money one has to shell out). I recently read a very helpful post on the Making Baby Grand blog with guest author Robyn Bradley that reiterates much of that.

I would love to know, fellow bloggers, whether you’re self-published or traditionally published or still figuring out the business side of writing, how much time you spend writing and how much businessing? 50-50? 60-40? 70-30? Does blogging count as writing or writing business or a little of both? And whatever your answer, are you OK with it?

 

July 30th, 2011

Should Olivia Give Up on Traditional Publishing?

To e-book or not to e-book? That is the question.

Okay. Let’s back up a sec. *sigh*

Discussing my struggles with writing is not one of my favorite pastimes, but I also feel I have to be honest when people ask about my latest endeavors. I can’t just say, “Great! Everything’s great!” They want proof. Those not in “the game” seem to think finding an agent is as easy as going to the Yellow Pages (or Google), calling the agent of your choice, and having them sign you up. No. Not a bit. I’ve had introductions to agents from friends who are their clients. No cigar. I’ve sent out more queries (that’s a one-page letter telling a bit about your book and yourself) than I want to admit (in the dozens, people, in the dozens). I’ve come soooooo close, with agents asking for sample chapters or even the whole manuscript, only to tell me that the writing is good but the story isn’t compelling/special/great. Or, they might think the novel’s idea is fantastic, but the execution in too plodding, etc. Or, they think the market is too saturated with the kind of story I’ve written. What it comes down to for agents—can they sell this thing?

I guess I thought success would come a little faster—or at all—when I published my first novel Year of the Smoke Girl with a small press. This was back in 2000, and the publisher, Dry Bones Press, Inc., consisted of one guy, Jim Rankin, who was using his disability money and some incentives from Lightning Source—a print on demand printer owned by Ingram—to publish books, first in nursing, then in other genres. I will always be grateful to Jim for giving me a break, although the whole process was rather frustrating. But I’ll save that for another post.

Back to success, or lack of it.  I had hoped with my next novel I’d move on from the small indie press world to a larger, mid-sized press, perhaps with the help of an agent, but that didn’t happen. In 2003, I told one of my writer friends that I was thinking of giving up. She said helpfully, “Maybe writing can just be your hobby.” She wasn’t the greatest at pep talks. But maybe she was right, I thought. Maybe I should just slap that L on my forehead and admit I’m a big old LOSER.

About a year later, however,  I started to draft another book (my fourth), because you see, writing for me is like some kind of disease, even if it’s bad writing. What was my subject? Well, I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (high school angst combined with the supernatural–awesome combo!), although at the time I hadn’t read any adult supernatural stuff and had only read YA horror when I was actually a YA (remember, when I started writing my novel, this was pre Twilight). Of course, like most people, I’d read the Harry Potter series and loved it. I had done some research on modern Wiccans, and I thought it would be funny if a witch who had been raised in this religion actually had superpowers and didn’t know what to do with them. As a person who is half-Chinese, half-white, I thought it would be even more interesting if she was biracial. I had once attended a Samhain potluck, where basically everyone was white except one Asian woman, and I thought, What the hell is she doing here? I’d love to know her story. So that’s how my character Memphis Zhang was born.

Here’s another little tidbit about me: This fall, I turn 40. I have always been blase about getting older, but as I actually do add on the years, I’m taking aging more seriously. I had hoped to be further along in my fiction writing career by this point. Some of my writing friends have started to encourage me to self-publish—excuse me, I think the term used today is independently publish or indie publish—my book as an e-book and hope for the success of Amanda Hocking. Maybe as a birthday gift to myself, I will. Come along for the ride—it’ll be fun!

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