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

August 4th, 2011

OK, traditional publishing, I’ll give you one more try

So, I’ve been obsessing about this whole e-book phenomenon, and it’s no wonder as I plow through the first Sookie Stackhouse novel (yes, I’m one of those True Blood fans who’s finally found her way to the source material) on my iPad. The app that truly legitimizes this basically rather expensive toy, although my kids would argue accessing Disney movies and Angry Birds is reason enough, is OverDrive Media, which I highly recommend to anyone who is an advocate of library usage. Through OverDrive, you can “check out” e-books and audible books (i.e. books on tape) for free. You get the file for 3 weeks and then it disappears. No late fees! Pretty awesome. Oh, and the app is free.

Anyway, e-books haven’t completely replaced real books in my personal library. An author I admire can’t sign my e-book, can she? I recently scooted down to a wonderful local bookstore, Bookshop West Portal, because I knew one of my favorite authors Ann Patchett had done a signing there for her new book, State of Wonder, and I’d be able to get a lovely autographed copy. Granted, I have yet to read her book (but it’s going to be good! It’s getting excellent reviews) because the e-books I requested keep rolling in from the library, and I have to accept them or they disappear from my “hold shelf.” But I’ll get to Ms. Patchett’s book soon. Don’t you worry! And for now, I can admire the lovely cover.

Of course, there are e-book publishers out there that specialize in digital books, and because this whole indie e-book publishing thing is kind of daunting (just found out, for example, that hiring an editor is going to cost mucho dinero), I might give one of these publishers a try. Yes, give them a chance to reject my beloved book one more time, then head off on my own, as Planned B. Let’s see…if I send out my manuscript by tomorrow to the editors, it could take three to four months before I hear back from them.

What say you, dear readers. Should I do it? Should I invite more rejection into my house?

July 31st, 2011

So, Olivia, what do you write?

Funny you should ask.

I got my MA in Creative Writing at UC Davis, and the professors there were rather anti-genre. Either you wrote literary fiction, or you were a hack. At least, that’s how it seemed. So, I dutifully churned out a coming-of-age novel about a young women trying to find herself. Also, because I received my degree in 1996, I was reading a lot of popular stuff of that time, and it absolutely influenced my style as I tried to figure out my VOICE.

Because my first novel was a little bit sad, I next tried something more lighthearted. Bridget Jones’s Diary was white hot at the time, and it was such a relief to be able to read something that was laugh-out-loud funny, that addressed light issues like weight, relationships, and gawkiness (as opposed to drug addiction, serial killings, and child abuse) that was getting positive press. (I guess “chick lit” still struggles for cred). Until then, I felt like I had to read all these smart but dark authors like Brad Easton Ellis and Jayne Anne Phillips to be considered literary and cool. I wanted to be literary, cool, and funny. Anne Lamott was, so why not me?

Another popular book at the time was The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and it introduced me to the concept of a novel-in-stories. I had been writing short stories in grad school and one of my cohort had once said to me, “Why are you writing a novel? You seem like a short story writer.” But every time I’d get a story critiqued in workshop, at least one person would say it felt like a longer story—like a novel! Still, I tried my hand at a novel-in-stories. Both my chick lit novel and the NIS made the rounds with the agents and small presses. No one wanted them in the end.

So I decided to write my witch novel. If JK Rowling could write an amazing, rich saga that appealed to kids and adults, maybe I could write something for adults that would also appeal to teens (that’s called “crossover” people). In the meantime, I wrote some stories with a magical bent as well. Magical realism! That’s another literary, respectable genre. Like Water for Chocolate, and that ilk. One of my stories got published on an e-zine but that e-zine no longer exists. I guess I could reprint it here on my blog. I’ll just have to find the file.

Anyway, I guess I write whatever suits my fancy. My favorite author of all time in Jane Austen. My favorite contemporary author is Ann Patchett. My favorite YA author is Suzanne Collins. I wish I could harness all their talents to become a mega-superstar writer.

Oh well. In my next life, maybe, although I hope to come back as a scientist or something useful like that. Struggling writer? Not that useful.

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