Tag Archives: reading

Monday Musings — Lessons in Rock and Roll

Artistic careers are hard. We all doubt ourselves; we all suffer setbacks. In many respects, diligence and persistence are at least as important as raw talent…

I’m sharing this with you because, though I say these things on convention panels and in workshops all the time, I need to be reminded of them. All. The. Time.

As this is the first of my Monday Musings blog posts for 2020, I feel that I should explain that not all of my musings will be about writing. There are plenty of other topics out there, and I intend to explore a good many of them before the year is through.

For today, though, I am thinking about the craft of writing, and in a broader sense, about toiling in the arts.

I read every morning while I work out, sitting on my stationary bike, sweating away, a book in hand. And I mostly read fiction – generally speaking, I prefer novels to non-fiction books. In the past few months, however, for reasons I can’t really explain, I have been reading biographies and autobiographies of some of my rock and roll heroes. I started with Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run, not because he is a particular favorite of mine – I like him fine, but I’m no fanatic – but because the book came highly recommended. I then moved to Graham Nash’s Wild Tales. I am currently reading Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us, a fascinating three-way biography of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon, and next up in the queue is Timothy White’s biography of James Taylor, Long Ago and Far Away. I also recently read a magazine profile of Rod Stewart, who this year will turn 115. No, I’m sorry, that’s supposed to read 75…

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have found shared patterns in the career paths of the artists in question, and analogous progressions in my own career. All of these artists suffered through periods of self-doubt early in their careers. Several of them dealt with what you and I might call imposter syndrome. Springsteen and Stewart in particular speak of it explicitly. (And let’s be honest: Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen are not guys we generally associate with failures of confidence…)

All of them enjoyed moments of stunning, even unexpected success fairly early in their professional lives (the phenomenon that was “Born To Run,” the amazing response to the first Crosby, Stills, and Nash album, the chart-topping rise of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”) and then all of them, after building for a while on these successes, suffered setbacks that forced them to reevaluate their art. Some of these setbacks were personal, some were self-inflicted. And some were commercial – a few of them had as much to do with changes in their industry as with something the artist him or herself did wrong. But all of them can point to moments when the public response to the work they did fell well short of their expectations and hopes.

All of them had to reinvent themselves in some way. All of them struggled at times to maintain commercial standing in the face of difficult developments in their private lives. None of their careers – NONE – followed a perfectly linear upward trajectory. Yet all of them persevered, fighting through the down times to achieve a second (and third and fourth…) artistic and commercial success. Because in the end, they loved their music. They couldn’t imagine themselves doing anything but writing and singing and playing songs.

I suppose none of this is too unexpected. And I don’t expect that you need to have the lessons spelled out for you. Artistic careers are hard. We all doubt ourselves; we all suffer setbacks. In many respects, diligence and persistence are at least as important as raw talent. There. I spelled them out for you anyway.

I’m sharing this with you because, though I say these things on convention panels and in workshops all the time, I need to be reminded of them. All. The. Time. It’s easy to look at the superstars we admire – in any art – and marvel at their amazing careers, ignoring the flops, the ventures that went nowhere. It’s easy to gloss over the ups and downs and assume that if they’re rich and famous, they never have to cope with doubt. And it’s easy to separate ourselves from the big stars, to tell ourselves that because we’re not rich and famous ourselves, we have nothing in common with those who are.

Thing is, none of it is true. They DID have flops. They DO grapple with doubt. And our pursuit of our art ISN’T all that different from their pursuit of theirs. We might not be as well known or as wealthy, but we have something to say, and we owe it to ourselves to keep speaking, to persist through the hard times, and to make ourselves heard. Not because it might make us millions or get us on the cover of Rolling Stone. But because, like our heroes, we love what we do.

The Virtual Tour Goes to the Library

I discovered worlds there. As a kid, I was fascinated by nature and the Apollo moon missions, and so I took out every book I could find on birds and mammals, rockets and space. Thanks to the librarian — I’ve forgotten her name, but I remember that she learned mine right away, and welcomed me every time I walked through the doors to the Children’s Room — I was introduced to the charming stories of Sterling North, and found countless books about baseball (another of my passions).

After a brief break, the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour resumes today with a post over at the Word Nerds Review site. Bethany and Stacie, who run the site, are both strong advocates for public libraries, and they asked me to write about what libraries have meant to me. It was an easy and joyful piece to write. You can find the post here.

Community and Genre, part 2, and Another Giveaway!

Surely there is room in this genre for quiet stories and loud ones, for the old-fashioned and the new-and-weird, for space opera and epic fantasy, for military SF and urban fantasy, for writers of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities. If you don’t want to read all of these stories, if you don’t want to follow all of these writers, you don’t have to. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

But it is one thing to choose. It is something else entirely to dismiss. It is time that we as a community recognize the difference.

The day after the release of His Father’s Eyes, book II in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, I continue the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour  with a couple of online appearances. The first, excerpted above, resumes the conversation on genre and community that I began two weeks ago at SFSignal. This new installment can be found here.

And later this afternoon, I will be back at Bitten By Books for a launch party celebrating yesterday’s release. We are giving away a $40.00 gift card to some lucky reader, and right now you can increase your chances of winning by RSVPing for the event here.

Today I Talk Books With Mermaids

Choosing three books that changed my life, even if it’s just for the purposes of a blog tour, is a little like choosing “Three Meals That Helped me Grow Big and Strong.” Sort of. Actually, no one would ever accuse of me of being either big or strong. But you get the idea.

To be clear, I’m not so much talking about books-with-mermaids, but rather I am talking with mermaids about books. In a manner of speaking. Today, on the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour, I visit the Mermaids and Friends site, hosted by, among others,  my dear friend Alethea Kontis. As you might gather from the excerpt above, my post is about three books that changed my life, and the choices might surprise you. You can find the post here.

Dealing with Inaccuracies in my New Book

SpellBlind200Yesterday I received one of those emails that authors usually hate to get. A reader wrote to let me know that there were a couple of details in my new novel, Spell Blind (book I in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson) that I had wrong. I work hard on my research, and on those occasions when I happen to get something wrong, I am deeply disappointed in myself. And I have received messages in the past from readers who, let us say, did not handle the situation in a socially appropriate way, which makes the whole thing that much worse.

This time, though, the reader in question, did everything right. His email was courteous, informative, and respectful. It was clear to me that he wrote not to criticize, but rather to help. He was even kind enough to tell me that the small inaccuracies he found did not keep him from enjoying the novel. And armed with what he told me, I will be sure to avoid these errors in subsequent volumes of the series. I’m grateful to him for his help, and for his willingness to take the time to contact me.

I’m sharing this with you because I think we can all learn from this gentleman’s professional and thoughtful approach to contacting me. Just about every author has faced this at one time or another. We’re human, and sometimes we get things wrong. But I’ve been sent emails about mistakes I’ve made that were rude to the point of abusiveness. In fact, I’ve received emails “correcting” things that I DIDN’T get wrong, that were rude. There is nothing wrong with sharing our knowledge in circumstances such as these. As I said, his email helped me. But there is no need for cruelty, for abuse, for name-calling. Not to be too glib, but it’s one thing to be helpful, it’s another to be hurtful.

And what were my mistakes, and why would I share them here? Well, I’m always willing to share my good news — nice reviews, new sales, etc. This time, I messed up, as all writers do from time to time, and I feel that I should share that, too.

Early in the book, Justis Fearsson, my point of view character, mentions that he is licensed to own a firearm in Arizona. Arizona doesn’t issue such licenses. I also said that Jay became a detective in the robbery detail of the Phoenix Police Department upon graduating from the police academy. As it turns out, the PPD requires two years of uniformed duty before an officer can be assigned such a unit.

These are small matters that have little bearing on the plotting or character arcs.  But that doesn’t excuse my mistakes. I got these things wrong, and I apologize for that.

SPELL BLIND is Now Available for E-Readers!!

Some of you have already contacted me about this, and I have noticed it on several bookseller sites:  The hardcover edition of Spell Blind, the first book in my new series, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, will be published by Baen Books on January 6, 2015 — a week from tomorrow.  But the electronic version of the book is already available.  That’s right, if you read your books on a Kindle or a Nook or a Kobo (like me) or any other e-reader, you can start in on this new adventure right now! I’m not sure why this is the case, but I’m not going to argue about it.  So download the book today, and enjoy!