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Stretch Your Reading Muscles

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012



It’s the start of a new year and I’ve set a goal of blogging at least once a week (for now, it could go up later). The focus of this blog has changed. From now on, the postings will be more concerned with writing matters as opposed to the current events as it has in the past. I’m not sure how articles will be divided between here and the section, but matters will resolve over time.


Let me start off by saying I’ve always been a reader. I cut my reading molars on science fiction and fantasy. Over the years, my tastes have grown and diversified into horror, crime, thrillers, mystery, and suspense. I never got into either romance or historicals, but occasionally read Womens Fiction.


My CP (Crit Partner) writes YA with a distinctive Scottish flavor. So, when I heard about two series — the Highlander series by Karen Marie Moning and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I managed to get copies of both. (This isn’t always possible for me as being visually challenged, I only have access to those books that have been recorded.)


While I enjoyed Moning’s Fever series, I haven’t appreciated the Highlander series as much, as they are basically romances. But Gabaldon’s series blew me away.


Did I mention I don’t usually read either romance or historicals?


The first Outlander book drew me in and captured my attention from the get-go. I’m on the fifth book, “The Fiery Cross” and intend to finish the series. These books, by the way, are all good sized books. The shortest one is at least 500 pages,   and the one I’m reading is over 900 pages.


Usually, I try to read and analyze at the same time. For the Outlander series, it worked for a page or two, but then the story wrapped itself around me and I’d be back in the Scottish past with Claire and Jamie. There is a bit of fantasy in each book, but it’s the excellent writing that keeps me reading. The characters are so believable you find yourself giving them advice on what to do and how to do it. One of my favorites is Jocasta Cameron, Jamie’s blind aunt. She’s depicted as a strong woman who lost her sight — which to me smacks of reality. Being in her situation, I feel her frustration, aggravation, and annoyance when people either don’t tell her what’s going on, or ignore her. Give the series a try, maybe like me, you’ll like it.


Which brings me to the second part of this article — stretching your reading muscles. I write Urban Fantasy, so tend to read a lot of it. But since I have police detectives and other officials in my books, I also read crime and detective fiction. I try to learn something from every book I read, no matter how small. How to set a certain mood, how to use an expressive gesture to its best effect, or blending in description without using narrative. Showing a character’s actions or reactions instead of telling how she feels. Every author can teach you something, even if it’s how not to do something. And one of the best ways to do this is to read authors in genres other than the ones you feel comfortable in.


I don’t like westerns or books concerning wars. But I’ve read some and have picked up new ways to write action scenes, though I’d leave out all the rot about describing the weaponry. (Thanks but no thanks, Tom Clancy.) And I’m reading more romance, but tend toward the paranormal or romantic suspense. One of my favorites is J. D. Robb’s Eve Dallas series; a blend of science fiction and romance.


So, this year, go forth and read. Pick a genre at random and give something new a try. You may like it. Spread your reading wings and soar!