Kelly Maher
Negative reviews

Yesterday on Twitter there was a great discussion regarding the value and usage of negative reviews. I’m all for them! Seriously. While I am in no way a critical reviewer–mainly due to only being willing to read books that in some way entertain me (and luckily my one critique partner is highly entertaining!), I have spent numerous brain hours on the contemplation of the act of reading thanks to my day profession of librarian who specializes in reader’s advisory (and related work). Basically, I believe that as a writer, I only contribute half to three-quarters of the the storytelling experience. Maybe even less. The reader supplies the rest. Which means, every reading experience is different. Not just every reader, but every experience. If you reread, like I do, you bring a different perspective to the table every single time you read a story.

Case in point: a few days ago, I bought Gift of Gold and Gift of Fire by Jayne Ann Krentz. I first read these probably in high school, which was a few years after they were originally published. Loved them. Adored them. Wanted to have babies with Jonas. I periodically reread them through college, and just after college. Even though I have them in my keeper paper collection, I don’t think I’ve reread them in close to ten years. As I’m reading Gift of Gold now, I’m critiquing the hell out of the portrayal of the start of their relationship. JAK’s writing is crack to a lot of people (me being one), so people would probably read them as is if they were freshly published today. However, I also don’t think that JAK would, let alone does, write the same relationship dynamics today. Books are as much a product of the time period they were produced as when they are read ( :gives the sideeye to my own previously published work: ). If I hadn’t read this duology when I was fresh-ish into my romance reading life and so close to when they were originally published, I don’t know that I would think benevolently on them–even with the understanding of them being from the late 1980’s.

Yanking myself out of sidetrack syndrome (I learned way too well from a couple of masters of it in college), let’s get back to books you are reading today. Including mine. I don’t think of my stories as my babies. Yes, I work incredibly hard on them to make them the best stories possible. But I cannot control the reading experience to make it the same for everyone. Believe me, if I could, I would use that power in other ways well before fiction reading. Some of you are probably reading this right now thinking “Is she about to give her permission to me to read however I want to read? To Hell with her!” See what I mean about readers bringing their own interpretation to written material? πŸ˜€ Nope, I don’t have the power to grant that kind of permission. And why should I? You chose to read my story, and you should do whatever you want with it. Even DNF’ing it (which probably makes me sadder than you hating it). So, my thoughts on negative reviews:

  • They definitely have a place in reading culture.
  • I would probably celebrate if I got one.
  • I tried to think of a third point for symmetry’s purpose, but couldn’t come up with one.
Rereading

Today’s tasks included weeding out the physical books I’ve accumulated over the last year. I’ve actually been very good at limiting my acquisition of said physical books due to space considerations in my apartment. However, because I’ve been so good, the majority of books I have in my apartment are either books I reread either in whole or in part or books that I plan on trying at some point. I have a lot of friends who don’t reread because they so clearly remember what happens in the story. Now, I’ve got a pretty good memory myself, but I find comfort in rereading books and passages that give me pleasure. Do you reread? If you reread, do you collect those books you reread? How big is your “keeper” shelf?

Baltimore Book Fest recap

I spent this past weekend, Friday through Sunday, driving back and forth between DC and Baltimore. It was fabulous! Great weather certainly contributed to a fun time, though I was pretty thankful for the umbrella I use as a parasol. I was not officially there as an author, and I ended up wearing both my Kelly and alter ego hats at various points. Making connections with fellow authors and readers of romance is what made the driving well worth it. As I look to spend the next year getting myself out in public more frequently, I want to know what you expect of authors at book festivals, signings, readings, whatever. Do you prefer one type of interaction over another? Would you like a more intimate setting to sit and chat with authors? What do you want to know as readers from me an author?

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I kind of wonder if I could have fit this into my car since it was such a great stand πŸ˜€

Story management

The other night, as I was trying to fall asleep, another story idea hit me. It hit me hard. At one point I was grumbling to one character to shut up so I could sleep. I got up and made a voice memo about the story premise, and yesterday morning on the bus ride into work, I added the idea to my spreadsheet. Including Project Occipital, it’s number nine on the list. I’ve got the novella trilogy prioritized as my next projects, followed by the edits on Project Ulna while the trilogy is out on submission. After that, my schedule is up in the air. Mostly. There’s something alter ego has been brewing which may impact the writing schedule in the first half of next year.

I’m also working on career strategy. This new story idea would throw a huge spanner into the works when it comes to strategy. Why? Like Project Ulna, it’s really not a Kelly type of story. At this point, it’s solidly a historical mystery with paranormal elements and series potential. I’m very excited about it and I do plan on squeezing it in some time over the next year to get a jump on the freshness of it. I’ve already jotted down the start of the first scene because the first sentence wouldn’t leave me alone. Hell, I’m about ready to write up the story outline because I can see it so clearly. If certain things go as I hope, this story might get bopped up on the priority list.

The key thing is that I’ve stored the idea and given it a little breathing space in my head. Creativity is almost like a sourdough starter. Let it sit for a while and grow. If you’re lucky, and you cultivate it, you’ll have it supplying you with endless amounts of goodness. I just wish it would stop bitch-slapping me awake as I doze off into slumberland.

Sleepy Hollow

I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m not usually one to watch “fiction” television. This season, I’m getting hooked into Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. The element which appeals to me the strongest is the sly sense of humor in it. It’s also got action, suspense, paranormal elements, and some romance. If the writers can continue with the alchemical magic they have brewing, I might find myself caught within its spiderweb. However, the key thing about it which I admire from a writer standpoint is the pacing. They pack a lot of story within their hour, but it never feels draggy or whiplashy. Both last week during the series premier and last night, I looked down at the clock expecting it to be not be past the half hour, but both times we were almost at the :50 minute mark. And there was still story left to tell! Kudos to the writers for a, so far, job well done. I will definitely be tuning in next week. Also, *major* thumbs up to the make up department! Anyone else notice how a certain character’s neck always looked saggy in an entirely appropriate manner?

Book festivals

Alter ego is going to be at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC this weekend. It’s an interesting mix of current events, “highbrow” literature, children’s literature, and some genre fiction. From experience, I can tell you that the C-SPAN bags and the posters are probably the top draw for attendees. Next weekend is the Baltimore Book Festival. It’s got much more of a neighborhood fest feel to it. Probably due to the dedicated food area and bandstand πŸ™‚ I went last year as an attendee and loved it. This year I’ll be going for all three days. One of the reasons I enjoyed BBF more than NBF as an attendee is that it spoke more to me as a genre reader than NBF did. Earlier this year, I participated at the Frederick Book Festival as a panelist. That was also fun in its own way as it was the inaugural year for them. I do plan on attending next year to see how they’ve grown. Have you ever attended a book fest? If so, what did you like and not like about it?

Weddings

This past weekend, I headed up to New England to witness my cousin getting married. It was a gorgeous weekend, and there were only a few kinks in the plans. At the end of the day, my cousin and his wife joined their lives together, and almost our entire side of the family were there to help celebrate.

It was a weekend full of weddings. There was another wedding staying at the same hotel we were at, a bunch of people at the airport heading to or leaving from weddings, and there was even a wedding being held at the state park my siblings and I visited to sightsee on Sunday!

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I wish everyone who got married this weekend many, many years of health, happiness and love with their spouse!

Changing of the seasons

Here in DC, a Heat Advisory was triggered yesterday. I’m betting another one will go off at some point today. On the local news, the weatherman said there’d be a 50 degree difference between yesterday and Saturday evening. I know this is typical when we go from summer to fall, but oy. I’m going to a family wedding this weekend and the high for Saturday is supposed to be a couple degrees cooler from yesterday’s low the last time I looked. Why does the funky weather almost always happen on weekends and the really nice weather on weekdays when I have to be inside working at the day job? I truly do love fall and spring because I’m not a fan of hot weather. I get icky and sweaty way too easily. I just wish it would be a bit warmer for when I’m wearing a kicky dress and shoes this weekend. What’s your favorite kind of weather?

Finding your tribe

At the WRW meeting this past weekend, I talked with some friends afterwards as we usually do. As this was our first meeting of the year, we had a number of new members join us. One of my friends said of a few of them, and this is paraphrased, “their faces lit up as they realized they’d found their tribe.” I know this feeling well. I can pinpoint almost every single time where I’ve had that realization. The power behind it helped give me a center. Grounded me. Made me feel understood.

I’m very close with my family, but few of them are readers of fiction, let alone heavy readers. Every time I made a friend who read a lot, and, even better, read romance, I wanted grab hold tight and never let them go. Both of my careers, the day one and the writing one, have grown out of my love of reading and story. Publishing people are my tribe. Librarians are my tribe. Authors are my tribe. READERS are my tribe. I thank you all for giving me a place where I feel welcomed and loved and cherished. I hope you have been able to find a tribe of your own, whether in person or online. If you haven’t, reach out. There are people who love what you love and want to share the joy of the experience with you.

Travels

My September weekends are filled with travels both local and not-so-local. Next weekend I’m heading to New Hampshire for a family wedding. While there, my mom’s set up a day for her and me and one of my aunts to take a class at the kitchens of a favorite food brand of ours. My family is big on the experiences you can have while traveling. In my latest writing session, I drew inspiration from a family trip many years ago to Rocky Mountain National Park as well as day trip I made last fall. I adore traveling and am currently plotting a train trip up to Quebec for a long weekend. In addition to the planning of the trip and what to do while there, I’m also playing with ideas of how I can possibly use it in a story setting. Which means I could then write the trip off my taxes as research πŸ˜€ Obviously, more plotting is needed.

In the past, I’ve also made some trips based on what I read in novels–or places I knew were settings in unreleased, but upcoming novels. Have you ever traveled somewhere you read about in fiction? Where was it and what did you think about it?