Something I’ve been struggling with lately has been finishing the books that I start reading. This summer, as I’ve tried to take advantage of my free time to do more “for fun” reading that I can’t do in the school year, I’ve repeatedly run into the issue of stalling out on new books on my TBR list. Whether its because I can’t get into the world-building, or the tone is too severe, or I can’t keep track of all the characters (and yes, I know what that sounds like coming from me), lately I just haven’t been able to finish any books. In one particularly dreadful case, I was reading a book that I actually was starting to feel immersed in, only to have the book throw in a graphic attempted rape as nothing more than blocking in an action sequence. (I guess some writers are still pulling that kind of shit in the year 2018, huh?) Needless to say, I didn’t bother to finish that one.
It’s been a frustrating endeavor, and one that seems to have generally reflected a phenomenon in my life this year that I like to call “The Harder I Try, the Worse the Outcome”. Obviously I’m being melodramatic, but in a number of aspects of my life these past few months (except for finances, thank goodness), I’ve felt that the more time and effort I put into anything, the more unsuccessful I end up being at the thing.
Spring term in my graduate book publishing program really stood out as an example, where I had one Problem Class that required an excessive amount of effort compared to my other two classes, even though the work was not fundamentally more difficult (there were just a lot of busywork assignments that were poorly explained). I ended up dedicating probably something like thrice as much effort to the Problem Class than my other classes, at times even severely procrastinating or just not doing assigned work in my other classes to keep up with the Problem Class. And yet, at the end of the term, my lowest grade was in the class that I had shrugged off my other classes for.
That general pattern has followed many of my endeavors this year, and it’s frustrating because when I encounter obstacles, my instinct is to try to work through them. When the obstacle itself seems to be caused by me working harder, then working harder-er isn’t going to be the solution. And while I’m not hugely inclined to abandon things I’ve committed to (especially when other people are present to witness my commitment), I am inclined to refrain entirely from committing to new things if I think I won’t be astonishingly successful in them on my first try. And this is where my reading habits come in to this pattern.
I was already annoyed with repeatedly hitting walls with every new book I tried to pick up, so much so that after that particularly bad example mentioned above, I was ready to just give up on reading for a while. However, when I was recently listening to an episode of the podcast Print Run (hosted by my agent Laura Zats and her fellow agent Erik Hane), they offered a writing tip that gave me a kick in the pants to get back into reading.
Erik’s advise: “Read way more than you write.”
This has historically been my approach (reading takes way less time than writing, after all), but hearing it said out loud gave me the push I needed to try to get back into reading. But when trying had been the very issue, I knew I had to come up with a solution that required not more effort, but a different approach.
So, instead of trying harder, I decided to try softer. I decided to reboot my reading motivation by picking up a book that I knew I could finish, because I had before. Something that wouldn’t necessarily offer new perspectives or insight into current publishing trends, but something easy and familiar. And short.
I decided to revisit a fantasy romance that I had enjoyed a few years ago, Alexey Dyed in Red by A.M. Valenza, which is a darling, delightful, magical book with an atmosphere that elegantly straddles the line between serene and sinister, and it also includes that elusive asexual representation. Incidentally, while we’re here, I highly recommend this book (there is a tad bit of cannibalism in it, though, so watch out for that).
As I had hoped, revisiting Alexey Dyed in Red (and its sequel, Breakfire’s Glass) helped refocus my approach to reading. Instead of going into the books with the pre-frustrated expectation that I would struggle to finish them, I began with an excitement to dip back in to a familiar story, and my nostalgia made it easier for me to sink into the book and just enjoy the read. Although I know it’s important as an author to keep up on newer books, taking a chance to just slow down and go back to something familiar simply for the joy of it really helped put me in the mind of reading for reading’s own sake, which got lost somewhere amid all the frustration.
(As to where that frustration started, I again blame that Problem Class, which was so profoundly bad that it kind of made me hate books a little bit? You can see how this would be a problem for me.)
Anyway, I’m feeling much more confident in my reading habits again and a little more assured about my “The Harder I Try, the Worse the Outcome” problem. I’m hoping now I’ll be able to hop back into some of those books I stalled on and give them another go. The downside to this happy ending, of course, is that summer is almost over and soon my reading list will again be beholden to my classes’ assigned reading. Regardless, revisiting a favorite was a great joy and, if nothing else, put me in a better headspace.
If you want to check out Alexey Dyed in Red and Breakfire’s Glass (again, highly recommended for anyone looking for cute, mildly creepy fantasy romance with delightful asexual and polyamorous representation), here are some links for you:
I also recommend Print Run for those interested in podcasts about the inner workings of the publishing industry. You can find their site here.
I haven’t been online much lately because I’ve been in the throes of editing (and also, like, a million other non-writing things), but I’m getting nearly to the end of my current bout, so it seemed like a good time to surface with some updates.
- A Study of Fiber and Demons, my rivals-to-lovers fantasy romance novella, had it’s 1-year birthday earlier this week! For those still hoping to pick it up, it just so happens that Less Than Three Press is having a sale on all print and ebooks until August 22, so it’s a fine time to grab that for 20% off.
- As I mentioned above, my main WIP is currently wrapping up with its first editing stage (fingers crossed I can finish it sometime in the next few days), so hopefully I’ll be able to share actual details about that project soon.
- I still don’t expect to be around much online for the next couple of weeks (due to stuff primarily related to my day job), but I’m hoping to revisit my Instagram account in mid-September when I’ll be off at Disneyland! That has nothing to do with writing, but that Instagram account has just been gathering dust lately, and of course I’ll be taking pictures at Disneyland, so, yeah.
- As for fall, I’ve got a few convention plans in the works, but so far I think all I can definitively say is that I’ll be at Kumoricon and Orycon here in Portland. More on con schedules as I get them hammered out.
And that’s about all the updates I have right now. It’s really been just grinding through these edits for me lately, so unfortunately I haven’t got much exciting to share. So, I guess instead I can share this picture of my roommate’s very annoyed cat.
Had some trouble logging into my site the past couple of days, but here I am now!
There’s another giveaway for a paperback copy of Moonshine courtesy of my publisher, Angry Robot. Same rules as last time: follow me on Twitter and RT this tweet to enter for a chance to win. The winner will be selected at random, and it is open to international entries. For this round, all entries will be counted through June 30.
Happy reading, and Happy Pride!
June is Pride Month, and wouldn’t you know it, I wrote a book full of queer characters. (Well, I’ve written a few books full of queer characters, but only one of them has pubbed this year so that’s the one I’m focusing on now.) To celebrate, I’ll be doing a giveaway for a signed paperback copy of Moonshine! Here are the rules:
- The giveaway is being held on Twitter. To enter, follow my account @jas_gower AND retweet this post.
- The contest goes through June 21.
- Winners will be selected at random and contacted via DM.
- The giveaway is open to international entries!
I had some other Moonshine stuff planned for Pride, but the timing just wasn’t right to get that all put together, but things should be calming down here a bit for me now and, at the very least, I at least shouldn’t be as squirreled away in a dark cave as I have been lately. So keep an eye out here for other news and updates!
…since things have been a little quiet from me recently. If you follow me on social media, you might have seen me mention here and there that it’s has been a particularly brutal school term for me this spring, and I’ve had a couple of physical and mental health issues going on that are, oh, not entirely unrelated to that. So I’ve been unplugging a little more (at least from the internet–I’m still playing as many video games as I possibly can) and trying to focus on my schoolwork and writing projects.
Thankfully, I’m starting to get my feet back under me and the end of spring term is in sight. I do have some fun Moonshine-related stuff planned for Pride, but unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have everything ready in time for June 1st. That said, I’m still hoping to share that fun Pride stuff a little later in the month once things are fully calmed down for me, so keep checking back here for that.
Here are two cool things happening now or soon that might be of interest:
First, if you haven’t heard, I’ll be in Stayton, OR (the small, mid-valley agricultural town where I went to high school) for the Stayton Public Library Local Author Fair on May 5th. The fair goes from 11:00 AM – 3:30 PM when regional authors will be selling books, and I’ll be doing a reading at 1:00 PM, so if you’re taking an afternoon in the Willamette Valley countryside (or if you’re one of the few people who live in that area), you can stop by to see me. All of the details are on my Upcoming Events page.
My second bit of reiterated news is that Less Than Three Press (the publisher of my novellas, For All the Gold in the Vault and A Study of Fiber and Demons) is having a sale to celebrate their 9th anniversary throughout the month of April. They’re celebrating with a discount on all titles, plus daily $0.99 deals, and a raffle. If you want to grab my novellas or other excellent queer romances from them, the sale lasts until the end of the month, and you can check their Twitter to see which books are $0.99 each day.
Well, I had a productive week finishing my first draft of my current main WIP, so now I’ve got a few days of spring break left to work on some other stuff, like my review project. But first:
- Catch me on Lawrence Schoen’s Eating Authors feature, where I talk about haggis, the traditional Scottish dish so delicious that it’s literally illegal.
- I’ve updated my author bio. I’m paying a lot of money to go to grad school so I might as well brag about it, right?
- And I’ve updated my Goodreads author profile (also with that new bio), and I’m hoping to do a little more on Goodreads going forward aside from just keeping track of my reading progress. It has a couple of cool features for authors that I really should get more into using.
Now, back to the book reviews. I’m now caught up on my list of books from the past few months that I’ve been needing to write reviews for, so my next step is to copy over all of my other Goodreads reviews to Amazon. In the meantime, here’s a look at the books I tackled for this project and some excerpts from the reviews I wrote:
“…Keiko is a relatable young woman who embodies a dichotomy of youthful uncertainty and driven passion to do what is right.”
(I’ll admit that I didn’t write as detailed of a review of this one as I wanted because it’s been too many months since I read it and I don’t remember enough of the details.)
“Every Heart a Doorway is a poetic story about growing up in a world that does not make room for you, an especially poignant theme given the queer representation in the book.”
“The story takes care to show how Megan, too, changes as a person depending on the events of each scenario, which is probably the most compelling aspect of the book’s premise.”
“While the story contains quite a bit of action, its shining moments are with the steampunk alternate history world-building, the mystery of the agents Desmond meets and the tension that arises as he tries to puzzle out their identities, motives, and possible benefits to his own goals, and the secret behind what makes Lij so important to these different groups hunting him down.”
“While the story is fantastical, action-packed, and romantic, perhaps its most compelling aspect is how it reflects upon the nature of grief and trauma, and how these feelings shape our relationships with other people, with our role in the world, and with our perceptions of ourselves.”
And, finally, a book that wasn’t on my backlist for review but that I actually finished this spring break:
“With a fun, creepy, high-action plot appropriately paced with moments of quiet, and imagery that is both modern and mythic, Certain Dark Things is a highly recommended read for those looking for a fresh revival of the urban vampire genre.”
I’m done with my grad school finals for this term, so now I’ve about a week and a half of spring break to look forward to. One of my goals is to finish drafting my WIP, but I’ve also had my mind on the topic of reviews recently, and I’d like to continue something I haven’t had a chance to work on since the end of summer.
Last summer, I was trying to commit more to leaving reviews on books that I read and enjoyed. I was pretty successful in that endeavor, but since the summer, I’ve fallen behind on that task. That means that I have a few books that I’ve read in the past year that I have not yet reviewed, and I’m hoping to catch up on those over the break. Thankfully, I think there’s only 5 books on that list, and 4 of them are novellas, so it shouldn’t be too much work.
I also typically only leave reviews on Goodreads rather than Amazon, just because I don’t spend a lot of time on Amazon. And although Goodreads is owned by Amazon, they don’t transfer over the Goodreads ratings to a book’s Amazon page for some reason, even though reviews are generally more useful to a book on Amazon than they are on Goodreads. So, my plan is to also go back over the Goodreads reviews I did write last year and duplicate them on Amazon. Then, ideally, for any books I read in the future I will write reviews more immediately after I finish them and post the reviews to both sites at the same time.
I’m not entirely sure how much of this I can get through in only a week and a half (especially considering that my drafting is first priority), but I know I can at least get a start on this. And, of course, if anyone is interested in joining me in increasing their book review efforts (especially for books that don’t have very many reviews on Amazon!), I highly recommend it.
You may have heard already, but Moonshine is now available in large print, Braille, and synthesized audio from Read How You Want.
And just as a reminder for more accessibility goodness, I have a content warning list posted on this site for Moonshine as well as A Study of Fiber and Demons.