Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reader Lost

Felicia Donovan is the author of THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY series of mysteries featuring four raucously funny gals who use computer forensics and women’s intuition to help other women. SPUN TALES – A BLACK WIDOW AGENCY MYSTERY, will be released in July, ’08 from Midnight Ink Books where the girls will again, fight chocolate cravings, hot flashes, and people bearing ill will.

Two books published, one book ready to go to the publisher, two more in progress. Not a bad run for the last three years. Of course, that comes after a lifetime of dabbling none too seriously in writing and thinking how nice it would be to get published. Good stuff happens and sometimes it happens literally, overnight. I’m thrilled that THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY series is doing so well. What a kick it was when just the other day, a friend recounted that she was on a bus to the airport and saw someone across the aisle reading BWA.

Ah, this writing life… We spin words, create new worlds. We twist endings and create characters that are charitable, dastardly, devious, heinous. It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting. And it takes an awful lot of time…

I never quite realized just how much time it would take between writing, editing, marketing, more marketing, signings, even more marketing, and trying to always keep a work or two “in progress.”

When life forces a schedule where you have about an hour a day to dedicate freely to your craft and you’re trying to keep on a schedule of at least one book a year (if not more), finding time to read is one of the first pleasures to go. It’s not that I don’t have books to read. I have plenty. I just don’t have the time and that’s not a good thing. The day job is very demanding. Life is demanding. Family, dogs and house are demanding, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my priorities straight – family first, everything else second.

Mind you, I love to read. I grew up in a household of voracious readers in which books were considered as necessary as the linens on the beds. Like most writers, books hold a special emotional appeal. They take me to places I’ve never been, evoke feelings I’ve never had, remind me of the existence of good and evil and the struggles of humanity. They make me laugh with tears, cry with tears and stimulate my brain into existential realms, flights of fantasy, murderous mysteries.

But now I find myself in the strange dilemma of not having time to read and that bothers me…a LOT.

Last year, I tried to make amends by taking a “book-a-day” vacation. Every single day I had off, I read a new book. My mind was refueled, restocked, replenished – but I didn’t get much writing time in and one week later, it was back to the old grind.
For a while, I took advantage of audiobooks and listened to some wonderful stories while driving, cleaning the house, working out, but even that seems to interfere with the time that I’m usually plotting and thinking about a story idea.

Surely I can’t be the only author facing this situation. Does your writing life interfere with your reading life? Do you find yourself torn between the paperback lying on top of the TBR pile and the laptop waiting to be turned on? Does your TBR pile spill out across the nightstand onto the floor collecting dust and fighting for attention? Is there nothing more frustrating than to have these literary carrots dangled in our faces and not have the time to chew on them?

Felicia is a recognized cybercrime and law enforcement technology expert who has assisted the FBI on cases involving child pedophiles. She has used computer forensics to recover deleted files from computers involved in cases. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the International Association of Crime Writers, the New Hampshire Police Association and the International Association of Chiefs of police. She is also the founder of CLEAT (Communications, Law Enforcement and Technology).

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Joyce Tremel said...

Thanks for visiting with us, Felicia.

In my perfect world, I'd have as much time to read (and write) as I wanted. In the real world, it's a lot less than that. I squeeze my reading in when I'm eating my breakfast in the morning (and sometimes when I'm home for lunch). It beats reading the cereal box and it's surprising how quickly I can get through a book this way. I just finished Michael Connelly's The Overlook today and I only bought it Monday night.

I've learned I can get a lot of writing done in bits and pieces too. I used to think I needed uninterrupted chunks of time, which I rarely got. Now I take what I can get, and it seems to be working.

Anonymous said...

Welcome, Felicia!

I think life in general takes time away from reading. When I was younger, I couldn't stand not to be reading a novel. Now, I only fit in 3 to 4 a year. What can I say, there just aren't enough hours in the day.

I think it's a matter of priorities and deciding what comes first in your life.

Annette said...

Welcome to the posting side of Working Stiffs, Felicia.

My to-be-read pile got so big my hubby had to build me a set of book shelves to control the book avalanches.

I always keep a book or a copy of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in my purse for those waits in long lines at thte grocery store or in doctors' waiting rooms. I read while eating breakfast and lunch.

When hubby is working night shift, I sometimes wrangle an entire exquisite evening in a quiet house with a book: my idea of heaven on earth.

Your book-a-day vacation sounds pretty heavenly, too!

Joyce Tremel said...

Annette, it's nice to know that someone else reads while they eat breakfast and lunch.

I'm off to get my cereal and start a new book...

Anonymous said...

I figure being a writer mandates that I must read at least one book a week--although I try to make it two. It's part of the job, and it's only taken a decade to convince my family that I'm working when I'm reading!

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Felicia!

Anonymous said...

Felicia, welcome to Working Stiffs!

I understand the frustration of not finding the time to read - my creative writing time seems pretty well balanced, but that TBR pile keeps growing taller!

Riding the bus to work is my salvation - 45 minutes a day, each way, and I can ignore my fellow passengers...although, to be honest, I do geet some terrific story ideas from the things I overhear!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Felicia--

You're so on the money! My tbr pile is wonderful and intimidating. Two stacks on the nightstand, and endless bookshelves.

The wriitng-marketing-editing juggle is only describable to those who experience it--and to be sure, this is not in the nature of a complaint!

I am thrilled with what's happened.

But besides the time, it's also what happens in my brain when I read now. I'm either terrified of idea osmosis, where a word or a thought seeps into my brain from something I'm reading. Don't want that to happen.
Or I'm so involved in my own writing that my mind wanders--I'll see a word in whatever I'm reading that triggers a thought about my own book--and then I can't focus on anything but my own plot or character.

Or--I start editing the book I'm reading. Oh, I say, I would have cut that part. Or that's the third time the author has used that word.

Or I think--oh, this is so good! I should just chuck my whole project.

So there's just so much more to reading these days...that sometimes it just gets complicated.
Again, not a complaint! But it certainly is a different activity.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful group this is! As Hand said, one thought leads to another and as I read this, I wondered just how tall our cumulative TBR piles might be? A formidable stack for sure.

The important part is that we're all in love with these words that land on pages and carry us off as much as we love to land a few ourselves.

Joyce, I have been known to read those cereal boxes quite a bit. I admire your ability to write in chunks.

Tory, yes, it's all about priorities. Family first, always...

Annette, the "book-a-day" vacation was a true gift to myself. So invigorating...

Nancy, I like your "working while I'm reading" stance. Good for you.

Martha, I admire your ability to read on the bus. When I'm in public, I find myself too distracted by people. I watch everyone, trying to catch snippets of conversation and understand their relationships to one another, watch their body language, etc. I suppose if it was the same crowd everyday, I'd get over it.

Hank, you and I must have been kissed by the same angels when we came out. I understand exactly what you mean about the osmosis thing, the on-the-spot editing and the fear that what we do is not worthy when we read something especially well-written. Yours is, most definitely, so you have no worry there. The constant juggling act is all part of the price we pay to do what we love to do, right? No complaints here either.

Joyce Tremel said...

Hank and Felicia, I have that self-doubt thing sometimes too. It doesn't last long, though. Eventually it makes me more determined to be a better writer.

When I read something especially well-written, I now try to dissect it and figure out how the writer did what she did. Then I think about what I need to do to get to that same level.

I guess it's all one big learning process, isn't it?

AliasMo said...

I'm sometimes tempted to cut up my library card like a shopping junkie with a credit card. REading is the single bigget activity that keeps me away from writing, because the other time-consuming activities in my life are essential to family life.

The flip side is I feel obligated to read in support of writers, not just for my own enjoyment. I came away from Crime Bake with a whole new ist of authors to sample on the one hand and a determination to read less and write more on the other.

Does it seem to anyone else like there's less activity on some of the blogs they visit regularly? I think a lot of folks have resolved to spend less time online and more on task. I better go be one of them.


Anonymous said...

Hi Felicia,

Welcome! I really enjoyed reading your post.

Finding time to fit everything into my life...reading, writing, working, family, etc. has been a difficult job. I've learned not to take any minute of the day for granted.

Unknown said...

Mo, sorry but there's no program for bookaholics (thank heavens!).

A big thank you for letting me make a guest appearance here. I had so much fun. So nice to know I'm in such great company.