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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Non Review

On Concise Writing – by Michael Nail (Part One)

My writing only seldom appears on this publication. However, those who have paid close attention will have noticed that my most common indictment is for the crime of wasted paper and wasted time. To make a point should only take so long. I allow authors modest space to provide emphasis and even, begrudgingly, personal flourish. Too many non-fiction writers seem to think that they aren’t writers unless they’re writing, and vomit black ink onto their pages, behaving as if they were working under production quotas. In response to the disturbing trend of not making your damned point, I will make a few of my own. Concisely. Authors, please take notes.

 

Your personal, unique voice is in what you say, not how you say it.

The assault of intensifiers, triple-adjectives, color commentary, out-of-place five-dollar words, and gee-whiz-isms has been damaging to your credibility. It is no longer my default reaction to take strong language in a non-fiction text seriously. Instead, I assume that the author is compensating for the weakness of an argument, or an insecurity, and I hope to be proven wrong. Sadly, I’m usually right, and I’m not the only one. If you think that your unique voice as a writer is embodied in your above-described assault, try calling to mind the names of all the friends you’ve won over with your pedantic speech. I’ll wait.

When I am assaulted by a book in this manner, it’s usually when I’m being told how significant something is. This is an easy problem to fix. If you feel like you need to assault your reader, stop, take a deep breath, and see what you can do to better contextualize the point you’re trying to make. The language you use to set the stage for your argument should convey the significance of what is at hand. If you’re telling me that a chemical got into the drinking water, don’t give me a linguistic spectacle about how terrible it is. Instead, make the people who drink that water relatable. Teach me about the health effects of the chemical. Instead of deriding the people responsible, tell me about the critical safety measures and protocols in place, which ones were ignored, and let me come to my own conclusions about the bad actors. Do these things with the fewest words possible.

Reading non-fiction shouldn’t feel like being in stop-and-go traffic. You’ve convinced someone that they should publish your book. You’re a smart person. Those big words. Those adjectives. That’s not you. Your intelligent, deeply-held thoughts and beliefs are enough. Believe me: we readers will accept and appreciate you as you are.

 

Please stop filling your books with examples and anecdotes.

When a concept gets to be a little too abstract, an example can be instructive. Sometimes a story is helpful for showing how a problem impacts real people. I love stories and examples, but they are more often abused than otherwise. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. If examples or stories are taking up more than half of your chapter, then just make the chapter about the example or story.
  2. If examples or stories are taking up more than half your book, then just make your book about the stories or examples. I have read some excellent books that did precisely this, with one chapter per example or story. I enjoyed these books because I wasn’t filled with the false hope that there would be a return of substance.
  3. You only get one example or story per topic. If that’s not enough, then either you didn’t do a good job leading up to the example/story, or you need a better example/story.
  4. Do not use a story as an excuse to set your “unique personal voice” free. Your writing should be about the voices of the people in the story now. Stay out of it.
  5. Please don’t end a story in the middle, only to have it start again where it left off 200 pages later. Sometime I’ve seen authors try to recap what already happened, but now I’m reading something I’ve already read… again? So you can make a point you probably should have make 200 pages ago? Spare me.
  6. To the point of conciseness; I will end this post here to let my suggestions sink in. Look for Part Two in the near future.

Exclusive Interview with Tommy Bailey (from COUNTERACT, RESIST, and IGNITE)

 

Ignite 004In 2034, Americans live in constant fear of the threat of terrorism, and the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has guarded the public with an ever-expanding list of Civilian Restrictions designed to increase security. There’s no social media. No one is allowed to gather in public places or attend concerts or sporting events. Only a small, select group of adults have driving privileges. It’s a small price to pay for safety.
Despite all that, eighteen-year-old Tommy Bailey had a pretty good life, up until the summer he graduated from high school. Since then, things have been rough: he’s alone and struggling to recover from a serious injury sustained in the auto accident that killed his parents. While his friends prepare to head off to university, he’s learning to walk again.
Just when Tommy feels as though he’s regained some control over his shattered life, he wakes to the wail of a disaster siren. A chemical weapons attack is imminent, but the OCSD is ready with an antidote to the poison, which they’re providing free of charge. Three drops a day is all it takes. But is the antidote designed to protect—or is it part of the problem?

Tommy  Bailey  has  anchored  the  cast  in  Counteract,  Resist,  and  now  Ignite,  the  first   three  books  in  the  Resistance  Series.  Recently,  I  got  the  chance  to  ask  him  some   questions  about  how  he  went  from  law-­‐abiding  citizen  to  freedom  fighter:

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1)  What  was  it  like,  growing  up  under  the  strict  control  of  the  Office  of  Civilian   Safety  and  Defense?  It’s  funny  you  ask  what  it  was  like  to  grow  up  under  the   thumb  of  the  Office  of  Civilian  Safety  and  Defense.  The  OCSD  really  took  hold  in   2019,  when  I  was  only  three  years  old,  so  I’ve  never  known  what  it  was  like  to  live   without  the  Restrictions-­‐-­‐until  now.  I  guess  my  life  was  pretty  close  to  what  you’d   think  of  as  normal.  I  see  now  just  how  hard  my  mom  tried  to  shelter  me  from  what   was  really  going  on.  My  dad  was  an  attorney  and  activist  who  opposed  the  creation   of  the  OCSD  and  spoke  out  against  their  policies,  but  my  parents  didn’t  talk  about  it   at  home-­‐-­‐at  least  in  front  of  me.  I  grew  up  going  to  school  and  playing  sports.  We   lived  in  an  area  that  still  had  a  few  restaurants  and  shops,  and  now  I  understand   that  it  wasn’t  like  that  for  everyone.  I  guess  our  quadrant  had  a  lot  of  people  who   were  rich.  Our  community’s  social  status-­‐-­‐and  our  compliance  with  the  Restrictions-­‐ -­‐were  what  allowed  us  to  have  those  kinds  of  luxuries.

2)  What  games  did  you  like  to  play  as  a  child?  I  wasn’t  big  on  computer  games  or   anything.  Once  they  shut  down  access  to  the  internet,  nobody  spent  much  time  on   computers.  Football  was  always  the  thing  for  me.  When  the  OCSD  announced  they   were  phasing  out  school  sports  and  banning  spectators  in  college  and  pro  games,  my   dad  was  really  upset.  At  the  time  I  thought  it  was  because  Dad  was  hoping  I’d  play   pro  someday,  but  I  found  out  later  that  the  Restriction  wasn’t  about  keeping  people   safe  from  terrorist  attacks.  It  sounds  crazy,  but  you  gotta  understand  we  were  told   that  gathering  at  stadiums,  movie  theaters,  and  malls  made  us  potential  targets,  and   we  were  safer  viewing  and  shopping  from  our  homes.  Anyway,  Lowell  Stratford,  who  was  the  OCSD  director  at  the  time,  was  trying  to  get  my  dad  to  back  off  and  quit   speaking  out  against  the  OCSD.  Stratford  said  publicly  people  should  ‘blame  Tom   Bailey’  for  all  the  attacks  and  attention  we  were  getting  from  terrorists.  Stratford   knew  associating  my  father’s  name  with  the  taking  away  of  access  to  the   entertainment  and  sports  people  loved  would  hurt  his  cause,  and  make  him  a  less   powerful  opponent.     Luckily,  my  high  school  took  their  time  about  phasing  out  sports,  and  I  got  to  play   my  senior  year.  I  wasn’t  super-­‐motivated  to  play  college  ball,  though.  Now  I  regret  my  lack  of  motivation.  I  like  to  think  I  could’ve  contributed  to  a  team  at  that  level,   but  I  was  just  coasting  through  those  last  months  of  high  school,  ignoring  my   parents’  prodding.  Then,  that  summer  after  graduation,  everything  changed.  My   family  was  in  an  auto  accident,  and  I  lost  both  my  parents.  My  right  leg  was   mangled-­‐-­‐it  took  four  surgeries,  and  still  the  doctors  weren’t  sure  if  I’d  ever  walk   normally,  let  alone  run,  again.  Eventually  I  stopped  feeling  sorry  for  myself  and  got   into  the  physical  therapy,  and  I  was  getting  better.  I  was  on  the  verge  of  feeling  like   myself  again-­‐-­‐not  exactly  like  I  was  before,  but  you  know,  like  I  could  feel  whole   again  someday.  Then  the  chemical  weapons  threat  came  up,  and  bam.  Taking  the   antidote  killed  my  motivation.  I  quit  working  on  my  recovery.

3)  What  does  the  antidote  CSD taste  like?  The  antidote  is  bitter.  It  tastes  like   something  you  wouldn’t  take  if  you  didn’t  have  to.  Did  they  do  that  on  purpose?  To   make  us  think  it  was  like  some  kind  of  medicine,  something  we  really  needed  to  stay   safe?  If  they’d  made  it  taste  like  candy,  maybe  we  wouldn’t  have  taken  it  seriously.

4)  What  did  it  feel  like  when  you  took  the  first  dose?  When  I  took  my  first  dose,  I   was  also  on  some  heavy  pain  meds,  and  the  whole  experience  was  pretty  trippy.  I   thought  I  was  out  on  the  lake,  in  a  boat,  where  we  used  to  go  on  holiday  when  I  was   a  kid.  Other  times,  it  rained  inside  the  house.  Grass  grew  out  of  the  TV.  But  none  of   that  seemed  strange.  On  the  antidote,  you  just  kind  of  roll  with  whatever  happens  to   you.  Well,  on  Phase  One,  that  is.  Phase  Two  was  different.  Stronger.  I  don’t   remember  much  about  what  happened  when  they  upped  our  doses.  Careen  told  me   some  things  that  make  me  glad  I  was  totally  checked  out.

5)  What  is  it  like,  being  part  of  the  Resistance?  Life  in  the  Resistance?  Let’s  just   say  I  had  no  idea  what  I  was  getting  into.  I  can’t  believe  I  was  that  oblivious  to  what   was  going  on  in  the  world  around  me,  but  like  I  told  you  before,  I  never  considered   blowing  off  the  Restrictions  and  refusing  to  do  what  the  OCSD  told  us  to  do.  They   said  it  was  the  only  way  to  survive  the  chemical  weapons  attack.  The  day  Careen   and  I  ran  out  of  the  antidote  was  kind  of  the  point  of  no  return  for  both  of  us.  We   realized  we  weren’t  going  to  die;  then  we  started  to  wonder  if  we  were  the  only   ones  who’d  stopped  taking  the  antidote.  It  became  obvious  that  something  was   really  wrong  when  we  saw  what  the  antidote  was  doing  to  other  people.  Then  we   made  contact  with  the  Resistance  and  before  I  had  time  to  think,  we  were  going   along  on  a  mission  to  rescue  some  people  who’d  been  detained  for  opposing  the   OCSD’s  policies.  Things  got  a  little  messy  while  we  were  at  their  headquarters  in  the  capital.  Now,  we’re  fugitives.  We  can’t  go  back  to  being  anonymous,  even  if  we   wanted  to.

6)  What  do  you  miss  about  your  old  life?  My  old  life  seems  like  a  dream.  I  miss   playing  football  and  knowing  it’s  all  just  a  game,  not  a  matter  of  life  and  death.  I  miss   sleeping  in  and  being  lazy.  I  miss  not  worrying.  Now  I’m  watching  my  back  all  the   time,  ’cause  I’ve  realized  you  can’t  trust  anyone-­‐-­‐and  that  includes  other  members  of   the  Resistance.  I  feel  responsible  for  Careen  and  some  of  the  others.  But  I  can  handle   it.  Physically,  I’m  strong  again.  My  skills  are  needed.

 

047)  Do  you  have  any  long-­‐term  plans  with  Careen?  Careen  showed  up  on  my  front   porch  one  morning.  I’d  seen  her  around,  I  think,  and  she’d  been  in  a  couple  of  my   dreams.  She  seemed  to  have  some  connection  to  me,  too,  but  later  we  realized  she   was  being  manipulated  by  a  member  of  the  quadrant  marshals,  who  was  using  her   to  find  out  if  I  was  carrying  on  my  father’s  work  against  the  OCSD-­‐-­‐which  I  wasn’t!  The  day  we  met  was  also  the  day  we  ran  out  of  antidote.  I  remember  sitting  there   with  her,  believing  we  were  going  to  die  from  the  poison,  and  wishing  more  than   anything  that  it  was  an  ordinary  day  when  I  could  meet  a  girl  and  not  have  to  think   about  dying.  Careen’s  smart  and  brave,  and  she’s  been  through  some  rough  times;   it’s  not  easy  for  her  to  trust  anyone.  Even  though  we  stuck  together  while  we   detoxed  and  tried  to  figure  out  what  was  going  on,  she  kept  me  at  arm’s  length.  That   was  okay;  I  was  willing  to  be  patient  until  she  was  ready  to  trust  me.  Things  got  more  dangerous,  and  before  long  we  realized  there  was  no  escape  for  us.   The  Quadrant  Marshals  were  looking  for  Careen,  and  it  was  only  a  matter  of  time   before  we’d  be  arrested  and  forced  into  the  OCSD’s  civilian  army.    There  was  no   reason  not  to…um,  you  know…and  we  did.  Maybe  things  between  us  moved  too  fast,   but  that  connection  between  us  is  real.  I  think  I  love  her.  I  know  I  want  her.  We’re   still  getting  to  know  each  other;  we  don’t  always  agree,  and  yeah,  we  fight   sometimes,  and  it  ticks  me  off  that  one  of  the  other  guys  in  the  Resistance  is  trying   to  put  the  moves  on  her  when  he  knows  she’s  my  girl.  Oh-­‐-­‐but  long-­‐term?  Sure.  It’s   just  not  practical  to  plan  too  far  into  the  future.

 

8)  What’s  happening  in  Ignite?  Man,  it’s  hard  to  do  this  without  spoilers!  Right   now,  umm,  Careen  and  I  aren’t  together,  and  by  that  I  mean  we’re  not  in  the  same   location.  But  I’m  gonna  fix  that.  My  feelings  for  her  haven’t  changed.    I’m  more  determined  than  ever  to  stick  with  the  Resistance  and  overthrow  the   OCSD,  even  if  I  don’t  always  agree  with  how  other  members  of  the  Resistance   choose  to  advance  their  goals.  At  the  moment,  Jaycee,  who’s  the  daughter  of  one  of   the  Resistance  leaders,  has  stepped  up  to  fill  the  void  left  by  some  of  the  people   we’ve  lost.  She’s  awfully  young,  but  she’s  been  waiting  for  the  revolution  all  her  life.   We’re  going  to  need  everyone  in  the  Resistance  to  work  together  if  we’re  going  to  sabotage the OCSD’s latest plan to control the people.


Wonder which Resistance series character YOU are? Take this fun quiz!

 

CRIMINAL Excerpt/Author Interview/Giveaway!!!

Criminal-Low-Res-Cover

Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order is wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince everyone to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters destroy them all. But Pria’s tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend.

A new scheme to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine places Pria once again at the centre of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.

 

Welcome to the GTB blog tour of CRIMINAL by KB Hoyle. The title is actually an acrostic:

C is for Commune. Pria and some others go on a mission to Denver Commune.

R is for Remembrance. Pria struggles to remember who she is.

I is for Incriminating evidence. Pax goes to trial and Etienne stand trial.

M is for Making a move. The Free Patriots decide to make their move against the UWO.

I is for Illness. Pax hides a mystery illness.

N is for New friends. Pria makes a couple of new friends at Asylum.

A is for Awkward romantic tension between Pria and Pax, and Pria and Henri.

L is for Love. Pria learns what love is.


 

Here is an exclusive excerpt:

I wake confused and chilled to the bone. My blankets have slid to the floor off the side of the bed, and the air in the cave feels like it’s dropped ten degrees since the day before. I scoot to the edge of the bed to try to retrieve my blankets, but I hear a gravelly voice say, “I’ll get them. Don’t move.”

A moment later, Henri spreads them back over me, and I smile in gratitude. The lights are dim and everything is quiet, but I hear soft breathing on my other side as well. I look over to see Pax, fast asleep. They’ve both stayed the night.

“How are you feeling?” Henri asks in the same gravelly whisper. “Need more pain medication?”

“No,” I whisper back. Whatever they gave me, it must have been strong. I can feel only a dull ache beneath the fresh wrappings on my thigh and wrist. “What time is it?”

“Almost morning.” Henri rubs a hand over my buzzed hair. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “You’re almost as bald as I am,” he says. “Still beautiful, though.” He leans down and presses his lips to my forehead.

I’m too stunned to say anything, but I shrink back slightly, into my pillow. His familiarity confuses me, sets me on edge, even as it also spreads warmth through me. I glance over at Pax, prompting Henri to do the same. He straightens and, without another word, returns to his chair. It’s identical to the one Pax is slumped in, asleep with his hand on his forehead.

I try to turn over onto my side and find I can’t. Movement in my injured leg is restricted and painful. I sigh in frustration. My back hurts from lying in one position for too long, and I’m certain I won’t be able to fall back asleep.

Henri said it’s almost morning. What will the morning hold? Release from the infirmary, hopefully. Holly’s test before Luther? Probably. If he didn’t see to that last night while I slept. I wonder if he’ll want Pax and me to participate in her interrogation.

I’m surprised Luther hasn’t come to see me yet. I would think he’d be interested in the intelligence he sent me into Sanctuary to retrieve. Maybe he’s too distracted with the files transferred via the hack.

Someone pushes a cart past the curtain of my room, and the wheels clatter over the uneven rocky floor. All I can see of it are the glinting silver spokes. Who else is here, injured, with me? What do these people do all the time?

It strikes me how little I actually know about the people with whom I’ve chosen to identify.

“Henri?” I whisper. “Are you still awake?”

“Hmmm.” He sounds just barely so.

“Did Holly get her wrist treated last night? She’s not in a holding cell, is she?”

“Probably, yeah. But don’t worry. They’ll have taken care of her wrist.”

I chew my lip, thinking, remembering what it was like for me when I first left Sanctuary. “She’s going to be confused, you know . . . scared. I hope I can see her today.”

There’s a rustle of clothing as Henri leans forward. “What makes you think you can trust her, Pria? Isn’t it kind of convenient that she just showed up right before you fled Sanctuary? How do you know she’s not a spy for the UWO?”

I wrinkle my nose. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Try to make me doubt her. You weren’t there when we were trying to escape. I think she’s telling the truth.”

“If she’s not, we’re all screwed. There are any number of ways she could lead them right to us, and we’d never know it.”

“Stop.” I put my hands over my eyes. “You sound like Etienne.”

Another rustle of clothing and I feel Henri’s shadow fall over me. Then his cold hands touch mine, prying them away from my face. “Look at me, Pria.”

“No!” I struggle, but I don’t know why.

“Look at me!”

He wrenches my arms apart, and for a moment all I see is Henri’s friendly face twisted into an ugly grimace. Then he turns his head, and the dim light glints off a spot of gold in his ear.

Etienne.

I shriek and flail, but he’s holding my arms too tight for me to get away. I fling my head to the side, looking for Pax, but his chair is empty. The chill in the cave bites my skin, which is exposed. I’m dressed in only my undergarments.

“You can’t smuggle a bomb in here without my knowing it. There’s one easy way to find out if you’re a spy.” Etienne pins both my arms above my head with one hand and takes up a scalpel in the other. “I just have to perform a quick procedure.”

He draws the blade down my stomach, and the skin springs apart like a severed wire. The pain is excruciating, unbearable, beyond articulation. I watch in horror as he flings the blade aside, sending flecks of my blood flying across the room, and then digs his hand into the incision. He retracts his hand a moment later, holding a fist-sized metal contraption.

“See?” he shouts. “It’s a bomb! You were going to blow us all up!”

“No! I swear!”

A switch on the side of the bomb ticks up, and red lights start to blink. Faster, and faster, and faster.

“Now we’re all going to die,” Etienne says.

I scream. 


 

Below is an interview with the author, and at the end of the post there is a link to a GIVEAWAY!

kb_hoyle

 

 

 

 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

There are several messages, really, in Criminal, that I want my readers to grasp, but as an author, I never want the message to overtake the primary function of the novel—which is to entertain the reader. So obviously first and foremost, I want to just tell a good story, and for my reader to be carried along by the story and to have a good time reading it. As far as the message/messages go, I’d say the primary one in Criminal has to do with identity. I sought to answer the question of what makes us human? The main character, Pria, is faced with this question over and over in the story, even to the point where, by the end, her entire reality is shaken by some presuppositions she has about this question. Pria has to discover her personal identity, but she also has to figure out what she believes about the identity of others, and what that means about the human race and her part in the rebellion against the Unified World Order. These are big issues, and things I think we should all think about, even though we’re not living in a dystopian society.

 

How much of the book is realistic? 

I’d say this book is about 50% realistic. Obviously all the characters and the plot are fictionalized (and the concept of the Golems), but I base my settings and my conceptions of the future society off research I did into real technologies, conspiracy theories, my own knowledge of Denver and its surrounding areas, and just basic knowledge of human nature and my thoughts on future trends in society. I could see some of the sorts of things I write about coming to pass. Actually, some of the things I have written about in my books have come to pass already in the years since I started researching them. It’s a little frightening.

 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 

This is a difficult question! Because by the time you get a book all the way to publication—especially when it has taken a long time (as this book has)—you tend not to wish that you could go back and change things. And my editing team does such a fantastic job of helping me tweak things. Hmmm. I guess, maybe, if I could go back, I would make the first act of the book a little shorter (so as to get to the main action faster), and the last act longer (so as to draw out the finale).

 

Can you share a little of “Criminal” with us? 

Here’s a short excerpt from what was one of my absolute favorite scenes to write. It falls about mid-story, and I won’t say too much so as not to spoil things, but this is a scene where Pria and Pax and some others from the rebel Nest Asylum are being attacked by Golems. It’s absolute chaos, and in the midst of it all, Pax and Pria get separated from the others. 

My spine grates over hard rock, and then my breath whooshes out of me as we leave the ground. For a moment, I think a Golem has lifted us, but then I hit a patch of gravel, hard, and my head cracks against a stone. With Pax on top of me, I can hardly breathe, and starbursts fill my vision.

The forest lights up with more starbursts and the zip-zip-zip of energy guns.

“Pria!” Pax slaps my cheek. He rolls off me, and I can breathe again. “Are you hurt? Can you hear me?”

The trees are lighting up. It’s beautiful.

“Pria!”

I cough and rake air into my lungs. I cough again and nod. Nodding hurts.

Aircraft circle above the trees like birds of prey, firing down on the Golems. One flies low, and a Golem snatches it out of the air. With a roar and a vicious shake, it flings the craft to the ground. The craft explodes, and bits of burning metal and flesh scatter, some of it reaching Pax and me where we lie just below a shelf of rock. I raise my arms to cover my face, but Pax leans over me, taking the brunt of it. A piece of something red-hot lands on my calf, and I kick it off.

More shots echo through the woods, followed by bellows and crashes. The Golems are being taken out.

I struggle to sit up, and Pax pulls me to his chest. “It will be over soon,” he says in my ear. He sounds so assured.

 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

I used to find it challenging to discipline myself to do the planning and research I needed to work out a novel before I started writing it, so that would have been my old answer to this question, but I’ve progressed enough in my career now (I’ve written 9 novels—8 published and 1 on deck) that I’ve found my writing rhythm. I know the drill. I know how to research and outline and plan. I actually really relish all those steps. And I know when to start writing. All of that is, quite frankly, more or less easy. What is particularly challenging is my schedule—finding the time and just fighting exhaustion to get it all done. With four small children to mother (all boys and all 9 and under), a day job as a teacher, my website and social media platforms to manage, trips and speaking engagements to manage, my house to (attempt to) keep clean, meals to cook, and just all the regular things in life to get around to, the challenges I face are never (or rarely) IN the actual writing. The challenges are external to the writing, but they affect the writing. Finding the right balance where I can get all the work done and still get sleep and maintain healthy relationships and good health is difficult.

 

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing “Criminal” to life?

Aside from the external challenges mentioned above, I didn’t have too many of these challenges in bringing Criminal to life. It did take me much longer to write Criminal than it usually takes me to write a book, but that’s because I had just had a baby and was nursing at the time. I also battled a bout of post-partum depression while trying to write the book, which didn’t help me to be very productive, but on the other hand, staying actively engaged in a creative project was good for me at the time in battling depression. I didn’t have too much extra research to do because I was just building on the research and world-building I had already done for Breeder. I’d spent about three years prepping this whole series, The Breeder Cycle, so writing Criminal was really just a matter of going back to my notes and making sure I was still on track and following the plan.


Click the link below to be entered in the GIVEAWAY! One lucky reader will win a print copy of Criminal and Breeder by K.B. Hoyle!! Good luck!

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Spritz – Does this app help you read faster?

 

spritz better

 

I know that many people will disagree with my opinion on this matter, but I think that the vast majority of Americans actually enjoy reading, passionately. I say this in spite of every survey and study that says otherwise. Why?

If you ask a significant number of people how many books they’ve read this year, the majority of them will probably express some kind of embarrassment at the number that their actions have forced them to divulge. They will likely try to explain the number away. They didn’t have time. New job. New wife. New kids. New eyeballs aren’t calibrated correctly yet. You’re likely thinking that same thing I am: give these people all the time in the world, and they won’t read even one book more. Right?

But does that necessarily mean that they don’t want to read?

I think that almost everybody wants to read lots of books. I think that the problem lies in that most people can absorb knowledge much more quickly than they can read. Imagine that you had to watch your favorite television show or film at quarter-speed. Would you still enjoy it? Would you still enjoy a morning stroll the same way if you were so narrow-sighted that you couldn’t take in the view? This is the experience of being a slow reader.

I’m a slow reader. I normally read at about 250 wpm (words per minute), but I know that I am capable of consuming information much more quickly than that. For most fiction, I can top out at about 1,000 wpm. For non-fiction, I like to move between 500 and 700 wpm, depending on the topic. Just as you wouldn’t want to watch your favorite show anymore if you had to watch it in slo-mo, I wouldn’t want to read very much if I had to consume books at a painful 250 wpm. That’s why instead of reading, I Spritz!

I gave up trying to learn how to speed read more times than I care to remember. The problem with speed reading is that it requires you to learn two very different skills simultaneously, both of which give you no benefit until you’ve mastered them both. First, you need to learn to recognize entire phrases at once by their shape, like you do with words. That’s a big leap. But in addition to that, you need to change the way you move your eyes across the page. Instead of halting your eye movement on each word, you’re now halting your eye movement on some optimal location within a chunk of words. It’s overwhelming, and for some, not worth the painful learning process.

Spritz speeds up your reading by eliminating the time you would normally spend moving your eyes from one word to the next. You don’t have to learn anything. It just flashes the words at you, and each word is positioned in the way that best facilitates quick recognition. Just keep your eyes pointed at the same spot.

I’ll admit that Spritz takes some getting used to. It only takes a few minutes to surpass your own average reading speed with it, and probably 30 minutes to double it. However, the feeling of strangeness that comes with using it didn’t go away for a few weeks. After finishing my first book with it, I felt like Neo near the beginning of the first Matrix film. Unhooking himself from the simulator, he said, “I know kung-fu,” too bewildered to celebrate that fact.

Just like in the Matrix, where living in the real world was worth it in the end, Spritz is worth the bewilderment. You get to read more books. You get to enjoy the books you read ; more than you might otherwise.  On top of all that, when people see you Spritzing, you’ll look like a super-genius!

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