Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What IS a bon bon anyway?

In the Northern Hemisphere schools will soon be letting the kids out to set up their sprinklers and make mudpuddles of backyards everywhere.

So we work-at-home moms will have to get up off our collective buttocks, put down the bon bons, turn off the soap operas and shuttle kids here and there to the zoo, swimming lessons and T-ball games.

Life is rough, isn't it?

Of course, we'll still have to find a way to continue to meet our deadlines and put in the extra hours of housework required when the pitter-patter of little feet and the slamming of the screen door is are nearly constant sounds.

But that's okay. We're used to juggling. And I think what I am going to do is live up to everyone's idea of work at home moms: I'm going to spend lots of time at the pool and the park and maybe, just maybe, sneak a bon bon once in a while.

I have to figure out for sure what they are, though. I assume they're things like chocolate covered cherries? MMM. Sign me up.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

My favorite writing quote (at the moment)

I've already posted my favorite quote, but what the heck? It's so good, it's worth another post. :)

Chip Scanlan is an awesome teacher. He has a regular column at called "Chip On My Shoulder." I guess that's better than having an evil internal editor on your shoulder, because this guy is so encouraging.

I had the privilege of meeting him at a writing conference in my town. I don't remember the name of the workshop, but I remember that one of the things he taught us was about freewriting. He had us write nonstop for oh, I don't know, one or two minutes or something like that. Said don't worry about what comes out, just write. I understood that the purpose of freewriting was to get you going, and then later you could go back and edit. Well, um, then he had us trade papers with the person sitting next to us! Ack! How embarassing! The man sitting next to me was a "real" journalist working for a newspaper. I don't think my freewriting impressed him much. It was very much a stream-of-consciousness thing.

But I really learned something from that. I didn't die, keel over, or end my career by handing that paper over. Sure, it sucked, but what did that matter? Mine wasn't the only bad one in that room!

Then, years later, I found this quote in one of Mr. Scanlan's columns. It is now my favorite writing quote:

"Fight perfectionism by telling yourself that what I wrote today is what I was capable of at this moment."

Isn't that great? Doesn't that just make you see that not only can you only do what you're capable of but also that some day you'll probably be even better? That's what it does for me.

Thanks Chip! You're awesome.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What happens AFTER you get the Book Contract

Ah yes, isn't the book contract the GOAL? Yes, but, no. We talk a lot about what we need to do to get the book contract, how we need to find time to write, how we need to market ourselves, etc...

I sold my first book in August 2006. The same week my daughter was born. That's when I really started writing it.

My daughter is 20 months old and just today I had a phone call with an editor... the edits are coming back to me next week so I can make my changes.

I'm not complaining, not at all.... in fact I don't mind the work being spaced out like this. After all, I have kids and a job and other projects on the go. But it sure goes a lot slower than I thought it would when I signed on the dotted line.

When you think about advances... I got the first half of my advance when I signed my contract 20 months ago. The second half comes when the edits are finished and accepted. Hopefully within the next few months. That's TWO YEARS between paychecks.

Yep, this work isn't for the faint of heart. Virginia Woolf said "woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" ... uh, yeah. Or nonfiction it seems!

One of the best things about my conversation with my editor today was her comments on the pictures. They were more than happy with them! Which is AWESOME because I took most of them! They also loved the illustrations... I had an awesome illustrator, too. Now I can justify those $$ spent on camera equipment.

We're going to have a book that has full colour photos and b&w illustrations... and it's going to rock. Or, as the GenYs at work say. It's going to be "off the hook".

My favorite quote...

So we were going to blog about our favourite quotes and then some of us, uh... didn't... my bad.

But I'm here now. Actually I'm home with a sick baby who is sleeping and an editor is calling me in ONE MINUTE.

Long ago I made a big huge gaffe, writing something I shouldn't have. I wasn't trying to be mean, but I was. So now I try to follow this:

If I'm going to write or say something, I need to THINK. Is it:


Now sometimes we have to say thinks that aren't all of those... but then I have to ask myself if I need to say it or write it. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I still do.

I'm sure it has stopped me from writing some things I would have wanted to take back.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This is the life...

I have had several "dream lifestyles" over the years, including - during the 70s when John Denver was at the height of his career - living in a log cabin in the mountains, splitting firewood, hiking through the snow, and gazing up at the Elk standing along the ridge of a snowcapped mountain. Marcia's video reminded me of that childhood fantasy.

But I've already done that.

I lived in Europe, travelled by bus to Paris, ate all the Weinerschnitzel and Brochen I could possibly stand. Even had a little German "bier" and wine now and then, although I was 11 at the time, so really it was just a sip or two at a time. (No drinking age or speed limit for that matter in Germany.) We had black forest cake at a little eatery at the Black Forest.

I've been swimming in the most beautiful lake (imho, of course) in the United States. Sat outside a cottage in Northern Michigan with my bare feet in the greenest, silkiest blades of grass you ever saw. Built sandcastles, waded in muck, fished off the dock. All of that was glorious and I felt a sense of connection since my parents and their parents had been born and raised in the region.

I've lived among the rednecks and among the elite. Been in the suburbs and spent time in the cities. I've ridden in the subways of NYC and D.C. Strolled along the walkways of D.C.'s grassy mall and the, erm, colorful streets of Greenwich Village. (To be clear, I didn't live in either place, but spent enough time there to feel satisfied.) Got lost in Radio City Music Hall. (There was this elevator - my friend and I lost our group and got in the elevator - it had no buttons. It must have had a camera though, because a stern-looking, uniformed security guard sent us back down where we belonged.)

I've plowed my way through cotton fields (shortcut on the way home from school) and meandered on horseback through parts of the Blue Ridge mountain range in Alabama. Rode the rides at Opryland in Nashville and waited in lines at Disney World in Orlando. I vaguely remember going to Busch Gardens too, but they didn't have many rides. (I was a kid, so this was a disappointment.) I stayed with my grandparents in their little Florida retirement neighborhood, played shuffleboard and rode on an adult-sized tricycle (very cool!). Stayed in one of those little houses up on stilts on the beach of the Gulf Shore. Squinted at the white, white sand beaches at Pensacola. Spent Spring Break at Panama City Beach (not the college-kids' spring break, thank heavens.)

I've eaten steak, had tequila and purchased handmade wares at bargain-basement prices in Juarez. Spent the night in El Paso. Drove past what looked like a huge fire in the desert (it was Houston). Luxuriated in a hotel in Dallas. (There was a phone in the bathroom. I guess you could do business while you do your business, if you know what I mean.)

Drove through Missippi on a motorcycle in the rain in springtime.

Took the streetcar to Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco.

Danced in the ballroom at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.

Witnessed birth. Gave birth. Walked down the aisle. Mourned death. Trained a puppy. Trained a child. Said goodbye. Introduced myself to strangers. Survived perils. Rejoiced in victory.

But in a few minutes, I'll close this laptop, greet my sweeties at the door, crank out some supper, watch Wheel of Fortune or America's Funniest Home Videos, pray with my daughter before bedtime, and spend some time reading my Bible before I go to bed. Because writing this post has reminded me that I have a lot to thank God for - including living my ideal lifestyle, right now, at this moment, in an ordinary house in an ordinary town.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Marcia tells it like it is...

If you're tired of the "internent marketing gurus" giving you the Big Sell, you should watch Marcia Yudkin's video on what her life is like in the internet marketing world.

But this isn't an internet marketing post... I think what Marcia is saying about marketing, we could say about writing. (I haven't gotten that quiet and spacious office... but give me a couple of years!) This would be very close to my ideal life!

So this week, I'd really like the MNABC writers (and our readers) tell us what the ideal lifestyle is for YOU!

And you can visit Marcia here.

Seven Things

  1. I think that life is a lot more terrifying, horrible, sad and unfair than any fiction writer could ever imagine. But I also think that it's more beautiful, touching, heartwarming and amazing too.
  2. I am a Christian, but I think that if God wanted me to worry so much about homosexuality he might have put it in the top ten. I have enough trouble following those each day.
  3. We are moving in six weeks. I don't know where yet. But I know I hate moving. I hate it, yet it continues to happen. How often? In my life I've lived in over 30 different houses. No, we weren't a military family.
  4. I AM the world's wimpiest Canadian. I hate snow. I also hate hockey.
  5. My new passion is Saving Money! Being Cheap! and also Using Coupons! For three years I've been asking DH to help me make A Plan for our money. Finally he has, now that we're on the same page I'm Excited!
  6. Secretly? Secretly I'd love to live in a motorhome and travel around North America for a year. Then on to Europe.
  7. I read the obituaries every chance I get so I can remember what's important while I'm alive.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meme answers and my favorite writing (related) quotes

Carolyn's posted a Meme (and funnily enough, I always read the 'meme' thing as 'me - me'. A friend of mine used to debate the whole concept of 'meme' because, even in the broadest sense of the word, viral quizzes and other things that pass on via blogs aren't - technically - memes. That's probably a rant for another time though ;)

So, without further ado, seven things...I'm more self indulgent that Carolyn, so don't mind talking about myself :D.
1) I'm writing a set of books based around a pattern of seven. Its a police/thriller style book, and my MC, Elliot Peters, is visually based on Chris Meloni (from Special Victims Unit, Oz, and a guest appearance in Scrubs).
2)I've just finished my first year of Uni with what I hope to be a 2:1. I've done really well on most courses, which I'm very proud of.
3)I am genuinely flummoxed by the need that most women I know (please note, not all) to have more than a minimum amount of shoes. I've got six pairs and that feels like about three too many.
4)I've written close to 40 novels. Now to sell them...
5) at one point I owned 500 websites. I'm cutting it down rather rapidly, but I still own a huge amount. I wish I could find someone to take them off my hands, cause all that most of them need is a little TLC.
6) I am 30 this year. I only just discovered I like spas (I went for the first time last night) and I play roleplaying games at least three nights a week in person and once or twice a week online on World of Warcraft.
7)I hate letting people read what I'm writing, as I'm writing it, which, in part is why I won't take part in LiveBlogging events. I LIKE time to think about how silly I'm looking.

And some favorite quotes:
"If you don't know there's a trampoline in the room, you're not going to dust the ceiling for prints." - Captain Craigen SVU
Now, before you wonder what this has to do with writing, that's the easy bit to explain. No writer should ever ignore the angle that everyone else has overlooked - its our JOB to show people that there was a trampoline in the room, and to go ahead and dust that ceiling. In other words, we're here to give a perspective that people understand and relate to.

'Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.'

T S Eliot

I love this quote, because it lines up with something that slid into place with one of my lectures. My lecturer had been ranting about how 'soul' means something different to each and every person we encounter. He also told us that poetry should leave 'gaps' for the reader to fill in. My brain somehow rearranged it to 'poetry leaves gaps for readers to fill in with bits of their soul'. And I think that's a great way to be with ANY piece. We're supposed to leave enough room for people to understand - to fill in with their experience, their imaginings, their loves and hates.

'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.'

E L Doctorow

Again, this is great. And its totally true, though in my case, I've got deja vu when I get to certain bits. Been there before. Oh gods, I know what happens now, do I really want to watch?

And finally...

"Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?"
Spike Milligan

Sometimes its not about doing it right, or politely - or within reason. Sometimes its about shouting from the top of the roof, at the top of your lungs, with that huge loudspeaker - when everyone else is being quiet. Sometimes - just sometimes - its about doing it my way. And that one line from Spike Milligan, whom I share some similarities with, reminds me every single time that writing isn't about doing it any other way than loud, proud and in as many faces as possible.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So, enough about you...

The word "meme" means something, but when I see it, I always think of "Me, Me."

And since I was tagged by Amy at MindoverMullis to tell seven things about myself, I think it fits.

But it seems a little self-indulgent just to talk about myself, doesn't it? So instead I'm just going to tell you seven things. A mixture of mom-advice and deep philosophical thought. (After all, I'm a writer and I'm a mom and that's what we do.) So here goes. Seven things:

1. Wash your hands. The correct amount of time to spend scrubbing is long enough to sing "Happy Birthday" two times through. A nice side-effect (besides clean hands) is that you feel like it's your birthday. Not bad.

2. LOVE is not a feeling. It is an act of will. Not mushy and sentimental enough for you? Just think back on the people who loved you when you were awful, and you'll get to feeling warm and fuzzy in no time. And there is a warm kind of fuzzy kind of thing that comes along after you make the decision to love. Deciding to love selflessly is really cool, heroic, and well worth the effort.

3. I have a written contract with God, and it's certainly better than anything I've gotten from editors. I get rewarded for eternity and I get to keep all rights to my work. I'm feeling pretty good about signing this one.

4. Picking up your room is not punishment, nor is it a chore designed to make you a better person. It is simply a method of ensuring that you'll be able to find both purple socks on the same day your outfit requires them.

5. The Borg had it wrong. The only time resistance is futile is when you're trying to maintain some semblance of modesty in the hospital delivery room. Otherwise, fight like crazy if you have to. Resist!

6. "Refrigerate after opening" is not a suggestion. Neither is "use before March 13, 2008."

7. A kiss on the forehead is a reliable method for diagnosing a fever, but it does take practice, so give lots of forehead kisses. It's the most fun part of having a sick kid. :) Probably the only fun part. Also, take advantage of the fact that your kid is too sick to run away and give 'em lots of squeezes while you're at it. Don't worry about a little bit of snot. It washes.

Thanks for listening. Tagging the other Mamas at Mama Needs a Book Contract.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Niche = Reining Horses

I'm late, I'm late, I know, I'm sorry!!

And I swear, I'm the queen of niche writing, so I really should have a lot to say on the topic, right?

Here's my backstory. I was a horse crazy teenager living in the city. I had a single mom who definitely couldn't afford a horse. Or even riding lessons. So I found an instructor who would let me wash her truck and trailer, polish the silver and clean stalls for lessons.

My brother did the same and he was a total natural at riding. Me? Not so much, but I loved the horses.

After I graduated from high school and all my friends were deciding which college they would attend, I went to the school of hard knocks. I started training horses over in Europe and here in Alberta. By the time I was 22 I was riding for Canada's number one reining trainer.

(insert stupid mistakes here)

By the time I was 25 I was divorced and a single mom of a toddler. Horse weren't in my future again for a long time... assistant horse trainers were paid about $1000 a month. Day care cost $900. Yeah.

But I had one other talent. Writing. I'd always written, but I hadn't written with a purpose. Now I had a purpose, to write about the horses I loved. So that's what I did.

My first article was in a horse association magazine. I volunteered with them and this was my contribution. I also did some editing and proofreading and helped to sell ads in the magazine. My second article came a couple months later when the editor of a horse publication in Canada emailed me to ask me if I wanted to write for her. And she paid me.

And that's how it started.

I have had about 250 articles and original columns published. I'd guesstimate that 225 of those were about horses.

Even more specifically, my articles were about reining horses. If you Google "reining horse writer", I'm the first link that comes up. My niche is so specific that I'd probably guess that there are far less than 100 writers specializing in it in North America.

And it was the mastering of this niche market that got me my book contract. Don't think for a moment the publisher didn't say "OK, this writer wants to write a book about reining horses, let's see what else she's done" and Googled my name. There I was.

I wasn't a reining horse trainer any more, I wasn't even riding at the time, I had the experience of being THE WRITER for THAT NICHE.

So, how can this help you?

Think of your niche. Now drill-down three or four layers. Get specific. Here's how mine works:

Western Riding
Reining Horses

This can be done with any topic. Parenting, Olympic Sports, Cleaning, Religion, Writing... Drill down into the topic and find a niche inside of a niche inside of a niche and become THE EXPERT on that topic.

Then start your way UP that ladder, next I'd focus on Western Riding (other sports like Cutting, Working Cow Horse, Western Pleasure, Trail) then Riding.... soon I'll be Queen of the World considered an expert on a much broader topic. The Martha Steward of Horses. (Incidentally, Martha has some really nice horses and even she has written about the topic!)

Here's an example:

Life Stages of Children
Babies & Toddlers
Sleep Issues

I have a difficult time when writers say "I want to write about X" and it's a broad topic like religion or parenting or health. You can call yourself a writer of "X" and that's fine, but don't you want to conquer the whole topic? Don't you want to be well-known as an expert in your topic? If so, then you absolutely have to conquer it one corner at a time.

Pick your topic, let's brainstorm your niche!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My niche is ________ (its a BIG niche)

When Heather posted that we'd gotten 'niches' as our theme for the week, I was studying for my last exam style assignment of the term. My head went down on my desk and I sighed.
Its not that bad really, but its kind difficult to point at my niche, given I'm deliberately diverse, indulgent, and to be quite honest, in pop culture circles, a bit of an oddity. In my OWN circle, not so much, but we attract folk like ourselves, so that's not - really a surprise either.
I'm deliberately diverse because I have stupid amounts of productive time on my hands - though I'm a full time student, full time mother, full time writer, I still get around 10k of work done, on my WORST weeks. Not including Uni work. On my good weeks I'm 10k at Uni and 25k or so at home.
I used to be 5k a day, rain or shine, needing it or not, but we moved so I lost that knack to do it consistently. Its slowly coming back though. The point being - when there are so many 'nice' fiction niches out there, would YOU want to stick to one? I'll also admit to getting slightly bored in just one niche. I might have been considerably more successful, but boredom is something that really bothers me. More importantly though, in non fiction and 'real life' circles there are certain areas that I'm an 'expert' or have information in that others might need - raising a child that may or may not have a conflict spectrum disorder ( - bi-polar disorder ( and gaming, as a girl (
And that's where the 'indulgent' thing comes in. I am incredibly indulgent - and spoil myself like a child in a candy store when it comes to writing. I like to write as much as I can, on as diffuse an amount of topics, without losing the focus I already created for myself, because it keeps my writing skills sharp.
And as I said, I'm also an oddity. I'm equally at home in writing geek type pieces for tech sites, or gamers - and in the next breath (essay) I could be writing on parenting, design, artwork, the act of writing itself, name it. I like being this way, it gives me scope for comfort, grace, and the sheer joy of sharing and being read by others. And ultimately, that's more important to me than a niche - knowing that somewhere I've entertained, supported, helped, amused or engaged my readers. And living in a thousand niches feels far better to me than missing that and supporting only one. So yeah, my niche is blank - a blank canvas, an ever filling cup. A blank page , that sometimes, mocks me. Its not perfect, but it is enjoyable, most of the time.
It has lead to problems however - I'm STILL trying to find a good bio that sums up who I am, what I do, and how good (or bad) I am at it ;)

Monday, April 7, 2008

I've got an itch....

and a copy of that book by Kelly James-Enger that tells me I can make more money if I had a niche too. The title makes it seem easy: Ready, Aim, Specialize! I bought the book (and I've read it). Does that count for anything?

My writing background includes over 15 years as a reporter. During that time, I did everything, and I do mean everything: hard-news, features, advances, obits, page layout, proofreading, generating ideas, and I even sold a few ads. Clearly, I'm not good at developing niches, but I keep trying.

I have now narrowed down my focus to three key topics: weight/body issues, online communication, and writing about writing.

I didn't realize I had done that until I wrote it down just now, but it is true. The majority of my writing right now has to do with weight, specifically I'm working on my nonfiction memoir, Fat Man's Daughter.

I keep thinking about pitching articles about online communication, and I have great ideas, but I have not yet done this. I really need to do this.

And I write about writing and teaching writing. Next week I'm even speaking at a conference about a writing issue (although it is related to teaching writing too).

One of my dream writing jobs would be a columnist for a daily newspaper. The kind of columnist who finds interesting people with great stories that I can tell to readers. That's right. When I grow up, I want to be Susan Ager of the Detroit Free Press.

By the way, the cover of Kelly's book said today's 10 hottest markets are health; business and finance; parenting; travel; essays; diet, nutrition and food; technology; fitness and sports; profiles and features; and home and garden.

Of the top 10 markets mentioned by Kelly, I have written something in every single one of those categories. Plus, reviewing these categories doesn't help me narrow my niche. It just reminds me how much I absolutely love essay writing, and home improvement stuff. Plus, if I write about parenting and finance, I can get interview experts who can help me too....

Saturday, April 5, 2008

You First: Define and Pronounce "Niche" (Please!)

Our theme question this week is "What's your niche?" Other members of the Writing Mother group might remember that I haven't really decided on a niche or niches yet. I consider myself a generalist at the moment. I do tend to gravitate toward certain topics, but I've written everything from advertorials about sand and gravel aggregates to navel-gazing essays about motherhood. And those two were just in the past couple of months.

So I'm going to answer the question by not answering it, because I really want to know how you define "niche" when it comes to writing. Are you a writer with a niche (or several)? If so, what are they? If not, what do you say when someone asks what you write? Do you think a niche means a particular topic (like "family"), or could it also mean a particular form of writing (e.g. "navel-gazing essays")?

And for fun, let me know how you pronounce it. :) When you say it, does it rhyme with itch or sheesh or wish? (Hint: All three ways are correct, apparently. See below.)

Leave me a comment with your thoughts on niches, and I'll bake you some cookies. And I'll eat them for you too, because I go above and beyond for Mama Needs a Book Contract readers. I'm helpful like that.

Compliments of Merriam Webster online:

Main Entry: 1niche
Pronunciation: \ˈnich also ˈnēsh or ˈnish\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Middle French, from nicher to nest, from Vulgar Latin *nidicare, from Latin nidus nest — more at nest
Date: 1611
1 a: a recess in a wall especially for a statue b: something that resembles a niche
2 a: a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted b: a habitat supplying the factors necessary for the existence of an organism or species c: the ecological role of an organism in a community especially in regard to food consumption d: a specialized market

And if you're feeling chatty, let me know whether you think having a niche has anything to do with having "vision" for your writing business.

Theme: Niche Writing

"Niche – what’s yours? How to develop one. How hard it is to develop one. Whether you think you should or shouldn’t, etc."

Another theme courtesy of the wonderful Carolyn!

I feel like the Queen of Niche some days so I am really looking forward to hearing the rest of the group's take as well as from some of our readers!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

They Say First Step to Healing is...Admitting You Have an Addiction

You will be my witness to a moment of history. I am going to admit to you that I have some kind of addiction because they say the first step in the healing process is to admit your addiction. Ok, here goes. I have an addiction. An addiction of loving books. I love books. I surround myself with books. I made special trips to bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble. I have to carry a book with me at all times. I mean I even started a blog called Global Arts, due being inspired by books.

In fact, I order books through Scholastic, a book order for school kids for my son. At least, I think it is for my son. I mean I do read to him on a daily basis. I have ordered on a monthly basis since he has been in school. Hmmm...

I love reading literature and the classics, including by international authors. I try to keep an open mind when I read. I want to be a cultured, sophisticated person (some say I already am--you are too nice). When I read, I am in another world. I totally imagine myself going through the same experiences as the characters.

Here are some of my all time favorites that I have read within the last few years, so far:

  • The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun

  • The Republic by Plato

  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

  • Jaffa, Land of Oranges by Ghassan Kanafani

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

  • All That's Left to You by Ghassan Kanafani

These are the ones that have come to my mind now. As you can tell, these are by different authors from different time periods.

I mean don't get me wrong. I read magazines and newspapers. I read news and articles on the Internet. I read.

Reading for pleasure began when I was in third grade, I won't tell you how many years ago, my teacher worked with my parents to strengthen my reading skills. It must have worked because thousands of books later, I still continue to read.

Ever since I became a writer, I have been reading for business and pleasure. I always examine if my readings can be used for both purposes, even though I probably shouldn't. In my opinion being a writer, is a lifestyle. You can't really structure the creative and idea flow.

A writer is a writer 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The one in which I confess my addictions...

As a writer, do you still read? If you do, has being a writer changed how you read? Is it still a pleasure, or is it work? What do you read?

As wonderful a theme this is, I blushed, looked at the floor, and metaphorically muttered something about addiction when I spotted this one.

I spend around £100 on books every few months. I save and save, and then go out to Waterstones, or similar, or onto, and buy books. Mainly fiction, but I also buy non fiction on things like writing, self help and the current projects I have in mind (I start THEM with dummies manuals, cause I'm not the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to certain things).
I've got an excuse though, like every good 'junkie'.

I'm SUPPOSED to spend a small fortune, yearly, on books anyway, because its part of the requirements for being a student. Be a student, get the text books, cause though ALL the campus libraries are amazingly good, when there's 20 of us on a course, all wanting the same book, it can cause some interesting issues. So, to save those issues, I buy the core reading list without question or objection. And if we don't use them, that's OK, because I still read them.
Beyond the core reading list, I'm currently 'using' Uni as an excuse to extend my reading habits. I've spent the last five years reading a very narrow range of books, and only when my favorite authors (Terry Pratchett, Ian Rankin, Alistair Reynolds) and my favorite serials produce more books. I'll occasionally stray into other territories, but feel a bit like I'm scurrying back to comfort, so I rarely did that before Uni.
Last night though, after buying it on Friday and starting it on Saturday morning (and reading about an hour a day), I finished 'the Kite Runner'. It was fairly cool, but I'm beginning to see a pattern in 'literary work' that I don't like. And I'm glad that's not my chosen genre, for the moment.

One of the things I had to learn was not to pick. Instead I give myself the equivalent of mental indigestion by 'devouring' books whole. Reading them as if I didn't care about sentence structure, grammar, clever hooks, absorbing language...eating them like I wasn't a writer, and was simply reading them for the joy of reading.
How does that give me mental indigestion though?
The problem with devouring books whole is that if there is a huge error, your brain might try to fix it. MY brain does this on a regular basis, redesigning TV show plots when I could have 'done better' - rewriting whole book chapters for my own amusement. Consider it an antacid of sorts.
My prose lecturer took my antacids away. All I'm to do now is read. I can write, of course, but not 'rewrite' while I'm reading.
And so, when I read god awful books (which is also part of the learning process), I give myself a headache - or I get angry, up tight, agitated. My brain fills with bile, because its really annoying to see awful books come out. (I should pro ably say at this point that the Kite Runner isn't an awful book). It annoys me that writers are allowed to publish trash when there are amazing writers with brilliant stories still struggling to be discovered. It gives me 'mental indigestion'.

There are, to be honest, very few authors I respect enough not to rewrite stuff, or tweak it as I'm reading. I think that's what makes me a writer in the first place, I'm always on the look out for the 'best' way to tell a story - the 'better' way to express something - the 'right' words for that wrong occasion. And while I'm addicted to books, I'm more addicted to the craft of making books better. I love editing, even when the book is a 'literary' masterpiece. Or when its pulp fun. Just so long as I can see a way to tell the same story, in a different (and hopefully better) way, I'm fulfilling that need too.
See, I'm an addict. I'm addicted to writing - to language - to stories. I think my bank balance would prove it too ;)