Thursday, May 18, 2023

Reading, Writing, and a Good Cause from James W. Ziskin

Do you set aside time for reading, or is it a haphazard affair? Do you think reading helps your writing?

Of course reading helps my writing. I believe all authors came to writing from a love of reading. Why else would we sit alone—or maybe tussling with a cat hellbent on appropriating our keyboard—for months on end fretting over the perfect words, the cleverest plot twists, and the best fleshed-out characters? Because we learned to love storytelling.

Now, to this week’s question: Do I set aside time for reading? Not exactly. 

Here’s the thing. I’m not a fast reader. I read at a pace better suited for a miler than a sprinter. But when I’ve agreed to read someone’s book with the intention of providing a blurb or critical feedback, I make sure to finish on time. At least I try to make sure. I read in bed and whenever I can find a few minutes. Or, if I can get my hands (should I say ears?) on a audiobook, I listen in the car, when I’m cooking, or watching a game on TV. I spend more than an hour every day driving, so that’s time well spent. Writers who’ve asked me to read their yet-to-be published work know that I always request a Word document if possible. Word’s Read Aloud function works pretty well, and it’s getting better all the time. Sometimes formatting slows the Read Aloud process. Asterisks, for example, stop the reading dead in its tracks. You have to hit a forward button to get it going again. I like to ratchet up the speed to go faster, but eventually you reach a point of diminishing return. You simply can’t follow if the narration is too fast. Other apps will convert text to speech, as well. Give them a try. There’s no substitute for a human narrator, but if there’s no audiobook available text-to-speech might work for you.


On a totally unrelated topic, I’d like to invite you to take a look at the Sisters in Crime Innocence Project Auction. (Click here or on image for link.) The auction starts today, Thursday, May 18, and runs through Sunday, May 21.

Imagine someone you love has been convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. Or even someone you don’t know. Or you. Wouldn’t you want someone to help exonerate you? Them? The Innocence Project helps those wrongly convicted—the innocent—get the justice they’ve been denied. The Innocence Project not only uses DNA and other sophisticated methods to overturn wrongful convictions, but they also work to rebuild the shattered lives of these people once they’ve been released from prison. 

The Sisters in Crime auction features dozens of offerings from many of your favorite authors, including our own Catriona McPherson and yours truly. Not that I’m claiming to be one of your favorite authors, but you get my point. I’m donating my time for an activity at which I humbly claim to excel, viz. drinking. Well, that sounds horrible. Let’s say cocktails. I’m hosting a virtual cocktail party for the low, low price of $30 per person. All proceeds go to the Innocence Project. For your thirty bucks, you be able to prepare and enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage that features prominently in my latest novel, Bombay Monsoon. It’s a fresh-lime soda, a delicious and refreshing drink that is sure to transport you to the Subcontinent along with me. And for those of you who partake, you can pour yourselves your favorite libation. Me? I shall be drinking my usual Dewar’s Scotch on the rocks.

By the way, Catriona is offering a 50-page manuscript critique. That’s priceless. But you can bid on it and do some good for the starting price of $50. 

Besides signed books, book club visits, and manuscript critiques, there are also conference registration packages for Bouchercon and Thrillerfest.

I can’t list all the authors and agents participating, but maybe you’ve heard of some of these (in no particular order): Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Naomi Hirahara, Charlaine Harris, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, William Kent Krueger, Hank Phillippi Ryan, E.A. Aymar, Michael Connelly, Rachel Howzell Hall, Lori Rader-Day, Chris Bohjalian, Alex Segura, Catriona McPherson, Jess Lourey, Laurie R. King, Kellye Garrett, T. Jefferson Parker, Deanna Raybourn, Leslie Karst, Debra H. Goldstein, Donna Andrews, Tracy Clark, Mia P. Manansala, Wanda M. Morris, Allen Eskens, Rhys Bowen, Meg Gardiner, Hallie Ephron, Art Taylor, Edith Maxwell, Sarah Weinman, Ellen Byron, Elle Cosimano, Edwin Hill, Glen Erik Hamilton, and Rob Hart.

Please consider bidding on some items. Hope to see you there.

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