Saturday, December 1, 2012

Comfort Food Reading

I have lots of stuff in my TBR pile.  Though to be accurate, I guess it's not really a "pile," since 95% of the book-buying I do these days is on my Kindle.  (I'll go into the whole e-book vs. physical book debate some other time, but suffice it to say for now that the Kindle was a space-saving purchase for me - ours is a house full of bookshelves and there are still random books in stacks almost everywhere you look.)  In any case, the virtual stack is growing pretty high - there's a Lynsay Sands Argeneau vampire novel I just picked up for $2 that I hadn't gotten around to reading, a couple other romances that came recommended through reliable sources on Twitter.  I have a copy of Chris Holm's Dead Harvest winging its way to me soon via a random Twitter giveaway (who says the internet's not good for anything?), there's the new Lady Julia Grey Christmas novella that I preordered back in September... so why aren't I reading any of those right now?  Why am I re-reading instead?
I blame Deanna Raybourn, and the aforementioned novella.  When it downloaded automatically to my Kindle at the top of November (and I love that, by the way, I'd pre-ordered it so long ago I had forgotten about it!), I realized it had been a while since I'd read the last book of this richly detailed series.  So instead of diving face-first into the Christmas story like a kid into a birthday cake, I went back to the beginning and started re-reading Silent in the Grave.

If you've never read this series, do yourself a favor and start.  I describe it to people as Victorian-mystery-kinda-romance-just-a-touch-of-paranormal, with clever, witty writing and characters you come to love as old friends, down to the most minor supporting characters (I would love to buy Morag a drink sometime).  One of my proudest moments was getting my book club (whose members tend to recommend "important" depressing books about the Holocaust) hooked on this series.  I discovered this series right around the time my mother's sudden death in 2010, and Julia and Brisbane's frustrating but irresistible relationship (not to mention the entire March family) was a welcome escape during those first horrible weeks.  So I'll always be grateful to them (and to Raybourn) for that.

I know some people who read a book once and never want to pick it up again.  I don't understand that.  Re-reading favorite books is comfort food for me.  It's a giant bowl of mac and cheese on a cold afternoon. (Even more so these days, since dietary restrictions make the aforesaid mac and cheese verboten.)  A favorite series is even better - a whole string of books to wallow in.  For a while I was re-reading Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series around Halloween (the first few books at least still remain sentimental favorites).

So yeah, I'm definitely a re-reader.  Which is probably why my TBR pile keeps growing.  Oops.  I'll get right on that.  As soon as I finish Dark Road to Darjeeling.  And The Dark Enquiry.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Getting Back to It

I try to be a writer.  I tell people "I am a writer."  I even have this nifty necklace that my oldest goddaughter gave me for Christmas to remind myself.  I wear it to work sometimes and think "This is who I am.  I'm just a legal secretary to pay the bills."

I watch my friends get published and I'm so happy for their success, but my inner five-year old is throwing a temper tantrum.  Why can't I be there too?

Problem is, telling yourself that you're a writer is only a small part.  Turns out you actually have to write, too.    Butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, pen to paper.  A promising first draft isn't enough.  Neither is two-thirds of a draft with a kick-ass ending that's still trapped in your head.

Life is important, and sometimes it gets in the way of the butt-in-seat part.  Then, other times, awesomely, life is driving home from work on a Friday afternoon, and you feel this nudging in your brain.  Characters are talking to you.  "Hey, remember us?  You were totally going to finish up our story in June.  We're into the first week of July.  You gonna get on that anytime soon?"  (And one of the characters punctuates that with a Da! because he's Russian.)

So okay, y'all.  Butt is in seat.  Words are being scribbled.  I'm only going to be able to get a share in some success if I actually finish something I can share.  So let's get on it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Meme (What I'm Reading, Writing, Pondering)

I'm going to be honest: I haven't been writing lately.  Believe me, this is frustrating as hell.  I decided, 'round about New Years, that 2012 was going to be The Year I Do It.  The year I drop "aspiring" from my own self-description of aspiring novelist.  In 2012 I will focus on my writing, finish something, and even if I don't get it accepted somewhere, by the time December comes I will at least have submitted and amassed a few rejections (which to me always mean success: I've gotten my work Out There, even if the answer is no).

Then, on January 2, Family Drama ensued.  The kind that just sucks out your will to live, and it took up the better part of January.  Then houseguests in February on two separate weekends, and during Houseguest #2's stay I threw out my back.  It's only now, three weeks later, that I can actually sit for any length of time in my computer chair without wanting to cry.

So here we are, March, and I haven't done much at all in this Year I Do It.  So I have some catching up to do.  It was a good time for Vivien Jackson to share the Book Meme.  And so shall I.

Books I'm Reading:
I've been working my way through a lot of Kindle freebies lately.  Here are two of my favorites. (They aren't free any longer, but are ridiculously inexpensive, so don't let that stop you):

Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig (currently $.99).  One of the reviews describes the heroine, Atlanta Burns, as "Veronica Mars on Adderall."  Yep.  That's about right.  I started reading this on one of my lunch breaks and immediately regretted it, because I knew I was going to have a hard time putting it down.  So I was late coming back from lunch, and then I stayed up super late that night reading the rest.    Atlanta and her shotgun takes on high school bullies and small-town creeps the way we only wish we could.

Wendig also dispenses writing advice, along with tons of profanity, at his website, Terrible Minds.  Have you checked it out?   You really should.

Phone Kitten by Marika Christian (currently $2.99).  Another freebie I grabbed because it looked interesting.  The other night I went to open a book in my Kindle and clicked on this one by mistake.  The opening paragraph hooked me and now I'm about halfway through it.  It's the story of Emily, a really sweet girl who ends up as a phone sex worker.  When one of her customers ends up dead, she decides to investigate the murder herself.  I'll admit, one of the things that grabbed me was that it's set in Florida, but Emily is a really fun heroine.  She so far manages to stay on that fine line between quirky and TSTL, which is not an easy thing to do.

And my book club's March book is Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities.  Then in April we're doing The Night Circus.  I admit I'm looking forward to the latter more than the former.

Books I'm Writing:
The main one is Ghosthunter in Paradise, my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel that I'm still trying to make into something "real."  Libby Simpson inherits her grandmother's ghosthunting business, and her first job is to exorcise a dog-treat bakery in a small lakeside Florida town.  Supporting characters include Bruce, the Jack Russell terrier mix she picked up at the North Carolina Welcome Center, her grandmother's 1973 Cadillac Eldorado which really needs a new paint job, and her grandmother's former sidekick, this annoyingly gorgeous guy named Fang, who comes complete with an earring, a motorcycle and a leather jacket that he never takes off, even in the Florida heat.  But Libby gets most of her advice from Nan, her dead grandmother, who shows up every time Libby lights up one of the cigarettes from the half-pack that Nan left when she died.

I think of Ghosthunter as a light-hearted urban fantasy, kind of a parody of all those books that have covers with hot women filling out tank tops and leather pants, wielding kick-ass weapons.  I'm currently about 48K words into a halfway decent first draft, so we'll see where it goes.

There's also Peace, Love, and Rock & Roll, my 2011 NaNo novel, a sweet love story that starts in the late 1980s, set against the backdrop of glasnost and Soviet rock music.  I wonder if it's not an overly simplistic story, but it's mostly about the enduring power of first love, and the two friends who have read it just love it, so I guess it deserves a second look, and possibly an edit and round of submissions.  We'll see.  First draft is complete at about 56K words.

And The Theatre Book, which still doesn't have a name.  It's a Pride and Prejudice meets the modern-day theatre industry kind of thing.  It languishes on my hard drive, waiting for me to come back to it.  I really should put my years of working backstage to some use.

The Book I Love the Most:
Seriously?  I have to decide something like that?  Kneejerk reaction is Jane Austen, which makes me sound all pretentious I suppose.  But I also really love Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, if we're talking romance, A.S. Byatt's Possession, which is a great literary-mystery-romance.  I also recommend the hell out of Deanna Raybourn's  Lady Julia Grey books (link goes to Silent in the Grave, the first in the series) whenever anyone asks for a "good book to read."

The Last Book I Received as a Gift:
To be quite honest, this book of Christmas stories from my mother in law.  Not the best answer, but an honest one.

The Last Book I Gave as a Gift:
The husband got one of the Codex Alera books by Jim Butcher in his Christmas stocking.  Book 4?  5?  I can't remember which one, but what's important is that I bought it from our independent bookseller downtown.  Support your local bookstores, dammit!   That is, if you still have one!

The Nearest Book:
Hmm.  Nothing on my desk.  When I look to the bookcase on my right, the first thing my eyes fall on is Hans Holzer's True Ghost Stories.  It's right there next to Hans Holzer's More True Ghost Stories.  I have a lot of books about ghosts.