Being Me Right Now…

If you know me personally or if you follow my blog or we’re friends on Facebook, you will know that I’ve had the hardest year of my life and am in the process of healing. It’s a process which I will never complete and my only goal is to get back some semblance of a normal life. I’ve accomplished a little bit of that. I’ve gotten to a point where I can wake up and see my family and get kids dressed and ready for school without collapsing to the floor. I can walk to the bus stop and talk to my friends and neighbors in the morning like I would any other morning. And, I can find joy in things again. But, I’m still not there yet.

As far as reading and writing goes, I’m working again.

**Waits for applause.**

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Thanks, I needed that. Working as a writer again is a big thing for me. I’m still reviewing, but I’m reviewing slowly. My brain works sort of like a wire with a short in it right now. Sometimes it works well, other times I’m shorting out and there are sparks, but no productivity. I’m going to work past that, though. Healing takes time I guess.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to start another novel soon. So, naturally, that means I’m going to spend this fall in my bathrobe, with my best friends…

I went to Ollies today and I found some really cool Halloween candies to put on cakes or cupcakes. I have no idea what to do with them yet, but this is one of those things I was talking about earlier–finding joy in things again.

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I’ve also been reading some non-fiction and science fiction and have found a few shows on Netflix that I absolutely love to watch. Science fiction novels, Mad Men, and Shameless are probably going to consume my fall this year.

I enjoy both the UK and US versions of Shameless and Mad Men is a gift from the time traveling fairy as far as I’m concerned. No doubt, if I ever have the chance to time travel, I’m going back to 1960 to rob a Sears for the clothes and shoes.

And that’s pretty much it. I’m writing and editing and submitting again. I’m enjoying things when I can. And I’m trying so hard to have something normal in my life because without something normal, I feel like I might fall apart.

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Escapology by Ren Warom

I’ve never read anything by this author (probably because it’s her debut novel), but I gave this book a good, fair shot because all books deserve a fair shot and I don’t believe in sticking to the same authors all the time. It’s not good for the soul. Let’s move on to my thoughts, shall we?

There are a few big points to remember when reading this book.

  1. It’s very fast paced.
  2. There is a SHARK on the cover. Who doesn’t like sharks? Keep up!
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Release date: 6/14/16

Shock Pao is not just any Haunt—he’s the best. There isn’t a system that he can’t crack into, no virtual lock he can’t pick, nothing he can’t steal for the right price. Outside virtual world the Slip, though, he’s a Fail—no degree, no job, no affiliations to protect him from angry ex-customers. Of which he has quite a few. So when his ex brings Shock a job which could help him escape his miserable existence, he accepts, little realizing that it will turn out to be his most impossible, illegal and insane assignment yet.

Amiga works for Twist Calhoun, one of the toughest crime lords in the Gung, as a Cleaner—assassin. Trapped in a world of kill-or-be-killed, she wants out. But when Shock’s war comes to her, she doesn’t have a choice: it’s her job to bring him to Twist, dead or alive—or it’ll be her head in a bag in Twist’s vault.

See?  There’s a thing called the Slip (which is sort of described in the blurb above) and all of these people doing all of these crazy, great things. Very fast paced, as advertised.

The story is told through the points of view of a handful of characters, though I am partial to the story line of one in particular, Shock Pao. Shock is every bit the character I want to read about when I pick up a book to read. There is something deep and needed in a character who has been well fleshed out—let’s face it, we (as readers) don’t always get that. Shock, I think, is one of those figures we always want to read, but can’t find. One of the best things I can say about Shock Pao is that he is not perfect. He has problems that could stack up as high as the Eiffel Tower, but he keeps going, perhaps because he has little choice. In that way, I think a lot of readers can probably relate to him, if even on a smaller scale.

But, wait! There is another character from this very same novel I like even more and I am disappointed I didn’t get to read more from or about him. His name is Cassius Angel and he’s the captain of a land ship called Resurrection. Those blog readers who know me know I have a weakness for all things nautical. This particular captain needs his own book. I want to read about the life and times of Captain Cassius Angel and his ship, the Resurrection. The more I read about him in Escapology, the more I wanted to know. While reading the novel, my own unmet whim to hear more from Cassius Angel began to overshadow my need to give a hoot about the other characters. This actually became a big problem for me.

Amiga was the one character I couldn’t really relate to on any scale whatsoever and, more than that, I just didn’t want to read what she was doing. I couldn’t force myself to be interested in Amiga no matter how hard I tried and, believe me, I did try.

This book is great for some people. It wasn’t really my bag, though, because I’m not into cyberpunk at all. I didn’t choose this book, it chose me. Honestly, I’m glad it did. As I say often, it’s good to read something you wouldn’t normally read. The story is well written and the characters are well fleshed and well placed. I am disappointed that Cassius Angel doesn’t have his own book, but there is always time for that and here’s to hoping! Ultimately, I found it difficult to bounce from one character’s point of view to another to another. Some folks have no qualms with this, but I have a hard time with more than two POVs, especially toward the beginning of a story because the beginning is where the reader is supposed to be hooked.

I will not be including a star rating in my blog for this book because I don’t think it would be fair of me to do so as this story wasn’t for me. This does NOT mean Escapology isn’t worthy of any stars. I simply don’t want to be unfair to the author or the book and I feel that by rating a book that just wasn’t what I’m into, I’d be slighting a writer because though this story wasn’t something I’m interested in, the writing and storytelling abilities are very there and I’m just not Ren Warom’s audience  for this title. Maybe the next one.

If you happen to be into cyberpunk, futuristic sort of things, please head on over to Titan Books and buy a copy by clicking here.   

If you feel like this genre simply isn’t for you, I’ve made a note in my stash of notes to keep up with this author. I want to see what she does next.

 

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned

Excuse me if this post isn’t polished perfectly. I’m not myself and haven’t been since January 26th. That was the day my twelve year old daughter, Corra, passed away. People have been fantastic to me and my family. But, nothing on this planet could have ever prepared me for the nightmare I’ve lived through and continue to live through. This is the first time I’ve written anything more than a few words in a Facebook post or a scribble on a note or a text to my husband or one of my friends. But, today I realized that spring is coming. And, Corra’s birthday is April 11th. She would be getting ready to turn thirteen in just a few weeks.

So, naturally, I’m not looking forward to spring. It feels like the world is going too fast for me. Everything is spinning and moving and shifting without me, leaving me behind. I’m still stuck on January 26th.

But, I’ve managed to gather my thoughts enough to make a small list of things I’ve learned since that day. Here it is.

  1. Nothing in the world can prepare you for losing your reason to breathe. A mother’s children are her reason for doing everything and there is not one single force in the world that could convince her to just let them go, not even death–so why should I be able to just cry and breathe and force my way through life without her? I can’t. She is EVERYWHERE I am because I’m holding onto her with everything I’ve got.
  2. Shock is a thing and it happens. And, then rage and helplessness set in.
  3. Everywhere I go and everything I do, I see something that reminds me of Corra. If I’m at a store, I see pink things and immediately have to buy them. I have never worn a lot of pink before. I never wore a lot of color before, period. I’ve always been a navy blue, grey, and black kinda gal. And, now, I’m the proud owner of a pink purse, a pink hoodie, and a handful of pink lipsticks and glosses.
  4. I don’t like it when my other three kids go places now. I don’t even like it when they go to school in the mornings. I want to keep everybody right where I can see, hear, smell, and touch them.
  5. There are two graves at the family cemetery that belong to me. One is my son, Anthany’s. The other is Corra’s. They’re right next to each other. For the last year or so, I had JUST begun to be able to walk into the cemetery without an anxiety attack or a meltdown of some sort. Corra is buried in the place where I thought I’d be buried one day. In my family’s row, there are four graves. My granddad, a space for my grandmother, my uncle Brad, my son, and now my daughter. My sweet, sweet baby.
  6. I chose the Cadillac of caskets for Corra. It was white and lined in pink. On the inside of the lid was an embroidered spray of roses. I buried her in a pink lace dress and had her nails painted to match the dress exactly. All of the arrangements I had to make were horrifying. NOBODY should have to pick out a casket for their twelve year old! EVER! It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It’s a casket for a funeral and burial and even though I chose the very best one I could find for her, I will never forget the way I felt when the funeral director showed me all of the caskets on display at the funeral home. The ones he showed me in a book he had were nice, but they weren’t real to me and I didn’t like them for her. So, looking at the real ones, the display models I guess, well…it’s a feeling no mother should have to endure.
  7. My family feels unbalanced. There were six of us. Now, there is only five of us. I had two daughters and two sons. Now, I have a daughter and two sons. But, it feels like Corra is still here, so when someone asks me how many children I have, I still say four. And, I hate being asked that question.
  8. People say really stupid and insensitive things to grieving parents. Someone actually reminded me that I still have three living children to take care of. Like, what, did you think I forgot? Tell me, which one of your children could you do without? Because the next time someone thinks it’s a good idea to remind me of my three living children, I’m going to hit them as hard as I can.
  9. There is a scream within me that could shatter glass. I can’t let it out because I’m trying to show my other children that we’re all going to be okay. I can’t let my guard down around them because I want them to know that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, they’re going to be okay and that Corra would want everybody to be okay. She loved her brothers and sister. I can break down while the kids are in school and cry to my husband and be a mess. But, soon as the bus lets the kids off, I’m putting on my brave face because I don’t know what else to do with myself. I don’t know what to do at all.
  10. I hate thinking about holidays and birthdays now. My son’s birthday was on Valentine’s Day, so we took him shopping to buy himself a present and we took the kids to dinner because cooking isn’t something I’m good at anymore. My mom brought Valentine bags for all of us (my husband and I included) and it was nice, but it made me miss Corra so much I couldn’t stand it that day. And, now, apparently, Easter is coming, too? Do I really have to do this stuff? I won’t be making four Easter baskets this year. And, after that, more birthdays. And, then there will be the Fourth of July. And, a few more meaningless days. Halloween, but Corra won’t be on my computer looking at costumes this year. And, on Thanksgiving, Corra won’t be telling me my turkey needs more cowbell. And, Christmas? No. I’m cancelling Christmas. We’ll go to church and then straight home and I don’t want to even think about it this year. I just can’t with all these holidays.

This post has exhausted me and I’m going to attempt a shower because that’s one of those things normal human people do and I’ve been told I should do normal things, even when I don’t feel like it.

FYI…

I’m asked my opinion on an array of subjects daily. On Facebook, I tend to keep my opinions on hot topics to myself, though sometimes I get a little bit outspoken. It’s not often, but it happens. Today, though, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a good few topics that are hot and much debated throughout the internet and in the real world, too. Why? Well, because people keep asking me things.

  1. The Election: 
    Let’s start with the easy part. I’m not a democrat or a republican. I’ve been called the most conservative liberal on planet Earth. It’s hard to say who I’ll vote for when the time comes because we’re not clear on the choices yet, but it may surprise you.

    And, since we’re on the subject of the election and politics, I detest Donald Trump. I also detest Sarah Palin, which is fitting since the two are now apparently in cahoots, now that Palin is officially endorsing Trump. Which, I hear, comes to a certain amount of butthurt for Ted Cruz, whom I also detest. Honestly, the only republican I had any bit of respect for was probably Ben Carson because he’s very soft spoken and I like that quality in a person. Coincidentally, that’s probably not the best quality for a presidential nominee to be known for.

    On the democratic side of things, I don’t like Hilary Clinton. She’s fishy. EVERYTHING about her is fishy and suspect. I’m on the fence about Bernie Sanders, though. He does appear to be caring and diligent, but often the one who looks like he’d be the obvious choice is the worst. I go with my gut on a lot of things, so I don’t know what this means to me or my voting capabilities yet. I’m undecided.

  2. Gender non-specific bathrooms, Transgender bathrooms, anything bathrooms.

    I don’t care if the Pope walks up into a Walmart bathroom while I’m in there. If I have to pee, I’m just gonna pee. And, we’ve all been going with transgender people for centuries and nobody even realized it. Ever think of that? I. DO. NOT. CARE. However, for those opposed, I do think having a third bathroom somewhere in a public place could be a workable option, one that only one person can use at a time. Everyone wins that way, right?
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  3. Coal Mining.
    I live in coal country and my husband drives a coal truck, so naturally, I have an opinion about coal. Some of you may not like it and that’s fine by me. Piss off if you can’t handle opinions opposite of yours.

    Let’s start this one out by saying coal mining is terrible for the environment, but it’s sort of one of those necessary evils. Without it, no power. COAL = POWER. There’s a reason the big signs everywhere say “Coal…It keeps the lights on.” Because, ya know, it does. But, if I’m completely honest, I don’t care about the future for the mining companies. What I care about is the futures of the miners who will be out of work when the mines all shut down, which is happening right now as I type this. And, once those mines shut down, other businesses are going to shut down, too. Like the railroad. Norfolk Southern is one of the railroad companies who has recently let go of a lot of workers. Other railroads are doing the same thing. So, while the miners in my hometown are all relying on their unemployment money to live, the railroad workers are at the unemployment office right behind them. Who knows which businesses will be next.

    And, don’t scream at me about renewable resources and mountaintop removal and yada yada yada blah blah blah. I know all about those things and while it kills me that the environment is in such sad shape, what the hell do you suppose we do? By all means, give suggestions. Write to your local governments. Do SOMETHING, but don’t bitch about it. DO something. Plant a garden, recycle some plastics, build a habitat for bats (you can find plans for bat houses on the internet), or do something else to make your stay on this planet worthwhile because it’s true–we have to preserve this earth for future generations. But, we have to survive here, too. Everybody in southern West Virginia is in a situation where our hands are just tied. Without those mines, the entire state will be in a state of emergency by next Christmas.

    And, if you say one bad thing about our miners, coal truck drivers, surface miners, and railroaders, I’ll break your face, k? Because the most important thing to come out of the mine is the miner.

  4. Caitlyn Jenner.
    I don’t know why anyone would want to know what I think about Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn Jenner. Do people ask Caitlyn Jenner what she thinks of me, too? It’s none of my stinkin’ business. People can do whatever they want to with themselves and it doesn’t effect me in the least. I’m gonna do me and Caitlyn is gonna do Caitlyn.😀
  5. Guns.
    Let me tell you a story. In about the 1920’s or so, my granddad and his baby sister were playing in their two room shack in the mountains. There was a gun. My granddad picked it up to play with it and shot his sister. She died.

    There was a story in the news a while back about a lady carrying a pistol in her purse and her toddler shot her in the head at a Walmart or somewhere with it. She died, too, from what I remember of the story. **If anyone can find the story, please post a link in the comments** 

    This sort of thing happens often and it can be remedied, just like any other situation, but people have to want to fix it. And, to want to fix something, you have to first admit there is a problem. I’m not saying that guns need to be taken. Let’s not be hasty, now. I enjoy the deer steaks my cousin brings me every year thoroughly. And, I’m not sure if he uses a gun or a bow for his hunting, but either way, hunters use guns, too. And, so do people just looking for a hobby. There are a lot of people who buy guns only to shoot them at ranges to blow off steam…and it works well, too. Let’s also not forget that having a gun on a farm is absolutely necessary. Having a gun to protect yourself at home is also a plus, for those who feel better with them being around.

    The thing is, there is always a way to keep your guns safely put away so that they’re not available for little people to find them and kill each other. Gun cabinets come with locks. You can keep your ammunition in another place, somewhere other than wherever you keep your guns. There are classes in gun safety you can take that are often free if you look around long enough. Certain people, though, do NOT need to own guns and shouldn’t be able to buy them. People with past history of gun violence or any sort of domestic violence shouldn’t have a gun. People with animal abuse charges should be flagged also. I could write a list here, but I won’t.

    In a nutshell, I like my guns, thankyouverymuch. I don’t want somebody to come take them from me, but I don’t believe anyone is trying to, either, because I’m not a misinformed, paranoid asshole. I try to think about things logically (even those of us more inclined to daydream can use common sense sometimes lol), not hesitantly. I don’t jump on bandwagons. And, ya know what? I bought my first rifle not long ago. The shop I bought it from was very good to me. They answered questions I had about the rifle, they gave me a FREE target to go with it, and the lady who did my background check even gave me some pointers on how to wash the carrying case if I get it dirty (because my gun AND case are both pink).

  6. Obamacare. 
    I think his heart was truly in the right place, here. I don’t like that it didn’t turn out the way anyone hoped and that a lot of my family members had to pay MORE money for their insurance and weren’t able to keep old plans. BUT, universal health care would be awesome to have. Other countries have universal health care and they have it worked out nicely. So, while it was not what was desired (by me, anyway), it was better than other presidents have done about the situation. Good idea, questionable execution.

    I guess that just about sums it up. I figured it best to just talk about a million (okay, just six) things at once in one place than do separate blog posts for each because this will be the last word on any of these subjects you read from me right now. You can agree or disagree with me at your leisure. But, remember this- Opinions are like butts…everybody’s got one.

What David Bowie Gave Me

There are a lot of articles and blog posts about my favorite artist of all time circling the internet this week and I wanted to throw my own post together because David Bowie has been a big part of my life. Like, since birth. I’m not even kidding. Birth.

David-bowie-lets-danceYou see, when I was born on July 16, 1983 at a naval hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, my dad was in the US Navy, serving aboard the USS Nimitz. My mom was alone with me a lot (though there were always relatives around) and I hear there was a lot of music to keep her company. David Bowie’s records were always at the top of her stack from what I can remember. When my dad finally came home from service for good, there was still a lot of music. Obviously, his music became a bit of an influence on me, too (Kiss was his favorite band and probably still is, as far as I know), but the music I remember dancing to while standing on my mom’s feet was always Bowie. Always…because I screamed and begged for it. LET’S DANCE was the album I listened to more than anything else. Not even Jem and the Holograms could compete with David Bowie. Not even my super creepy Teddy Ruxpin stood a chance against David Bowie. Nothing did, nothing ever will.

When I was about four years old, my grandparents’ neighbors brought me over to their house to watch Labyrinth on VHS. Since our families had always been close (since forever lol) this was okay and I had a ball. And I fell in love with a fictional character for the very first time. Of course, I was only four years old and didn’t make the connection between my David Bowie and the Goblin King. I didn’t realize they were the same person until I was a few years older. My parents split soon after the first viewing of Labyrinth and when I met my step-mom for the very first time, she brought me a present to break the ice.

labyrinthMy very own VHS copy of Labyrinth. I’ve loved that woman ever since. Regardless of the nonchalance I show in this photo, I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled. I was so thrilled, in fact, that my new step-brother and I watched this VHS tape every morning while we ate bowls of cereal. I imagined what it would be like to disappear to the labyrinth and meet all of the strange creatures within. I sang along with every single song. I, to this day, know this movie, word for word, line by line, start to finish. At one point, I even fantasized about having a wedding with a Labyrinth theme (the ballroom scene was my target lol). That didn’t happen, but that’s a story for another day.

When I reached middle school, I began to realize that David Bowie had been around a little longer than I’d originally thought because my step-dad introduced me to The Man Who Sold the World, a song that was more rock and less pop, just his speed, and I, to this day, associate this song with my step-dad. Of course, by then, I had already followed the path of the elusive writer. I was already filling notebooks with stories and sketches and all manner of creative endeavors. Through this confusing period in my life (adolescence), I discovered all of Bowie’s earlier works and began having daydreams of space travel and aliens. I sometimes wonder if there are other writers (sci-fi writers and any others, too) who began writing this way. I imagine I’m not alone. David Bowie wore many faces.

David Bowie in 1973I discovered myself listening to Starman and Space Oddity. As I ventured toward high school, my life was changing again. I moved to West Virginia from North Carolina and, once again, David Bowie was my solace and comfort. Moving to the hills was a culture shock for me. There were no punks, no goths, no rockers. But, there was suddenly me and I felt more alone than I ever have in my entire life up to that point. Nonetheless, Bowie was there to remind me that some stones are meant to roll differently (and in glitter, obviously). Rebel Rebel became my theme song and I still watched Labyrinth every single chance I got, only I’d bought a DVD copy by then. With the new bag of confidence I found with Bowie by my side, I made some friends and I was okay. I learned to paint, I kept writing, and I did well in school, too, all the while imagining it was just a temporary place to be and, eventually, the Goblin King was going to come and take me away. Or Ziggy Stardust–either one worked for me.

The older I got, the more his music resonated. Heroes was one of the songs I sang to my babies when they were fussy. I also sang Heroes to my godson when he was tiny and he enjoyed it, too. Life On Mars still helps me through depression and sadness because I love piano music and the piano, along with Bowie’s beautiful voice, is a powerful combination. I keep a book about David Bowie on my nightstand because I love to look at all of the many faces of David Bowie and I love to read about his life as David Jones, too.

The HungerDavid Bowie taught me many, many things about life, but more importantly, he taught me that it’s okay to be the oddball and go your own way. If I want to stand out, I can. If I want to stand out by being myself, even better. I am thirty-two years old right now, but every single time I hear David Bowie’s music and listen to his words, I’m still just a little kid dancing to a record with her mama and that’s a feeling I never want to let go of. Heroes is currently the ringtone I use for my husband’s calls to my cellphone and has been since September (which was when I joined the rest of modern society and bought my first cell phone) because Heroes is a song I equate with love and a feeling of happiness and contentment. And, I’m probably going to grab my copy of Labyrinth and pop it into the DVD player as a means to lull my night-owl self to sleep tonight. Or, maybe I’ll watch The Hunger instead.

Either way, I wish I could thank him for what he’s done for me and for the billions of other human oddities out there. Rest easy, Starman. You gave me the gift of myself, a gift that is irreplaceable. Goodbye, farewell, and travel safely, sir.

And the stars look very different today…

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Welcoming 2016 With Stories and Changing Tastes

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Every year I keep a log of books, short stories, and articles of note that I’ve read. In 2015, I logged an awful lot of books. Some were new releases, but more often than not, not. By this log, though, I figured that I read more how-to books, gardening books, and history books than anything else. I don’t know why it happened this way, but maybe because I’ve been sort of fighting a dark depression and anxiety with hobbies–gardening, sewing, and just about anything I can do which would keep my hands busy. I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something, even if it’s something small, such as mending a buttonhole or planting a seed. And, once I’m focused, that’s it. I’m addicted to something new and you’ll soon find me in bookshops and online seeking out books regarding my new hobby, whatever it may be. I can’t just be a novice at anything. I will constantly strive to master it.

But, in 2010, for example, I logged mostly romance and horror novels. In 2011 and 2012, same. In 2013, by some strange tap of the reading fairy’s wand, I changed directions and returned to my science fiction and fantasy roots. You see, the firsts books I really loved–and I mean REALLY loved–were sci-fi novels, comics, fantasy tomes, and short stories in magazines involving elves, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, aliens, and vampires. I started reading time travel novels again. I started picking up newer novels by authors I’d forgotten I loved so much in high school. And, I began to change the way I think about things again. I think that’s just something that happens ever so often in life. Your life changes direction, so your reading lists change direction, too.

By 2014, I’d changed completely. I haven’t completely let go of reading romance, but I want to read everything about everything. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space on a year’s worth of bookshelf for all of the books a person would wish to read. I think that might be what happens to me. I am too ambitious. But, there are just so many books!

But, back to 2015.

Last year, my children grew. My fortunes changed (sort of) with the coming of a move which will take me from living in a small 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a small 4 bedroom house with a yard that reaches beyond what the eye can see (my husband’s family’s farm). In anticipation of this move, my family and I have discussed a lot of changes. We’re letting go of cable because it won’t be available. We’re going to have an internet connection to watch Netflix and Hulu and do internety things. But, we’ve also decided that we’re going to raise some chickens and continue growing beautiful herbs and Cherokee purple tomatoes (which are to die for, by the way, and can be found at Burpee’s online). On the farm, my father-in-law and brother-in-laws (and their wives and families) raise chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and sometimes goats. And, I think my niece has some rabbits somewhere. So, with all of this in mind, I’ve been reading about soil, about how to raise animals (because I’m absolutely terrified of horses and have no clue how to manage livestock, much less live with them), and about how to live a simpler life.

Now, hold on, people. Before you start thinking ahead, NO. No, we are not homesteaders. Absolutely, just no. I have mad amounts of respect for homesteaders, but that’s not what we’re doing  at all. We’re just simplifying things and moving forward with raising our family in an area where I won’t have to worry about being so close to other people. Well, except for my husband’s family. Two of his brothers, their wives, their collective six children, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law all live on the same stretch of property, but it’s big enough that none of us have to look at each other if we don’t want to. Or unless I need to be saved from the horses (ha ha).

The beautiful part of how life changes your reading habits, though, is that when I move to my little farm shack in the middle of nowhere, I’ll have new places to read. Also, I have a niece and a sister-in-law who both love to read, too, so maybe we can exchange good books ever so often. Who knows–we might even start our own book club right on the edge of the mountain. I’m sure the new experiences I have there will absolutely reflect in the 2016 reading log. I have plans to pick up a Farmer’s Almanac and a Gardener’s Almanac next time I’m in the Dollar General store in town. And, beyond that, there’s a discount store in Beckley (about 35 minutes from me) where I can pick up as many books about flowers and plants as I want because they’re really cheap. I’d love a book about flowers so I can learn about which ones are the easiest to grow and which ones need what because I do have plans for a white rose bush and roses are not things I know a lot about, although I’ve always loved white roses (among other white flowers, I also love the white moonflowers/Datura).

bookThere are a few crime fiction novels I plan to read this year, though, and they’re already sitting on my nightstand. AND, I do have some drama, history, and romance novels sitting in my shelf, waiting on me to give them some attention. First, though, I have a book filled with the love letters between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo. The book is called “The Prettiest Love Letters In the World” because they truly are. I’ve already taken a peek at them.

scandalsAnd, of course, it’s January 3rd, which means I’ve already read a book this year. It’s was called “Treasury of Royal Scandals” and it was published some years back, but still such a great read. Books aren’t like food–they don’t ruin after a while. They stay great. I’ve learned that there is also a book out there called “A Treasury of Great American Scandals,” which I’d like to add to my collection, too. The author, Michael Farquhar, has many books out I’d like to snatch. Seriously, where has this guy been all my life as a reader? “Treasury of Royal Scandals” was brilliant. It was a great way to start the year, in my opinion.

I’m curious to know how everyone else feels on the subject of changing tastes in books. Is it just me? Do the rest of you change tastes every now and then? I can’t imagine I’m the only person on the face of the planet who sometimes switches from medieval kings and queens to cyborgs and werewolves.

 

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block’s sort of new book about writing recently found its way to my Kindle app. I say “sort of new” because it’s a second edition and includes updated information for today’s writers.I was more than just excited to read this book about writing books. I was downright jubilant. Never have I read a book about writing books that was written before the nineties. The first edition of the book, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print, was published, originally, in 1978, a time before Kindles were even a thing. It was a time when a lot of the authors I enjoy reading today, Lawrence Block included, were putting out some of their best works.

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel is the second edition, which will be released next month. The book begins with an introduction to the 1978 edition. The best way I can set the tone of this tome is with a quote from this intro.

“One thing you won’t find in this book is an explanation of the way to write a novel. Because I don’t believe there is one.”-Lawrence Block.

So, now you know what to expect, right? It’s explained simply and that’s how I like things—no need for flowers and candy, just take me to the theater.

The book moves quickly, too, which I also like, be it fiction or non. In chapter one, Block discusses why one would choose to write a novel in the first place. Comparing short story writing to novel writing, and the bells and whistles attached to each, Block says:

“If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.”

The second chapter discusses how one might choose which novel to write. This is an important chapter, as I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t get flooded with novel or story ideas and has to choose which one comes first. It’s a system of triage, if you will, and if you struggle in this area, I would definitely recommend buying this book to see what he has to say.

Cover_Ebook_Writing the Novel

“You have to read not as a normally perceptive reader, but with the special insight of a writer.” – Chapter Three

Each chapter discusses, ponders, and argues every single bit of the process involved in taking a simple notion to write to the ultimate goal of publication. There is even a chapter on a topic in which I fear I need to read more about before I write my next anything. I do outline my books to a certain extent, but I feel like I could benefit from writing outlines that are more thorough, so chapter six was of a particular interest to me.

The most exciting part of this book, however, is not any chapter in particular. It is the order in which the topic of a certain chapter appears. The chapter title “Getting Started” doesn’t appear until chapter eight. After chapter eight, there are chapters discussing snags and dead ends, style, length, rewriting, and getting published (respectively). To keep with the ever changing times, however, Lawrence Block has also included chapters arguing for and against self-publishing and how to be your own publisher.

I didn’t find anything in this book to be too difficult to understand, so I would assume that even a high school student could easily navigate the chapters. I would have loved owning the 1978 edition when I was a teenager, so I can imagine this book (either edition, honestly) would make a wonderful gift for a young writer as well as a well-seasoned one. After all, no matter how long you’ve been in the game, the rules may change and you might find yourself standing in the dark. A good book could very well prove to be your flashlight.

On a more personal level, I feel I need to mention that the chapters are so easily laid out that one doesn’t have to thumb all over the book if in search of help in one particular area. If I needed help figuring out how to develop a character, there’s a chapter for that. If I need help deciding whether I should self-publish or not, there are a few chapters for that, too. In no way does Lawrence Block ever say that THIS is how you write a book, there is NO other way. On the contrary, this is just an informational guide, subjective and simple.

I enjoyed reading this book on my Kindle so much that I even thought to invite Mr. Block out to Starbucks, but in the chapter called Staying In Touch With LB, section Things I Won’t Do, it says that he won’t do that. It also tells you where to find him on the internet and where you might find his books. Cheers, Mr. Block. And, thank you for writing such a wonderful guide.

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blockObviously, not all readers are interested in writing, so for those of you who are not writers and have no interest in becoming one, I’d like to suggest another one of Block’s books, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyeswhich is his latest release. Isn’t that cover something? It is available on Amazon (in the link above) in hardback, Kindle, and paperback as well.

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