Update on Me

I know I sort of dropped off the face of the earth and hadn’t been posting for a couple of weeks, so I wanted to let everyone know where I went.

I had a family emergency, and had to drive from Austin to Phoenix. While I was in Arizona, one of my cats died in her sleep.

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Goblyn was the cat probably most pictured on this blog. She was the one who sat on my desk and often on my keyboard, making writing difficult. She was the one who helped me take interesting pictures of books.

Goblyn is the third of my cats to die this year. We had an 18 year old die in January, then another 18 year old a month ago. Goblyn was only 17, and it was unexpected.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I didn’t feel like doing any writing. I decided to let myself take a break and not worry about it.

I’m back now, and starting next week, should resume the regular Tuesday/ Friday posting schedule.

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5 Things Friday- November

One

What I’m Reading

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold. This book is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine. It’s not just a memoir; it also integrates information on mental health and the thought process of kids who commit this kind of violence. She tries to make sense of the tragedy and talks about the subtle signs of Dylan’s mental state that she missed.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is that while she never tries to minimize the tragedy other families experienced that day, she reframes Dylan’s death as a suicide. Sue Klebold is an advocate for suicide awareness, treatment, and prevention. This is a fantastic book that anyone with children (or who knows people with children) should read. All proceeds from the book go to mental health research and charitable organizations.

Two

What I’m Writing

I’m starting work on my next book, a YA horror about a world where Death has been kidnapped.

Three

What I Read This Week

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North. It took me a long time to get through it because it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Honestly, it was a decent book, but not great. There were parts of it I really liked, but overall, it sounded better than it was.

I also read Almost Interesting, by David Spade, on audiobook. That was a fast read and a lot of fun.

Four

When I Wasn’t Reading

I binge watched Stranger Things at night (so good!). During the day, I know I was busy, but I honestly don’t remember what I was doing. Writing? Cleaning? I know I mowed the lawn, but that’s about all.

Five

Favorite Picture of the Week

Did you read or watch anything particularly good this week?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

My Life of Crime as a Book Pirate

When I was a kid back in rural Pennsylvania, I went to a lot of flea markets. At one of the larger ones, there was a book seller who sold paperbacks with the covers ripped off.

Because I read everything, I read the part that said that if the cover was ripped off, the books had supposedly been destroyed and that they were stolen.

But as a kid who didn’t have a job and loved reading more than anything, it didn’t seem like a big deal. I figured if it were really illegal, the cops would have shut it down. It was a big stand with tons of books, in business for all the years of my childhood, so I figured it was somehow okay.

I recently found some of those books in the boxes I’ve transported to Texas. I know now that those stolen books really are a big deal, and that the author and publishing company didn’t receive their fair share. So, I recycled all the ones I didn’t care about, and have put the ones I do on a pile to re-purchase.

I might buy them from Goodwill or Half-Price books or some other secondhand shop, but at least doing that, I know that the author got their royalties at one point or another.

Don’t get me wrong, I do buy new books and frequent my local library. I do my best to support other authors. I’m hoping to be published one day myself, and I’m a big believer in the golden rule.

I do have a confession to one single incident of book piracy as an adult. When I lay out the case for you, let me know if you would have done the same thing.

The date is July 19, 2007. In two days, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows will be released.

I’ve bought every book at midnight since Prisoner of Azkaban. My husband comes home from work that fateful Wednesday night, and says to me, “I have something to tell you, but I’m not sure if I should.”

Turns out, he somehow found a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows online. Someone had gotten ahold of the book and taken a photograph of every. single. page.

As the evening wears on, I go back and forth, my conscience fighting with the rare opportunity I’ve been handed: the ability to know if Harry lived or died two days early! (Also to find out if Snape was a good guy or bad guy. I was Team Snape from the moment he killed Dumbledore. I just knew!)

Finally, I say, “Give it to me!” And he does.

I read that book all night, and finish at 6 a.m. the next morning, my eyes bleary and my head aching. I drink some coffee, take a shower, and go to work. The knowledge that Harry lived keeps me awake, and I brag that I know the truth. I refuse to give anyone any spoilers; that wouldn’t be fair. I say if they still want to know, I’ll tell them Monday, after everyone else had gotten a copy of the book (and the info would probably be available on the internet anyway).

I did; I read my pirated copy of the book. But I don’t really feel that bad about it.

At midnight on July 21, 2007, I stood in line like everyone else, and got my legit copy. Then I went on to buy it in paperback as well.

I don’t know whatever happened to the copy I’d gotten illicitly. Knowing me, I probably deleted it as soon as I had the “real” version in my hand. Which, I might add, I read again that weekend.

Everyone has the temptation that turns them criminal. Now you know mine.

Have you ever pirated a book? What would have you done in my situation with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?

What got me thinking about this was a very interesting article by Maggie Stievfater about how piracy does actually make a difference to authors. I encourage you to read it. It’s not just about loss of sales, but the possibility that a series could be cancelled due to lack of interest. If that had happened with the Raven Boys, I would have cried.

Five Things Friday

One

What I’m Reading

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. It’s not a book I would have picked for myself, but I’m enjoying it. It was a birthday present from a friend. I love getting books as gifts because it challenges me to read things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

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I started Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, on audiobook. It’s to fulfill the Popsugar Reading Challenge Category: A Steampunk Novel. So far, it’s okay, but I can’t say I’m loving it.

Two

What I’m Writing

In my August edition of “Five Things Friday,” I told you I was just starting the edits on Not Dead Enough. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the paper read through. Now for the oral read through, and then I’m ready to start querying it… yay!

I’m also still working on my other book, The Cycle, and I feel like I’ve gotten into the groove of writing it. Normally I wouldn’t be working on editing one book at the same time I’m writing another, but these are so different that it’s no struggle keeping them in separate mental compartments.

Three

What I Read This Week

I finished Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (rated 4 stars on Goodreads). I can’t believe I’ve never read this before!

The new Writer’s Digest issue.

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Apparently Alan Alda is a writer… who knew?

Four

When I Wasn’t Reading

Well… I was cleaning up around the house. Let’s just say I have an older dog and leave it at that. I was also editing and writing.

Five

Favorite Picture of the Week

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These guys made me laugh with how they’re passed out, like they’re exhausted!

What have you been up to this week?

Remembering What I Read

img_7738One of the people in one of my book clubs commented that she usually doesn’t remember many details from what she reads. It surprised me, because I assumed that everyone was like me and remembered details from the stories. I remember names, places, plots, etc. if I like the book. If I don’t like it, I don’t remember it as well.

Getting perspectives on how other people read is always interesting for me. To me, part of the fun of reading is going back and thinking over parts I loved, thinking about the characters as if they were real people I met for coffee, and maybe flipping through to find sections I loved.

It’s not unusual for me to think about a book, and read an “abridged” version of it, skimming and flipping through to only revisit my favorite parts.

For people who don’t remember details, it seems to be more about the experience of reading. They enjoy going on that journey, and whether they remember every bit of it is irrelevant. They had fun, and that’s all that matters.

For me, it’s not like that. If I can’t remember details from a book I liked, it will frustrate me, and I’ll have to go back and reread. I’ve actually done that when I know someone else is reading a book I like. I’ll reread the book in hopes that we can have a detailed and interesting discussion about it.

Do you remember details of books (or movies) you liked, or do you just remember generalities?

10 Reasons Books Are Better Than People

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    This is an actual T-shirt I own (and love!)

    If a book is boring or irritating, I can just close it. If it were bad enough, I could burn it. Not that I’d ever do that (I’d just give it to Goodwill or Half-Price Books), but I could.

  2. A book will never let their annoying children run in front of my cart at Costco, as I try to navigate the overcrowded aisles with 150 pounds of cat litter in my cart. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Books don’t take it personally if I don’t like them or don’t feel like answering their calls that day. Seriously, it’s not you; it’s me.
  4. Books make me smarter. Some people make me feel dumber after spending 10 minutes with them.
  5. Books are quiet. The world is filled with noise. It’s nice when I don’t have to worry about it.
  6. Books don’t get insulted about my opinions of them. Authors might. But I can say whatever I want to a book, and it won’t get all huffy. If I trash a book to other people, I don’t get accused of gossiping.
  7. If I want to know what a book’s going to be like, I can read the cover copy, read reviews, or even read the first page before committing. There’s no way to tell, when I first meet a person, if they’re going to be someone I can really talk to, or if time talking to them would make me dumber. (See #4) Some people disguise it well, at first.
  8. I can reread my favorite parts. I can’t rewind my favorite moments with people. Sometimes when I’m hanging out with my favorite people, I forget to pause and enjoy the moment. But with a book, that moment will always be there.
  9. I never have to figure out social cues. When is it time to leave? Where’s a good point to stop the conversation? Am I boring that person? Do they know they’re boring me? Should I tell them about the food stuck in their teeth? None of that. I close the book, and the characters will wait until I return.
  10. I can read about anything I want, and no one gets their feelings hurt. In real life, some people are offended when talking about controversial topics. It can be difficult to have discussions with some people without them becoming heated. But not with books. Nope. I can read opinions I agree with, ones I disagree with, or even balanced information on a topic to develop an opinion, and no one gets all huffy about it.

Do you agree with my list? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Anything you disagree with?

How To Read Childhood Favorites the “Right” Way

IMG_9546I love rereading books that I used to love. Nostalgia books, I suppose you could call them.

It used to never be a problem for me, but as I’ve gotten more serious about writing, and as I’m critiquing other writer’s works on a weekly basis, it’s gotten more difficult not to read things with a critical eye.

Two years ago, I made the mistake of gifting my all time favorite book to my critique partner. As I reread it after I gifted it, I started seeing areas I knew he would criticize. And he did criticize those areas, and many more I hadn’t anticipated.

Suddenly, I didn’t love the book as much as I used to. It wasn’t the perfect example of a novel that I’d thought it was. I was disappointed, and for a long time, didn’t want to read any of my old favorites, worried that I wouldn’t love them as much as I used to.

Recently, I got the urge to reread The Forbidden Game trilogy, by LJ Smith. Without overthinking it, I started the first one.

I ended up reading it in two minds. My critical reader found all the flaws. (And there are flaws.) But my nostalgic reader found all the reasons I’d always loved it. And my nostalgic reader was louder.

It’s easy to find the flaws in something, to pick it apart, to criticize. That’s why anyone can do it.

And as a writer, it’s important that I can be constructively critical to my work and to the work of other writers who want to improve. Sometimes, as a reader, it’s important to do too. It’s good practice, and helps judge what works and what doesn’t.

But there are sometimes when I don’t want to pick things apart or find ways to improve something. Sometimes I just want to enjoy it, recapture that uncomplicated pleasure that came with reading it in the past.

The meaning of a particular book and how it resonates with the reader can change over time. There have been books I’ve connected with more or less over time, depending on where I was in my life.

But I don’t ever want to get to the point where I look at a beloved book, and only see the flaws. That serves no purpose. And I certainly don’t want to avoid rereading a favorite book out of fear.

All books have magic, and magic is a personal thing. But the key is that we, as readers, have to be complicit in creating that magic. It doesn’t exist without a reader who’s willing to be immersed in the book.

A book that resonates with me, at any point in my life, doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s an unrealistic standard. If it made me feel something deeply at any point, then it was “perfect” for me at that moment.

So, from now on, when I’m rereading a book, I’m going to keep in mind that it’s okay for it to have flaws, and those flaws don’t diminish its value one bit.

After all, at one point, I didn’t even see the flaws. They were always there, but I was so immersed in magic that I missed them. And I’m not going to let anyone take that away from me… not even myself.