I Like Short Books and I Can Not Lie

 

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Last summer, this happened: James Patterson’s BookShots.

I love it. I want to sing it to the world! I’ll settle for the tiny corner that reads my blog but I’m singing, my friends. Loud and proud. “I like short books and I can not lie!”

Take a look at this. (And, if you’ve seen it, heard of it, know everything about it…don’t spoil my fun.)

Their message for readers is:

BookShots
Under 150 Pages. Under $5.00
Impossible to Put Down.

All the info you need (plus a modest boost) in a small, catchy slogan.

What’s this all about? This is what it’s all about.

Patterson’s catering to people who love to read but have very little time to do so. In fairness, he’s also targeting those who don’t read often or have the attention span of…what was that? Aw. A chipmunk! How cute!

The bonus for me, aside from having very little time to read, is that, as we’ve established, I love short books. I’ll be writing more on my undying love for novellas later but, the thing is, BookShots is bringing back novellas for the digital age with some clever marketing. Because, really, they’re just novellas in disguise.

(This whole line of books kind of reminds me of pulp fiction but, eh, what do I know about that?)

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My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Have you heard of BookShots? What are your thoughts on it? In general, do you prefer shorter or longer books?

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Hinting at Shadows

 

Hinting at Shadows is “New on the Shelves” at Sally’s Cafe & Bookstore. I’m excited to be on the virtual shelves here with so many other talented authors (including Sally).

Sally Cronin is a prolific blogger who is extremely generous with her space and time. Take a peek at this lovely introduction and browse through the bookstore while you’re there.

 

new-on-the-shelves-update

 

Today’s author is Sarah Brentyn with a collection of flash and micro fiction. Hinting at Shadows was released in November 2016. Continue Reading…

 

Share the Love of Reading #BookGivingDay

 

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Oh my love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
Oh my love is like a brand new book
That’s in a waiting room

What? (I know. Hold on. I have a good reason for that atrocity.)

I’ve written about my love of books before.

I also have a few essays out there complaining about Valentine’s Day.

Red roses, puffy pink teddy bears, gaudy glitter-covered greeting cards, caramel chocolates, and the fact that this stupid day clearly brings out alliteration in full force. Along with the need to butcher perfectly beautiful poetry.

So February 14th is a wonderful holiday. Yes, I’ll say it again. Wonderful.

It’s International Book Giving Day.

It’s true! A glorious day dedicated to the love of reading and, in particular, sharing the love of reading by giving books away.

Know about this? Awesome. Get out there and spread the love.

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Never heard of it? Check it out.

Here are a few ways to get involved, from a toppling pile of books donated to your local school or library to dropping a single book off at a hospital or waiting room. You can even give books from the comfort of your own home to the organizations listed here.

My family? Well…

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My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

ThoughtBubble

What will you do for International Book Giving Day? Let me know—I’d love to hear some good book-giving stories.

If you share it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media, tag it: #bookgivingday

 

 

I posted this last year on February 14th which didn’t give people who hadn’t heard of this holiday time to plan so I’m re-posting this year to give you a little nudge, heads-up, or reminder that you’ve got a few days to give books. And here’s a PDF to download printable bookmarks to place inside those books you give. Seriously, give a bunch of books or leave just one in a waiting room somewhere. It’s all good.

 

The birds and books blog badge by Marianne Dubuc

The cute foxes bookplate by Karl Newson

The space cat & moon mouse blog badge by Ben Newman

 

Poetry Foundation {Robert Burns}  The poem I ruthlessly butchered in the beginning of this post.

Time, Time…Ticking Away

 

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Some people are always whining about not having enough time.

I am one of those people.

Inevitably, I’m subjected to someone telling me, “We all have the same number of hours in a day.” They then tell me I’m choosing to spend these hours not writing or reading or blogging and that, they claim, is my problem.

Uh huh.

Well, I’ve got to say, that really used to tick me off. (Get it? Tick me off? Tick. Tock. That was fun.)

But I guess, if you think about it, they’re right. I am choosing.

What they don’t realize is that the choices some of us make are significant: Write or eat? Read or sleep? Blog or bathe? Respond to post comments or spend time with our children?

While most avid readers would lose a bit of sleep to finish a good book, please… Be kind when someone says they are short on time. Because there are people who actually do have extremely limited free time due to circumstances beyond their control. And their choices aren’t always easy.

There are writers who are choosing between finishing their physical therapy exercises and finishing writing their next chapter. There are unwashed mums (and dads) who are missing out on a game of Monopoly with their kids to read blog posts and respond to comments.

There are meetings and appointments, science fairs and soccer games. There are art shows, recitals, school functions, and award ceremonies. This is in addition to yardwork, cooking, cleaning, laundry…

Sometimes, the choice isn’t between writing and watching TV, it’s between writing and attending their child’s play.

To me, that is not a choice. And for those who don’t understand that, there’s really nothing I can say. (Though I’ll probably still complain about lack of time.) #sorrynotsorry

Usually, I choose my health and my family over reading, writing, blogging, and social media. But not always. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there it is. And I know I’m going to regret it.

Yes. We do all have the same number of hours in a day but not always the same amount of time. In regards to how we spend that time, yes, we have choices. But some choices are easier than others.

 

Do you feel like you don’t have enough time to get things done (reading, writing, social media, blogging, commenting…)? Do you find it easy to make choices about how you spend your time? Are you one of those “we all have the same amount of hours in a day” people? Be honest. We’ll still love you.

 

How Should I Write My Book?

 

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There is so much writing advice out there. Tips and tricks, instruction and direction, ways to plot and ways to pants.

We want to read all that advice. It’s a conundrum. We can’t stop learning (and who would want to?) but we must, eventually, get on with it.

If I’m spending weeks (okay, months years) reading about how to write, I’m not writing. It’s really that simple.

Some will say it’s self-doubt. Some that it’s fear of failure (or success). Eh. It’s certainly possible.

I think part of it is “the writer’s mind”.

We want to educate ourselves on all sorts of things. We want to know what’s what with the age group we’re targeting – what our audience will respond to. Or learn as much as we can about the setting of our story. Or what the hospital procedure would be for our character who’s just been brought in with a knife wound.

Admittedly, there’s a bit of Am I doing this right? but that’s to be expected and, honestly, I’m not sure how much of that can be blamed on self-doubt. I guess it depends. Because “the writer’s mind” is a tricky thing.

Listen to yourself and your tone: How should I write my book?

That is kind of a huge question. It’s also an interesting one. How are you saying it? Why are you asking it?

That can be a self-doubter’s dream. It puts off the actual writing part of writing your book.

Is this a good opening? I like to just write but so-and-so says I should outline. I should really learn to outline. But I recently read that article about how to plot as a pantser. I should read that again. Or maybe I should listen to that podcast about…oh, yeah, that agent is having a Q&A on Twitter today! I should totally do that.

Then again, it’s smart. It gives you much-needed info about the process, category, and genre, among other things.

How many pages does a MG novel have to be? Can I use swears? Is kissing allowed for this age group? Actually…is this MG or YA?

These are valid questions. Definitely do some research. But, then, sit down and start typing. It might be a good idea to set aside a bit of time for even more research as the market changes or unexpected scenes pop up in your book. But don’t get sidetracked. I’ve noticed (from personal experience) writers love to read about writing, write about writing, and talk about writing.

That’s awesome. All of it. But we also need to write.

So, once you’ve read and learned and researched and read some more, the question How Should I Write My Book? is quite easily answered: Sit down and write.

 

Is this an issue for you? Do you put off your writing to read about writing?

 

Great Book for Writers…NaNo or Not

 

I’ve never written a book review on here before.

 

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And I’m not going to.

I will say that this book is made of awesome.

I’m late to the party. I should have posted about No Plot? No Problem! in October before all you nutty NaNos took on the completely insane challenge of finishing a book in thirty days.

But I’m here now. Because I am having a problem. A writing problem. (I’ll post more about that later.)

So I was searching my bookshelves for some inspiration when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a marvelous book sat unread for two years! And in November, to boot. Before I write another word, let me say I have never participated in NaNoWriMo. And. Yet.

This is a stupendously marvelous writing book. Yup. It’s all that and a bag of chips.

Oh, no! Not (another) book about writing.

Well, technically, it is. Sort of. But not really. In other words, it’s not a “this is how you are supposed to write” book. It’s a cheerleader (with more clothes). A guide. A tiny, written friend with advice and support. Also, just enough writing tips and anecdotes for me to call it a writing book but not enough to drive you crazy or contradict all the other books you’ve read about how to write. It even offers to take your “Inner Editor” so you can write a shitty first draft that would “absolutely horrify it”.

The entire first part of the book contains tidbits of remarkable wisdom like “don’t write within view of a bed”, sections like “Eating Your Way to 50,000 Words” & “The Happy Side Effects of Limited Planning” (which appeals to me very much), along with tips like how to host a writing day:

Ask all attendees to turn off the ringers on their cell phones, and set a timer so everyone knows exactly when each session ends and the glorious break time begins. Should anyone continue to type after the alarm marking the end of the session sounds, chop off their fingers. Don’t be afraid to be a tyrant. (53)

And the excellent “law of exuberant imperfection”:

The first law of exuberant imperfection is essentially this: The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy. 

the older we get, the more scared we are to try new things. . . . what do we do when we have free time? The tried-and-true activities we’ve already perfected. Like talking on the phone. Or walking up and down stairs. Or getting drunk. . . . Exuberant imperfection allows you to circumvent those limiting feelings entirely. (32-33)

And this charming truth:

The universe loves novelists. During the novel-prep and book-writing period, you’ll watch, delighted, as the cosmos parts to reveal a rich vein of pilferable, copyright-free material explicitly for your noveling use. A couple will sit down next to you on the bus and proceed to have an argument. . . (72)

Right? Oh, man, I love when that happens. *sigh*

The second part is dedicated specifically to NaNo participants—broken down by weeks. Very helpful if you’re into that sort of thing. And more power to you. (Really. Love and respect to my fellow writers during this hectic Novembery time.)

Reading through this again made me realize two things. Three, actually. 1. Chris is funny. He is. 2. I’m not trying to crank out 50,000 words in a month and this book is still wonderful. 3. My husband has always supported my writing.

 

NaNo Book - sig

How cool is this?

 

You can get a copy here, if you so desire. But it’s different from mine because I have an old copy, as you can see from the inscription here, and Chris has made all sorts of shiny, new words for you.

Poetry is Every Day

 

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Although National Poetry Day is a British holiday, I am honoring it anyway. A bit late, too.

Poetry is so diverse. It can rhyme. It can flow and roll or it can punch you in the gut. It can make you cry or laugh. Or both.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

I can feel the rhythm as I read. And the words… Love. But who doesn’t love Robert’s stop in the woods that snowy eve? (Don’t answer that. If you don’t like this, I’d rather not know. I’m not sure we could be friends anymore.)

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Oh, how many times have I warned my son to beware the Jabberwock, I do not know. But he was reciting it at 4 years old. All chortling in his joy.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

Let’s just bask in the beauty of these lines and not continue to the hateful fantasies Oberon plans to inflict upon Titania. Good times. Gotta love The Bard. (If anyone calls me on this being a play not a poem, I shall hex them with a ladybug infestation. You have been warned.)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Ah, Dylan. I’m raging, dude. I will not go gentle.

Okay, let’s get serious. Because poetry is serious. Actually, it’s not. It is what it is. People say they don’t “get” poetry. I get that. I used to say it. But poetry is what you make it. It’s what you take away from it.

Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, Burns, Frost, Thomas, Browning…so many, many more. They each have touched me and changed me. It could be a single poem or a collection—doesn’t matter.

Emily Dickinson is the poet who has influenced me the most. Maybe because she’s awesome. Maybe because her words came along at the right time in my life to resonate deeply with me. I don’t know. But I have a book of her poetry with faded highlights from over twenty years ago. Those words are nostalgic and beautiful.

Sarah B Emily Poetry - sig

Poetry is everywhere.

It’s the clouds drifting through the sky, the squirrels scurrying up a pine tree, the leaves losing chlorophyll and blazing bright red, your morning coffee with steam swirling out of the mug, a hug from your child. It’s a book of words highlighted by your own hand twenty years earlier. Some writers can weave words so prettily it makes you cry. And I love them. But there are also words that fill your heart when you live in the moment.

Poetry is every day.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost
Jabberwoky – Lewis Carroll
Midsummer Night’s Dream / Act 2, Scene 1 – William Shakespeare
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas
This is my letter to the World – Emily Dickinson

 

My Sunday thoughts in…way over 200 words.

 

Letting Go of Social Media

 

Let go of social media?! Yes, I know. We can’t do that. We’re not allowed. As writers, we must be on all the social sites to build our platform and brand ourselves and whatnot. But I’m letting go. Does that mean I’ll have less success? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably. I’ll miss out on opportunities if nothing else.

I read this post by Lisa Reiter and it resonated with me. She talks about being busy and organizing her writing. Pfft. Who needs that? With two young kids, a husband, a house, a job, appointments, meetings, blah, blah, blah, I have all the time in the world to sit down (uninterrupted) and write.

As the saying goes, “If you do one thing, it’ll be your best. If you do two things, they’ll each have a bit of your intent to do your best but they won’t be your best. If you do ten things, they’ll suck.” Okay, that’s not at all how the saying goes and I’m not sure there’s a saying even remotely like that but you get my point. Hopefully.

If I do those ten things with a bag full of the fifty things I’m not doing sitting on top of my head, the ten things are going to really suck and I’ll wind up hurting my neck. Something’s got to give. And, if I look back and realize I haven’t sent anything in yet for my column this month or worked on my book or submitted anything to…anywhere, then social media has to go.

Okay, I’m not getting rid of social media entirely, I’m just attempting to stuff it into a box and shove it in the corner. Social media is a rope. (I’m going somewhere with this. I swear.) Instead of throwing the rope to the ground and leaving it unattended or allowing it to lasso me, I have to take control of it. “Letting go” of this rope means untangling myself from it so it doesn’t choke the life out of me but making sure it doesn’t get soaked and moldy in the rain. Hence, the box in the corner.

 

social media rope

The Rope of Social Media (A.K.A. A ball of string I found around the house)

The rope of social media shouldn’t be a noose, it should be a lifeline.

A connection to my audience, potential editors, agents, and other writers.

Lisa says in her post that she has set aside a day (one day!) a week that she calls her “Blog Admin Day”. In the post, she uses words like “addictive” and “compelled”. I feel like that sometimes.

Technically, she’s talking about blogging but I’m applying it to all social media. I don’t know if I can set aside one day to write my blog, read other blogs, comment, read litmags, research submission guidelines, catch up on my Twitter account… Seems a tall order. But I’ll try. Because I need the rest of the week to do that thing I love to do with words like putting them together and making cool sentences (and fragments). I need time to write. Also, I’m on call 24 hrs. a day as a mom so there’s that.

I’m going to attempt to organize my own Social Media Admin Day. Let’s be honest: Days. I think I need two. For now.

Interesting. I wrote this post almost exactly a year ago. This crisis isn’t new. Maybe it resonates with me because I’m going through it (again). Maybe more people are dealing with this. Maybe it’s the time of year. I don’t know. But I do know that many fellow bloggers, writer friends, and tweeps are deleting their accounts, taking breaks, or wondering out loud where they’re headed.

Two days for social media/blogging time didn’t work for me. And I have nothing inspirational to say. Just… You’re not alone.

How do you manage your social media? Do you read/comment on blogs? Do you have time to read anything else (poetry, short stories, books)? Do you have time to write (something other than your blog)?

 

First Lines: Epilogue

 

While cracking the covers of well-loved, read-only-once, and couldn’t-stand-this books for my First Lines series, I wondered…

How does this work? First lines, I mean. First paragraphs, sentences, pages. What are authors thinking?

I’ve got to kill it with this opening or else…

Or is it a little less sinister? Like, I want to hook the reader but, really, I’ve got a whole novel to show off my mad skills—the first page doesn’t have to be memorable, only the story does.

Or maybe simply: I suppose the beginning should be good but, eh, I like ‘She ate a piece of bread.’ and I’m keeping it.

The words that introduce you to a new character or bring you into a new world…how important are they?

Some books are so well-known that it doesn’t matter as much because, when you pick up Lord of the Rings, you know it’s going to be a fantasy. When you grab Hunger Games, you know it’s Dystopian. But authors generally don’t know their book will be famous when they write it. Well, excluding Stephen King.

Who? Exactly.

So, back to non-rock-star-authors. What are they feeling as they sit down to type that very first line? As a YA author, for instance, do they feel the need to bring readers into their world right away? Let them know the story won’t be taking place at South Mundane High School on Main Street?

Maybe it’s not the age group as much as the genre: dystopian, science fiction, fantasy… Or perhaps it’s not the age group or genre but the person writing the book. Rules, tips, and advice aside, writing is an individual sport.

Whatever the process, however the pages come about, I’m glad they do. Because I love reading them. How would I cope in a world without books? I don’t even want to think about it. It’s creepy. And wrong. Like a world without cheese.

So, while I’m obsessed with passionate about first lines, and while I collect them and read them over and over and write them down (or highlight them in e-books), I’ve read stunning first lines and hated the book. Also, I continue reading even if the first lines don’t knock it out of the park. After all, one of my favorite books of all time begins, “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.”

 

First Lines CoN Epilogue

 

First Lines: Children’s Books

First Lines: Middle Grade

First Lines: Young Adult

First Lines: SABGUS (Socially Acceptable Books for Grown-Ups)

First Lines: Picture Books

 

First Lines: Picture Books

 

Another First Lines post which was surprisingly enjoyable to compile. Also, it was a bit nostalgic.

This one is dedicated to my friend and fellow blogger, Norah, who thought a First Lines: Picture Books would be a grand idea. And she was right.

Some will argue that first lines aren’t important in picture books. Eh. Maybe. I’m not sure. They are a hook just the same as any other but you don’t need to keep the reader’s attention as long. (Which is not the point of a hook anyway.) Either way, it was fun to flip through these beautifully illustrated stories to find first lines.

Have you read any of these to your children? Did you read any when you were a child?

 

“There was once a Velveteen Rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid.”

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Illustrated by Robyn Officer

 

“The sun is tired. It goes down the sky into the drowsy hills. The sunflowers lean. They fall asleep to dream of tomorrow’s sun.”

The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

 

“No one ever came to Bear’s house. It had always been that way, and Bear was quite sure he didn’t like visitors. He even had a sign.”

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

 

“Once, in a beautiful, faraway land…that was, somehow, not so very far…a land where every stone was a teacher and every breeze a language, where every lake was a mirror and every tree a ladder to the stars, into this far and lovely land there fell…a truth.”

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood Illustrated by Jon J Muth

 

“Once, long long ago…yet somehow, not so very long…when all the animals and rocks and winds and waters and trees and birds and fish and all the beings of the world could speak…and understand one another…there began…an argument.”

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood Illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee

 

“Puff, the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.”

Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow / Lenny Lipton Illustrated by Eric Puybaret

 

“At the edge of every day, the Night Eater ran behind the moon. And as he ran, the Night Eater gobbled up the darkness.”

The Night Eater by Ana Juan  

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live.”

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

 

“Tonight, when I looked under my bed for my monster, I found this note instead.

‘Gone fishing. Back in a week. – Gabe’”

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll Illustrated by Howard McWilliam

 

“There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind. Most people spent their time indoors. As you can imagine, it was a very dreary place.”

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

 

“Oscar loved his boy. He also loved stinky cat food for breakfast and crunchy cat food for dinner.”

Oscar and the Mooncats by Lynda Gene Rymond Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

 

“Over 100 years ago, as the stars swirled in the sky, as the Earth circled the sun, as the March winds blew through a little town by a river, a baby boy was born. His parents named him Albert.”

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

 

“It was autumn. In the hush of the forest a lone yellow leaf clung to the branch of a great oak tree.”

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

 

“Once there was a Little Rabbit who did not like himself. He had soft pink ears, bright red eyes, and a short, fluffy tail. He was a beautiful little rabbit. But he wanted to be anything except what he was.”

The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey Illustrated by Chris Santoro

 

“Imagine a place…

where you bend and sway, leap and land, right where a story begins.”

Imagine a Place by Sarah L. Thomson Illustrated by Rob Gonsalves

 

“Imagine a day…

when you can dive down through branches or swim up to the sun.”

Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson Illustrated by Rob Gonsalves

 

“Imagine a night…

when snow white sheets grow crisp and cold, and someone whispers, ‘Follow me’.”

Imagine a Night by Sarah L. Thomson Illustrated by Rob Gonsalves


First Lines PictureBook

 

Next up:

First Lines: Epilogue

As a reader (and a writer) how important are first lines to you?