When Not Writing is the Answer

My goal for this month was to finish up the first draft of The Fall. The story is completely outlined–using my favorite, a phase outline–everything is fresh in my mind, I still like the story…but for the past few weeks, forcing myself to sit down and write has been kind of like pulling teeth.

Today, I figured out why:  the story that’s outlined, that I’ve been writing, is no longer the story I want to tell.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to tell this story. But the story is no longer about what I thought it was about. So, I have all these little glimpses and glimmers of the other story in my head, but I don’t have my trail mapped out. I’m close to finishing the current draft, but there’s really no point, since I no longer want to tell the story.

So, I’m going to stop writing this story. Give myself a break for the rest of the month to deal with the huge, looming reports due at work. Continue outlining the Witches rewrite, but stop all of my other writing efforts as I focus on the job and school for a couple of weeks.

And bump The Fall to a bit later on my list of writing projects.

Year of No Clutter, by Eve Schaub

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Image belongs to Sourcebooks.

Eve Schaub is a serial memoirist with two bachelor’s degrees and an MFA. She has written about giving up added sugar—for which her family probably did not thank her—and her newest book, Year of No Clutter, is about her attempt to fight back against a lifetime habit of keeping things.

Eve Schaub is a “clutter-gatherer.” She keeps stuff. Lots of stuff. She’s not a hoarder…but she’s close enough to see the shadows caused by the towering piles of junk. Her guilty secret is the “Hell Room;” 567 square feet of upstairs space overflowing with…stuff. Of course, she keeps it hidden away like the dirty secret it is. Eve is bad with decisions, but she decides she’s finally—finally—going to get rid of all the stuff clogging the Hell Room so her family can actually use the space.

Does she really need to save her fifth-grade report card? No. Who does that? What Eve discovers is that she’s not really keeping stuff—she’s keeping memories. If she gets rids of the things that trigger her memories, will she lose the memories themselves? From the dead mouse to the pile of family photos, Eve must go through it all, learning what’s truly important, and what is just…clutter.

I recognize Eve’s self-description of being a “clutter-gatherer.” (Not to mention her family history of hoarding. I’m looking at you, Dad. Not to mention my grandmother, who kept every plastic butter tub ever.) This is a tendency I’ve fought for years, and for the same reasons:  What if I need that someday? It has sentimental value! I can’t throw it away, it’s perfectly good! So, yes, I sympathize with Eve. Last year, when I moved, I cleaned out a storage building I’d had for years, and got rid of a lot of stuff. Including 33 boxes of books. (Yes, that hurt my heart, too. But they went to Half-Price Books at least, with a shot at a new life.)

I was expecting this book to be dry to be dry and boring (I don’t know why). Instead, I found wry wit and laugh-out-loud humor as the author delves into her memories while coming to terms with the truth about stuff…and her tendency to keep it.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley.)

 

If Not for You, by Debbie Macomber

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Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, and has written dozens of books in her career. She also loves to knit and help others, including her Knit 1, Bless 2 program. Debbie’s newest book is If Not for You, in the New Beginnings books, a series of stand-alone novels.

Beth Prudhomme loves her parents, but she’s had enough of her loving but domineering mother. So, Beth moves to Portland, near her Aunt Sunshine, a free-spirited artist. Beth gets the job she’s always dreamed of, as a high-school music teacher, and makes new friends, including Nichole and Rocco, who set up a blind date with Sam, a tattooed mechanic. Beth is reserved and proper, Sam is rough around the edges and unconventional:  the opposite of everything Beth’s mother wants for her.

After their awkward blind date, Beth and Sam leave, thinking themselves unscathed, but Beth is in a bad wreck, which Sam witnesses. He stays to comfort her, and finds himself drawn to her hospital room…and to Beth herself. Their attraction surprises them both, and they have many obstacles to overcome. Sam has the secrets of his past, and Beth her tendency to take trying to help a little too far. And then there’s her mother…

I loved A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, a previous book in the New Beginnings series, and some of those characters show up here, which I’ve always loved. The characters in this book really make it so worth reading. Beth is fighting a lifetime of habit and trying to forge a life of her own when calamity strikes. The she must deal with an injury as well as her own faults. And Sam has spent so many years hurting that he can’t imagine not hurting. As the two of them grow—together but separately as well—the reader is privileged to watch their choices change them.

(Galley provided by Ballantine Books.)

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The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco

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Image belongs to Sourcebooks.

Rin Chupeco writes books that mix fantasy with dark thrillers. The Bone Witch is her newest novel.

The women in Tea’s family are witches, but when teenage Tea raises her brother Fox from the dead—unintentionally—she learns she’s far different from the others. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, both feared and shunned by everyone she knows. Then an older bone witch arrives to take Tea and her brother far away for training.

Becoming an asha—one who wields magic—is the hardest thing she’s ever done, but Tea wants it more than anything. The intricate rituals, the esoteric knowledge, the combat training all prepare Tea for her new role. But training isn’t all that waits for Tea, and dark forces are rising in secret, set to destroy everything she holds dear.

From the book’s website: Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind…” This is exactly what this book is! And since I loved both of these books, it stands to reason that I’d love this one. Which I did. I started off a bit confused, but gradually I got a grasp on everything. The cultures in this book are rich and intricate, especially the ashas’. There’s action, history, a little bit of romance, and a lot of magic…everything to keep the reader entranced until the very end. I highly recommend this book!

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(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley.)

Looking for Inspiration

Today, I’m looking for something to get me writing. Inspiration, motivation, some kind of cattle prod wired to my chair that zaps me if I get up…. You know, the usual.

I work best under pressure, or with “too much” to do. Something about knowing there are a ton of things that need to be done keeps me focused and allows me to get things accomplished. (A close friend once told me, “You get more done before 9 a.m. than most people do all day!” This is easier if your days routinely start at 3 a.m. I’m just saying…)

My new class—my first journalism class—starts tomorrow, and I’m moderately terrified (likely to upgrade to “completely”.). My job responsibilities changed last week, with the addition of an entire second location to do administrative tasks for. Then there’s the novel I’m writing, the one I’m actively revising, and the one I’m outlining. Not to mention the copywriting class I’m working my way through. And the book reviews that are due or past due. Blogging. I think you see my point.

While this would normally prove super-motivating and really keep me focused and on-task, sometimes, I have to fight a little bit harder to get inspired. (Hence this post instead of my first 500 words of fiction for the day.)

With that in mind, here are four things that might motivate you (and me) to write:

31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing, by Leo Babauta

Inspiration

A Writer’s Inspirations, by Shea

10 Tricks For Getting Inspired to Write, by Jonathan Morrow

 

Traveling with Ghosts, by Shannon Leone Fowler

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Image belongs to Simon and Schuster.

Shannon Leone Fowler is a marine biologist who has traveled and worked all over the world, and studied everything from sea lions to killer whales. Traveling with Ghosts is her first book.

Shannon Leone Fowler, marine biologist, loved backpacking all over the world almost as much as she loved her fiancé, Sean, an Australian who shared her love of travel. In summer of 2002, they were in Thailand, when a box jellyfish, the most venous animal in the world, stung Sean, killing him in minutes as Shannon watched. While the authorities tried to label Sean’s death a “drunk drowning,” two Israeli women helped Shannon wade through the red tape to bring Sean’s body home to Australia, to the family he’d left behind and that she was no longer a part of.

Reeling from Sean’s death, Shannon returned home to America, but could no longer make sense of her world. So, she decided to travel as she searched for healing. Poland, Israel, Bosnia, Romania…all places she’d never been with Sean, but she could not escape his memory. Finally, she ended up in Barcelona, where she first met Sean, and confronted the ocean, which took her love away.

Traveling with Ghosts is an immensely personal memoir, about a harrowing loss and a woman’s struggles to heal. The narrative switches between Shannon’s travels after Sean’s death, the fateful trip to Thailand, and their travels when they first met. Her grief coats every page with a patina of sorrow, as she struggles to find a way to deal with her loss.

(Galley provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley.)

What I Read in February

My official goal is to read 100 books this year…but I’d like to read more like 125 or so. I read a lot last year, but I don’t want to get overly optimistic this year, what with grad school, work, training for three fall races…you know, LIFE.

In February, I read 10 books, 2 less than January, for a total of 22 for the year.

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Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. (Read to review.) I found this book engrossing and sad at the same time–such persecution the Koreans faced and Sunya’s life was full of sorrow–but well-worth the read.

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Portal of a Thousand Worlds, by  Dave Duncan. (Read to review.) Asian cultures fascinate me–I’d love to visit–but sometimes the “rules” are so complex as to be mind-boggling. I loved the layers of this novel.

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I Wanna Be Loved by You, by Heather Hiestand. (Read to review.) I love reading anything set in the 20s, hence my interest in this book.

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The Weight of Him, by Ethel Rohan. (Read to review.) I also love Ireland and anything set there is guaranteed to catch my eye. This novel deals with…weighty…issues like suicide, depression, and eating disorders. It captures the struggles within a family, as well as a man’s struggle with his weight.

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Fatal Option, by Chris Beakey. (Read to review).  This is one of the few books I’ve ever read where all the characters are “bad guys” in some shape, form, or fashion. It’s about impossible choices—and their repercussions.

Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton. (Classical book of the month.) Surprisingly engrossing, and the ending was NOT what I expected.

Breath, Eyes, Memory, by Edwidge Danticat. (Different culture book of the month.) About a family of women from/in Haiti. Not a happy book, but a book about family relationships among women, and it will give you a glimpse into Haitian culture.

Amish White Christmas Pie, by Wanda E. Bruntstetter. (From the TBR pile.)

God’s Plan for When You Can’t Sleep, by Christina Vinson. (Spiritual book for the month.)

Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine. (Just because.) I LOVE these books! Can’t wait for the third book to come out. Such a unique premise—where the Library in Alexandria still exists and controls the flow of information in the world, and the main character is from a family who trades in illegal books.

 

Fatal Option, by Chris Beakey

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Image belongs to Post Hill Press.

Chris Beakey’s newest novel is Fatal Option.

Five Months ago, Stephen Porter’s wife died mysteriously in a car crash on the side of a mountain. Tonight, his 17-year-old daughter, Sara, calls in the middle of the night, crying hysterically, stranded on that same mountain in a blinding snowstorm. Stephen just went to sleep after binge drinking his wife’s death from his mind, and he knows he’s in no shape to drive. But he has no choice, so he sets off to bring Sara home.

Kieran O’Shea is also out in the snowstorm:  to bring his autistic brother, Aidan, home. Kieran is all Aidan has, but Kieran is afraid that he’ll lose Aidan if anyone ever finds out about the voices in his head. Then there’s the three murdered women… Soon Stephen and Kieran are on a collision course with disaster, one that will bring dark secrets to life, and reveal the truth of Stephen’s wife’s death. Sometimes, there are no easy choices.

This was a hard book to read. It isn’t easy. There are no clear-cut “good” guys or “bad” guys. You’ll feel sympathy for every single character…but disgust and probably anger as well. In the end, Fatal Option is about choices, and how they change us.

(Galley provided by Post Hill Press.)

The Weight of Him, by Ethel Rohan

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Ethel Rohan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but now lives in San Francisco. She is an award-winning author of short stories, chapbooks, and memoirs. The Weight of Him is her first novel.

At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan has always turned to food for comfort. He’s obsessed with food:  not just the taste, but the textures and everything about it. Especially the way it makes his mind go quiet. But in the wake of his son Michael’s suicide, not even food will help him.

Embracing the concept of “go big or go home,” Billy decides to lose half his body weight to raise money for suicide prevention…and to save his family from falling apart. But Billy’s family just wants to go on, and Billy struggles alone. As word of Billy’s efforts spreads, he gains unexpected allies as he learns to deal with his emotions and his regrets while he strives to find meaning in Michael’s death.

I wanted to read this novel because it’s set in Ireland—which is at the top of my bucket list—and because it deals with suicide—because a couple of people close to me struggle with debilitating depression and suicide is a real problem that people don’t like to talk about. (Mental illness is real, people, and if we don’t talk about it, how can we help those who struggle with it? Depression is HARD.)

But this book…it’s powerful. Not only does it talk about suicide, but about eating disorders and disordered eating. With the stigma attached to those who are overweight. Billy has emotional wounds he’s never dealt with, and Michael’s death just ripped the scab off them. Now, when he’s actually trying to deal with and heal his issues, his family wants to keep pretending they don’t exist. This is a very moving book that deals with difficult subjects.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.)

I Wanna Be Loved by You, by Heather Hiestand

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Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Heather Hiestand writes period romance, as well as contemporary. Her current series, Grand Russe Hotel, are set in the 1920s. I Wanna Be Loved by You is her newest release.

Sadie Louden grew up in her grandfather’s vicarage, but now she’s left that constricting environment for a life of excitement in the big city. She dreams of a glamorous life like the starlets she reads about, and even before she starts work as a chambermaid at the glitzy London hotel the Grand Russe, she meets a handsome, charming, stranger who seems like he might make all her dreams come true.

Les Drake is a British Secret Intelligence agent on the lookout for Bolsheviks when he meets sweet Sadie and decides to use her as part of his cover. But when his dangerous targets put Sadie in danger, Les must decide just how deeply his feelings for Sadie run.

Confession:  I love the ‘20s era, so the setting of this novel made me want to read it. The flappers, the clothes, the attitudes…. love it. Poor Sadie is completely clueless—and completely charming—and Les doesn’t know what’s hit him. I enjoyed reading about a historical era (with the Bolsheviks) that I know next to nothing about, and these characters are a lot of fun.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley.)