Elizabeth: What are you reading?

With NaNoWriMo a fading memory, the holiday decorating done (mostly), and the sun setting earlier and earlier, evenings after work are the perfect time to curl up on the couch and indulge in a little pleasure reading.

Since conventional wisdom says that reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly (though fortunately not as sticky), I don’t even have to feel guilty (much) that my current manuscript is languishing over on my desk.

As my towering to-be-read stacks can attest, I have an embarrassment of choices available for my reading pleasure.  In addition, I’ve picked up a few advanced publication copies of books and some contest prizes, making the “what to read” decision more challenging than normal.

Studmuffin Santa by Tawna Fenske

First up, to get me in the holiday mood, I read Tawna’s novella Studmuffin Santa, which is her first foray into the world of self-publishing.  As the title suggests, it includes a buff hero in the role of Santa Claus.  Set at a Reindeer Ranch, the story is a quick, fun read, with a few heart-tugging moments woven in.  There were some great secondary characters, believable situations, and just enough sex to warm up the story.  I’m sure I’ll be reading this again before long.  Disclaimer:  As a beta-reader I received this novella for free.

Jade King is hustling to get Jingle Bell Reindeer Ranch off the ground, and she’s not thrilled her sister hired a Santa with sex-appeal. The last thing Jade wants is a beefcake circus, and guys like Brandon bring sleigh-loads of trouble. But Studmuffin Santa proves more popular than anyone dreamed, drawing hordes of happy kids, lusty moms, and a mystery foe hell-bent on wrecking it all.”

What Unites Us by Dan Rather

As I mentioned on Friday, my current non-fiction read is Dan Rather’s book of reflections of patriotism.  I picked up the book because I have been following Rather on Facebook for a while now and have found his posts to be reasonable and very insightful.  So far, this book has proved to be the same.  I’m only part-way through it, but I’ve already learned a few new things, flagged some great quotes, and am starting to feel a bit more hopeful about the future.

“At a moment of crisis over our national identity, venerated journalist Dan Rather has emerged as a voice of reason and integrity, reflecting on—and writing passionately about—what it means to be an American. Now, with this collection of original essays, he reminds us of the principles upon which the United States was founded.”

Magic Bites / Magic Burns by Illona Andrews

These two books are next in the queue.  I know others on the blog are Illona Andrews’ fans, but I have yet to read any of their stories.  When I won these two, courtesy of a Goodreads giveaway, I figured it was a sign that it was time to give them a try.  I haven’t read much fantasy in quite a while, so I’m looking forward to them.

A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

The last of my current reading list, and the one I am looking forward to most eagerly, is this latest book by one of my favorite authors.    I resisted the urge to drop everything and read it the moment I got my hands on it, but I’ve been trying to wait just little, since I know there won’t be another new story for quite a while.    I’m thinking this will be just the thing to curl up with on Christmas afternoon – the perfect present – possibly with a nice mug of hot cocoa.

So, what have you been reading (or trying to read) recently?  Any recommendations to add to my overflowing queue (or suggestions to skip)?

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – What Unites Us

To counteract the negativity that seems to have become a permanent part of the daily news cycle, I’ve been reading journalist Dan Rather’s new book What Unites Us recently.  I’ve been enjoying both the emphasis on constructive patriotism, principles, and values as well as the idea that our nation has faced difficult times and risen to the occasion in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

I think the quote below from early in the book gives a good sense of the tone of the piece.   It feels quite hopeful, which is very appealing.

 “It is true that that news headlines often paint a dark and dispiriting picture.  But in every community, on every day, there are so many who choose to do the right thing.” ~ Dan Rather

Now that I’ve stepped away from the news and had my positive thinking adjustment, it’s time for me to do a little writing; preferably something light-hearted or maybe holiday themed.  Since I’m not exactly sure what I want to write at the moment I think a little Random Word Improv will be a good way generate some new ideas.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Season of Story

Smiling Christmas snowflake ornament on the tree
© Eldridge Photography

As I write this post, I’m sitting in the living room, basking in the glow of the holiday tree that is dressed in its strings of twinkle lights and golden garland.   That cat, of course, considers it to be his own personal giant toy.  I hope I don’t have a reason to regret not bolting it to the ceiling this year.

The holidays have changed a lot since I was a kid, when the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas used to last what felt like an eternity and the tree (at least for some  years) was oddly metallic and sported lots and lots of tinsel.  Now the time seems to be speeding along at an alarming rate and the tree is real and giving off a faint pine scent.

I’ve run out of time this evening, so putting on the ornaments will have to wait until I get home from work tomorrow.  When I pull out the ornaments, I’ll be pulling out memories along with them.  There will be the glass ballerina that I got from my dance teacher the year I went en point in ballet class.  There will be the brightly colored fish made out of ribbons that I got in the Honolulu airport while on a business trip just before my son was born.  There will be ornaments picked up on trips, received as gifts, made in school, and any number that never seem to make it to the tree, but all of them will have some kind of story associated with them.

In some ways, decorating and storytelling have some things in common, which is the actual point of today’s post. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Binge Watching Edition

With a November that was crammed full of activity, my video streaming service and I didn’t spend much quality time together.  Fortunately, over Thanksgiving weekend I was introduced to the show The Good Place, a fantasy comedy television series that is currently in the midst of its second season.

The perfect calorie-free post-NaNo treat.

The show follows the heroine, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), as she wakes up in the afterlife.  She’s in “The Good Place”, but she’s pretty sure there has been a mistake.   In the first season, we see her trying to hide her real behaviour and attempt to become a better person, and then later deal with the fall-out from her actions.  The episodes (without commercials) are about 22 minutes long, so binge-watching the show is a lot like munching on a bowl of popcorn – you keep reaching for just a little more.

If you haven’t seen the series and have access to it via Netflix or some other on-demand service (apologies in advance if it’s not available in your area), I’d definitely recommend it.  Not only is the show a fun watch, but the writers did a fantastic job with the first season ending that resolved the initial story and then immediately threw it into a brand new direction.

Now that I’ve watched my way through the entire first season, it’s time for me to get back to writing.  Since I’m not exactly sure what my next story will be, I think a little Random Word Improv will be just the thing to jump-start my creativity.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – A Big Hot Mess

Cue the trumpets, toss the confetti, and raise your glass, it’s time to celebrate the rapidly approaching end of NaNo.

About an hour ago I typed my two favorite words – “The End” – and uploaded my final word count and manuscript for validation.  As a NaNo “winner”, I have the lovely graphic you see over to the left and a 50,007 word manuscript that can best be described as “a big hot mess.”

My NaNo got off to a slow start this year (I may have slept through a few writing sessions), and there have been a few days with less than stellar word counts, but being off work last week gave me a chance to really focus on writing and get a large number of words on the page that can probably best be described as “quantity” rather than “quality.”  There are most certainly plot holes you could drive a truck through, and it’s littered with notes like “something needs to happen here,” but the draft is done.

Yay!

Once the excitement of finishing the draft cools, it’s time to think about what to do next. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Postprandial Edition

Here in the states, we’ve just finished Thanksgiving, which means it’s time to put away the fall decorations and bring out the red and green.  For some, the day after Thanksgiving is a chance to go out and counteract all that eating with a walk or hike in one of our many state parks that are offering free admission.  For others, it’s time for the traditional “Black Friday” rush where they head to the stores in hopes of scoring holiday gift bargains.  I’m giving to charities this season, in lieu of exchanging gifts, so until Monday, my days are free and clear.

That means it’s the perfect time for a little stay-home-writing-retreat.  With about 6 more days left before the end of NaNo (depending on when you read this post), my writing retreat will be focused on hitting my daily word count . . . right after I get those holiday lights up and possibly enjoy some leftovers.

When I do get ready to write, I think a little Random Word Improv will be just the thing to get me in the writing frame of mind.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – Gaining Momentum

As November continues its rapid race toward December, NaNo has finished its third week, which means there are many new stories out there at about the 35,000+ word mark.

That’s awesome!  It also means that there are only about 15,000 more words to go to reach the magic 50,000 end-of-month goal.

I love this part in the process (when I haven’t spent the last week or so staring at a blank screen).  After the excitement of the first week and the slowdown of the second, there tends to be a marked change in my writing once I’ve gotten over that 30,000 word point.  After that, for better or worse, the story seems to gain momentum and race forward on its own.

The first act of my story ended at around 28,000 words, so I won’t have a completed book at the 50,000 word mark, and what I will have is going to need some definite work (seriously, you can probably see the plot-holes from space), but I’ll have made a real start at getting this story out of my head and on to the page, so that’s a good thing. Continue reading