What are you reading lately?

One of my goals for 2022 is to read a fiction and nonfiction book every week. So, two books a week, essentially, trying to branch out into new topics and push myself to read new things. I’m a little ahead of the game right now at 56 books read. (Not a contest, but yay! That’s three more than I was able to read during all of last year.) But as you can imagine, I’m always on the lookout for my next read.

So tell me, what are you reading? What have you read lately? What should I read next? And if you’re looking for recommendations, too, feel free to leave me a comment! I’ve read lots of good stuff this year. 😊

April’s Short Story

It’ll be up tomorrow! In the meantime, here’s a preview. Enjoy!

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I don’t like the term “monster hunt.” Humans can be monsters, but everyone goes on and on about Bigfoot. Spare me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We set out around noon on the first warm day of spring. There were two of us. There was me, and there was Ty, my best friend. Ty carried the map, the tent, the food, all the other “useful stuff” (his words), and the dog’s leash. So, I guess there were actually three of us – Ty, me, and Septimus.

I asked Ty once why he named the dog Septimus.

“Because,” he said, “he looked like a Septimus. Just look at him”

In front of us now, walking up the trail into the woods, Septimus sniffed and explored, nose to the ground with his floppy, pendulum ears dangling into the leafy brush, drool trailing along behind him in a silvery, viscous path. He didn’t carry anything.

I held the camera.

“I don’t know what you think you’re going to find,” Ty said, craning his neck around to get a glimpse of me behind him. “And I don’t want to be in whatever video you make when this is over.”

“‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep…’” I replied.

“You didn’t come up with that.”

“No,” I said, “that was Robert Frost. But it makes my point.”

“Which is?”

Ty walked on ahead.

“Which is,” I said, “that you’ll never find anything if you don’t go looking, and there’s no place like the deep, dark woods to get started.”

Friday Writing

Hello, Friday! Hello, Spring!

It’s so hard, when it starts to get warm again, to focus on work, and it’s been a busy week. But I’ve managed to stay on top of everything, and I’m spending today just writing. And drinking coffee. Which definitely helps with the writing.

And you know, I think this is honestly my favorite way to spend a Friday.

Imagining the Unimaginable

This is not a book review.

For one thing, I don’t really do those, and for another, I haven’t finished the book yet. But I started reading Imaginable by Jane McGonigal yesterday, and I’m finding it really interesting so far.

I have anxiety. I don’t talk about it a lot, but it is something I’m dealing with. I tend to catastrophize when I’m stressed, and I fight off invasive thoughts – especially about the future and what I can and can’t do about it – all the time. Not as often as I used to, but still pretty often.

Like many people, these last couple of years have been a challenge for me. And with the news coming out of Ukraine, the state of American politics, the very real threat of climate change, and just the general list of “unknowns” that we as humans have to accept every second of every day, it’s easy for me to get bogged down in desperation and hopelessness. I’m a positive person, and I look for and work for good things, but man, it’s hard sometimes.

So when I came across Imaginable, I was immediately intrigued. McGonigal is a professional futurist (what a cool job!) and a game designer (also a cool job!), and the combination of those two fields makes for a really compelling exploration of how to imagine possible futures, how to think about the unthinkable, and how to then cope with it and get our minds around it.

I have a big imagination. It works for me creatively, but can definitely lead me down some dark alleys and scary paths when my anxiety decides to join the party. I’m really looking forward to diving into this book more deeply. I’m about three chapters in, and I’m hooked. I expect to finish it today.

And if you read it, too, let me know your thoughts!

Just writing…

Today it’s cloudy but not snowy, and as of this moment, we still have a hole in our basement wall, and I’m just feeling sort of…blah. It’s been a stressful week. We ran out of propane yesterday, a problem which has since been sorted but was terribly uncomfortable for the better part of the day. And we’ve both been busy and trying to balance work things with the house chaos.

All of that to say – today, I’m just going to write.

I’m just going to write, because aside from reading, it’s the thing that makes me happiest. The writing zone – that spot when you’re really into what you’re creating, and the rest of the world just sort of melts away – that’s one of my very favorite places. I love the feeling of letting everything else go, and just being carried away by words and by story. It’s magic. There’s nothing else quite like it, and no other place I’d rather be right now.

And it comes with the advantage of marking some stuff off of my very long and ever-growing to-do list! I’m working on a script for an upcoming podcast episode, and a longer-form fiction that I have some ambitious plans for, and of course, January’s short story, which I think will be very inspired by the winter season and the quiet, cold time in between Christmas and spring.

So, that’s me. Just writing. And also there’s coffee. As Fridays go, this one’s not so bad. And hopefully by the end of it, I’ll have some good stuff down on the page.

Happy Friday, and if you’re spending time writing today, too, then I hope that it’s fun and rewarding, and that you create something amazing!

My 2022 Reading Goal

I fear it might be a bit ambitious, but this year, I aspire to read two books every week – one fiction and one non-fiction. I’m off to a great start, I think, in that I’ve read ten books already, but I know it’s going to be a challenge to keep up the pace, and y’all, I’m going to need your help. Send me your favorites!

And, in case you’re looking for something good to read, I highly recommend:

Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

Or, if you’re looking for something a little different, this one’s next up for me:

The Heroine with 1001 Faces by Maria Tatar

I’ve said I think 2022 is going to be a good year for stories, and that includes reading them, as well as writing them. I can’t wait to see what ends up on my reading list this year!

October’s short story…

…will be posted on Halloween. Sunday isn’t a normal posting day for me, I know, but here’s the thing – the weather today is dark and cloudy, rainy and windy, and pretty much perfect for writing a creepy story. So, I’m taking advantage, and time, and really sinking into this one. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s done.

In the meantime, as a preview, here are the first couple of paragraphs:

We’ll never know who did it. Who cast the spell and brought the fog. It rolled in before dawn, gray and viscous, a blanket of cool and damp. It slithered over the grass and in the trees, and curled itself into every little nook, cranny, and corner.

Life was quiet on the mountain. That’s why we came. That’s why we built our homes and planted our gardens and settled here. High above the rest of the world, away from the noise and the hurry, we could live in peace, with no one but birds and bears and deer to judge us, and nothing but trees and stars and each other for company. This we wanted – this easy, quiet, slow turning of the days, this peaceful time together, this chance to build something better than we’d had before. We were all grateful for this place…

Are you intrigued? I hope so! And I hope you’ll pop by on Sunday and give it a read.

August’s short story will be up tomorrow!

It just needed a little more time to come together. But it’s almost there! We had a busy weekend, and I think my brain just needs a little rest before putting on the finishing touches. I’d rather take some time, get some sleep, and come back with fresh eyes than post something I know I’ll want to edit later. So, thanks for bearing with me!

And in the meantime, enjoy this sweet picture of Gatsby enjoying his favorite sunny spot. 🙂

The Power of the Opening Line

I’m working a little bit on my August short story today, and I’ll probably work on it a lot more over the weekend. It’s slow going – I have a spark of an idea, but it’s not really a story yet, and I’m waiting to see where it might go.

And that got me thinking.

Back when I was in college, I took a creative writing class. One of our in-class assignments was to write a story around an opening line provided by the professor. We had fifteen minutes to write as much as we could. This was the line:

“When we saw the headlights coming, we ducked.”

I can’t remember what I wrote, but I remember that opening line. And I remember some of my other favorite opening lines, too.

How about:

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom noticed it when caught by her charm…”

Or:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Also:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Or, the old favorite:

“Call me Ishmael.”

Whether I enjoyed these books or not (I resolutely hated Gone with the Wind, and surprisingly loved Moby Dick), these lines have stuck with me, as have many others. This speaks, I think, to the power of a good opening line.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s a make or break thing. Many an excellent story has had a lackluster or an unassuming opening sentence. One of my personal favorites begins really rather quietly with just:

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

And I’ve never been very fond of this one, but everyone else seems to like it:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Anyway, my point is this: A good opening line gives a story somewhere to go, and a really good opening line hooks a reader immediately.

In the spirit of fairness, here are some that I’ve written. Some are fine, some not so much. Some have become stories. Some are still waiting. But I thought it would be fun to share them.

Summer is the time for magic.

The girl stood alone on a beach she had never seen.

“This is not how my life was supposed to turn out.”

To anyone else, the door at the end of the hallway was just that – a door. 

It was Lloyd Alexander’s fault, not that she could ever tell him, seeing as she’d never met him, and he was dead.

See, sometimes, when I’m having trouble putting words together, I’ll just sit down and write first lines. No story or characters attached, no ideas, no strings. And I actually find it really helpful. And usually, one of those first lines will lead me somewhere.

So, tell me! Do you have any favorite opening lines? Or least favorites? Either that you’ve read or that you’ve written. Either way, I’d love to hear them!