Saturday, November 30, 2019

Book recs from my family to yours

We've got a full house here for Thanksgiving, and in between chowing down on 15 pounds of turkey and Grandma's ginormous tin of homemade m & m cookies, everyone is busy reading.

Including Mr. Peppers, visiting from Florida, who is checking out the latest 614 Magazine with things to do around Columbus.

A good audio book series, according to my husband, is the Stephanie Plum Mysteries by Janet Evanovich. The actress who reads the series does a great job voicing the characters and the books are fast-paced and funny. My husband used to hate his commute back and forth to work, but now, thanks to his Stephanie Plum audio books (borrowed from my library!), he hardly minds anymore.

The best book my mother ever read is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Side note: this novel has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for weeks and as long as I have been working at the library, people have been on the waiting list to borrow it. Last time I checked, there were 1000 people in line. Get in line now and you will, according to my mother, cry your heart out.

Auntie Jan says to tell you that the latest John Grisham book, The Guardians, is supposed to be very good. Also, the latest Nelson DeMille. But right now she is re-reading all of the Outlander books because she is in love with the series on Netflix. Plus, she thinks book number 9 is coming out soon and she wants to be ready.

Grandma Linda (of m & m cookie-baking fame) is a fan of the Stone Barrington series by Stuart Woods because she likes the characters and the mystery.

Grandpa wants to recommend a movie. His favorite is Independence Day because he likes how Will Smith blows up the aliens. And speaking of aliens,

Our son, who is not with us for the holiday because he is presently climbing a large rock in Nevada and scaring the crud out of me, highly recommends  The Three Body Problem by Cixin Lui, which is "a sci-fi about the cultural revolution in China, but also aliens."

Climbing a rock and not reading a book right now 

And last but not least, our daughter, who is also not with us because she is presently gallivanting around London... but thankfully, not climbing large rocks: The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty.

Me: What did you like about it?
Daughter: The voice
Me: Can you give me a little more?
Daughter: No.

And there you have it.

Tune in next week for book recs from me!

Monday, November 25, 2019

How to write 50,000 words in 24 days

Short answer: Sit down with your laptop and write 50,000 words.

Which is easier said than done because this is a potentially busy 24 days, with 20+ hours per week at the day job and the seemingly-never-ending cleaning/painting/remodeling projects to do around the new-old house... 

(side note:

I highly recommend College Hunks Hauling Junk for all of you junk-hauling needs. In our case this was a ten foot wide and five foot high pile of rotting wood and other odds and ends collecting in our driveway-- all of the broken down stuff that came from inside and outside our new-old house. (Because the previous owner really really really seemed to enjoy nailing wood up everywhere.) Plus a hot tub in the basement. (Because when I think Hot Tub, I don't think Basement.) 

The college hunks (who I suspect were not actually in college, and truthfully, while they were not unattractive, they would probably not be labeled hunks) loaded the giant pile of wood onto a truck and then set about chainsawing the hot tub in half so they could haul it out of the basement.) 

junk pile

sawed in half hot tub in a truck

everything else in the truck

Also, smack in the middle of this 24-day period I had to attend a college reunion. I was on the reunion planning committee, (long story) so I couldn't get out of it, which meant a 9-hour car drive down to the college and an all day gathering and a 9 hour car drive back, and likely very little writing time. And this was okay! I loved reconnecting with my old friends!

lovely library nook at my college

But it did mean that the 24 days was actually more like 21 days. 

And with Thanksgiving around the corner and house guests coming, beds had to made up and meals planned.... 

Anyway, my point is that while I knew I wouldn't have much time, I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in which you pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days and something about signing up on that site and resolving to write the 50,000 words,

forced me to find the time to write the 50,000 words.

So, I did.

The End.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The woman in cabin 10 is not on my stairs

but I was listening to the audio book of that story while I was scraping other book titles off of my stairs.

You might be wondering at this point why I had book titles stuck to my stairs. The short answer is the previous owners of our new-old house had interesting decorating taste. Exhibit A: all of the door knobs in our house are faucets. Exhibit B: the large eyes stenciled on one of the dining room walls. Never mind the prison door in the garden. 

But Jody, people (ie my mother) would say to me, You love books!
Yes, Mom. I love books. I just don't happen to like book-title-decals stuck to my stairs.

Luckily, I had a good audio book to listen to while I was scraping them off. For the record, the work of scraping these decals was painstaking and slow. Basically, I had to use my fingernails. A paint scraper scratched up the wood. Ditto: a razor blade. Meanwhile, what was happening in The Woman in Cabin 10 was freaking me out.

The premise: a woman who has been traumatized by a robbery must go on a small cruise ship to write a story for a magazine. The woman in the cabin next door disappears the first night. The problem is that the cabin next door did not have a guest officially staying there and everyone aboard the ship is acting as if our main character must have imagined...

the woman in cabin ten.

A good audio book for heaving boulders out of a koi pond and yanking out the old rubber liner is Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith. This is the first book in a series about a down on his luck detective who gets pulled into solving a much more complicated and dangerous crime than he'd bargained on.

Side note: I was telling my model librarian friend about this book and she literally guessed the murderer within two seconds of my telling her the premise. I was like, no way! It can't be him!

Cut to: Me heaving a boulder on a ninety degree day and discovering that she was right!

Partially heaved out boulders in a now defunct koi pond.

If you need an absorbing and entertaining audio book for the day you are painting the orange dining room ceiling white, I highly recommend Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

This is a full blown production with different actors playing the various roles. The premise of the story is the rise and fall of a (made up) rock band in the 1970's, told in the form of interviews with the band members, sort of like a Behind the Music episode.

Orange ceiling, partially painted. (Eyes are not shown in the picture)

Eyes in the dining room, plus the eyes of my daughter's boyfriend

One audio book that I did not like as much, but yet, could not stop listening to as I painted the stairs (after scraping off the book titles) was Sunburn by Laura Lipman. The premise: a woman with a mysterious past meets a man with a mysterious past and, I know this was sort of the point, but still it bugged me-- you can never tell if the woman is good or bad or if the man is good or bad, and it was nerve wracking, honestly, wondering if they were going to kill each other or fall in love.

On the plus side, by the time I figured it all out, my work on the stairs was done.

Next up:

Removing the hot tub presently lodged in our basement. Anyone have any audio book recommendations for that?

Also: Anyone want the hot tub in our basement?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Enter Colton. Or How a made-up renegade scientist dropped into my manuscript and broke through my writer's block

Last summer I was suffering from an acute case of writer's block.

It was a combination of being preoccupied by things Not Related to Writing (selling and buying a house, working a new job, having our college graduate daughter home for a few months) and things Writing-related. The writing-related part was that I'd finished revising a book after working on it for two years and realized that it still hadn't come together.

But just the thought of going back into the revision--  or starting something new felt paralyzing. 

My writing partner Natalie suggested that I try something completely different. A lot of my problem, she said, had to do with over-thinking and worrying about the stuff that was beyond my control (ie Publishing, or rather, in my case, Not publishing) and the end result was that writing was no longer bringing me joy.

Oh, she was right about that. Joy? haha. All I felt when I tried to sit down to write was dread. 

But Natalie, God love her, was not going to give up on me. She gave me an assignment. 

Each day for two weeks she wanted me to send her a pitch for a potential book. These could be any kind of book. Romances, thrillers, mysteries, whatever. The common denominator, however, was that these would be books I would never write. The point was to fool around, with no pressure. The more ridiculous the idea, the better.

I dutifully followed this advice, getting a little perfectionist-y about the first few pitches, but then relaxing and having a little fun with the assignment, despite myself, as the days went by. I was never going to write these books, I reasoned, so who cares. 

Example, Day Four, when I threw together this doozy:

The Seed Vault

When Maura snags an internship in London the summer before her senior year in college, she’s overjoyed. It’s a part-time position at a non-profit environmental agency that manages a seed vault, nothing too demanding or stressful, which should leave her plenty of time to explore and soak in European culture. 

But the moment she arrives in London, Maura finds herself caught up in an ever-growing climate-change-triggered nightmare. A record-breaking heatwave with temperatures soaring past an unheard of 115 degrees has turned Europe into a hell-scape. 

And then the rains start, at first welcomed as a relief from the heat, but then, feared as the entire continent begins to flood. 

It’s all hands on deck at the environmental agency, the staff frantic to protect the vault, one of the few places on earth that contains a sample of every seed, but with excessive flooding around the containment zone, the task seems impossible.

Enter Colton... 

He’s a renegade young scientist who’s been ostracized from the scientific community for his unorthodox views of climate and food production. Colton knows there is a way to save the seed bank, but it will involve blowing it up first. The others are skeptical, of course, but Maura finds Colton’s solution strangely compelling. That, and his piercing blue eyes. 

Together, Colton and Maura race against time to save the seeds… and the planet from destruction. 

Yeah. So the idea is ridiculous, of course, but it made me laugh. Suddenly, I really was having fun with writing-- even if I was only writing ideas for books I would never write. For a lot of these, I'd set up some crazy premise and then shake things up by Entering Colton, putting him into more absurd situations each day. 

But something interesting happened as I kept going with these pitches. A few of them didn't need Colton. A few of them were not completely silly.

And two were ideas that I could see myself actually developing. I wrote a potential first page for each one. 

And then I wrote a potential second page. 

Now, two months later I have written over 98 pages in each book, and no sign of slowing down yet. Thanks Colton! (And thank you, Natalie, for getting me back into my groove.)