On Leaving..And Coming Home (A Love Letter)

As you might have guessed, I am home from France. Jet lag has not been terrible this time. We got home Tuesday evening and as I write this on Friday, I’m feeling pretty good. Which gives me time to dig into all the things that got put on hold while I was gone.  And, boy, do things pile up.

Some views of Collioure

I’ve got a ton of recommendations this month because I had a lot of time to read and also many confined hours on long flights in which to watch movies (which I’m usually bad at). But I did want to write a brief recap of the trip and encourage you to think about coming with next year. So here goes.

We landed in Paris on the last day of the month and spent an afternoon wandering about the neighborhood near the Gare De Lyon, which was surprisingly appealing.  Also, getting a good dose of daylight helps with jet lag. After a pretty good night’s sleep, it was on to Perpignan via the fast train, which is comfy and relaxing.  Dali called the Perpignan train station the center of the world, and while that seems a bit excessive, the city is growing on me. We stayed in the historic center, full of twisty streets and fun shops and a divine place to eat, Restaurant Le St. Jean.   (In case you ever find yourself there, it is right next to the Cathedral St. Jean and you actually eat in a courtyard right next to the church.)

The next day it was on to Collioure, our location for the next three weeks. That included two weeks of writing workshops and one week of leisure in between. There is something so special about sinking into one place for an extended period of time. Even though I was working two weeks out of three, it is infinitely relaxing. On workshop weeks, we meet every morning from 9:30 to 12:30 (except on Sundays and Wednesdays, which are market days, so we meet at 10 in order to give everyone time to wander the stalls). Our teaching is a combination of mini-lectures on writing, discussion of assigned books (see below), writing exercises and prompts, and discussion of the assignments everyone has completed the night before. You may think that people don’t make much progress on their writing when billeted in paradise, but the opposite is actually true. Every year we see writers make huge leaps in their works in progress, get re-inspired, and write more than they thought they would—all while enjoying the hiking, shopping, eating and drinking of the region.

But three weeks does fly by—and last Saturday it was back to Paris, this time to stay in a lovely Airbnb in Montparnasse , my favorite neighborhood in the city. It rained like a mofo on Sunday afternoon but once the rain cleared, everyone emerged, and we were able to celebrate the hub’s birthday at a fun restaurant. The next day we played tourist and went to the top of the Arch de Triomphe (there was an elevator, thank god—my poor hip couldn’t have done the stairs).  And then, sadly, the next day it was time to leave.

But leaving is made easier by knowing I’ll be back next year. And even more than that, by knowing that my family awaited me back home. Along with good friends, my own comfy bed, my crazy fat cats, the even crazier family dog, and good plans for the fall—not to mention crisp autumn days. (Temps in Collioure were in the mid-80s, but the humidity was very, very high and the mosquitos were killer.)

So that’s my story about leaving and coming home. Oh, while there, I read over my novel one last time and fixed a couple inconsistencies. My agent is submitting it even as we speak I write. And I made some good progress on my next book. So, there was that, too.

We should now be back to regular weekly programming here. So, I’ll see you next week—but please do leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been up to.  And see below for the links to September reading and watching, as well as a new feature, a weekly prompt or two!

A Prompt

We had such fun using prompts at the writing workshops in France, I thought I’d start a new series and give you a prompt thematically linked to the love letter’s topic each week. Here is this week’s effort:

Write about a time you hated leaving. Now write about a time you couldn’t wait to leave.

September Round-up 

Reading

An American Marriage  by Tayari Jones.  This was one of the books we assigned in our France workshops (the other being Educated, by Tara Westover, which I highly recommend). I had decidedly mixed feelings about this novel and can’t help but feel it is over-rated. We did have lively discussions about it, though!

Pardonable Lies, the third Maisie Dobbs mystery, by Jacqueline Winspear.  I picked up #10 or #11, not sure which, of this series and liked it so much I’m reading them from the beginning.

The French Exit,  by Patrick DeWitt. I hate to speak ill of a fellow Portland writer, so I won’t. But I will say this book was just not my cup of tea.

Two books by J.A. Jance, both in the Ali Reynolds series. A friend finished Deadly Stakes in Collioure and gave it to me to read. I enjoyed it, so I downloaded the first in the series, Edge of Evil.  I’ll definitely read more.

Slain in Schiaparelli, the third Joanna Hayworth vintage clothing mystery, by my friend Angela Sanders. I love everything she writes, her capers and her kite mysteries written under the name Clover Tate, as well.

Watching

 A Wrinkle in Time. This was my favorite book growing up—my sister and I read it a million times. But the movie was terrible, awful, wretched. I hated it.

The Post. Conversely, I loved this one. It tells the story of the Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers, and how that turned the paper into the national publication it is today, as well as changing Katharine Graham from a D.C. socialite into a powerhouse publisher. Highly recommended.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The Mr. Rogers documentary. Proof that Fred really was as nice as he appeared on TV. Wonderful.

Book Club. Pure fun. Loved it. Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, and Diane Keaton.  So good.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1910275502543679/

 

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter. It  contains affiliate links.

 

 

 

 

Getting Good News (+ June Round-up)

Last month in my monthly round-up, I exulted over having just sent in the latest rewrite to my agent. And so it is fitting that a month later, I’ll give you the good news—she and her readers loved it, we’ll do a polish and it is on the submit list for September. (Because, as I explained on the Facebook page, nobody in the publishing world reads anything in the summer.) And never mind that her idea of “brief notes” for the polish might be more than mine, I’m excited.

Of course, the opposite of excitement is despair, which I felt many times as I waited to hear from her. I was certain that the whole thing was awful, so awful it would lead to the cancellation of our relationship. But part of that, I think, was just my psyche wanting to protect me from disappointment again.

This a cycle that we writers face all the time. Exultation and despair. Happiness over a new idea, puzzlement over how to implement it. Joy that an agent is interested in us, dejection when we are rejected by her. Giddiness when the work is going well, forlornness when we are stuck. Boredom and anxiety while we are waiting to hear someone’s reaction to our work. I could go on and on—and the point I want to make is that you can’t get around this see-saw. It is part and parcel of the creative cycle.

One of the best things I’ve been working on lately is acceptance. Of the crazy creative cycle. Of my quibbles. Of my work flow. Of how I approach my writing. As an example, I’m a person who never reads instructions—I just jump right in and start pushing buttons to see how something works. This drives other people to distraction, but it works for me. And this is how I approach writing, too. All my brave words about becoming a reformed pantser.  All my thoughts about writing a better draft.  They are all well and good and I hope you found some inspiration from them. But that was me trying to shoehorn myself into a different pattern, one that doesn’t fit me.

As I learned in the class I just finished (see below), I figure things out from the middle. Hence my habit of not reading instructions. And jumping right into the writing when I “should” spend more time figuring out the plot.

You may be completely different from me in how you approach the world and that is good. Just be aware of what works for you and don’t beat yourself up if you are not doing it the same way as your critique partner. Don’t let some expert tell you there’s a better way to do it. You do you—and do it to the best of your ability.

And remember that the creative cycle is full of ups and downs—that’s what makes it a cycle.

Now, here’s what’s been going on over the last month:

Monthly Round-up

What I Read 

The First Rule of Ten by Hendricks and Lindsay.   I loved this first in a mystery series. Our hero, Tenzing (nickname Ten), was raised in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet (long story). But now he’s a P.I. in L.A. Great blend of Buddhist stuff without being too heavy about it, and a good mystery story. Plus some romance.

Café by the Sea, by Jenny Colgan. A bit slow starting and I wasn’t sure I’d get into it but I did and thoroughly enjoyed it.  A woman returns to her home island off the northern coast of Scotland, after leaving it for the big city a few years earlier. Fun characters who grow on you.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.  https://amzn.to/2tFseWt I bailed on this just a couple chapters in. It is a huge best-seller but it just didn’t grab me. I actually went on Amazon to read some reviews. Often my opinion is echoed there but not this time. People loved it. I didn’t.

No One You Know by Michelle Redmond.  https://amzn.to/2tNXp10 Another one I didn’t finish, though I made it farther in this one—more than halfway. Then I realized it was just unpleasant reading and I quit. True confession: I like books that are positive. I like happy endings. I don’t like to be depressed when I read.

The Art of Character by David Corbett.  https://amzn.to/2tEzAJN Love this book so much. I’m taking my time with it, as one should with a good craft book. I’ve already taken notes and written up some of his exercises and prompts for use in future workshops. Good stuff.

Women In Sunlight by Frances Mayes. This is my current read and it is going to take me a while—it is 420 pages long. I’m loving it, as I’ve loved her other books, a novel called Swan  and, of course, Under the Tuscan Sun. While I prefer France, the Italian setting is wonderful. Plus, it is about women of a certain age! We need more books featuring them!

–Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience  by Dan Blank. A book about marketing that emphasizes exactly what I learned in the class I just finished (see below). It is not about the metrics or the numbers or the money, it’s about the people you impact. Just started this one, but so far, it is really good.

 What I Watched.

 R.B.G.  We actually went to a movie this month! Going to see a film in an actual theater is one of my favorite things to do and yet we rarely make time for it. This documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fantastic, a must-see, especially with this week’s news that Justice Kennedy is retiring. I admit, I was unaware of how much Ginsburg has impacted women’s rights and the rights of all minorities. Truly inspirational.

–And other than that, nothing. A big fat nothing.  We used to watch a lot of TV, like every night, but since the family mob descended upon us in March, the show I’ve seen the most of is Justin Time Go. Don’t ask. It’s a two-year-old thing.

What I Loved

 Write Better Faster.  This is the class I just finished with R.L. Symes. It was so helpful in showing me more about myself and how to lean in to my quirks instead of trying to overcome them. Truly transformational.

–Finding out that the pain I’ve been experiencing in my knee is not because of knee arthritis, but because of hip arthritis. And getting a date scheduled for hip surgery. Woot woot! You can read more about it here.

Excited About

 –We bought train tickets for our trip to France and our annual writing workshop. And we’ve nabbed an AirBnB for a couple nights in Paris on the way home.  Making arrangements ratchets up my excitement level about it. I can’t wait to see the Mediterranean again, and to eat fish just pulled from its waters. I can’t wait to drink the good, cheap wine of the region and eat the fantastic cheese and bread. I can’t wait to stroll the town and buy Christmas gifts to send home. But most of all, I can’t wait to see the transformations that occur in the writers that attend our workshop. Inspirations strike, epiphanies occur, writing gets done (yes, even with all the distractions of the region).

It’s the best thing ever. Want to come this year?

 Join us.

And Also

–Join the Facebook group.  Participating in groups is the only way I like to be on Facebook and this one is good. It goes quiet periodically, but then it perks up again. I try to post something of interest every day (or at least every few days). Recently we’ve had discussions on sensitivity readers, relatability in characters, pantsing versus plotting, and more! Do join us!

(This post contains affiliate links and first appeared in my newsletter.)

Writing and Reading; Reading and Writing

If you want to be a writer, or consider yourself a writer, or are planning to be a writer, do not let me catch saying you don’t have time to read. Ahem. Because, really? You have no business writing if you’re not reading. Everything. All the time. Books and blogs and magazines and the backs of cereal boxes. (Maybe they aren’t so good to read anymore, I’m not sure–I rarely eat cereal these days.) You should be inhaling words from your reading as much as you are flinging words at the page.

Most of us writers come to writing because we loved reading so much. Who among us doesn’t have a childhood memory of being transported to another world by a book? Who among us hasn’t read a book and thought, I wish I could do that. Or even, I could do that way better than he did.

Words in, words out. The more I write, the more I feel I need to read. (Sort of like this weird paradox I described here.)  It is as if I need to fill myself up with enough words so that I have a store of them to spit back out again. Have you ever felt like that?

Just in case you’re not reading everything you can get your hands on, here are a few tips:

Read as a writer

Once you start writing, reading is never quite the same again–because you are paying attention to all the things that slid past before.  Cultivate this habit.  Consider how the author writes description, and dialogue.  What does she do to make the character leap off the page? What kinds of stylistic techniques does he employ? How does setting figure into the story? And how is the book structured? Jane Smiley’s book on reading the novel is a useful starting point. Oh, and you might want to consider reading a book twice.  You’ll be amazed at how much you learn the second time through.

Write about your reading

Lately, as part of a journaling template I’m following in the morning, I’ve been writing a few words about what I’m reading. I find this a helpful practice because it helps me notice. In the book I’m reading now, for instance, I’m admiring the way the author uses fresh verbs and original descriptions. In the previous book I read, I noted how the author did some interesting loops with time.  This noticing is why MFA programs as well at the writing program I teach at requires their students to write essays about their reading.  Because deep reading is an excellent way to teach yourself to write. And writing about your reading is even more effective.

Read in your genre 

In all genres, from mystery to romance to horror, there are certain tropes. If you’re writing in a genre, you need to know these tropes. Here’s the deal: if you’re writing mysteries, it is likely you love reading mysteries. And by reading a lot of mysteries, you’ve soaked in these tropes without even being aware of it. Which is why reading a lot is so good for the writer.

But don’t limit yourself

Branch out from the genres once in awhile. Read a memoir or some heavy literature, or how about a book of short stories or essays? You might be surprised what you find. And it just might inspire you to write something different, too. It can be really good for your writing to fool around in a different genre.  Read dumb bestsellers and obscure classical novels, or at least take a look at them.

Always carry a book or Kindle or something with you

You never know when you’re going to get stuck in a line, or waiting for a child, or when you’ll be early for an appointment. Have something to read. Take it with you to the gym, so you can read it while on the treadmill (they always have boring TV shows on at the gym anyway).  You can’t read if you don’t have something to read with you. Righ?

Okay, those are some of my ideas. How do you read as a writer? Has your reading changed since you started writing? Leave a comment. Or head on over to the Facebook group and discuss.

This article contains some affiliate links.

Charlotte’s Monthly Round-Up Love Letter

Okay, so I probably should have done this last week, because we are already six days into the month, but I just thought of it. I’m talking about a new feature I’m trying—a monthly round-up of what’s going on in my writing life. Hopefully you will find things of use to you.

Outside my office window, the blossoms on the cherry tree are already fading. I can’t believe it is May! My month in France seems like a distant memory. And it is—I’ve been home nearly a month and a half. I’ve been busy working on my rewrite (see below), organizing my office, teaching, and working with clients. Oh, I also do quite a bit of shepherding of small children. (In case you need catching up, my daughter and her family moved in with us in March.)  It’s like being a parent all over again, only at least this time I can go close the door to my office. (Never mind that my office is the most favorite place of the two miniature humans who now live with me.)

Often sometimes I long for the gentle pace of the days in France, but I feel pretty blessed to have so much going on here.  We’re settling into a good balance. And if all else fails, there is wine. So let’s get to it.

What I Read

Train Your Brain, by Dana Wilde.  This book covers familiar ground—what you think affects your life—but the author writes about the topic in a way that I found convincing and easy to grasp. I’m a total wonk for brain stuff, and she talks about it without getting too science-y for me. Woo-woo warning: the topic lends itself to the woo, can’t be helped, so if this is not your thing, stay away.

A Gentleman in Moscow. I am loving this book. I bought it in hardcover for my husband a year ago Christmas. He read it and loved it but I ignored it. Finally picked it up and it’s so good. Amor Towles writes in an elegant style. He is also very good at dropping you into a scene, and explaining later. Something to emulate.

The Hazelwood, by Melissa Albert. Wasn’t thrilled with this one, though I had high hopes for it. I got confused with all the activity in the other world they enter and thought it went on a bit long. But points for inventiveness.

Digging In, by Loretta Nyhan.  This was a good garden-variety (hahahaha, I crack myself up) women’s fiction novel about a protagonist getting over the death of her husband through gardening. That she pisses off the home owner’s society in the process is a fun bonus.

On My To-Read List

Love and Ruin, by Paula McClain.  This is about Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who was quite a star in her own right. She was a globe-trotting journalist in a time when that was relatively rare. I’ve always wanted to know more about her.

Willpower Doesn’t Work, by Ben Hardy. I hear this is a great book on productivity, which is a topic dear to my heart. I also recommend his newsletter.

What I’m Loving

My rewrite.  I was having hand-wringing fits about it earlier in this month. But, finally, I’ve reached some momentum on it again. I’m rearranging chapters and man, does that get complicated. My friend Mayanna says I need to get Scrivener for this. But when I’ve used it in the past I’ve ended up so frustrated I ditched it. Your advice?

What I’m Excited About

I never thought I’d want to teach writing. But when I got my MFA, there was a built-in component on teaching. From there I got hired to teach at MTSU in Nashville (distance program) and turns out I love it! I learn so much from my students and also from the process of figuring out how to share what I know.

Debbie (my teaching partner) and I taught a class on motivation yesterday and it was a lot of fun. Tricky topic—one of those ones that sounds so easy but is really quite complex. We’re teaching another half-day workshop here in Portland on May 19th, this one on arc—another tricky topic.

I love these classes because they are very hands-on. We build in lots of time for in-class exercises and discussion, which makes them more fun. And, I submit it is a better way to learn than to listen to one of us lecture on and on.

This is the same format we follow for our France workshops, and we just happen to have a couple openings. You know you want to come study writing (and write) by the shores of the Mediterranean in a charming town. Right?

What I’m Listening To

So, try as I might, I haven’t gotten on the podcast wagon. Because I’m so visual, I don’t process information auditorily well. That makes it hard for me to retain information I hear.

And, I don’t listen to music while writing because it distracts me. So, sorry, no play lists from me. But I do like to listen to music at other times and since we were gifted an Echo from Amazon (which we usually just call the Alexa, since that’s the name you use to get her to do something) we’ve been listening to a ton of it. So far, we’ve not been able to stump her, although my son said he asked her to play Frank Zappa and she didn’t know him. Shocking!

On The Blog

Spring Cleaning Your Writing

Is It Procrastination or Percolation?

The Usefulness of Thinking Small (In Writing and In Life)

Writing Rituals That Work

Write It Imperfectly, Do It Imperfectly

The Ritual is Opening the File (How to Get Your Writing Done)

How About Some Writing Prompts?

On Story Questions and Traveling Home

I’m hoping that May brings a lot more of the same—writing, reading, working with clients—only that more of it will be done outside! What about you? How is your writing going? What have you been reading? I’m always in the market for new titles. Leave a comment and tell me everything.

(This post contains some affiliate links)

Five on Friday: Sunshine Through my Window

Fingers crossed for a nice weekend!  Here’s what’s going on:

What I’m Reading: Same books as last week, which I can’t divulge, because I’m reading for a contest.  But I also have occasion to load up my Kindle with Ebooks because I read while baby George naps on my chest.  So I have been perusing You Are a Badass at Making Money.  Because I’m a sucker for self-help books and this series by Jen Sincero is far more entertaining than most.

What I’m Watching: Not much of anything. I’ve been out a lot at night.  Oh crap, I just looked at my calendar and I am out every night through next Wednesday. This is why I end up watching stupid sitcoms.  Because there’s not a lot of evening time for anything more taxing.

What I’m Excited About: The beta launch of my Do That Thing program. Couple of spots left–check it out here.

Where I’m Spending Time: Answering questions on Quora. I’m finding it mildly addictive.  Very fun.

What I Recommend:  One of my favorite blogs is Thekitchensgarden.    I read it first thing in the morning to find out what’s going on down on Cecilia’s farm.  A writer needs to let loose her inner farm girl once in a while.  Though I’d probably collapse in a quivering heap after one hour trailing Cecilia about.

That’s it for the end of this week. What’s going on with you?

Five on Friday: Good Friday Edition

What I’m writing: Draft Two of my first romance novel.  I am living proof that you can write a Really Shitty First Draft and make it into something.  With previous novels, I’ve known more about the plot and characters and thus had a more polished first draft (still crappy, though).  There are many places in this one where I write in all caps things like I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE, and I really didn’t.  There’s tons of boring narrative summary and endless paragraphs of characters thinking, thinking, thinking.  But I got the story down–and now I’m having a blast figuring out better ways to present it to the reader. I’m pretty happy with it.  So if you’re in the middle of a draft that you’re despairing over, take heart.  Oh and here’s a pertinent quote I found today:

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist.” Jane Smiley.

I love it. By the way, that photo to the left is of Horn Seven. He’s my new writing buddy, given to me (and named by) my grandson to sit by my computer. (Follow me on Instagram for lots of photos of the writing life. Well, my writing life anyway. IG is my current favorite social media.)

What I’m Reading: Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, and Dior or Die by Angela Sanders.  The first is a collection of short stories, one of which the movie Arrival was based on.  Chiang is the current darling of the sci-fi world and I waited months to get this book. And…I’m fascinated with it but it makes me feel dumb because I don’t always get the stories.  Sigh.  Dior or Die is another great mystery by my friend Angie. Go buy it and read it.

What I’m Watching: The current American Experience: The Great War, about World War I. I’m now fascinated with this era, thanks to the Maisie Dobbs books. (Book two in the series is next on my reading list. It will actually be the third one I’ve read, because the one I found that introduced me was way out of order.)  Anyway, it may or may not be true that I fell asleep on the couch watching American Experience, but still, it is worth mentioning.

What I’m Excited About: Nia, an exercise class. I wrote a whole thing about it in my newsletter that comes out this Sunday. If you’re not on my list to get it, you can subscribe from that banner up top. And you might want to, because I mentioned something exciting in it.

What I’m Excited About 2: Ordering groceries online. THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER.   A huge time saver for me. I’m not a human that likes going to the grocery store. At all. Ever. So this is a godsend.

Happy Good Friday and Easter, everyone. Hope you get some writing in even though its a holiday weekend!

PS. As I’ve mentioned, we are offering two sessions for the France workshop this year. But the first session is full (though we could accommodate you if your begged, or bribed us), and the second session is filling up fast.  So check it out!

Five on Saturday

Why I’m writing this post on Saturday: Because yesterday morning we had a big windstorm.  One minute it was a nice, calm Friday morning and the next it was so windy I thought the fir tree in the backyard was going to crash into my house.  And lots of trees did crash down all over the city. Turns out the combination of our very wet soil and everything in bloom was not a good match for high wind.  And so yeah, the power went out.  I had appointments all day, including on Skype, and nearly decamped to my son’s house. Luckily, it came back on quickly. But then it took a bit to get the internet working…and such distractions are murder on the schedule.

What I read: I finished the first Maisie Dobbs novel and am on my way to the library today to get #2. I know I’ve written about this series a lot, but I haven’t been this taken with a character in a long while.  It’s interesting, because in this first book there are some things that would normally drive me crazy and make me throw the book against the wall, like viewpoint shifts.  But the character and the setting–London between the two wars–keeps me so fascinated I don’t care.  I emerge after finishing the book and every other book I have on my to read shelf looks dull and boring by comparison.

What I’m writing: Perking along on the novel rewrite.  One thing I noticed in the Maisie Dobbs novel is what a great job she does of withholding information.  The reader may not learn the fate of a character for many pages.  Or, Winspear will hint at something in Maisie’s backstory and only later reveal it.  This is not a technique that is new to me, of course, but it is useful to see it in action. (This is why we read as writers.) And, I’ve been applying it to this novel rewrite with good result. (Or so I say. Nobody has yet read this thing but me.)

Most popular post on Instagram: The doll hospital.

What I did last night: Took a friend who is attending a conference for death and grief therapists here in town to an open house at The Dougy Center. I’ve driven by this place a million times–it’s on my route to my daughter’s house–but have never (thank God) had reason to go in.  The center is a non-profit that helps families cope with grief over the death or dying of a loved one.  In 2009, a huge arson fire destroyed their offices, located in an old home.  So they build a new place–and it is amazing, with myriad rooms devoted to various activities–talking, art, music, games, a theater and a mock-up of a hospital room. It is hard to express how incredible this place is–but it is a testament to rising literally from the ashes into something way better than the original.

That’s my report. What’s yours?

Five on Friday: Raining Again

What I’m Complaining About: The weather. Again. I’m sorry. It has been a really long winter here. My husband looked at the weather app on his phone this morning and said the forecast was for a clear day on April 9th. Sigh.

What I’m Watching: In the category of We’re Old and Clueless About Technology, we finally got our Amazon Fire stick working with the TV (thank you daughter-in-law, who fixed it in, oh, two seconds).  And wow, are there are a lot of great things being produced by Amazon.  We’ve watched three of four of Z: The Beginning of Everything, about Zelda Fitzgerald.  It stars Christina Ricci as Zelda, and if you thought of her mostly from The Addams Family, you’re in for a surprise, as I was.

What I’m Reading: Finishing up the Rachael Herron book from last week. I’ve been out several nights this week and haven’t had a lot of time to read. Also, I have this bad habit of reading magazines at lunchtime.   But I’m now reading as fast as I can because a crop of great books just came in for me at the library: the first Maisie Dobbs novel, The Underground Railroad, and Scratch, which is an anthology about writers and money. Speaking of which, I see library fines in my future because none of these are renewable. I consider my library fines my contribute to their existence. We have one of the best and busiest library systems in the country here, and I use it lavishly.

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Working on taxes.  It is going to rain all weekend anyway. This is a cheery post, isn’t it?

What I Re-learned This Week:  That when you stall on writing a story, and something is bugging you, there’s a reason for it.  If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.  Most often my experience is that the scene is set in the wrong location.  That was the case for me this week.  I was also wrestling with whether to set the scene in real time or backstory. Both have big disadvantages.  But finally this morning, as I was driving in my jammies home from dropping my husband at the light rail station, I thought of an entirely new place to set the scene–and that opened it all up. I’m happy now. The weekend may proceed.

What’s up with you? What are you reading, watching, working on?  Tell me interesting things.

Photo by Scott Robinson.

Five on Friday: Back From Retreat

What I did this week: I just got back from a three-day writing retreat in Astoria, Oregon.  Oh boy oh boy was it ever wonderful to have three days to focus on writing fiction.  I also remembered how great it is to enjoy the camaraderie of other writers. At night we drank wine and talked story, solving each other’s plot problems.  And then there were the tarot readings…Oh, and the apartment we stayed in was above a mortuary.  My sister was convinced there would be ghosts and she was right! The first night, the overhead lights clicked on without warning in the middle of the night, scaring the bejebus out of me.  (Cue Twilight Zone song.) Plus, Angie dreamed of ghosts all night. We were a bit nervous to go to sleep the next night but nothing happened, which was almost disappointing.

What I’m reading:  Blown Away by Clover Tate, aka Angela Sanders, who organized the writing retreat.  Also Rachael Herron’s latest Songbird romance.  I’m on her review team so I get to read it before it’s published.  This is a fabulous ideas for you authors out there: ask people on your list to join the reviewing team.  When you have a book coming out, send them the Ebook version for free and ask them to review it.  (Do some research on the correct language to use, as legally you can’t give a book away for a review.) When I’m ready to publish (soon!) I’ll be putting out a request for reviewers to my list. (Not on my list? It’s easy to join–just fill out the box to the right or at the top of the page.)

What I ate: I was desperately looking forward to eating some pan-fried oysters at Baked Alaska. I drove to Astoria for the day with a friend last October, and in my memory the oysters were the best I’d ever had. I couldn’t wait to eat them again. But when we go to the restaurant, those oysters were no longer on the menu.  Instead I got an uninspired Kobe beef burger. But the cheesy baked cauliflower, at least, was delicious.

What I’m excited about: My novel.   The truth is, it was such an undisciplined first draft I’d convinced myself that it was terrible all the way through. But re-reading it (which is what I spent most of the days doing) made me realize how much I like it.  Needs lots of work, sure, but it is tons of fun and I can’t wait to dig into it and get going on the second draft.

What I’m also excited about: I have an article in Magical Goddess magazine! The magazine is free, all you have to do is sign up on the site.  Check it out here. I love the way the article looks and I hope it has some helpful information in it.

What’s going on with you?

Five on Friday: Daylight Savings Time This Weekend

What I’m happy about: Daylight savings time coming this weekend. If daylight savings time is here, spring can’t be far, right? Can’t come soon enough around here. We’ve had rainy day after rainy day after rainy day. And that’s after so man snow and ice storms I can’t even count them.  Even I, the original rain lover, am ready for some sunshine.

What I’m happy about #2: My upcoming writing retreat to Astoria, an historic coastal Oregon town. I mentioned it briefly last week, too, because I’m excited! There’s just something so energizing to getting away with the express purpose to write.  I love it.  And I’m hoping to eat some luscious oysters from Netarts Bay here.

What I’m reading: Commonwealth, which finally came in at the library.  This novel by Ann Patchett has gotten mixed reviews but so far I like it. Though she writes in a very, for lack of a better word, deep style. She utilizes an incredibly close-in viewpoint, in which you are in the characters’ heads moment by moment, seeing the scene unfold step by step. It is intense, and fascinating, but I also feel like I have to read every word to follow it all.  Lots of characters in this one, too, which requires much flipping back to figure out who’s who.

I’m also planning to take the first Clover Tate mystery, written by my friend Angie, to the beach next week. Because, A. it is set at the beach, and B. I may need some lighter reading.

What I’m writing: Backstory scenes for the romance novel I’m about to rewrite. I didn’t quite understand some of the aspects of my two main characters and this is helping me enormously.

What I’m happy about #3: My office! It is clean and organized, full of all my little things that I look at from my desk. They make me happy. After years months of the space being in upheaval, I’m delighted it is organized at last.

Happy Friday! What’s going on with you?