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Reading and Resolutions

I’m back from my holiday hiatus, perhaps a bit later than most people. For me, the holiday break isn’t a time to put away work for a while. It is a time when I am away from the day job, and therefore can buckle down and get a lot of work done on my writing. I always have a few goals for myself to complete before the students come back to the college campus where I work (which happened this week.)

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The aftermath on my desk after a successful holiday-break-revision-push.

I more or less reached my writing goal for the holiday break. I finished a revision that’s been a struggle for me. I think I’m done, but then, I’ve thought that before. Revision is a process of finding a balance between my vision and the vision of others, and trusting that their vision is sometimes the right one, and that even when I can’t see it, I can reproduce it. And that’s hard. So it takes a lot of tries.

So, the revision is done, or at least at rest until I get some feedback to tell me it isn’t done. And that means I have time to ramble a bit about the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

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The cats have made the same resolution they make every year. More sleeping in the sun. And what do you know, every year they achieve it!

I’m not a resolution maker. Sure, there are things I want to change or adjust in my life. There’s always body fat to be battled and disorganized cupboards that could be cleaned. But I find nothing magical about January that’s going to push me into doing what I haven’t been doing, and anyway, for the first few weeks of the month, I’m busy with more important writing goals.

But I do like looking back on past years, and what I’ve accomplished. In that vein, I thought I’d sum up 2014 with books I read. Unfortunately, I didn’t start keeping track at the beginning of the year, so I’m sure there are a few books missing from my list.

I am an eclectic reader. I like many genres, and I try to read classics that I missed, as well as new books. I try to keep up with what’s going on in middle-grade and YA fiction, since that’s what I write, but I try to read adult books too.

Here, in no particular order, and for no particular reason, are my 2014 reads, as my own way to sum up the year. I can’t say I could pick a favorite. It was a good year for reading–I didn’t meet a book I didn’t like this year:

  • STRANGE SWEET SONG by Adi RuleStrange Sweet Song
  • SIRENS  by Janet Fox
  • KAFKA ON THE SHORE by Haruki Murakami
  • LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer Holm
  • SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo
  • BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
  • COUNTING BY SEVENS by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • NAVIGATING EARLY by Clare Vanderpool
  • THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield
  • CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
  • ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell
  • DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor
  • ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman
  • JEWEL OF THE THAMES by Angela Misri
  • THE OTHER WAY AROUND by Sashi Kaufman
  • RADIO GIRL by Carol Brendler
  • KISSING SHAKESPEARE by Pam Mingle
  • A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith
  • THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre DumasALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman cover
  • RHYME SCHEMER by Kari Ann Holt
  • DIRTBIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY by Conrad Wesselhoeft
  • THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tart
  • GOBLIN SECRETS by William Alexander
  • GRAVE IMAGES by Jenny Goebel
  • THE RUNAWAY KING by Jennifer Nielsen
  • THE FLAME THROWERS by Rachel Kushner
  • THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton
  • VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD by Lauren Sabel
  • FUTURE FLASH by Kita Murdock
  • GLANCING THROUGH THE GLIMMER by Pat McDermott
  • FINN FINNEGAN by Darby Karchut
  • GIDEON’S SPEAR by Darby Karchut
  • THE SUN KING by Nancy Mitford

Now on to 2015, another year of reading, reaching, writing, and living with cats. Happy New Year, everybody!

That time of year for making lists

Really, I make lists all year long. I’m a firm believer in the “To Do List,” mostly because I enjoy scratching things off of them. It makes me feel productive.  I admit, I have been known to add things I’ve already done. I also put down silly little things, like “refill coffee cup.” Because it’s all about the scratching them off.  “YES!” I think triumphantly, giving myself a mental high five for such grand accomplishments as “wipe off the table,” “hang up wet towell,” and “wash eyeglasses.” VICTORY IS MINE!!!

But this is the time of year for that other kind of list.

The holiday  list.

The truth is, I don’t go shopping on Black Friday. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the standing in line. But really, when I think about it, there’s nothing out there in all those deals that I really want or need. I’ve got plenty of stuff in my house. I’ve got plenty of clothes in my closet. And so do my kids, my siblings, my parents. Everyone on my holiday shopping list doesn’t really need anything, a fact for which I am very grateful.

Of course, there’s more on the holiday To Do List than shopping. There are the parties and cards and decorating and entertaining and baking and…

housewifeListening to the commercials on TV and the radio, what we seem to be sold most during the holidays, is stress. At some point, we lost the idea that we are supposed to do things at the holiday to spread and share  joy. Every radio commercial I hear on my commute to work features the frantic housewife, cooking and cleaning and decorating for the masses, the frantic parents or lovers trying to find the perfect gift, the overworked, stressed out shopper, desperate to get it all done.  They aren’t helping us enjoy the holidays, they aren’t trying to give us a sense of joy. They are selling us stress–If you aren’t stressed out, you aren’t doing it right!

If that’s right, I gave up doing it right a long time ago. This can be a joyful time of year, but only if we choose to make it so. Likewise, this can be a hard time of year, for those who have lost loved ones or are alone. So my list, this holiday season, isn’t about what I can buy or how many things I have to get done. This list is about joy.

  1. This holiday season, I’m going to do things that bring joy to myself and others.
  2. All those things that the commercial society tells me to do but I don’t really want to? I’m saying no. Seriously, I’ve seen lights, baked cookies, been to parties. If I’m in the mood, I’ll do those things, but the season isn’t made better by overdoing them, when I’ve already had enough.
  3. I’m going to spend time with those I love, instead of spending time spending money on useless stuff for those I love.
  4.  I’m going to remind myself to look on the bright side–even the things that make me angry or frustrated must have a bright side somewhere.
  5.  I’m going to seek joy, even when its hidden.
  6. I’m going to find time to write. Because that’s important to me, and grounding, and stress relieving. Even when the cats are on my page.

That’s my holiday list as we enter the Christmas season. Now to start ticking them off.

**Addendum: The cats have made their  stress free holiday season lists too:

ChloeThe Dowager Empress:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Eat

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Little Sister:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Stalk birds through the windows

 

IMG_2950Demon Cat:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. World domination

 

Mid-November? Already???

How time flies!

I only said that because I believe every author should begin every piece of writing with an overused idiom.

But seriously, how did we get to mid-November.

Every year, October takes me by surprise and is over before I’ve gotten used to the idea of it having arrived. This year, it seems to have taken the first couple weeks of November right along with it.

So, here I am, crawling out into the light of a new day, blinking in the sun, wondering what happened in this strange new world, where it suddenly looks like winter (and feels like it too–brrrr!)

More soon, but for now, I just wanted to announce that MARISSA was the winner of the Halloween Book Trail prize of a book, a critique or a visit. Yay, Marissa! I’ll be contacting you by email, so check your spam filter. I’m one of those people emailing you to say You’re a Winner! I’m the one who isn’t a sweet, God-fearing African widow without any heirs.

October is here, Halloween BookTrail is coming!

 

Ah, October!

leaves

I love the leaves changing, the nights getting cool, the first snow on the high peaks to the west.

I love the smell of the air in the morning, and the haze of frost on the lawn.

autumnpondI love the way the light plays across the surface of the world, more golden and sharp, like it, too, is drinking up the beauty of this last hurrah before the cold sets in and the world grows dreary.

Every year, October means harvest festivals, corn mazes, and pumpkin carvings.averypumpkins

Of course, October has its scary side too. Let’s not forget about all the ghosts, goblins, demons and monsters.

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The things that jump out of no where and try to grab you.

HELLOMOTO

And the fact that the creepy crawlies of summer have, by now, gotten really big and are starting to turn monstrous–like this October grasshopper, encountered on an October hike.

grasshopper

Let’s face it, October is a month designed to change everything–the world, your sense of reality. It’s beautiful and scary and joyful and creepy, all wrapped into one bright, colorful, dark, spooky package.

And what’s not to love about that, right?

But this year, October is about to do you one better. Because this year, October is going to include the

HALLOWEEN BOOK TRAIL!!!!

In case you thought you were too old to trick or treat, think again!  From October 27th through November 1st, a whole bunch of middle grade and young adult authors are going to give you the chance to go door to door among our blogs and get all kinds of treats!

You can learn about us and about our books! Find out our deep, dark, weird secrets, earn the chance to WIN WONDERFUL PRIZES!!!!  You can check out the wonderful prizes for every path right here!  There will be several paths through the deep dark forests of our souls. Or, um, through our blogs. I will be participating in the OFF THE BEATEN TRACK path. Scary, right? HBT14--Off-the-beaten-path

It’s gonna be fun, and you don’t even have to dress up to participate. But, if you want to you can. We’re not the type to judge.

So keep your eyes open. It’s coming!!!

*queue creepy music crescendo here.*

Some thoughts on the sophomore novel

Four years ago, when I was first offered a book deal on my first novel, I started a debut author blog, EMU’s Debuts, with a group of friends. I’m proud to say that blog is still going, now on its fourth or fifth generation of debut authors!

Today, they invited me back to talk about the sophomore book experience. I’m sorry to have to say, I haven’t weathered it gracefully. But you can read more about that over at EMU’s Debuts.

Well, it had to happen eventually

My blog has been disabled for some time now, due to changes in my website, laziness, technical difficulties, laziness, and cats. But that’s all about to change.

Of course, the cats had to come into it. I’m on the sofa writing this right now, and this is the view immediately to my left.

IMG_7165

The thing is, it doesn’t much matter where, or what, or when I’m writing, it seems that there are always cats on hand.

This isn’t entirely my fault. Well, okay. Yes it is. See, I have this little problem. Actually, I have two problems, but they sort of connect.

TwoCoversOne is that I’m a writer. This may not seem like a problem, if you don’t know many writers. If you are among those with a romanticized view of the profession, in which you believe that writers write books that make them rich and famous and allow them to live a life of luxury and leisure.

The truth is, writing is hard work. Hard work that takes empathy, sensitivity, and a hide as tough as old sun-dried leather. It’s not an easy calling, but it is a calling none the less, and I have fallen victim to the siren song, for better or worse.

I have also fallen victim to cats.

It all goes back to the empathy thing. That and a visit to the humane society website that showed a sweet old lady of a cat that had been there for a year, unloved and unadopted. And also,  a sickly stray left at my son’s apartment.  And to a distinct inability to wisely say “not my problem” and walk away.

And so here I am, surrounded by cats. Four cats. Or possibly three cats and a demon.

The real tragedy of the whole situation is that, in addition to being hairy little freeloaders,  my cats have acquired a fan following on social media at least as big as my own (and possibly bigger). It therefore seems in my best interest to include them on this blog. After all, I may not be interesting enough to lure you all in on my own. And I certainly don’t have enough to say about myself to keep this entertaining. So, I will be exploiting my cats for your entertainment. But don’t worry. They will get their revenge. They are, after all, cats. Except for the one who might not be.

Allow me to introduce you:

Demon Cat (We  call him a “cat” to humor him, but we all know where he really came from)

IMG_2950

The Dowager Empress (a Russian Blue who may or may not be of Romanov lineage, but is most certainly of Romanov attitude)

Chloe

Little Sister (who prefers not to be touched or posted on blogs that in no way concern her, as she is above all that)IMG_0365

and Princess Creampuff (Don’t kid yourself–that isn’t sweet. That’s a tiny little pitbull in cat’s clothing).

Luna

 

 

small seatedAnd of course, there’s me. Jeannie Mobley. Author of Katerina’s Wish and Searching for Silverheels. Only a couple of tabbies short of  a Crazy Cat Lady diagnosis. And I’ll be updating you about writing, and cats, and writing with cats from time to time right here. On this blog.

Right after I serve up the Fancy Feast.