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Prueba1675

I have a problem.

I can’t get rid of any books, no matter how crowded and chaotic my shelves have become.

I’m not sure why. Yes, I grew up with thousands of books–as seen here, in this picture of me reading to my daddy in our library, my favorite room in the house.in library with daddy

And yet, my dearest, most simpatico buddy, who has been my best friend since I was four years old and came from a very similar book-oriented family, doesn’t struggle with this. Once I said to her, “Oh, wouldn’t you just love to own all the Jane Austen books in beautiful hardcover editions?” But she simply shook her head. “Not really,” she said calmly. “You can always get those from the library.”

And she’s right, of course. Because of her saner attitude, her house is clean and neat and tidy, and I envy the heck out of it.

Mine is a mess. library bookstore

My office, particularly, is out of control right now, and if I could just free up some space on the shelves to store other things…But I can’t seem to make the tough decisions.

bookcase
Every day, I wake up determined to weed out. Every day, I come in, stare at the shelves, and walk away again, unable to part with any book, no matter how old or new, read or unread, paperback or hard, illustrated or not, classic or quirky.

I know some of you must have conquered this problem! I’d be so grateful if you’d share! What guidelines do you use? Is there some rule I could apply that would make the amputations easier?

I’d truly love to know what the key is to letting go.

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Prueba1675

Today is the official Day of Joy recognized by every writer on the face of the earth, I would be willing to bet. Today is the day after I finally submitted my overdue manuscript. My book is complete. (Until my brilliant editor finds the goof-ups and guides me toward revisions that will make it GOOD book!).

I am a free woman.

redman photo 82 side k pref head vert typa

But that first day of freedom, after weeks and weeks, sometimes months and months, of enslavement, is always strange. I come creeping out of my deadline cave, hunched and blinking at the daylight, asking everyone, “What year is it?” And then, just when I thought I would run skipping all over my world, screaming, “FREEDOM! BRING ON THE FUN!” I am oddly paralyzed. I’ve forgotten how to do anything but write. I’ve lost the knack of feeling anything but guilty, pressed and terrified that my words won’t be good enough.

That’s when a quiet day of reading can provide the perfect bridge. The quiet place between deadline Hell and (temporary) freedom Heaven.

I’ve got so many books stacked up I hardly know which one to select. Here are the ones I’ve started with:

penelopiad coverTHE PENELOPIAD, by Margaret Atwood.
This one will probably win, because it’s a very cool retelling of the Penelope/Odysseus myth, only this time from Penelope’s POV. I’ve begun it…and Penelope is such a wry, honest voice that I don’t see how I can switch to something else till I’ve heard what she has to say. Plus, this is a library book, and it’s due soon.
🙂

zelda book
Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD, by Therese Anne Fowler.
No, wait! This one might win, because I just saw THE GREAT GATSBY, and it put me in the mood!
I loved the Luhrmann version of Gatsby, though I have some great friends who disagree with me…almost violently! 🙂 If you saw it, I’d love to hear what you thought!
Shakespeare and Dickens booksSHAKESPEARE’S TREMOR AND ORWELL’S COUGH, The Medical Lives of Famous Writers, by John J. Ross, M.D.
This is one I can pick at, a chapter at a time, so it’ll probably just wander around with me for a few weeks, filling in odd moments. But doesn’t it sound cool? It explores the “medical mysteries” of some famous and fascinating writers.

DICKENS AND THE DAUGHTER OF THE HOUSE, by Hilary M. Schor.
This one probably appeals only to lit-geeks, because it explores the role of the daughter in Dickens novels. However, because I *am* a lit-geek, it’s made the short list.

babysitting ShoshieOr, I could just go out on the back porch and watch my son’s puppy play in the yard while I get started on my next book. We’re puppy-sitting for a few days, and the little rascal provided a wonderful excuse to write outside as I polished the last few chapters. I love my office setup, but there’s nothing like birdsong and sunshine to provide the inspiration a romance writer needs!

What about you? When you finish a long and difficult task, what do you do to celebrate?

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kissing computerIf you’re a social butterfly, you might not want to consider a job as a writer. It’s a pretty lonely endeavor. Most of the time, the computer is your only companion–unless you count the characters in your book, which I don’t, since my characters and I disagree about almost everything. For instance, I think they should provide me with clever banter and fascinating, fast-paced action, whereas they seem to think they should be able to loll about on the page, doing nothing at all for days at the time.

However, I’m getting sidetracked… 🙂

My point is that, while I can certainly see why writers love to hear from readers, I’ve never been really sure why readers want to connect with writers. After all, the reader has paid his money…he doesn’t owe the writer anything further. The book is right in front of him. He can read the very best ideas the writer has to offer, the funniest jokes and the wittiest one-liners. (Believe me, with a few notable exceptions like Neil Gaiman or Truman Capote, we’re rarely more interesting in person than we are on the page.)

And then, whenever the reader wants, he can set the book down and go dancing.

lorelei and k from fbSo when I was lucky enough to meet the lovely local reader who has started Lorelei’s Lit Lair on Facebook, I couldn’t wait to ask her why she seems so enthusiastic about meeting and corresponding with writers. Turns out she’s one of those wonderful people who just love to discover new things, learn about new people, and “give back” when she feels she’s been lucky enough to “receive.” She’s the kind of reader we all hope to run into someday…the kind that makes us feel pretty darn good about all those hours we spent in solitary confinement, telling stories to our keyboards.

Her enthusiasm is so infectious, and her account of her correspondence with author Kristan Higgins so uplifting that I asked if she’d share it here. I hope you enjoy reading it!
lorelei white t shirt

Q) Have you always been such an enthusiastic reader? Have you always preferred romance above other genres?

A) No, I started when my daughter wanted to read the Twilight series. I never enjoyed reading, not even paperbacks, much less would I want to read a book THAT big. ( I know, what was wrong with me!)
I asked her what it was about: Vampires and Werewolves, she said. HA! Really? I went to the first page, just to check it out, you know, to see what all the commotion was about.
7 days later, I read all 4 books and it was like a switch in me was flipped ON. Since then, I was hungry for more. I’ve read women’s fiction, drama, then I really found my match in romance!

Q) What made you decide to be more than “just” a reader–and to interact with and support your favorite authors?

A) In 2007, I found an author that I really connected with. She had all the elements I love in a story, truly gifted in my opinion and that author was Kristan Higgins. She has a great voice, makes you laugh, swoon, cry (the touching kind), and always has happy endings.
When I finished reading her 4th book, I wanted to learn more about her. I found the Dear Reader page in her book . She seemed so down to earth, and approachable. It did say, “Let me know how you enjoyed the book. It’s always such a pleasure to hear from readers.” That gave me the courage to write her an email. I told her how much I loved her work .
Honestly, I thought I’d get a response in a month or so, or maybe never.
To my surprise she replied the next day! I was ecstatic! I told my best friend and she said it was probably her publicist. I knew it was her, because I recognized her voice. I remember replying then with OooMmmGgg!
She was so nice, and I immediately followed her on Facebook. I became her BFF: Biggest Fan Forever. I realized what a wonderful group of women are out there and felt encouraged to support them. It lead me to you, Kathleen 😉

Q) Obviously you’re a huge fan of Kristan Higgins. Are there other writers you have written to, as well? What draws you to a particular writer?

A) Oh, yes. While I had to wait months for KH’s next release, she recommended other author friends. I was very impressed by the support displayed, all great recommendations. I read Nancy R. Thompson’s Angel of Provence, and wrote to her on FB. I was so thrilled and lucky to meet her! I Also wrote to PJ Sharon, Robyn Carr, Lauren Clark, Jill Shalvis, Marliss Melton, just to name a few.
These are women just like me, but with a special talent. You can tell they love what they do and are genuine.
The connection authors have with readers is what draws me to follow them and cheer them on.
It’s a special bond that’s created and I believe that’s what makes the difference in the reading experience all together.

Q) What is Lorelei’s Lit Lair? What do you want to accomplish with the site?

A) I created Lorelei’s Lit Lair to connect with readers and authors, to share our common passion for reading. It’s also a great way of supporting authors, too. I hope friends join so we can chat about what they’re reading, to find inspiring posts and have some fun! It can be about books or how your day has been or something great you’ve stumble upon. I’m a big believer of paying it forward, too.

Lorelei’s Lit Lair fills me with good vibes and I hope friends will find that, too. I love cheering people up. Once a reader was feeling down, and I shared music videos to cheer her up and it made her laugh! If feels so good helping others… My page is not just about promoting books, but connecting with people of similar interests.

I’ve made some great friendships across the world, in France, England, Canada and Australia which is awesome. The authors I’ve met, all absolutely amazing ladies.
If you like read, doesn’t matter the genre, I encourage you to join! Readers have different interests and tastes, and I hope they find something they’ll enjoy.

Q) How has your friendship with the authors you’ve met affected you? What does it bring to your life?

A) If I hadn’t gotten a reply from my first email, I probably would have continued reading or maybe I would have found another hobby to fill my days.
But what I can truly say, is the anecdotes I can share, the causes I’ve supported, the prizes I’ve won, the joy and laughter that have filled my days and most specially the friendships I’ve made with readers and authors, would never have been possible if I hadn’t received Kristan’s reply that day. It has changed my life in a positive way, brightening my days, my little escape of this busy and hectic life we live in.
I believe in the phrase ” Everything happens for a reason.” One of them, was meeting you, dear Kathleen!

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Prueba1675
This has been a week for socializing more than reading, which has been a lot of fun. I’m about 75% introvert, but that other 25% really loves to get together with like-minded people…often other writers! I’ve had out-of-town writer buddies stopping by (something about Florida’s balmy temps while their hometowns are still getting snow flurries, perhaps?), and so I’ve been lunching, brunching, coffee-ing and dinnering like a fiend. I’ve loved every minute.

However, even during weeks like this, I read a little. I couldn’t get to sleep without reading at least a few pages of something wonderful. Here’s what I played with this week:

STUMBLED ONTO AND BREEZED THROUGH, UNEXPECTEDLY: ELLEN FOSTER, by Kaye Gibbons. I hadn’t ever heard of this little gem, though apparently it’s one of the Oprah Book Club picks. I saw it at the library, and for some reason I can’t explain, it called to me. It came out in 1987, so it’s not new, and it’s not exactly a happy read, but I loved it. The story is told by an eleven-year-old girl named Ellen Foster, and it could all by itself provide the basis for a master class in the art of voice. She’s brave, unsentimental, and unique. I won’t forget her soon.

books reading wolf gibbonsGOT SIDETRACKED BY: THE KANDY-COLORED TANGERINE-FLAKE STREAMLINE BABY, by Tom Wolfe. I wasn’t anywhere nearly cool enough to read Wolfe when I was younger, but isn’t it weird how your tastes can evolve? Because I’m excited about the upcoming HBO movie about Phil Spector, I decided to read Wolfe’s essay, “The First Tycoon of Teen,” written about Spector when he was only 23. All I can say is…wow. Strange, brilliant, stylish. Now I have to read the rest! This, too, could form a master class in writing. Except I’d want to title that class, “Great Stuff You Could Do With Style if You Were A Genius, Which You Aren’t.” Or…”Don’t Try This At Home.” 🙂

FINALLY GETTING INTO: GARDEN SPELLS, by Sarah Addison Allen. I’m probably not past page twenty, but I love it already. I understand not everyone likes magical realism (where trees throw apples over fences, and neighbors know you’ll need a breath mint long before the hunky neighbor unexpectedly drops by), but I really do.

It’s tricky, isn’t it, this matter of personal taste? So inexplicable, and yet so powerful. Take the one single issue of “paranormal,” for instance. I’m fine with it. Unless I’m not. I love Sookie Stackhouse, for instance, but was lukewarm about Jim Butcher, who is obviously brilliant. Why? I can’t put my finger on it…so how on earth is a writer to know what will work?

I even have “hot” words…words that, if I read them on the jacket blurbs, will make me put the book down like a hot potato. Some of the hot words, for me, are “espionage,” “arms dealer,” “Vietnam,” and “Mafia.” Okay, you might think, she’s just a sheltered little priss who doesn’t like disturbing topics. 🙂 And that’s not entirely untrue. But then how do you account for some of my weirder “tingle” words, the words that, if I read them on jacket blurbs, will make me hug the book and squee? “Tingle” words include “plague,” “psychopath,” “Bedlam,” and “Civil War.” If I get “hypnotically enigmatic” and “hauntingly evocative” in the same blurb, I might as well kiss my money goodbye.

And then there are the abrupt about-faces I can do if the writer somehow transcends his “hot” word. I tend to avoid “religion,” AND “1930s,” and yet I was obsessed with Susan Howatch’s series about British clergymen in the 1930s. Sometimes it even goes the other way around–I’m a fanatic about anything Tudor, and yet, in spite of a dozen enthusiastic recommendations, I can’t bring myself to read WOLF HALL.

So…what’s a writer to do? I guess the moral of the story is you have to write what you like, because, in the end, there is positively no guarantee of pleasing anyone else.

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Prueba1675

For the past couple of weeks, most of my reading time has gone into judging the RITA awards. For those of you who aren’t romance writers, that may not mean much. But the RITA is like the Oscar for those of us who do! 🙂 The Romance Writers of America holds the contest each year, and the awards are handed out at the national conference in the summer.

Judging is hard work, but it’s fun–and being part of honoring the best in our genre is pretty exciting. This year, the writing in the entries sent to me was, overall, of very high quality. Of course, some of the stories and characters really stood out–but that’s the part I can’t share! I will, as always, be watching for the list of finalists to see if anything I judged made the cut!

FINISHED: ROUND HOUSE, by Louise Erdrich. Wow. Just as powerful as everyone promised it would be! I may be about to embark on an author binge. You know what I mean, I’m sure. Get excited by one book, scour the bookstores and the libraries for everything else the author wrote, read, read, read until your eyes are crossed, your soul fed, and your palate ready for something different. 🙂 I had my first author binge when I discovered Jane Austen in middle school. Even now, finding a new binge-worthy author is almost as exciting as falling in love!

STILL CHEWING ON: DROOD by Dan Simmons still sits on the end table, unfinished. I tell everyone how good it is, and I mean it. But it’s just too heavy (not usually a problem for me) and too dark (sometimes a problem for me).

UP NEXT: GARDEN SPELLS, by Sarah Allen Addison. I would have read it before ROUND HOUSE, except that I couldn’t find it. 🙂 It turned up neatly beneath the end table, where I’d placed it to protect it from the cat hair.

Elizabeth Gordon The Turned-Intos illustrationJUST BOUGHT: At a new antique mall in town, I discovered a darling old children’s book called THE TURNED-INTOS, by Elizabeth Gordon. Best thing about it–the illustrations by Janet Laura Scott. I casually collect wonderful children’s illustrations, and this one is a gem!

DRACULA, by Bram Stoker. If I ever read the whole book, it was ages and ages ago. My daughter, who often turns me onto great new/old things :), listened to it recently on Audible, and she says it’s fantastic, so I’m going to add it to the pile. The tall, tall pile…
Good luck making it to the top after all these years, Bram! 😉

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Prueba1675

As Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 

How’s that for the official stamp of approval? 🙂  You can see how little respect he’d have for me if I ignored him!

So, though I have a deadline coming up, and it’s better not to even talk about the state of the laundry room, I really think I need to read today.  😉

I have shelves overflowing with books I haven’t read yet, and books I long to reread.  I have a wishlist at Amazon so long it’s embarrassing.  And the library could build a new wing on my late fees.  And yet, like a true addict, I’m still always on the hunt for something new and exciting.

I’m assuming that, since you’re reading a writer’s blog, you’re pretty much the same!

So when I stop by to say hi here each mid-week, I’ll be talking about what I’m reading right now–and how I’m liking it.  I hope you’ll swing by whenever you can and let me know what you’re reading, too!

Here’s this week’s tally:

Just started: 

Roundhouse, by Louise Erdrich.  So many people have recommended this to me that I finally broke down and got it.  Can’t wait to see if it catches me…

Still chewing away at:

Drood, by Dan Simmons.  This Victorian-era tale about Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens is beautifully written, slow-paced (which fits those authors perfectly and doesn’t bother me one bit), but I keep postponing it.  Maybe that’s because it’s a bit dark, and I’m craving something lighter and easier these days?

Just finished:

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  Wow!  If you like mysteries, and you’re one of the few people who have been resisting this one, let me add my name to the chorus!  This is a fun, weird, twisty book.  It’s a bit dark, too, actually, but not quite as heavy as the Simmons.  Those of you who have read it, I’d love to hear what you think about the ending.  I’m dying to know if my reaction was as weird as my daughter seemed to think! 😉

The Gettysburg Vampire, by Susan Blexrud.  From my Kindle, this Civil War-time-travel romance by my writer buddy Susan was a real treat.  If you like historical romance–and, of course, sexy vampires–I think you’ll love this one.  Very emotional (I love a strong hero dealing with lots of emotional baggage, and Malcolm has that times ten).  Plus, Susan really knows her time and place!  She layers her writing with so much atmosphere you can smell the steam in the air as the ghost train thunders by.

Calling my name from the shelf: 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloane.  Actually, I have this on Audible, and it’s up next for my walking amusement.  I hear great things!

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen.  A friend loaned me this one after I finished The Girl Who Chased the Moon.  Gosh, she gets great covers, doesn’t she?  I don’t know why I didn’t discover this lovely writer sooner! 

window with booksOkay…that’s my list!  Now I hope you’ll share, too!  What am I missing?  I love all genres–and even nonfiction!  Do you have any undiscovered (or long-resisted) nuggets of gold to add to my basket?

 

 

 

 

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I just read my first book on my new iPad.  I don’t know how I feel about it.

I have to admit up front that I got the iPad for free–sort of.  It came along with a graduate study program I’m taking, so my relationship with it is less demanding than it would be if I’d paid cash straight out.  I had to cart it home from Pennsylvania anyhow, and I’d finished my most recent book (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO….wonderful!).  So I decided to test-drive the iPad on the plane.  I bought Harlan Coben’s new mystery, CAUGHT.  I love Coben, but I don’t usually keep his novels when I’m done.  Bookshelf property in my house is at a premium, like beachfront acreage in Paradise.  It can be acquired only by fabulous artists (like KY CRAFT) or word-geniuses (like DOROTHY DUNNETT).   Coben goes into the library box, so that the next guy can enjoy.

So…the pros:  Reading on the iPad was convenient on the plane.  The page is big enough that I could see even with these weak eyes of mine, but small enough that it didn’t seem to annoy the guy in the seat next to me.  The backlighting worked in the dim atmosphere of a late-night flight.  Flipping through pages is kind of fun (I’m easy to amuse), and the bookmark feature is nifty.

But…the cons:  When I got home, and I crawled in bed at night, ready for my lovely ten minutes of reading before passing out, I looked at the cold, hard metal device and…I didn’t really want to finish the book.  It seemed uninviting, more like a robot than a friend.

It’s a machine.  A machine.  You see, I’m old-fashioned in a lot of ways, one of which is my love of the printed word on paper.   I love the look, the feel, the smell of my eclectic personal library.  I get a warm fuzzy from just glancing over at my big, battered bookcase and seeing the jagged-tooth line of novels, how-tos, histories, poems and childhood leftovers.  I take them for granted far too often.  I don’t organize them properly.  I use them for coasters and paperweights, and, once or twice, to hold open an irritating window.  I tilt them and stack them haphazardly.  I tear their dust jackets and dog-ear their pages.  But, in spite of all this, I love them with the kind of love I ordinarily reserve for family members and old friends.

They stand for so many things: for love and wisdom and laughter, for my heritage, my comfort and my memories.  I grew up in a home with a library that held thousands of books, and my father’s bookplate, faded and curling at the edges, turns any book into a treasure.  No dwelling becomes a home to me until the books are on the shelves.  When I first visited Trinity College’s exquisite library in Dublin, I practically burst into tears, as if I’d finally landed on my home planet.

And yet…I don’t want to be the narrow-minded old bore who won’t embrace the future.  I love learning and changing.  I have been dragged, growling, to a hundred things (Facebook, iPhones, iTunes, tofu) only to end up addicted, unable to imagine life without them.  So to my more-evolved friends out there, I pose the question.  What’s wonderful about reading books on machines?  Help me see the light!

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