Why I’m Not Writing a Blog Post Today

1. I ate two donuts, drank a chocolate milk, and the sugar crash has left me a little lacking in energy, motivation, focus, and so on.

2. My new work-in-progress is far too engrossing. I’m working with a road map (a few index cards with scenes listed on them), but I keep getting surprised by the characters and where they’re taking the story. I’d forgotten how much fun a new draft can be.

3. I started Veronica Rossi’s book, Under the Never Sky, and it’s SO good. I didn’t want to put it down to do my writing this morning, but now that I’ve reached my five-page goal, I’m just itching to pick the book back up again.

4. Other than these few things, I don’t have anything to say, really.

5. And finally, after five days of nagging Z to get ready for school in the mornings, and hours spent reading and writing my own words, I’m kinda sick of my own voice, ya know? Both the speaking voice AND the writing voice. So I’m going to stop. Here.

The Love Shack

This post is long overdue. You see, friends, I have been working on a Secret Project of Joy (in addition to conspiring to send my daughter away to military camp, aka Preschool). My Secret Project of Joy is transforming our garage guest room, the “Love Shack” as we like to call it, into a place I can actually work.

The first step was covering up the orange paint.

I am anything but a designer. Like most people, I enjoy being surrounded by beauty. When I get tired of standing in front of the mirror, I am left to find beauty in my environment. Husband and I picked out this great tile to go in the Love Shack, a terra cotta with blue designs on it (click here to see it up close). (By the way, I don’t recommend this tile unless you enjoy scraping bar codes off the floor. Some genius decided to put the bar codes on the TOP of each tile. As we are a lazy/busy family, there are still tiles with bar codes on them. In fact, the only ones without bar codes are a gift of my mother’s hard work. Thanks, Mom.)

As I was saying…I tried to match the terra cotta tile. And do an accent wall. Thankfully, I can’t find any photos of the old Love Shack, because although people were nice enough about it, it was Ugly. A few months ago I went out there to write, and as I sat on the bed, looking around (not writing), I couldn’t help but notice the pleasing sandy color I’d chosen was orange. Orange!

So on Mother’s Day, I painted the heck out of those walls, to a nice soft Informal Ivory. Now it’s Very Boring, which is better than orange, and I can always kick up the color a bit with the trim. And paint some poems on the walls, maybe some birds and stars. It’s MY ROOM. Yeah, guests sometimes sleep in it, so I don’t want to put anything disturbing on the walls, like these prints we got to enjoy when staying in a hotel room in Nasca, Peru:

Sweet dreams!

Don't let the bed bugs (er, horses) bite!

We weren’t sure which one we liked more, but we think the execution scene really sets the mood for peaceful slumber.

It’s clean and cozy, there’s a full bathroom, and even better: I can get work done in there. I’ve got lots of plans for the room, and the only challenge to my writing will be that I need to sit still and write, not putter about fixing up the place. In the meantime, it’s  a workable writer’s studio. I like to call it my “sink paceuary” (taken from “peace sanctuary” when I was doing the Hypnobirthing CD – don’t laugh).

Finally moved my story board from the bedroom wall to the Love Shack.

“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point — a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf so famously said. Actually, I’d forgotten about the money part until I looked it up, and I now wish I had left the quote to memory. Anyway. I at least have the room of my own. It’s enough.

ETA: I was inspired to write about the Love Shack after doing Erin Bow’s interview. Her fantastic digs (located in a pole dancing studio!) make the Love Shack look tame by comparison.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

That (ridiculous, highly inconvenient, yet time-saving) limited-internet challenge is finally over, and I’m back with a review for a book so good I had to read it twice. Later this week I’ll do a post or two on what the limited-internet challenge taught me (if anything). But for now, feast your readers on a book that is, well, wonderful.

The set-up: Thirteen-year-old Kyra lives in an isolated Compound with her mother, her father, her father’s two other wives, and her twenty brothers and sisters. She is content (barely) with her piano playing, her secret love for Joshua, and her secret visits to a library-on-wheels…until the Prophet (the dude in charge of their community of “Chosen Ones”) says that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle.

Main character’s goals: Once she is told she has to marry Uncle Hyrum, Kyra wants OUT. Her goal is to avoid that wedding at all costs.

My reaction: Unsurprisingly, this book evokes a strong visceral reaction. We have polygamy, we’ve got young brides, lots of babies. We’ve got book burning, forbidden love, child abuse, murder. The first time through, I had to read it in one sitting (thankfully the novel is somewhat short), because the premise alone made my gut clench.

The child abuse thing almost had me putting the book down – it got a little too gut-wrenching at one point. In fact, I still can’t think about that scene. In fact, I’m writing scenes in my head where the jerks who do it get in Big Trouble. Jail would be too kind for them.

Of interest to writers: What a hook! Damn, this is a sensationalistic idea but it is tastefully done. Kyra’s voice is strong and authentic. Watch especially for the melding of lyrical prose and cannot-put-it-down tension. A-MAZ-ING.

Also, great first line: “If I was going to kill the Prophet,” I say, not even keeping my voice low, “I’d do it in Africa.” May we all have such grabbers at the beginnings of our manuscripts.

Bottom Line: It’s a(n) [enter your favorite positive adjective here…none of mine seem to do it justice] book. I read it twice.

No Talking.

In which I can’t decide what to write about so traipse off into tangents.

I have this print by artist Juli Adams. It’s got this girl with a blanket in her lap, a cat on the blanket. In one hand she’s holding a cup of tea (or possibly coffee, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing). In the other hand she’s holding a book. The title: No Talking. (If you’d like to see the print, click here.)

That’s how I get when I’m reading a book. Just give me some quiet space and let me do my thing.

[Imagine a photo of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I’m taking down all images not created By Me because I read something about copyright and am now paranoid.]

People who don’t read for pleasure confuse me a little, I’ll admit. These are the people with whom I have no idea what to talk about if we try to embark on a conversation. It takes a little work to find talking points with a person I’ve just met who doesn’t read, especially because I have never had the happy talent of (how does Mr. Darcy phrase it?)  “conversing easily with people I have never met before.” My topics usually include, “What do you like to read?” or “What have you read lately?” Now that I’m a mother, I often ask if the person has children. It’s just easier. Even if they don’t have kids, they usually have pets (not to be confused as the same thing). Conversations about jobs or work are a very last resort, because the truth is, I’m rarely interested. Sorry. I’m self-absorbed. I tried to change that for awhile, but decided to embrace it and start a blog.

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the company of people who do not read for pleasure, because I certainly do enjoy their company – after we have flailed around for some common ground on which to base conversation.

It’s something I need to work on.

Oh! Speaking of things I need to work on (there are many, but go with me for a second while I talk about ONE)… My Turning 30 Challenge! Have I made any progress? Well, yes, actually. Husband taught me how to build a fire in a fireplace. And…that’s about all the progress I’ve made. It just hit me that the 30 thing is really happening this year, as three of my friends turn 30 this month (Happy Birthday(s) N, B, and B!). I have only a few weeks to meet my challenge, so um, I better get on top of this.

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Another random library shelf selection! Another success!

Set-up: This story takes place almost one year after an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it closer to earth, which causes all kinds of messes: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and a layer of ash that blocks the sun from view. Miranda’s family is just getting by, living in the sunroom of their home, with barely-there sustenance in the form of canned goods doled out by a city official.

Main character’s goals: Miranda’s biggest wish is for everything to go back to the way it was before the asteroid hit the moon. She wants a normal life. If she can’t have that, she at least relishes privacy whenever she can get it.

My reaction: I liked this book, although I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending. That’s more of a personal preference thing rather than a failing in the writing. I wanted something a little more concrete. Without giving anything more away, I will say that the ending fit well with the setting – the future is an uncertain place, especially in the world Miranda lives in.

I was totally into the raids they make on abandoned houses, scavenging for food, medicine, and toilet paper. Maybe because I’m always curious about what’s inside all the houses I pass on the street, maybe because I’m a scavenger by nature. Who knows. But it was fun to vicariously break in along with Miranda.

Also, I’m a little disappointed to find that post-apocalyptic fiction for young adults seems to be the new trend, now that sparkly vampires have fallen out of favor. That said, I really like post-apocalyptic stories, and I’ve liked them ever since reading George Stewart’s Earth Abides. So I guess I’m in luck with the wealth of post-apocalyptic fiction. Except that’s the genre I’m writing in right now, and I’d rather be creating a trend than trying to publish in an already-established one. But that is a rant for another time.

Of interest to writers: The diary format isn’t something I’ve seen in awhile…I haven’t even read an epistolary novel in a long time. Pfeffer does a good job of catching Miranda’s voice and making the diary believable.

I got total creepy vibes from one of the new additions to the family, and I felt Pfeffer could have developed that tension and conflict a little more than she did. This would have taken the story in a completely different direction, which is probably why she didn’t expand on that. If it had been my story….

Bottom line: This World We Live In is the third book in a series. (One of the downsides to random library selections is you sometimes jump into the middle – or end – of things.) I have already requested the first book from the library, because I want more from this author! I especially want to see how she handles the “beginning” of the end of the world.