“What are you reading” Wednesdays: Why I love book series

In the past couple of months, I’ve discovered how passionate people are about reading. It’s suddenly cool to read. There are memes on Facebook that talk about people’s obsession with reading. I’ve discovered I’m not alone in my feeling of abibliophobia (the fear of running out of books to read) although I admit that right now my “to read” shelf is quite large. This weekend, I attended a wonderful workshop that proved something I’ve always known to be true in my personal life, but now someone has done much research to prove it: people love series.

Growing up, I latched onto book series. I loved the continuity of the characters’ lives and the returning to the same setting. From Trixie Belden to the Happy Hollisters, if it was a book series, I loved it. I was rather envious of a fifth grade classmate whose mother had kept all of her Cherry Ames’ books as our school library only stocked one of them. If there was more than one book in a series, I read it. I loved The Borrowers. I liked Nancy Drew but always returned to her much cooler counterpart, Trixie.

Guess what? I still love book series. If I find a series I love, I devour every book I can find (which now thanks to ebooks and the such is pretty easy). If it’s at the library, I especially love it.

There are series I’ve read for a long time. I love mysteries, romances, and nonfiction books. Carolyn Hart is one of my favorite mystery writers, hands down, no question. This woman is an absolute genius. I had the privilege of attending one of her book signings many years ago, and she was gracious and warm. She spent time with the small crowd, answering questions truthfully and diligently. That only added points in my book to want to read even more of her books. If there is a new Death on Demand book, I’m reserving it at my local library. I’ve read all of her Henrie O. series and I’ve read her Bailey Ruth series. There’s something, though, about the Death on Demand series that I always love. Annie and Max are a great combination, and her supporting characters are wonderfully alive, from the kooky and loving Laurel to the imperious and sharp Emma.

Last year at RWA, I had the privilege of receiving an autographed book from Jill Shalvis. I had never read any of her books before. I came home and devoured the first three Lucky Harbor series books. Maddie and Jax’s story is my favorite although I can relate to the Southern belle Tara and like her story with Ford. Any author who includes a reference to Ingrid Bergman is an author I want to read. I can’t wait to read more of the series.

The number of books that I have read that are part of series far outweigh the stand alone books I’ve read lately. If I see a Mrs. Murphy book by Rita Mae Brown, I’m at the checkout desk with it. If J. B. Stanley has a new James Henry/Supper Club book, it’s on my Kindle. I’m also at the checkout desk with the latest Fools Gold book by Susan Mallery. Just to name a few.

But why? Why do I keep returning to series? I think it’s like reconnecting with an old friend on Facebook. It’s finding out that the character is still vibrant and still is interesting enough to have another story to tell. It’s finding out that the author creates a persona that I want to read and in whom I invest time and energy getting to know. It’s also why television filled a niche that movies valiantly tried to fill with such classics as The Thin Man series (those wonderful movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy) but couldn’t because it takes so long to film a motion picture. People love their favorite characters in television shows and readers love their favorite characters to return either as a main character again or even a supporting one.

So this year I look forward to returning to some favorite places in books, but I’m also appreciative of authors who spin good stories without series as well. What about you? Do you love series? What series do you read and love? Let me know.

Family Friday: Eleven Hugs and Kisses

Eleven hugs and kisses. Whenever I leave my home to go somewhere else to write, my youngest son, Chunk, asks for eleven kisses and eleven hugs. His four year old self stands there while I bend down and deliver a kiss and a hug, a kiss and a hug, and so on until I reach the number of eleven. He makes me count out loud in case you think that I might be able to get away with only five or even ten. As soon as I reach eleven, he runs off, secure in the knowledge I will come home and give him more hugs and kisses.

My family is a little unusual in that I have a wide age gap between each child. Kath turned 16 this week, MJ is 10, and Cupcake and Chunk are twin 4 year olds. When Kath and MJ were younger, I stayed at home with them and enjoyed it. I volunteered at school, went on field trips and picked them up from school. Now I am attempting to launch a writing career. On days when my wonderful hubby is off from work, I head to a library or a restaurant or anywhere I can go to try to write without kids coming into my room with a little office in the corner and asking questions. Life is different now. Cupcake and Chunk are growing up with a mom who writes. As a result, they make sure I kiss them and hug them before I go write. It’s a new experience: going off to work and leaving them at home (with my wonderful hubby who is also a wonderful father).

Of course all of this makes me think about how each of my children is different in terms of affection. Kath, my oldest, dictates the terms of affection. She gives out lots of hugs and kisses but on her own terms in her own time. MJ, the middle child, loves to cuddle. For a long time, he was the baby of the family and we had lots of time to cuddle and read books together. Now he scoots into a cuddle, having figured out that sometimes he just has to assert himself and dive right into a hug. Cupcake, the older twin, likes to cuddle in the morning and asks for Cupcake Cuddles. Chunk, the younger twin, spreads out affection through the whole day and puts his whole body into a hug.

I don’t mind giving Chunk the eleven hugs and kisses because being the mom of a teenager, I know how quickly the years pass and that soon enough, he won’t be asking for the eleven hugs and kisses anymore, but for now, I like knowing that we are starting a little ritual. I’ll let you in on a little secret: those eleven hugs and kisses help me get through my workday a little faster and a whole lot sweeter.

Do your kids have any goodbye rituals before you leave for work?

“What am I reading” Wednesdays: Happy New Year

Happy New Year! It’s a brand new year. Every year I get excited at the thought of all the books I am going to read in the upcoming year. I know that may sound a little weird. Most people probably dream of all the places they will visit or think of all the fun times they will have this year. Instead, I think about what books I’m going to read.

I’ve always surrounded myself with books. It’s natural for me to always be reading one book and think ahead to the next book I want to read. I separate the different stages of my youth by what I was reading: Dr. Seuss as a preschooler, Trixie Belden as an elementary school student, Anne of Green Gables as a middle school student and so on.

This year, I’m trying something new: reading challenges. This year I’m determined to read more and surf the internet less. I’ve started by picking out the first two books on my New Year’s reading list: All They Need by Sarah Mayberry and Ain’t Misbehaving by Molly Cannon.

Last year at the national RWA conference, I attended a seminar on Emotional Resonance delivered by Tanya Michaels. She named several writers throughout her talk, one of whom was Sarah Mayberry. I downloaded two of Ms. Mayberry’s books on my Kindle following the speech. I read the first last year and loved how Ms. Mayberry molded her characters into realistic people who could live next door. Both the hero and heroine impressed me because they had faults as well as strengths. So I picked out the second book that I had downloaded to be one of my first reads of the year. On the dear reader page, I discovered it was one of the two sequels she had written so I found a copy of the first one because I like to read books in order whenever possible. Tonight I started All I Need, the story of Mel and Flynn. So far it’s very good, and once again, Ms. Mayberry does an excellent job in entwining the reader into the lives of the characters, people you want to get to know and meet in real life.

I’ll let you know if it continues its present form of being a really good read. I especially love that it’s set in Australia, as Ms. Mayberry herself is from Australia. I have a particular fascination with Australia and New Zealand, two very beautiful and scenic countries.

So far, so good. The first book of this year is an enjoyable read. I’m hoping it’s a good sign for this year as well. May your new year be filled with good books and good goals. Happy reading.

What books are you excited about reading this year?

Writing Tuesday: So What Have I Done

What songs make you think about your life? There are so many types of music out there that hopefully a certain type of music appeals to you whether it’s alternative, rap, hip-hop, pop, jazz, classical, R&B, swing (Big Band), country, Broadway, folk, blues, Reggae, New Age and even more. There are also so many holiday songs to enjoy as well. Inevitably when I turn on the radio during the holiday season, I hear John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas” at least one time. One line in that song always made me think about my life. The second line in the song asks what a person has done (I think fair use allows me to say that the second line is “So What have you done”). A few years ago, I would hear that line and would regret that I hadn’t started writing. So finally I started writing.

I wrote a book and almost finished another when the pregnancy test came back positive. I thought it would be a cinch to write whenever the baby was sleeping or whenever my two older children helped out with the baby. Then I discovered I was having twins. I developed writer’s block and put writing on the back burner, but I still had ideas running through my head. When the twins started mother’s morning out, I decided my “maternity leave” was over and that this time, I would be serious about it. This time I sought out writers’ groups and attended conferences. I’ve sought out critique partners and received invaluable information from people who have cared enough to read my work and tell me what I’m doing wrong as well as told me if something made them smile.

Although I gave up on my first attempt citing writer’s block and life issues, I’m learning the meaning of perseverance. This year was not easy as I’ve been dealing with the loss of my father after my mother passed away eighteen months earlier. During one of our last talks, my father told me how proud he was that I discovered that I’m a writer. Even though I’m not published, I can finally look back whenever I hear the John Lennon song and say I am doing something that I love. I’ve finished my first book (my first after the “maternity break” because I’m not counting the book from before my “maternity break.”) and I’ve started my second and third books. I’ve joined three wonderful writing organizations whose members are encouraging and generous with their time.

So if you have a book in you and haven’t started writing, don’t even delay until tomorrow. Start today. If you’re a plotter, start your outline and your research. If you’re a pantser, start writing.

I’m very thankful that I have a family who is encouraging me in my endeavors. My wonderful hubby and my four kids help me in my quest to find time to write, find stories to write, and find time to attend conferences and meetings which will hopefully help me become a better writer. Telling others about your writing can also be a huge step to finishing the book that you have in you.

So thank you, John Lennon, for your question that is one of the reasons I finally spurred myself to take that first step to writing books. Has any song helped you realize something about yourself?

Writing Monday (hey, I’m a little behind): Books about writing

This past January, little introverted me braved the waters and went to her first ever Georgia Romance Writers meeting. I only wish I had known about this organization sooner. That very first meeting, a wonderful person pulled me aside and asked me if I knew about Deb Dixon’s book, Goals, Motivation, and Conflict. I shook my head no and wondered to what she was referring. That same day I drove home and ordered a copy of the book off of the website she recommended  (this alone told me the person who recommended it to me is definitely a person who knows about her craft because she saved me around a hundred dollars.)

I read the book and wondered about the line that said that finding goals, motivations and conflicts would become invasive and that writers look for goals, motivations and conflicts all the time.

Additionally, I had the honor of listening to Ms. Dixon present a major speech based on her book at this year’s Moonlight and Magnolias conference. In addition to reading her book, I now heard her information presented to me, yet another way of assimilating the information contained in the book.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Ms. Dixon presents a new way of looking at characterization that I had never realized before I read it.

To my surprise, I discovered she was right. I do analyze other works to discover character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts. Last night, my wonderful hubby and I went to a retro screening of It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Throughout the movie, I found myself thinking about George Bailey and how his goals and motivations were thwarted at every turn. I also found myself thinking about Mr. Potter’s goals, motivations and conflicts. I wondered for the first time if Mr. Potter knew exactly how much George Bailey meant to him. It can’t be very much fun to have your flunkies do your bidding all the time. George provided him with a challenge, a reason to get out of bed. Without George around, what was Mr. Potter going to do? How would he enjoy life with no conflict in it?

Needless to say, I love It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a marvelous movie and I find something new every time I watch it. This time in addition to the new analysis of it, I noticed that the crony that’s always in back of Mr. Potter is listed in the credits as his bodyguard. Hmm, that was telling. For the first time, I saw the guy in the scenes but thought he was the only friend Potter had, a fellow crony who delighted in suppressing the dreams and hopes of the citizens of Bedford Falls. Instead, the guy was his bodyguard.

But I digress. As a write-at-home mom, I am now searching out character’s goals, convicts and motivations. This book influenced not only my writing but also the way I approach movies and other books. What books relating to your career have influenced you?

Family Friday: Movie Theater Candy

ImageMy wonderful hubby and I don’t go to the movies very often anymore. When we started dating in college, we went to the movies all the time. We were both members of a cinematic group at our college and if we helped with the showings, we received free admission. Pre-marriage, you could find us at the college theater most nights of the week. We feasted on classic movies and newer ones. Pre-kids and post-college, we still went to the movies although not as often now that we had to pay theater prices. I remember being eight and three-quarters’ months pregnant with Kath and going to see As Good As It Gets with my wonderful hubby. Amazingly, I didn’t have to leave to go to the bathroom once during the movie.

Now that we have four kids and I’m a write-at-home mom who hasn’t been published yet, we don’t go to the movies as often. The last four movies we’ve seen together as a couple are Harry Potter 7A, Harry Potter 7B, Skyfall and last week, we went to see a retro classic showing of Holiday Inn at a downtown movie theater (that was simply dripping with personality-wonderful scarlet and gold draping in the screening room, a huge sitting room outside the bathroom with a little Christmas tree and big, comfy chairs). While we were buying our tickets, I looked down at the display case holding the candy. I realized that each of my four kids are like different brands of candy.

Kath is a little like SweetTarts. She’s sweet and tart at the same time; you might have figured out from the As Good As It Gets reference that she’s a teenager. One minute, she can be waxing eloquently about her bunny or something else that she loves. The next she can deliver a zinger and you wonder when she changed from the dancing figure on the fireplace mantel to the slightly sarcastic teen that she is. Nevertheless, she throws her whole heart into certain endeavors that she still reminds me of SweetTarts.

MJ is probably most like Raisinets. He’s a preteen boy (do I need to say more, but I will write more). On the outside, he wants to be slightly tougher now that he’s growing up. On the inside, there’s a gushy layer that still wants to stay little for a little while longer. He still likes his stuffed animals but wouldn’t admit that to his classmates. Another way that he’s like multi-layered candy is that he doesn’t like showers and he has a multiple layer of dirt attached to his ears that comes off when I pester him so much that he finally takes a shower. MJ does have a sweet side that made sure that he took his own money to school to buy his siblings presents for Christmas. There’s hope for him yet.

Cupcake (who is the 4 year old twin of Chunk) is like Sno-Caps. She’s sweet when she wants to be. In the morning, she wants Cupcake Cuddles until she is hungry and then she wants her breakfast that exact moment. She does have those little extra surprises that stay with you for a little while after you finish your first bite of candy. Cupcake is the more physically adept twin, but sometimes she’ll make little comments that make you realize she’s listening to every word you say. She also remembers a lot of little things. If I start a word game or a number game to help get through the morning traffic on their way to preschool, she’ll ask me to play it with her for the next two or three months until something else catches her fancy.

Chunk is like a Hershey’s chocolate bar. At four, he’s usually the most straightforward of the four kids. He loves food; he was so happy when Santa brought him a watermelon. He likes to cuddle, especially when he’s sleepy. Usually what you see is what you get, especially like a chocolate bar. It’s not the fanciest type of chocolate, but it’s dependable and you know what you are getting. Yes, he’ll get frustrated when he doesn’t get something Cupcake has, but he’s still relatively distracted if you try to get his mind focused on something else.

As a mom of twins (and singletons), I was asked (when they were babies) how do I tell them apart? I’m not lying. People would ask me how I tell Cupcake and Chunk apart. Although my mind wanted to say that I just take off their diaper, I usually politely reminded that person that one is a girl and one is a boy. The important thing with my family is that each member is unique and brings something different to the table. Just like there are so many varieties of candy in a movie theater display case, our family has unique voices that each strain to make themselves heard.  As a mom, I just have to remember they are each different and I hope I make each of them feel unique and special.

What about your family? Do any of your kids remind you of different types of candy even though they aren’t necessarily sweet all the time? Let me know.

“What am I reading” Wednesdays: Children’s books

Everywhere I go, I make sure I have my Kindle or a paper book with me. I love to read. When I was waiting for my husband for our date night, I had my Kindle with me and read part of a novella while I waited for him. The minutes went by like seconds as I waited because I made the acquaintance of the characters in the story.

Reading is an intrinsic part of my life. While I was writing this blog, four-year-old Cupcake walked into my room, carrying her night-night story. I stopped writing to read her the story of “Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car.” Eileen Christelow’s poem evokes images of childhood with rhyming stories and colorful pictures. The story itself tells of determination and elbow grease to reach one’s goals and aspirations with a little bit of ingenuity to throw off the bad guys. It also teaches about single parenthood as the five little monkeys exhaust their mother who is trying to take an afternoon nap.

But I digress from what I’m reading to what I’m reading my children although my children play a role in what I read this week. While I’m reading some wonderful romance novels (I am after all, a pre-published, aspiring romance writer), I also took some time this week to venture into some children’s novels. I finished What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston (I stayed up late one night last week, reading until shortly after midnight to find out what happened to Georgette and James. I’m reading a spicy romance contemporary right now by Bella Andre who is scheduled to be one of the main speakers at the 2014 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. I wanted to read some of her works before hearing her speak next October. Those books are both paper copies.

Sometimes I carry my Kindle as it is lightweight and can carry a virtual library. This past weekend I ventured forty miles away from home to chauffeur Kath on a band audition. In the noisy gymnasium where all the students were warming up, I found myself surrounded by high school students blaring scales and audition pieces. I needed something very easy to read on my Kindle. I had never read Pollyanna which I downloaded over a year ago. I figured some kid lit would get me through the loud time and then I could return to the romantic beach setting of the other Kindle book I am reading. To my surprise, I enjoyed Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. I saw the movie with Hayley Mills and Jane Wyman years ago, but I had never read the book until this weekend. Although Pollyanna has come to be synonymous with an overly sweet, syrupy young female heroine, she wasn’t as saccharine as I expected. The girl was trying to find her way in a world without her beloved parents while living with an aunt who refused to allow her to discuss anything about her father. Yes, it was a bit dated and Pollyanna was a little bit cloying at times, but the book was different from what I expected. Pollyanna leaped off the pages as the author used setting and stories to develop her characters. Pollyanna discussed her life out West by describing the women of the Ladies’ Aid in detail. One had a sense of knowing women like those in the Ladies’ Aid even now a hundred years later. Her Aunt Polly adopted her out of a sense of duty, and that sentiment still applies today. So many times people perform tasks out of a sense of duty rather than of genuine commitment and dedication. So even though Pollyanna gets a bad rap today and is a bit dated, some of the book still rings true: the maid who has to get a job because her family has no money, the girl who wants to talk to people to get to know them, the aunt who doesn’t want to let go of her pride rather than let people get close to her.

In addition to Pollyanna, I recently read another children’s classic that I had never read before: Mary Poppins. To my surprise, Mary Poppins is more sardonic than her movie character. She’s not quite as perfect but she gets involved in the family’s life all the same. Both of these books were immortalized as Disney movies, but each stands alone as interesting reads because of the perceptions of the heroines versus the way the writers develop them in the books.

Now I’m back to my romance novella and the romance novel I’m reading. I’m still finishing Meg and Caleb’s story in Beach House No. 9 and will finish Chloe and Chase’s story in a couple of days.

Have there been any books that you read because of a movie adaptation which surprised you because the characters were different from the movie characters? Have there been any books that you’ve read as an adult because you didn’t read them as a child? Let me know. Happy holidays.