The Write Stuff: A Mixed Bag

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffWe’re rounding the last turn of 2017, and The Write Stuff isn’t steaming along quite as well as I hoped.

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

The Write Stuff, August 2017

I’d love to meet this goal, but the harder I push to come up with an idea, the less creative my brain seems. I’ve been relying on something in life to inspire me, but when you get down to it my life isn’t very inspirational. Unless people are suddenly interested in reading about a person who does the same things, day in and day out.

Goal 2: Write one in-character scene after every D&D session

(Formerly: Do as many of the 642 Tiny Things to Write About as I can)

Our whole group is suffering from what I call “D&D hangover.” We finally faced the Big Bad Guy, only to discover — dun dun DUN — that he wasn’t the Big Bad Guy after all. Now there’s a worse storm coming for our characters.

I wrote a short “Saying Goodbye” thing soon after our last session and posted it to our Facebook group.

This campaign is taking a break for the holiday season; I’m going to try to write a few smaller things here and there in the meantime.

Goal 3: Join a writing community (and actually share stuff for feedback)

No new “official” writing means I haven’t posted anything for review. I’d like to share some of my completed drafts with people — I’m just not sure how to do that, other than posting it directly to Facebook.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

Still plugging away. It’s a bit of a downer compared to my last update. Fall and winter seem to be the least productive time for me, creativity-wise.

How’s your writing going?

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Review: Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse, Faith SullivanMost people would consider Nell Stillman’s life rather ordinary. Harvester, Minnesota was founded when God was a boy, and no amount of modern conveniences seem able to drag it into the modern age.

But when you look closer, you see that Nell’s life is actually extraordinary. She raises her son alone, falls in love, experiences some of the horrors of war, and has an impact on the world around her.

Throughout the ups and down, literature is Nell’s constant companion. The books of Austen, Chekhov, and her beloved Wodehouse console her, transform her, and give her something to live for.

A total surprise

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse started off as what I call a “quiet” novel: the plot is very domestic and calm — there’s no murder, explosions, or heavy drama. Nell is simply a good person with realistic characteristics and flaws.

Things change at about the halfway point. Her son is home from WWI, recovering from wounds and crippled by shell shock. She starts getting anonymous notes calling her a “whore” for loving a man who is not her husband. The Great Depression and old age sap the life from her dearest friends.

Now the quiet novel I was liking just fine became a study of the human condition, and I couldn’t stop reading. It was obvious the author wanted me to appreciate the classic books Nell was reading, but in truth I kept skimming over that stuff. I wanted to read about the characters.

The ending was so poignant, and hit me right in the gut. My husband found me crying on the couch with the book in my lap. Fortunately this is a sight to which he is accustomed, so it didn’t cause a freakout.

Sullivan has written a beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting novel. The characters feel like family, and I love them. Please read this book.

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Review: Pleating for Mercy

Pleating for Mercy, Melissa BourbonAfter her great-grandmother’s death, Harlow Jean Cassidy has moved back to her hometown of Bliss, Texas. She’s happy to be back, but her dressmaking boutique hasn’t exactly taken off — she’s spent most of her time hemming polyester pants.

Then Harlow’s childhood friend Josie shows up needing a wedding gown and three bridesmaid’s dresses for her ceremony that’s less than two weeks away. Suddenly Harlow has more work than she can handle.

Things get worse when one of Josie’s bridesmaids is found murdered. With the help of newfound friends — and her family secret — Harlow must find the killer before it’s too late.

Nothing like a cozy mystery

When life is crazy, sometimes a cozy murder mystery is just what the doctor ordered.

Pleating for Mercy is quintessentially cozy, with fun characters, small romances, and a mystery that managed to be interesting without being overly heavy.

It’s the first in a series, naturally, and sets up some great characters and relationships.

There’s the magical “Cassidy family secret,” as well as some ghostly activity. These are both well done, and I enjoyed seeing Harlow grow into her abilities.

Two thumbs up! Now, back to cross-stitching.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. October’s challenge was to read a mystery novel, be it cozy, scary, or paranormal.)

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State of the Blog: September 2017

State of the BlogI had my first pumpkin spice doughnut of the season a few weeks ago. It must be fall, which means it’s time for the quarterly bookish update!

The basics

  • Books read since January 1: 43
  • Pages read: 14,311
  • Books reviewed: 28
  • Books not enjoyed: 4
  • Books not finished: 0
  • Library books: 18
  • Ebooks: 6
  • Audiobooks: 0

Genre breakdown

  • Fiction: 28
  • Non-fiction: 15
  • Fantasy: 3
  • History: 7
  • Memoir: 2
  • Mystery/Thriller: 18
  • Paranormal/Supernatural: 4
  • Young adult literature: 2
  • Children’s literature: 1

Reading challenges

  • Charity Reading Challenge: 43 books read
  • Monthly Motif Challenge:  9 of 12
  • Off the Shelf Reading Challenge: 2 of 9

Check out my reading challenge progress.

Some thoughts

  • The end of September snuck up on me. Between moving and various family activities, I haven’t had much time to read or post.
  • I enjoyed writing about my approach to minimalism.
  • I finished a 3,000+ word story for The Write Stuff! It’s the longest thing I’ve written since college.

Looking ahead

  • I’ve been doing some soul-searching and trying to answer the “Where do you see yourself in five years” question. It’s frustrating, and I’d love to get some next steps in place for my goals.
  • I want to finish out The Write Stuff challenge. I need to knuckle down and focus on brainstorming.

How’s your reading going this year?

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Review: Keturah and Lord Death

Keturah and Lord Death, Martine LeavittWhile wandering the woods outside her small village, Keturah becomes lost. On the third day, Death comes for her.

Using her talents as a storyteller, Keturah convinces Death to let her live for one more day. But she must find her true love before the next sunset, or she will die.

I can’t even

This book is so dumb I couldn’t even finish summarizing it.

I’m tempted to list excuses. It’s a young adult novel targeted at girls, so of course it’s sappy and ridiculous. There are some potentially interesting themes. But in truth, it’s…it’s just not good.

The plot is uneven. Death wants to kill Keturah, but she tells a story that he somehow considers compelling enough to let her live. She spends the next several hundred pages setting her friends up with husbands, but then there’s also a plague and a witch?

It felt super generic and overly sappy. I kept imaging Death as a kid wearing all black, who does a lot of whining and constantly has his hair combed over one eye.

The author couldn’t make me care about any of the characters. I skimmed after page 50, mostly to see if it got any better. It didn’t. The ending is nearly nonsensical.

A totally unexpected bummer of a read.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. September’s challenge was to read a book that involves a game of some sort.)

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