DSC_6334_smallWelcome to my writing pages!  The main focus of this website is to offer writing tips, prompts, and inspiration to writers, no matter what their genre or skill level. You’ll also find information on my published works and the ones in progress. My schedule for posting is:

Monday Sparks: Writing prompts to fan your creative flame.

Thursdays – Writing tips based on a monthly theme

You will also find me on AmazonFacebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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Three Ways Writers Can Reclaim Reading Joy

As I said at the beginning of the month, it’s difficult for me to read for pleasure because I read through my writer’s lens and evaluate a story as a writer, not as a reader. I still struggle with this problem but discovered three ways writers can reclaim reading joy.

Schedule Time to Read

That may not sound like fun. I have to schedule time to read like a dental appointment? But I’ve found that with a husband and kids, if I don’t schedule everything–even something as minor as my pleasure reading–I will never stumble across a free hour to sit down with a book. I have never stumbled across a free hour to do anything since my kids were born. Now I understand why my mother often took a book to the bathroom.

On Sundays, I don’t do any writing or anything related to publishing. I try to read just for the fun of it. I’m not always successful. I’m so wired to work that it’s hard to relax. But it’s nice to stretch out with a book other than at bedtime.

Read Dead Authors

A good piece of advice for writers pursuing publication is to become familiar with the books currently being published in their genre. The drawback of that advice is that writers constantly analyze those books, comparing them to their work in progress, robbing themselves of reading joy.

Reading great books from the past in my genre removes the need to dissect them. It also educates me in the history of my genre.

Read a Genre You Don’t Write

Reading a genre I have no intention of writing in helps silence, or at least muffles, my internal editor. I can more easily approach a book of historical fiction or sci-fi as a reader than as a writer.

That’s one reason I enjoy reading poetry. I know I’ll never publish anything I write, so reading it is simply fun.

Writers, how do you reclaim reading joy? Readers, what do you do when the joy drains out of reading?

What Are Your Comfort Books?

What are your comfort books? I define comfort books as the books I turn to again and again and enjoy each time I read them. Sometimes, I’m not in an adventurous mood and want to dive into a book that I know will have a good ending. Or I’m depressed and need to read the humorous stories that have made me smile and laugh In the past. Or I’m going on a trip and don’t want to be stuck with a new book I don’t like.

Some of the comfort books I depend on are:

Your turn. What are your comfort books?

Why I Love Short Stories

I don’t remember when I fell in love with short stories. Must have been early, in junior high or high school. As a mystery fan, I know mysteries have a long, proud short story tradition–the first mysteries were short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes but fifty-six short stories. I discovered Ray Bradbury short stories at my first library job. After so many years of reading this literary form, I can give you four reasons why I love short stories.

Quick Satisfaction

I read for pleasure at night to help me get sleepy. Short stories allow me to enjoy a complete story in one or two sitting. Since I’ve had kids, I find it much more difficult to finish a novel. If I really like it, I have to sneak in reading time at other points during the day besides bedtime, and ultimately, I grow frustrated.

Sampling New Authors and Genres

When I long for something new to read, I pick up anthologies. I can sample a variety of authors in a short amount of time. If I like a particular author’s story, I’ll seek out his other works, including novels. If I need a break from mysteries, I’m more willing to try a different genre in short story form because it’s less of a commitment. I enjoy reading fantasy and sci-fi in short stories because I don’t enjoy novel with world-building so complicated I need to take notes. Short stories allow me to dip into a fantasy world without drowning in details.

Immersive Reading

I find it easier to get lost in a short story than a novel. Maybe it’s because a short story often takes place in one setting and is told from one point of view. Novels can achieve this too. One of the reason that Watership Down is a favorite novel of mine is because author Richard Adams does such a marvelous job of making the English countryside come alive. But I think it’s harder to do this in novels because they have more plot to keep moving. The short length of short stories actually works in their favor by forcing writers to zero in on settings and characters and to make every word work double, triple, or quadruple duty.

Twist Endings

If there’s one literary technique short stories do better than novels, it’s the twist ending. Again, I think it has to do with the length. On April Fool’s Day, a person doesn’t mind being tricked for a few minutes. But if the joker keeps it up until the end of the day, the victim will feel stupid and conned. Finding a twist ending at the end of a short story seems appropriate after I invest only an hour to it. But if I spend days with a novel, only to have all my conceptions upended, I’ll most likely feel cheated.

Novels can do the twist ending well. Agatha Christie pulled it off in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I just think it’s much harder to keep the truth hidden from readers for hundreds of pages instead of fifty and not have them feel like they’ve been scammed.

Which do you prefer—short stories or novels and why?

Your Favorite Stories Outside Your Favorite Genre

I’m sorry I missed last Monday’s prompt. We had a death in our family.

Bu I’m back this week with a prompt that, instead of inspiring stories, will inspire a discussion about the joy of reading. What are your favorite stories outside your favorite genre?

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know mystery is my favorite genre. Like any mystery fan, I can place my favorite stories in their subgenres, such cozy, YA, historical, classic whodunit, and so on.

But some of the my favorite stories are outside my favorite genre. Watership Down by Richard Adams and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells are two of my all-time favorite novels, and they are speculative fiction. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Endurance by Caroline Alexander, and Dove by Robin Lee Graham are nonfiction books I love. Click on the titles to read my reviews.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorites?

Children’s Books I Still Love

The problem with pursuing writing as a profession is that I’ve just about ruined pleasure reading for myself. I’m so well-trained to analyze the writing (Wow! That was a great metaphor. How’d she come up with that? That’s a really effective plot twist. How did he lay the groundwork for it?) that I can rarely sit down with a book as simply a reader. So this month, my theme is the joy of reading, all about books we love. To kick things off for the month, I’m writing a bout children’s books I still love after all these years.

The McBroom Saga

The McBroom books were a series of longer picture books written by Sid Fleischman. The narrator of the stories is always Josh McBroom, the father of the McBroom clan, which consists of his “dear wife” Melissa and eleven redheaded children. They live on a “wonderful one-acre farm” with soil so rich that they can grow a whole corn crop in a matter of days. The farm is so unusual that many of the plots concern the underhanded tactics the family’s neighbor Heck Jones deploys to steal their farm.

I still love these books for the same reasons I did as a kid. First, Mr. Fleischman wrote them in dialect.

Beasts and birds? Oh, I’ve heard some whoppers about the strange critters out here on the prairie. Why, just the other day a fellow told me he’d once owned a talking rattlesnake. It didn’t talk excactly. He said it shook its rattles in Morse code.

Well, there’s not an ounce of fact in that. Gracious, no! That fellow had no regard for the truth. Everyone knows that a snake can’t spell.

McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman

The dialect reminds me of how my grandparents talked. Small rant here: for some reason I can’t figure out, publishers hate it when authors write in dialect. I understand that we can overdo it and make the dialogue almost gibberish. But when done well, it makes characters stand out. My oldest is a huge fan of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Certain tribes of animals talk with specific dialects. My oldest was eleven when he started the series and had no trouble understanding what the characters were saying. So why can’t authors include dialect in YA and adult books? It’s one of life’s unsolved mysteries. Okay. Rant over.

The second thing I loved about this series was the big family. When Josh McBroom wants all his children to gather round, he calls “Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleclarinda!” I thought it would be fun to grow up with so many brothers and sisters.

The Three Investigators

The Three Investigators was a mystery series begun in the 1960’s by Robert Arthur. Three fourteen-year-old boys run a detective business in California and sometimes get work with the help of their friend, Alfred Hitchcock. These books are a step up from the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The three boys, Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, have more distinct personalities than the Hardy Boys, especially Jupiter. The brains of the business, he lives with his aunt and uncle in a salvage yard where the boys have converted an old trailer into their office, hiding it amid all the junk. He’s always described as “stocky”, he’s relentlessly logical, and the few illustrations included in the books always show him wearing Hawaiian shirts.

The mysteries are more complicated. In The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar, the boys thwart a gunrunning operation with international repercussions. I had a lot of fun last summer introducing my youngest to these, and he fell in love with them, using them for a book report.

What children’s books do you still love?

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