Writer’s Weekend Resources and Writing as Rebellion

dark-mermaidI had forgotten what it feels like to sit down at the keyboard with a steaming mug of tea to my right and a purring feline curled up in the cat bed to my left, to watch as a world of my own devising opens up in front of me on the modest screen of my aging MacBook.

Though I spend hours and hours each day sitting in this same spot, it doesn’t feel anything like this. The vast majority of my time at the keyboard is spent stringing words together for other people. Day in and day out, I work diligently on brand messaging and website copy and ebooks and blog posts; but it’s not at all the same as sitting here with the prospect of creating something unique and wholly mine.

There is something rebellious about writing. As storytellers, we get to recreate the world as we like. We get to mete out justice as we see fit. We get to decide who wins and who loses, and why. Through our stories, we get to say exactly what we believe and feel about this crazy adventure of being human. And we get to dream about all the possibilities that exist outside the realm of our personal experience.

So, when I sit here preparing to work on one of my own stories, the contentment I feel at having carved out time for writing floats on the surface of a gently undulating ocean of brewing insurrection. Just below my conscious thoughts, shadows glide. I sense them more than I see them – the deeper elements of my story, the truths that drew me to sit here, with my tea and my cats, at the keyboard. They are a little scary because they will make demands of me that push me outside my comfort zone, but they are also exciting to me because I know that their presence is what drives me to write in the first place. I can’t quite make them out, but I know that they will eventually reveal themselves to me, and then it will be like the floodgates have opened and the story will come pouring out.

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

book-long-dark-teatimeSometimes, the best antidote to real-world craziness is to pick up a book about a world that’s even crazier than the one we’re living in. That’s why this week I reached for an old favorite that I haven’t read in a while. The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul by Douglas Adams is one of two books about Dirk Gently and his Holistic Detective Agency.

From the Amazon description:

When a passenger check-in desk at London’s Heathrow Airport disappears in a ball of orange flame, the explosion is deemed an act of God. But which god, wonders holistic detective Dirk Gently? What god would be hanging around Heathrow trying to catch the 3:37 to Oslo? And what has this to do with Dirk’s latest–and late– client, found only this morning with his head revolving atop the hit record “Hot Potato”? Amid the hostile attentions of a stray eagle and the trauma of a very dirty refrigerator, super-sleuth Dirk Gently will once again solve the mysteries of the universe…

If you’re in need of something to take your mind of stressful news of, oh, I don’t know … the election, perhaps, this or any one of Adams’ other works might be just the thing to distract you while also giving you a sense that everything will be okay in the end, no matter how insane things get.

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

 ··• )o( •··

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-blood-sport

Here’s to finding your moments of contentment, leaning closer to the truths in your stories, and fighting crazy with crazy (especially in the month of November!). 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: mermaid_crystal Flickr via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources

What fears lurk in your writer's mind?

What fears lurk in your writer’s mind?

On Friday, we shared some of our writerly fears, and some of you shared some of yours back (thanks!). If you missed that post, I encourage you to check it out and maybe add your own not-so-secret fears/worries to the list. As Ursula K. Le Guin made clear in her Earthsea series, there is power in naming a thing. By naming it, you gain control over it. It no longer has the ability to make you afraid.

So, in honor of Halloween, perhaps today is the day to face your fears and teach them who’s boss. Dan Blank had a great post about this very topic earlier this week. In fact, he provides four very tactical tips on how to overcome fear and get out of a writing slump.

And, might I also suggest tapping into your dark side to fuel your writing? Sometimes, the best defense is a strong offense … like when I used to growl to keep the monsters in the basement at bay.

Overcoming your fears isn’t a quick-fix, silver-bullet kind of thing; but it’s also not an impossible goal. You can do it.

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

book-menagerieThis week, I finished listening to Menagerie by Rachel Vincent. When I went to leave my star-based rating on Goodreads, I struggled, vacillating between three stars and four, and cursing that the ranking system doesn’t allow for + half-star options. My problem was that while the writing wasn’t what you might call “literary” (whatever that means – loaded term, I know), the story concept and plot were respectively fascinating and engaging. My “proper” writer cringed slightly when, for example, there was more telling than showing or when the pacing and tension temporarily got a little sludgy halfway through. BUT, my swept-away reader thoroughly enjoyed surrendering to the story (even – don’t tell! – shirking work a bit here and there and staying up late into the night because I just had to know what happened next).

At the end of the day, I’m just going to say that I enjoyed this one. It kept me engaged and dealt with some interesting ideas and the very relevant themes of fear, racism, and exclusion. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

If you read it, I’d love to know what you think!

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-fear-little-death

Here’s to overcoming your fears, one at a time, and living the life you’re meant to live – writing the stories you’re meant to write. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources

Hello & happy Sunday!

I hope this week’s wrap-up of good reads and favorite blog posts finds you well. I’m happy to report that I was able to find a couple small pockets of time to set work aside and just scribble in one of my idea notebooks. It’s the first time I’d had a chance to do that in a long while, and I was relieved to find that I actually do still have some ideas and (more importantly!) a few were even almost coherent! 😉

If you’ve lately denied yourself the gift of some agenda-free time with your pen and notebook, I hope that you’ll treat yourself to some “noodling” time. It’s such a great way to re-ground yourself and get inspired anew. Seriously. Make it happen.

_jamie sig

 

 


book-timebound Books I’m Reading:

Timebound is the first book in Rysa Walker’s Chronos Files series, which (so far) includes three novels, three novellas, and a spin off comic book series. As usual, I can’t remember how I came across this book (I really need to keep better track of that!), but I wound up listening to it as a Audible audio book.

From Walker’s site:

When Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandmother gives her a strange blue medallion and speaks of time travel, sixteen-year-old Kate assumes the old woman is delusional. But it all becomes horrifyingly real when a murder in the past destroys the foundation of Kate’s present-day life. Suddenly, that medallion is the only thing protecting Kate from blinking out of existence.

Kate learns that the 1893 killing is part of something much more sinister, and her genetic ability to time travel makes Kate the only one who can fix the future. Risking everything, she travels back in time to the Chicago World’s Fair to try to prevent the murder and the chain of events that follows.

Changing the timeline comes with a personal cost—if Kate succeeds, the boy she loves will have no memory of her existence. And regardless of her motives, does Kate have the right to manipulate the fate of the entire world?

This book is classic YA (complete with a love triangle), and not my usual cup of tea (I tend to go right from middle-grade to adult fiction, skipping most YA); but the time traveling piece of the story intrigued me. I also liked the multi-generational aspect of a granddaughter and grandmother working together.

The story held my interest from start to finish, even though the characters and relationships sometimes slipped into stereotype territory. After all, sometimes all you really want is a decent story. You don’t need any earth-shattering revelations.

While I was listening to Walker’s time-traveling novel, I kept seeing ads for NBC’s new series, Timeless, which is also about someone trying to change the past in order to influence the future. And then, while Googling Timeless, I came across this fun and thought-provoking article by Elizabeth Logan about why there are so many new TV shows about time travel. I especially liked her writerly observations including, “It’s easier to write certain plot lines if there aren’t cell phones,” and “In an age when almost every tent-pole film or series is based on a preexisting character with an established fan base, time travel is a clever way to circumvent the franchise system: use people and events we learned about in school.”

What do you think about the current trend of time-traveling shows and movies? What do you think it says about how we’re feeling? What kind of wish fulfillment do these stories offer? Also – if you could time travel to anytime, when would that be and why?


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-balanced-life

Here’s to rainy weekends (which is what we have in my neck of the woods) because they are the perfect time to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources: Reading and Writing Links

Coffee for Three

Coffee for Three

Earlier this year, before I had come to terms with the reality that an onslaught of colliding project deadlines would render this The Summer That Wasn’t, I wrote a post encouraging you writers to Get Out! … to enjoy participating in the world as much as you enjoy observing, recording, and – in many cases – creating it.

I was reminded of that post earlier this week when, for the first time in ages, I gave myself permission to spend part of my morning hanging out at the local coffee shop. As fate would have it, I ran into a couple of women (one whom I hadn’t talked to in a long while and another with whom I’d recently spent the day). While I had planned to use my coffee shop time to do some long overdue journaling, outline a post for this blog, and put together some notes for an upcoming guest appearance on a podcast, the chance encounter with these ladies swept all such intentions away. Instead, I surrendered to the pleasure of our spontaneous and meandering conversation.

My work still got done, it just got done later. More importantly, I came away from my redirected morning feeling energized and inspired.

As writers, looking within is a major part of the gig. It’s what we do. We spend a lot of our time in our own heads – creating, building, crafting. But, sometimes it’s a good idea to get out of our own heads and into the world where we can talk with other people and connect face to face instead of on the page.

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

This week, I read two middle grade novels, which – by coincidence – both featured misunderstood witches. Though I chose them more or less at random, they turned out to be quite pointedly apropos for the Halloween season, especially given the recent trips my daughter and I have made to nearby Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the tragic witch trials of the late 1600s.

book-girl-drank-moonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon is author Kelly Barnhill‘s fourth novel, and the first of her books that I’ve read. (I will definitely be reading others!) It’s the story of a girl named Luna, of secrets and lies, of growing up and growing old. It’s a story of magic, sorrow, and – most of all – hope. There is an old witch named Xan, a wise Swamp Monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. And there is moonlight and wonder and fierce love.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a fairytale, but one that can – despite adhering to many of the classic fairytale tropes – enchant and surprise. Barnhill’s storytelling style weaves a cocoon of time and place around the reader, drawing you in by piquing your curiosity and keeping you enthralled with the entwining threads of the story and her often poetic use of language. There is danger and mystery, but also laughter and comfort. Barnhill creates an exquisite balance between the dark and the light.

This was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading even after I’d turned the last page. I am very much looking forward to reading some of her other works.

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book-thicketyThe Thickety – A Path Begins is the first in J.A. White’s four-book series about a dark, forbidding forest and magic – both good and evil. This one was a serious page turner. As White’s fellow author said in a back cover blurb, “The Thickety is a sinister, magical debut with a marvelous and shocking heroine. J.A. White’s elegant writing and masterful plot kept me turning pages late into the night.” She’s not kidding.

Thankfully, the book was a quick read. Even better, when I dropped into my local library yesterday morning, the second installment of the series was sitting on the shelf, waiting for me. (Which was, I assure you, a big relief since the first book ended on something of a cliffhanger.)

Like The Girl Who Drank the Moon, The Thickety is another story about misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. Nothing is quite as it seems, and there are many twists and turns that draw you through the story, always wanting to read “just one more chapter.”

··• )o( •··

In addition to being appropriate for the Halloween season (because of the witches and various monsters), both of these books reminded me of the truth that children don’t want nice stories. Also, in the context of the current cultural and political upheaval in the United States, the themes of exclusion, persecution, intolerance, and misunderstanding leap all the more dramatically and heart-wrenchingly off the page. Who says that children’s books are only for children? We could all use a little more education in those areas.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-hungry-for-stories

Here’s to making new friends and spending time with old friends, getting out into the real world so you’re better equipped to create your own world, and “children’s” stories that teach us how to be better human beings.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Coffee Photo Credit: pr0digie Flickr via Compfight cc

Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links

Yesterday, my daughter and I spent the afternoon wandering through an open-air Halloween market in Salem, MA. There are few places where All Hallows’ Eve is more revered and celebrated than in this city where the original witch trials took place. The place was bustling with tourists from all over the country, locals who were game enough to put up with the crowds, and vendors and craftspeople who were delighted that the gorgeous weather and spooky festivities had drawn such numbers.

While there were plenty of photo opps, I somehow managed to come home with only a few snapshots of costumed dogs. Yep, leave it to me. I’m in a city filled with historic sites, professionally costumed characters, and dozens of street performers, and the only pictures I take are of cute canines in ridiculous get ups.

Anyway … I thought they might inspire some story ideas (or, at least a smile), so here are a few of the shots from our doggy day. Enjoy, and happy almost-Halloween!

_jamie sig

 

 

This is Chester, a handsome, eight year0old standard poodle who apparently wears a hot pink mohawk all year 'round.

This is Chester, a handsome, eight year-old standard poodle who apparently wears a hot pink mohawk all year ’round.

And here is Chester playing with my daughter, Meghan. They hit it off right away, and I think Chester might have opted to come home with us if we'd offered.

And here is Chester playing with my daughter, Meghan. They hit it off right away, and I think Chester might have opted to come home with us if we’d offered.

This is Miss Bella. She and her sister (who was dressed as Madonna during her like-a-virgin days) were quite the sensation as they strolled the market with friends helping to raise awareness about the unfair practice of breed-specific legislation such as the pitbull ban that was recently overturned in Montreal, saving the lives of hundreds if not thousands of innocent dogs.

This is Miss Bella. She and her sister (who was dressed as Madonna during her like-a-virgin days) were quite the sensation as they strolled the market with friends helping to raise awareness about the unfair practice of breed-specific legislation such as the pit bull ban that was recently overturned in Montreal, saving the lives of hundreds if not thousands of innocent dogs.

Finally, I didn't catch this little fella's name, but he was the epitome of a tired pup. Poor little guy tried to curl up in my lap when I sat down to get a photo, and his "mum" had to carry him back to the car.

Finally, I didn’t catch this little fella’s name, but he was the epitome of a tired pup. Poor little guy tried to curl up in my lap when I sat down to get a photo, and his “mum” had to carry him back to the car.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

 ··• )o( •··

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-never-be-ashamed

Here’s to loving what you love, even if it seems silly … like dogs in costumes. 😉
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links

illumination-lantern

Paper lantern lit by the sun just before dusk #night #magic #light

Last weekend’s autumn “Illumination” festival didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was lovely, nonetheless. Despite conscientious testing, floating the paper lanterns on the river atop mini inner tube rafts was a concept that had to be abandoned the morning of the event. Mother Nature was kicking up a bit of a breeze, and it turns out that paper lanterns are built to sway in the wind, not withstand it. Structurally, they just couldn’t hold up against even a gentle air current.

So, instead of sending the lanterns out onto the water, we hung them in the trees along the riverside path that was the main thoroughfare for festival goers. The effect was lovely. More than one person commented that it looked like a fairyland come to life. Just goes to show that even when something doesn’t quite turn out as you’d hoped, there is still beauty and magic to be found.

_jamie sig

 

 


 My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


book-productivity-for-creativesSundry Links and Articles:

I’m a longtime reader of the Lateral Action blog, so I was delighted to come across author Mark McGuinness’ post, Get My New Book FREE: Productivity for Creative People. In the post, McGuinness describes the book as follows:

The book is designed to help you take advantage of the benefits of our hyper-connected society, while staying true to your creative path.

It’s a distillation of my writings on creativity and productivity over the past decade, here at Lateral Action and elsewhere, plus brand new material and a structure that will help you redesign your working week for maximum creativity and minimum drudgery:

  1. Laying the Foundations – making big-picture decisions about your priorities and working practices
  2. Doing Creative Work – in spite of the demands and distractions of 21st century life
  3. Dealing with the Rest – in a timely and professional manner

All the ideas have been extensively road-tested – in my own life as a writer and coach, and in the lives of the hundreds of creative pros I’ve coached over the past 20 years.

I haven’t read it yet, but I have downloaded it and am very much looking forward to sitting down with Mark’s words and a mug of tea.

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messy-nessy-chicIf you’re looking for a little visual inspiration, you may want to check out You’ve Never Seen 1930s & 40s America Like This from @messynessychic. This collection of more than 1,600 color slides from the Library of Congress provides an intimate and almost surreal look at life in America in the 1930s and 40s. From still life compositions to portraits and candid shots, these images offer a feast of story inspiration.

Here are a few of my favorites complete with the captions from Messy Nessy Chic:

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, “backstage” at the “girlie” show, Sept 1941, photographed by Jack Delano

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, “backstage” at the “girlie” show, Sept 1941, photographed by Jack Delano

Commuters, who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home, Lowell, Mass, 1941 Jan, photographed by Jack Delano

Commuters, who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home, Lowell, Mass, 1941 Jan, photographed by Jack Delano

Children on row house steps, Washington, D.C, between 1941 and 1942, photographed by Louise Rosskam

Children on row house steps, Washington, D.C, between 1941 and 1942, photographed by Louise Rosskam

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-dangerous

Here’s to being dangerous.  
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links

Autumn Vignette: And in the faerie bower they slept amidst petals of every hue and dewdrops that shone like jewels.

Autumn Vignette: And in the faerie bower they slept amidst petals of every hue and dewdrops that shone like jewels.

Hello, and happy third day of fall!

I’m keeping today’s post pretty short since it’s my birthday today, and I’m trying to spend as little time as possible behind the keyboard. I told all my clients in advance that I was going to be unavailable this weekend. (I’ve had a summer’s worth of working Saturdays and Sundays, and even freelancers deserve a break once in a while.)

Instead of working, I will be part of the volunteer team that is putting together our town’s annual “Ipswich Illumination” night. I think this is the third year we’ve held this autumn festival, and it’s become one of my favorite local events. Usually, we have bonfires floating on the river; but, because of the drought, our fire chief very sensibly decided to ix-nay the floating fires. As a replacement, we’ll be using paper lanterns lit with a non-flammable light source.  So, on Saturday morning our volunteer brigade will be spending several hours hauling eighty specially assembled inner tube rigs out into the low tide muck where we will anchor them with bricks. Hopefully – if all goes well – when the sun goes down, we’ll have eighty paper lanterns glowing softly as they bob on the surface of the river on their rubber rafts. Should be quite a sight.

I look forward to being back into my usual groove next weekend. Until then, I hope you enjoy the links below. Have fun exploring & I’ll “see” you next weekend!

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

book-androids-dreamI love when a book surprises me.

Such was the case with The Android’s Dream, which I just finished listening to on Audible as read by Wil Wheaton. (Yes, that Wil Wheaton.) I had never heard of the book’s author – one John Scalzi – before, which may or may not be a terrible oversight seeing as the man has (according to his brief biography) won many awards (including the Hugo and the Locus), worked as a TV consultant and a video game writer, and also been the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (for three  years). Wow. Busy guy.

I picked up The Android’s Dream because it was on sale and the Audible write-up was intriguing:

A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most unusual way. To avoid war, Earth’s government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep (“The Android’s Dream”), used in the alien race’s coronation ceremony.

To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinaire, who with the help of Brian Javna, a childhood friend turned artificial intelligence, scours the earth looking for the rare creature. And they find it, in the unknowing form of Robin Baker, pet store owner, whose genes contain traces of the sheep DNA. But there are others with plans for the sheep as well: Mercenaries employed by the military. Adherents of a secret religion based on the writings of a 21st century science-fiction author. And alien races, eager to start a revolution on their home world and a war on Earth.

To keep our planet from being enslaved, Harry will have to pull off the greatest diplomatic coup in history, a grand gambit that will take him from the halls of power to the lava-strewn battlefields of alien worlds. There’s only one chance to get it right, to save the life of Robin Baker – and to protect the future of humanity.

Sounds fun, right?

It totally was.

This book has a lot going on: political intrigue, alien coups, snappy dialog, technological geekiness, convoluted subterfuge, spiritual quests, epic fights, and enough snarky and from-the-hip one liners to keep a smirk on my face for the whole 10+ hours of listening. Several times, I found myself making comparisons to the works of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. Yep. I went there.

The Android’s Dream may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There is a LOT of swearing. (I mean, a LOT.) There is also a fair amount of exposition in which the narrator provides somewhat opinionated backstory or general explanation about how such-and-such a thing works. Interestingly, while most schools of writing will warn you to steer clear of exposition, I found some of these passages to be very entertaining … even laugh-out-loud funny. There is also plenty of violence.

That said, this is also a book that made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy. Weird, I know, but true.

If you’re intrigued, but unsure, you can read the first chapter of the book for free on Scalzi’s website here. Love to hear what you think!

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Sundry Links and Articles:

I have been enjoying the “micro” reads on Jenny Maloney’s blog, Place for the Stolen.  According to her About page, she has sworn to write 365 “Little Stories” in 2016. Lucky us! Here are two of my recent favorites:

little-story-1

little-story-2

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-storytelling-alice-walker

Here’s to celebrations, changing seasons, and telling stories – big ones and little ones. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links

A fiery sunflower to brighten your day.

A fiery sunflower to brighten your day.

Morning & happy Sunday.

While yesterday’s post was a little on the darker side, today’s will be – I hope – a little lighter. While I’m all for baring our souls and sharing our true feelings, I’m not much for wailing or wallowing. So – onward & upward. Acknowledge the challenges, and then get back to the work at hand. The Big Questions never really have black & white answers anyway, do they? They always exist as questions, and we live our lives in pursuit of the answers, which change as we change.

ANYway … I hope you enjoy this weeks selection of blog posts and other reads.

Happy Sunday & happy writing and reading!

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

bk-being-thereI don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about the film adaptation of Being There for a few weeks now. In the movie version of Jerzy Kosinski’s 1971 novel, the part of the story’s antihero is played flawlessly by Peter Sellers, probably one of the only actors who could have done justice to the character of Chance the Gardener/Chauncy Gardiner.

Though I haven’t found time to re-watch the movie, I did buy the Audible edition of Being There, which is narrated by Dustin Hoffman. From the website’s description:

Chance, the enigmatic gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardiner after getting hit by a limo belonging to a Wall Street tycoon. The whirlwind that follows brings Chance to his new status of political policy advisor and possible vice presidential candidate. His garden-variety political responses, inspired by television, become heralded as visionary, and he is soon a media icon due to his unknown background and vague, yet appealing, conversational nature. 

From what I recall of the movie, it takes some liberties with Kosinski’s original work, but I found both versions to be very enjoyable and thought provoking. The novel has a few slightly racy scenes, though the fact that they are described through Chance’s limited perspective makes them almost clinical in nature. Hoffman was the perfect choice as narrator, moving seamlessly from Chance’s sense of bewilderment to the self-assured perspective of the people who take it upon themselves to interpret Chance’s words in the context of their own self-importance.

Being There is a story that has held up over time. It’s both tragic and hysterical, blending observations on the nature of humanity and the machinations of the worlds of politics and finance. Definitely worth reading. Though, Chance would definitely recommend watching. He likes to watch.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Sundry Links and Articles:

Quentin Blake illustration for Dahl's classic children's book, James and The Giant Peach

Quentin Blake illustration for Dahl’s classic children’s book, James and The Giant Peach

The Dark Side of Roald Dahl

It was Roald Dahl’s birthday last week. The acclaimed author would have been 100 years old last Tuesday. I’ve long been a fan of his stories, without really giving much thought to how macabre they are, and without giving any thought to who Dahl was as a man. This piece by Hephzibah Anderson for the BBC provides an interesting look behind the beloved children’s books that have become such a cornerstone of so many childhoods, as both novels and movie adaptations.

Anderson writes,

There was undoubtedly an element of provocation in much of his nastiness, both on and off the page. As the lives of the likes of Lewis Carroll, Margaret Wise Brown, and CS Lewis illustrate, to write brilliantly for children, an author must retain an element of the childlike. Sometimes, that blurs into childishness. To quote Dahl himself, the children’s author “must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things”.

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paintbrushesIf You Want Your Children to Survive the Future, Send Them to Art School

This piece by Dustin Timbrook made me break my personal ban on reading the Huffington Post.  The general premise of the article as that we’re headed for a future without jobs, at least without jobs in the traditional sense. Between the automation of so many tasks and the removal of gatekeepers from creative and business models across the globe, Timbrook believes that creativity will become one of, if not the, most valuable commodities anyone can deliver.

Here’s just one thought-provoking excerpt:

No healthy child is born without an innate sense of wonder about their world. However, this childhood compulsion to explore is a bud quickly snipped by adults conditioned to fear the unknown. The tradition of discouraging unusual questions and behavior in children is so pervasive that we have come to view those who survive with their creativity intact as having a “gift.” What is more absurd is our amazement at the correlation of great artists and mental illness, as if the battle for self-expression which artists so tenaciously endure has no causal link to their psychic well-being.

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-my-damn-world

Here’s to making your own way and your own world, facing whatever challenges come your way, and retaining your childlike qualities.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Photo Credit – paintbrushes: barnimages.com via Compfight cc

Weekend Writing Ruminations and Links – The Odd Thing About Time

crows-timeTime flies, she said.

But where does it go? he asked.

In circles mostly, she answered.

I wish I knew more about time. I wish I understood quantum physics and theories of time relativity. Maybe then I would have power over time.

One of my recurring childhood fantasies involved a magic pocket watch that could stop time. I dearly wanted to be able to freeze time and bring the whole world to a halt so that I could catch my breath. I was fascinated with the idea of never running out of time, of being able to “have it all” because there was always enough time to do everything.

I could have used that watch this summer. I feel like this was the summer that wasn’t. My time was eaten up by projects that ripped hours from my days and swallowed them whole, making no distinction between weekdays and weekends. If only I’d had that watch, I could have stopped the world long enough to finish my work and still had time to indulge in the simple pleasures of summer irresponsibility.

But, I don’t have the watch. And neither do you. All we have, you and I, is the same twenty-four hours as everyone else and the very real power to decide how we spend them.

_jamie sig

 

 


 What I’m Reading:

book-many-selves-k-northI have just finished listening to the astonishing debut of author Emma Geen. I wish I could remember who first told me about the novel, The Many Selves of Katherine North, because I would like to send that person a thank you note.

The reviews on this book use words like exhilarating, horrifying, compelling, and riveting to describe the story of a girl named Kit who is a phenomenaut – someone whose consciousness is projected into the bodies of lab-grown animals for research purposes. Readers quoted on her website refer to the book as a “literary thriller,” “spine-chilling science fiction,” and a “compulsively readable sci-fi thriller,” but I like Havi Carel’s description best, “Geen weaves together philosophy and science fiction to create a magical, intelligent and intense novel.”

I was initially drawn to this book because I was intrigued by the idea of humans being able to project themselves into the lives of other animals, and I was not disappointed. While Geen’s disclaimer at the end of the book makes it clear that she is not a zoologist, she is nonetheless able to transfix her readers with the way she describes life as other creatures: fox, spider, whale, eagle, tiger. Her immersion into these other lives goes beyond the physical perceptions and sensations. When Kit slips into another body, she also slips into another set of emotions and impulses. It was a fascinating and thought-provoking shift in perspective.

While I was definitely carried along by the story (even becoming so caught up in the last few chapters that I abandoned my Friday afternoon deadlines and surrendered to a half hour of dedicated listening in the middle of the day), as a writer, I was also impressed by Geen’s prowess with both structure and language. Though I already own the audio version of this book (which was, by the way, beautifully narrated by Katy Sobey), I may end up purchasing a hard copy of the book. I want to be able to leaf through the pages so I can better understand the way Geen built the story, and there are probably (no lie) hundreds of passages that I’d end up underlining for future reference. 

Kit’s narrative bounces back and forth between two timelines – present and past – that eventually converge. To add to the complexity, much of the story takes place while Kit is projecting as other animals. Despite all this bouncing around in time and place and body, the story hangs together in a way that’s easy to follow. Geen does an excellent job of creating a pattern of rhythm and context that makes it easy for the reader (even one who is listening as I was) to stay in-step with the story.

And then there is Geen’s use of language. Had I been reading this as a print book, I would have had to keep a pencil with me at all times so I could make notes in the margins on every other page.  In Geen’s hands, something as simple as describing looking out onto the day turns into poetry, “I wake to the sky flashing lilac. Thunder follows soon after, a sound like the foundations of Heaven grinding loose. The silvered gleam of rain and vegetation writhes against the dark.”

Coming back to theme, I once again have to agree with Havi Carel’s assessment that this book is as much about philosophy as it is about science fiction. Or, perhaps, the two are so closely related as to be much the same thing. At any rate, I found this book to be a powerful catalyst for musings on what it means to be human, how we define self, the relationship between humans and animals, the relationships between humans, and how we perceive our lives. As deep as Geen dives into these waters, taking us along for the ride, it’s clear to see that there are depths still waiting to be explored. The Many Selves of Katherine North is an invitation to sink a little further into the darkness in search of the light.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

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Photo by Gina Easley

Photo by Gina Easley

Being so busy with deadlines means that I haven’t had much time for curling up with novel-length reads. (Hence, my liberal use of audio books to feed my story habit.) I can usually manage, however, to carve out a few minutes for shorter pieces; and have been known to bribe myself to the finish line on a piece of client work with the promise of a short story or an essay.

This week, I very happily returned to one of my favorite online stomping grounds, Full Grown People, and had the pleasure of reading Machines We Dream Into by Randy Osborne. This brief piece touches on themes of aging, art, and human interaction. If you have a few minutes, I recommend it.

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Sundry Links and Articles:

emotion-wordsI came across this quirky post, 23 Emotions People Feel But Can’t Explain. on either Twitter or Facebook, and although I can’t verify that these are real words (the list looks like it covers a variety of languages), I absolutely loved this collection of emotions.

My favorites:

Sonder: The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own

Vellichor: The strange wistfulness of used bookshops

Chrysalism: The amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm

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On a related note, there was this little gem that I initially saw on Facebook, but ultimately tracked back to a tumblr site called Red Blood, Black Ink, written by someone named Raquel. I just loved this piece. It’s a feeling I’ve felt countless times in my life.

I don’t know, my favorite was always witch weather. That moment that in a gust of wind or in the rumbling sky or at the edge of a fog bank where suddenly, you feel different. A restlessness, a sense of longing for a place that does not exist. I don’t know if anyone else has felt the electric tense changing of that moment. It calls the magic to your skin. For a moment, you feel ancient and powerful and lonely, as if you forgot something important. Witch weather. For some reason, in that wild instant: you remember you are alive, and that means some part of you belongs to the everlasting.

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-running-out-of-time

Here’s to making the best use of each hour you have – reading, writing, dreaming. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

Dear Writer,

How are you?

Wait. Don’t answer. Take a breath. Pause. Bite back the rote response that jumped to the tip of your tongue before I’d even finished asking the question.

My default answer when someone asks how I am is, “Busy, busy but good.” I cringe each time I let those words slip from my lips. They say nothing, while managing to sound simultaneously pompous and pathetic. Busy, but good … I might as well say, “I’m breathing.”

So, how are you? I mean, really?

Wait. Don’t answer. Let the question settle. Think about what it really means.

Most of the time, “How are you?” is white noise. It’s an anticipated greeting that exists in a kind of conversational blind spot. Most of the time, it doesn’t really mean anything to the person asking. It’s just something to say – an automatic response meant to bridge the gap between making eye contact and actually communicating. And, a lot of the time, a response is not expected (or necessarily wanted).

But, what does the question mean to you when you’re asked? What does it trigger for you, perhaps below the level of conscious thought? Do you actually think about “how” you are? In what context – your health, your work, your financial security, your social standing? Does the inquiry send your mind reeling into the dangerous territory of comparison … how am I compared to what? To whom? Do you feel like the question is a test, a judgment, an expression of pity, an opening for voyeurism, or a challenge to a game of one-upmanship?

I suppose it all depends on who’s asking; but, putting that piece of the equation aside, how do you reframe the question in your own mind once it’s been asked?

So, how are you? How are you feeling about your writing?

Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want the easy answer. I don’t want the glib one-liner or the clichéd statement about the writing life, both of which are designed to change the topic of conversation or at least move the focus off of you. I don’t want to put you on the hot seat, but I want to know how you’re really feeling … if you even know. Most of the time, I’m not sure how I feel about my writing. My emotional and logical thoughts on the subject are a moving target – sliding back and forth across a broad spectrum of feelings: content, frustrated, hopeful, resigned, confused, conflicted, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, tired, energized, excited, afraid.

I understand why glib one-liners and clichéd statements are such popular answers in casual conversation. How could any one of us hope to capture all the depth and nuance of our feelings about writing in an off-the-cuff response?

But, just because we aren’t expected to provide a full and honest answer in the course of casual conversation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to think about question.

How are you feeling about your writing?

It’s important to know, because how you feel about your writing affects every aspect of your writing – how you approach your practice, how consistently and frequently you write, and what you’re willing to try. How you feel about your writing dictates how brave you will be and how much joy you will experience. It frames your life as a writer, establishing your hopes, dreams, and expectations. Understanding how you feel about your writing can help you uncover hidden obstacles that are holding you back.

So, take a minute. Take a day. Think about how you are and how you feel about your writing. Don’t settle for easy answers. Dig deeper. Ask again. This isn’t polite conversation or white noise. This is important. This is real. You need to know this. And, once you do, you’ll have a whole new perspective on your writing life.

_jamie sig

 

 


 My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

··• )o( •··

Sundry Links and Articles:

Anna Wess GrannyThis doesn’t have much to do with writing specifically, but I thoroughly enjoyed Wise Whispers from the Granny Witches by Anna Wess.

An excerpt:

Oh, and these here are some deep roots, old gals, deeper than any rabbit hole on the mountain. We are the far-reaching branches and flowering nettles that stemmed from Granny, you know. We’re a regular Granny bramble, briers and all. We’re Granny’s girls, every stoic one of us. And I reckon plain beats pretty to death, just as she said it would. But plain can be as beautiful as can be, and there’s a world of difference between beautiful and pretty. We girls know this. Beauty doesn’t up and leave town when youth, like the fragile flower it is, has bloomed for its last season. Beauty is permanent. And it is not beholden to anything or anybody.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin more me

Here’s to taking a minute, uncovering how we really feel, and more ourselves than we’ve ever been.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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