Book: Charlie by Shana Hammaker

Charlie by Shana HammakerShana Hammaker and I have been mutually following each other on Twitter for a while now. It’s a consensual stalking based on the fact that we’re both writers, we both like scary things, and we both write scary things. (Yes, this is totally a namedrop. Eat your hearts out.)

Charlie is book one of Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011. I like starting at the beginning, you know. I also wanted to read this one because it’s about a body that keeps popping up which reminds me of The Trouble With Harry.

However, a problem body is where the similarities end as Charlie is much more sinister than Harry.

Alex’s life is going along swimmingly. She’s got a job, a fiance, and a new house. It’s all peachy keen. And then a body turns up in her basement. A persistent little corpse she calls Charlie, it just will not stay buried.

This is a twisted little story that unearths more than just a corpse. It’s a tight, quick read that’ll have you double checking your basement.

And yourself.

Okay, maybe that’s just me. I’m easily influenced sometimes.

Still, if you’re looking for a short, creepy read, I highly recommend this one.

Book: Fall Down Laughing by David L. Lander

Fall Down Laughing by David L. LanderIf you know David L. Lander as Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley, then you know why I read this book. If you don’t know who Squiggy, Laverne, and/or Shirley are, well then, I weep for you and judge you harshly. Really. Get on the stick here.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for several years, but I’ve got a great gift for not doing things I mean to do so I just got around to it recently. And I’m kicking myself for waiting as usual.

For those not in the loop, Mr. Lander, actor, writer, serial barger-inner, has multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease in which the nerves are attacked, stripping them of their protective coating and diminishing their function. It can lead to a wide array of symptoms and outcomes including loss of balance, loss of feeling in the hands and feet, bladder issues, loss of the ability to swallow, and ending up in the wheelchair. the disease is a bit of a snowflake in that it affects different people differently. The one constant is that there is no cure. People find different ways to cope with it. I’m not just talking about medicine either.

That’s what the book is about. How Mr. Lander coped with being diagnosed and how he coped was by hiding his illness from everyone but his wife and daughter. He would have rather people thought he was a drunk than know he was sick.

It’s a funny, but heartbreaking look at his life and his head space at that time. It’s also an inside look at a devastating illness that affects millions of people. It’s cautiously hopeful and blatantly honest.

I’ll make up for waiting so long to read it by reading it again.

And again.

And again.

Writing–2013 Reading Goals

Fiction Stacks

I need to come up with some tangible reading goals for 2013.  So let’s do a quick review of what my 2012 goals were and what I actually did.

My goal was to read 12 books, 6 fiction (at least one from a genre I didn’t normally read), 6 non-fiction (at least one memoir and only one could be a re-read). In reality, I read 20 books, 6 fictions, 6 non-fiction, and at least one of the fiction books was from a different genre. I kind of blew the rest of the goals.

So here’s my idea for 2013:

-Read 24 books. That’s just four more than I did read and it averages out to two a month. That should be more than doable for me.

-At least 10 need to be non-fiction. I failed to read my required number of non-fiction books last year (strange since I usually prefer non-fiction to fiction). I need to do a better job of balancing my intake. It’s not quite half, but it’s close enough.

-Only ONE non-fiction re-read counts towards my total. I re-read non-fiction a lot so I have to watch it. I need to look for new stuff.

-At least one of my non-fiction reads needs to be a memoir. This was one of the goals I failed last year.

-Only one of my fiction re-reads counts towards my goal. I don’t usually re-read fiction, but I’ve been hankering to read a couple of Stephen King books again.

-I will continue exploring other fiction genres. That means I need to limit the number of horror books I read. I say no more than eight.

-Read more of books by people I know. I need to be more active in supporting the authors that I interact with on Twitter. Reading more of their books would be a good idea.

I think these goals will be a great way to keep me productively reading this year.

Let’s hope I do better at meeting (exceeding?) them than last year.

Writing–The Reading Malaise

Books

I’m not a steady reader. I read in bursts. One month I might read four, five, six books. The next month the only thing I’ll read are online articles and my writing magazines. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just the way I roll.

I’m in one of those reading funks right now.

I have books. In fact, I just got a bunch from my mother because she’s cleaning out her bookcases (Mom does not reread anything, so after a while, she starts giving books away to make room for new ones). But nothing sounds good. It’s like going to the refrigerator and repeatedly opening the door and looking inside. You’re hungry, you know you’re hungry, but you don’t know what you want.

That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now, but with books.

Last night I had some extra time and I thought I should read something. I started looking around. I looked at the books I brought home from Mom’s. I looked through Papa’s books on my Kindle. I started rereading a book just for the sake of reading, but I wasn’t into it.

I want to read, but I don’t know what I want to read.

It’s frustrating. Reading isn’t only part of my job, but I also read because I enjoy it. And when I feel like this my enjoyment is kicked right in the sensitive parts. It’s not fair.

But like that nagging hunger feeling, I’ll eventually placate myself by reading something. It might not necessarily be what I’m craving, but since I don’t KNOW what I’m craving, it’ll be good enough.

At the very least it will help ease this malaise and give my brain a bit of a shake. By the time I’m done, there’s a good chance I’ll have an idea of what I want to read next.

Then I’ll be cured.

Until the next time.

Writing–Reading Goals Update

Bookshelf

I said sometime close to the beginning of the year (the exact date of the post eludes me) that one of my goals for the year was to read. I needed to change the way I thought about reading and to do that I set the goal for myself to read twelve books this year, at least one a month. Six had to be non-fiction, six had to be fiction, and only one could be a re-read.

Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve been living up to the challenge I set for myself. Not quite four months into the year I’ve read seven books, four fiction, three non-fiction, one re-read. I admit that the book I’m reading now, a non-fiction book, is also a re-read, but I think I can make up for that seeing as I’m over half-way to my goal and I still have a little over eight months left in the year.

I’m glad to say that the challenge is doing exactly what I’d hoped it would do. Because I have this goal hanging over my head, I’m making time in my day to read, even just a little bit, because I don’t want to fail. I’m conditioning myself to read every day as part of my job. I’m getting it out of my head that I don’t have time to do it and instead, I’m making time to do it.

As it should be.

On Writing by Stephen King

I believe I’ve mentioned before, at the very least in passing, that my writing bible of sorts is On Writing by Stephen King. I try to read it at least once a year. I’ve read other books on writing, but this is the one that really resonated with me.

It’s divided into two sections (okay, there’s also a postscript as well, but let’s not go splitting hairs just for the sake of splitting them). The first section, the C.V. is a biography of sorts, detailing memories and events that he believes helped shape him as a writer, or at the very least, pushed him on his writing path. The second section is the toolbox, in which he provides all of the “tools” he believes a writer needs. (If you’re curious, the postscript recounts his being hit by a van, nearly dying, and how writing fit into his recovery.)

It’s the toolbox portion of the book that really got to me, though I have to admit, I loved reading about his life (I’m voyeuristic like that). Stephen King was brought up lower middle class and that’s how he presents the toolbox. It is what it is without pretension. It was the first writing book I read that didn’t leave me feeling stupid afterwards. It didn’t leave me feeling like I was doing it wrong.

The book is very much “Here’s how I did it, here’s what I do, here’s what I think works, here’s what I think might help you, now go and work it out for yourself”. Like I said, no pretension. He acknowledges that there’s no one way or right way to writing success or even writing period. He makes me feel like not only is it okay to do it my way, but to experiment without abandon to find out what my way is. I appreciate that.

I appreciate the advice, the experience, and the straightforward way he presents the sometimes aloof subject of writing. There’s no glamour, no nose-in-the-air snottiness. It’s a job. It’s a lot of work. And if you really love it, then it’s more than worth it.

As I said before, I try to read it once a year to remind myself what I’m doing. It’s like a map. I read the book to get my bearings so I can plod on. I don’t belong to a writer’s group. I have a few writing friends, by not many. This book is my guide, which may be a little silly, but it works for me.

And thank you, Stephen King, for giving me the freedom to find out what works for me.

Writing–Reading Goals

The amount I read in 2011 was pitiful. I mean I’m so ashamed of it that I see no reason to put an exact number how little I did read. Just know that it was pathetic and I’m embarrassed by it.

I’m also not going to offer up any excuses. I failed in that aspect of my job and I admit it.

In order to prevent another year of reading failure, I’m giving myself some pretty simple goals to achieve in order to get myself back on track.

The overall goal is to read 12 books this year, one book a month. I know that’s not much, but this is a bounce back year. It’s best to set the bar low to alleviate the possibility of disappointment and discouragement.

Of the 12 books I plan to read this year, six of them will be fiction and six of them will be non-fiction. This is because I have a tendency to read more non-fiction and as a fiction writer, I should probably be reading more fiction. This guarantees that at the very least, I’m maintaining an equal balance.

Of the six fiction books I plan to read, at least one of them will be in a genre other than horror (my preferred reading genre). I’m thinking chick-lit or romance because that’s pretty much as opposite as I can get and I really need to work on expanding my reading boundaries.

Of the six non-fiction books I plan to read, at least one will be a memoir. This is a genre I would like to write it at some point so I need to explore it. Also, of the six non-fiction books I plan to read, no more than ONE will be a re-read (I don’t re-read fiction like I do non-fiction, and there are a several non-fiction books I tend to re-read every year). I need to find something new.

I never said my reading goals were going to be lofty, but they do fulfill specific purposes and outline in concrete terms what I need to do in order to improve my game for the year. I’m that kind of person. If I see it set out just like that, then it becomes a challenge and I am one of those people that hate to lose.

And by completing these goals (and possibly exceeding them), I’m sure to win in more ways than one.