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book review

Book Review: They May Not Mean To, But They Do

Here it is. Your every so often book review.

I picked Cathleen Schine’s book, They May Not Mean To, But They Do, off the library shelf because the cover implied a kind of light impishness. And I know a book review of this sort is a lot more fun when I am laughing as I write it.

However, while the book is occasionally impish, it’s definitely not light. More of a “flickers of lit cabin windows while wandering in the dark woods” type of book. So, not a comedy. I would, however, qualify it as an important read.

They May Not Mean To is the story of a family growing older together. Schine pays close attention to the implications of the matriarch’s widowhood on her adult children. But she focuses even more intently on the widow herself. The balance between how Molly’s aging and widowhood effect her versus how her new status effects her children makes the book compelling. It is fascinating in a horrible “Oh no, the car is stuck on the tracks and the train is coming” sort of way.

The characters are complex and well fleshed out. But I don’t think Schine necessarily intended the reader to walk away thinking, “I wonder what happened to Molly?” The reader might but that may not be the goal.

Instead, the story is more an Everyman-type exploration of family dynamics in the wake of loss.

Shine pays careful attention to Molly’s complicated emotions and desires. Molly simultaneously wants and doesn’t want to spend time with her grown children. She wants and doesn’t want to be alone. And her children are legitimately torn between their desire to help and their resistance to making significant changes in their own lifestyles to do so.

They May Not Mean To is a good argument for the “There Are No Right Answers” theory of life. But I couldn’t help feeling frustrated at the lack of concrete solutions as I closed the book. Maybe that’s the point.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

procrastination

Procrastination: Putting Me On Notice

Okay. It’s deadline time. No more procrastination. Right.

One of the hard things about writing in a vacuum is not having a deadline anyone will enforce. Procrastination is way too easy when you are your own boss. If I were working in a corporation, for instance, there would be consequences for missing a deadline – a blot on my work record, for instance, or a stern talking to with the implicit threat of losing my job.

But I am working for the Monumental General Corporation of Me. So those meetings in the boss’s office go something like this.

Boss: “Ms. Grey, I see you have not met our production quota this month.”

Me, squirming guiltily: “I meant to, but the siren call of avoiding cleaning the tub by playing online solitaire was too much to resist.”

So here’s the deal.

I am announcing to the world that by the end of February, I will have my character studies done and my plot structure outlined. Writing will start on March 1.

First step will be making excessively decorated signs to put up near my desk detailing the order of my tasks. Then I should check all my pens to make sure they are working. I’ve already re-organized my desk, in a previous attempt to avoid the inevitable. But the supply cabinet in my office – now that is badly in need of a clean out.

Of course, I can’t ignore the basic duties of running a household. That would be just selfish. So I need to factor in cleaning out the refrigerator, washing windows, scrubbing the bathroom tile and digging out sticky dust balls from between the radiator fins.

That should leave a few hours on the evening of February 29th to do the actual writing prep. Wait. This is a leap year, right?

Well, shoot.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

zombies

Zombies – It’s Not Easy Being Undead

The Problem with Zombies. Besides the obvious.

First, the plural thing. If a crowd of undead are zombies, what do you call one of them? Shouldn’t it be a zomby? And if not, why not? Is it just that Zomby sounds like the nickname for an undead Zumba fanatic? Because for all we know, zombies might enjoy zumba given the chance. It isn’t the zombies’ fault Zumba instructors run away every time an undead person walks into the classroom.

Second, poor fashion sense. Every zombie I’ve ever seen wears pants which need hemming and are a size too big, a ratty top and aged waterlogged hiking boots. This makes no sense, since zombies were buried in shrouds, presumably. So let’s assume when zombies re-animate, they shamble over to a discount clothing-by-the-pound store, raid it and walk through a few torrential downpours and a mudslide.

Why? Do they think they’ll have better luck catching people if they are dressed like Frankenstein? It’s hard to run in hiking boots which explains their awkward gait. You would think they would choose running shoes. For that matter, why wear clothes at all?

Right. So they can be in movies. Everyone wants to be a star. And once you’ve gone X-rated, it’s hard to find work in family films.

Third, poor vocabulary. There are only so many things one can convey with “Aaaaah”.

Do zombies recall nothing from their High School English classes?

Can you imagine dinner table conversation if you marry one?

“How was your day, dear?”

“Aaaaah.”

“Again?”

Then there is the Zombie diet, kind of paleo without any fiber.

We humans have an unreasonable belief in our own deliciousness. What makes us think we are tastier than a banana? Even if zombies have a desire for meat, wouldn’t they prefer to swarm steak houses? Sure the beef is cooked, but it can’t run away. And there’s ketchup.

They’re hungry, not stupid.

Frankly, I think the challenge for zombies is they haven’t discovered the food network and they don’t remember ketchup. These are solvable problems, people. Keep up.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

 

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

If you hate spoilers, don’t look at the picture of the horses. Oh. Too late. Now you’re stuck reading a book review.

I suppose if I were a truly omnivorous reader, I would value every reading experience equally. But I don’t. For instance, I avoid reading those small print multi-page mailings I occasionally receive from a credit card company delineating some minor change in its relationship with me, even though I know a tiny person hunched over a wee typewriter spent hours typing it with her miniscule fingers.

Furthermore, I am instantly suspicious of a person who writes a book review. Recommending books is a bit like recommending a sex partner. Just because the reviewer liked the way he made her feel doesn’t mean I will. Which sounds pretty hostile, especially for someone who is about to present you with a book review.

I’ve become choosy. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I’ve found that like cooking dinner, the more work a book takes to complete, the less likely it is to be enjoyable.

Which is a long way of saying if I finish a book, I know I liked it. And I did like The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed fairy tales although I do think writing fairy tales for adults is risky business. Successful fairy tales for children, the stories which have survived over time, are not preachy. They are gory and harsh, with no perceptible political message. Maybe they had one once, but we don’t remember it now.

It’s harder for adults writing for an adult audience to resist the siren call of moralizing, especially since adult readers are prone to looking for secondary meanings. But Arden mostly avoids that, which is impressive because it is her first novel. Instead she kept me focused on a fascinating time in Russian history about which I knew nothing. And now can say I know a little bit.

If you decide to read The Bear and the Nightingale, be aware there is a useful glossary of terms in the back I wish I had known about to begin with. But because Arden writes so well, I didn’t really need it.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

index cards

Index Cards: Best. Office. Supply. Ever.

3 X 5 index cards are one of the best inventions of mankind, right up there with fire and ice cream sundaes.

Index cards are the perfect size for writing down one thought. Or for listing tiny quantities, like five things to pick up at the store. Or for tucking blank in my pocket for sudden brainstorms which might be forgotten if not written down immediately.

Index cards create the impression of organized thinking, a perception I appreciate even though I can’t always convince myself I am living up to it.

I can spread the cards out in mandala-like patterns and then line them up and compile them into a semblance of order, much like a Las Vegas pit boss. Wrapping the pack with a rubber band adds a homespun look. But like any important item in one’s home index cards come with their own set of accessories.

There are boxes of plastic or wood, decorative tins and even tiny little two ring binders for them. Not to mention the clever envelope style packet type index card holder.

There are miniature ring binder notebooks composed of index cards, neatly perforated on the top of each card for easy removal. One can find dividers for different categories , or even little tabs which stick directly onto the cards. Oh, and cute little pens with which to write on the cards.

And index cards come in different colors.

I’ve bought neon packs, pastel packs and even rainbow versions. But nothing beats tearing the cellophane wrapping off the traditional package of crisp, white index cards, their straight blue lines topped with a saucy red strip.

Also, one cannot underestimate the value of the blank back side. It is true one can buy index cards which are blank on both sides. But I feel the kind with lined front and blank back are the best of both worlds. Or is it blank front and lined back?

I can write my friend’s address on the blank side of a card and tape it to a box of three by five index cards I am mailing. Or, if I already have a label on the outside of the package, I can stick the card inside the box. This will come in handy in case the recipient is so excited by the index cards she forgets who she is and where she lives. It could happen.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

re-purpose

Re-purpose Your Household Items

Reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose.

It seems to be a requirement for human beings that we re-purpose things. For instance, my paper clip jar is a re-purposed orange blossom honey jar. I like it because even though I washed the jar out thoroughly before I filled it with paperclips, for years the lid gave off the faint smell of orange blossom honey every time I reached for a paperclip. Now, even though the scent is gone, I have a pleasant sense of anticipation every time I fumble for a paperclip.

The solution works well, I think. My paperclips are prevented from scrabbling around my desk at night. They can’t poke fun at the pencils or form extensive chains. Nor can they escape onto the carpet to lie in wait for unsuspecting bare feet. Paperclips can get in all sorts of trouble if they aren’t properly stored. Plus the label on the jar is cute.

You can re-purpose plastic quart size yogurt containers.

These containers are incredibly useful, and not just for holding yogurt. They are my go-to container for small amounts of paint. I’ve used them as flower pots in a pinch.

But best of all is making magic with them. First, find a box cutter and slice off the bottom forming a saucer with an inch high rim. Then, fill it with water and stick a leftover inch long lettuce stump in it. A few days later, a miracle will happen. Spoiler alert: It involves lettuce.

Using items in ways they were never intended for can be unexpectedly satisfying, primarily because it makes you feel both clever and inventive. Then, you can post an account of your project on HomeTalk, a website with which I have developed an unhealthy fascination. Although I have never actually posted anything to the site myself, I stand in awe of some of the folks who have. I had no idea you could do so many things with plastic cups and paper towel tubes.

Reusing items one might ordinarily throw out is not only ecologically sound it’s good for the ego.

So I am considering what else in my life might be re-purposed. Oh, dear. That sounds dark.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Formatting

Formatting Your E-Book Requires Wine

Indie publishing involves formatting. Ugh.

I was planning to write an erudite assessment of Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, because I have always disliked The Taming of the Shrew. Tyler came up with a charming “doesn’t make you want to throw up” version. But I am not feeling intellectual today. Because I spent the day formatting.

No. Today is a day for glorying in having uploaded three short stories and a revision onto Amazon. While not exactly a philosophical challenge, the process has certainly tested my ability to not hit the laptop with the printer. Until now, I always considered patience one of my strong suits. That was before I met e-book formatting.

If e-book formatting were a man, he would never have a second date with the same woman.

Even the first date would be horrible since he would insist on restarting every five minutes.

“No, no,” he would scold. “Go back to the door and try entering again. This time, swirl your skirt clockwise and try to smile in twelve point font. And for heaven’s sake, make sure you don’t bleed into the gutter.”

Imagine open mike night in front of a sparse crowd of dejected ebook formatters. The bar is dingy, the floor sticky with spilled drinks. Fly paper hangs from the eaves and the glasses of beer are cloudy because the dishwasher is too depressed to rinse thoroughly. And in front, a comedian in stained khaki trousers which reach halfway up his fraying plaid shirt spits out one joke after another.

“Knock, knock. Who’s there? Times. Times who? Times New. Roman.”

“Where’s the best place to find widows and orphans? At the ends of paragraphs.”

“I’ve got a million of them. A million of them, I tell you.”

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

self employment

Self Employment Perks and Negatives

Collecting Benefits from Self Employment.

I bet you woke up this morning thinking, “What exactly is the difference between an axiom and an idiom?” I know I did. Being able to take time to explore questions like this is one of the benefits of self employment.

Actually, I was wondering specifically whether “a day late and a dollar short” is an axiom, an idiom or simply an excellent description of me.

Some days feel behind from the moment they begin, and today is one of those. The pile of papers on my desk, although exactly the same height as it was when I said goodnight to it, has burrowed into what it clearly believes is a tenured position.

The worst offender is the punch list, neatly categorized by topic, which I made the mistake of printing out yesterday so I could feel virtuous when I checked items off. Never do this. Or if you do print it out, shred it before going to bed. That will take the smug look off its face.

The thing is, I should be feeling pretty self righteous because I sent out a dozen queries yesterday – a personal record. But this is the problem when you are the boss as well as the sole employee.

My self employment employee incentive system leaves something to be desired.

No one writes up a commendation when I finish one thousand words. On the upside, no one writes up complaints to put in my permanent file if I am late to work or fail to provide the boss with a cup of coffee. Tea, in my case.

Maybe I should plan an employee retreat with team building exercises and fun activities. I could schedule an office party replete with loud music, wine spritzers and embarrassing photocopies done on my printer. I could even institute casual Fridays which would allow me to wear less formal clothing to work. Oh. Wait.

*Apparently it is an idiom. An axiom is something entirely different involving math, philosophy and basic truths. Clearly not appropriate to this blog.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

finishing

Finishing a Novel and Letting It Go

Finishing and Letting Go are Not the Same Things.

So much of writing a novel is about beginning it – plotting, character exploration. Beginnings are optimism incarnate. But finishing has a distinct flavor too, a bittersweet tang.

Today I finished novel number three. Really finished. Drafting, spelling and grammar checking, fixing sequence errors, sending it to the editor, fixing all the sequence, grammar and spelling errors I missed the first time, the second time, the third time.

I knew I needed an editor but until I worked with one, I had no idea how sharp eyed and persistent editors have to be. Or maybe they aren’t all sharp eyed, but mine is.

Waiting For You is the best writing I have done so far. And now that the story is complete, I feel like I should be celebrating but somehow I’m not there yet.

Because part of finishing a manuscript is saying goodbye to your characters – letting them go.

It’s true Aidy and Max may return as side characters in a subsequent novel, but the part of their journey which I was the first to witness is concluded. Which leaves a kind of emptiness in a place they filled. As though one heard a voice, turned around, and found no one there.

I feel this same sense of wistfulness, sometimes, when I finish reading someone else’s writing. And if I do, I know those characters will stay with me, will speak their minds when I least expect it, not so much a haunting as a comfortable inner presence. I think that defines good writing.

So as I set my own characters free to roam about the world of fiction, I wish the same for them – that they should live on in the hearts and minds of their readers, distinct voices and distinct personas. I’m not sure an author can ask for more or better than that.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

scary

Scary. And It’s Not Even Halloween Anymore.

Scary times in the Writer’s Corral.

I sent a manuscript off to an editor for the first time ever and waited with baited breath to see what she said. It’s one thing to write a contemporary romance. It’s a totally different thing to let a person who reads books for a living assess what you wrote. Aaack! Maybe not terrifying but definitely scary.

What if she hates it? Perhaps it will bore her to tears. The plot might be weak, the characters insipid. God! Why did I ever think I could write, anyway?

Writing is such an “in your head” craft, it is hard to be sure you have conveyed the voices in your head accurately. Not to mention any concerns one might have about the relative worth of those voices. So sending your work off to an editor, a beta reader or even an agent takes a leap of faith. But once you have done the sending, the anxiety really sets in.

Scary visions of irritable unsatisfied readers skitter through your head. Sort of like Piglet imagining a Heffalump.

When I studied singing, I learned to think of my work as a point in time. It was as good as I could make it at that very moment and that would have to suffice until I got better. Thinking of one’s product this way is a discipline. Sometimes it’s the only way you can make yourself try again.

That’s an important way to think about writing too. Each book is better than the last. The book that’s with the editor is my third. It’s better than my first two, probably. Hopefully not as good as my fourth will be.

Can’t wait to find out!

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.