My Favorite Thing About May

2014-08-12 15.16.02May came in with temperatures around 80 in my little corner of the world so wheeee! Bring on the heat! Bring on the flip flops, sunscreen, and sandals! Hand me a Popsicle or a long, cool beverage and then don’t bother me. I’ve got reading to do.

It’s not that I don’t read during colder temps; it’s just that I read snuggled up in bed (because duh, I’m cold) and before you know it, my eyelids are getting droopy. Bottom line, it takes me ever so long to finish a book when I do my reading late, late at night.

But when the sun’s shining and the deck’s nice and warm, I take my book (or Kindle) outside and Libs lounges about, too, watching me read. (And just so you know, I get all my writer business work done in the morning, and I write later in the afternoon, so I’m not a complete scofflaw.)

Lately, I’ve had a couple of self-pubbed books at the top of my To Be Read pile. And I thoroughly enjoyed these stories, even though they’re outside the genres I generally read. However, I do have a small bone to pick; you’ll have to zip over to The Muffin to read Self Publishing Pitfalls to get the details. And then you’ll have finished your work, too, and can join me for a lovely after-lunch read on the deck.

Wheeeee!

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Why Are You Reading?

Goodreads pic close upI know most people ask what are you reading. But I often choose books because I have a specific need in mind.

That’s not to say I don’t read for the pure joy of it; I do. But I also read to learn a little something something. And I don’t mean the non-fiction books on writing (though I certainly learn a little something something from those pages, too). I’m talking about the stacks of kidlit fiction I read and what I glean from those pages. Today on The Muffin, I explain The Business of Reading and why I read the books I read.

But I’m afraid you’ll have to read just a bit more to get your answers.

Children’s Book Week–And Why I’m A Champion

ImageIf you are the observant type, you noticed the Children’s Book Week Champion badge that I added to the blog a few days ago. If you’re the lazy not-so-observant type like me, you’re now glancing around the blog, saying, “I don’t see any Children’s Book Week badge. I don’t know what Cathy’s blah-blah-blahing about–oh. Never mind.”

So, ahem. Let’s just move on to Children’s Book Week and why I champion it.

1. It’s all about a celebration of books and the joys of reading for young people. How can you NOT champion that?

2. You (and by you, I mean you who have something to do with schools and/or libraries) can get a free and very cool poster, art by Brian Selznick. (He’s a Caldecott winner, amazing illustrator, SO many books…well, perhaps you should just go read for yourself here.)

3. You (and by you, I mean any old you) can download this cool bookmark by Newbery Honor author/illustrator, Grace Lin. (You’ll want to check out her website. It’s also very cool and free to peruse.)

4. You (and by you, I mean the writer you who would like someday to get that much-loved manuscript into the hands of children everywhere) can get a very good idea of what children love to read when you take a look at the list of book finalists. If you haven’t read these books yet, perhaps you should. (And by perhaps, I mean definitely.)

So if you know a kid who loves to read, give that child the chance to celebrate the joys of reading. Ask him or her to vote. (Oh! Teachers, librarians and booksellers can vote, too!) Cast your vote, you and you and you,too. And I’ll stop blah-blah-blahing about Children’s Book Week.

(Um, I can’t really guarantee that. I do SO love books.)

Friday’s Fun Find: It’s a Booksapalooza!

2013-03-07 04.48.47When I get home from a writer’s conference, I have a slump for a couple days. And I’ll tell you why: I always go with my hopes high and think, Yes! Some editor (or agent) is going to come up and say, “Cathy C. Hall, I simply MUST have your novel! And while I’m at it, let’s make it a three book deal!”

So far, that hasn’t happened. Thus, the slump. But after the slump, I go all Dreamgirls and start shouting, “Okay, people. I’m not going anywhere. I’m getting serious about writing these books now. Next time,” and here I shake my fist in the air, “next time, you’ll see. You-and you–and you, you’re gonna love me.” Er, my books.

Then I get busy. This time around, I had a lovely gift card from the Beneficent Mr. Hall that I whipped out and used to buy a couple books I’ve heard good things about, either at the conference, or from friends, or ’round the Internet.

1. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder…yes, it’s a screenwriting book, but it’s packed with interesting insights for the would-be novelist. Like  the hook and loglines and scenes. And I’m only on page 24.

2. The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson…although, as you may have noticed, I cut to the chase and purchased the workbook. I need exercises and examples to give me a push. But I suppose if I get to a point where I think I should’ve ordered the original book, too, I’ll hit up Mr. Hall for another gift card. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, right? (Look, I told Mr. Hall it’s a Savannah tradition, so I’d appreciate it if you’d just keep mum.)

3. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi…who knew emotions could be (sort of) quantified? I am loving this (Kindle) book. (heart pounding,  sharp intake of breath, eyes dilating)

Okay, that’s enough for now. I’ve got some reading to do, and honestly, I can’t think of anything funner I’d rather do on this Fun Friday. (Well, that agent/editor call might be more fun–d’oh. Now I’ve got to sing the song from Dreamgirls again.)

How Good Reading Makes For Good Writing

So I was thinking that the Beneficent Mr. Hall would really enjoy Harlan Coben’s The Woods–plus, it was free, so I brought it home. (I can be beneficent, too, you know.) And wouldn’t you know it? The man had already read it.

So there lay the book on my table…waiting.

Now, of course I’d heard of Harlan Coben, and read a couple writing articles by Harlan Coben, and knew he was all that and a bag of chips. But I’d quit reading mysteries years ago. I love a good mystery, but after years of reading tons of mysteries, one gets halfway into the first chapter and says, “He’s the guy. (Or girl, as the case may be.)” Which sort of defeats the purpose of a mystery, right?

Still, it was New York Times best-seller Harlan Coben and I thought, okay, fine. I’ll read one more mystery. But it better be good.

Oh, it was good. It was real good. It was why-must-you-torture-me-with-your-excellent-writing good.

So. I’m thoroughly chastened. And not just because I’d pooh-poohed mystery reading. I read The Woods through the eyes of a wannabe published author and learned SO much about writing that works… great pacing, authentic character development, just the right mix of description and narrative, true dialogue. And the way he wove so many stories together so effortlessly and organically  was brilliant. (And how in the world can he do that without outlining???).

It was way more than reading. It was an education. And it was there, all along, just waiting for me.

So, how about you? Got a book like that? ‘Cause I’d sure love to read it. (Perhaps the Beneficent Mr. Hall would, too. But he’ll have to wait till I’ve finished it first. I’m not that beneficent. )

P.S. I came across this list of Six Page Turners You’ll Tear Through from Oprah’s book picks. Since I tore through The Woods, I thought I might try one of these, maybe learn a little more. Holy moly, I hope my brain doesn’t explode this summer!