Books, Mothers, and Memories

I remember trips to the library to pick out books with my kids. Me pulling them along in our wagon. Loading up on books and coming home to read. Cuddling up and turning the pages. Maybe we’d read the story before, or maybe it was a new to us story. Those times are among my fondest memories. I still remember their favourites: Something Out Of Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, Have You Seen Birds by Barbara Reid, Arthur books, Franklin books, Berenstain Bears books. Matthew and The Midnight Pirates by Allen Morgan and Michael Martchenko. Okay, maybe that was one of my favourites. And every time I read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch I tried not to cry.

“Goodnight stars,

Goodnight air,

Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

I remember going to the library with my mom, who is also an avid reader. Our small town had a cozy little library but it seemed huge to me. And full of possibilities. I’m so very glad she introduced me to the idea of a room filled with books for the borrowing. Thank you, Mom!

Another memory. We lived in a farmhouse on a mixed cattle/grain operation. In the winter, we kids often ended up downstairs playing games or watching television. My mom stayed upstairs. You could usually find her sitting over a heat register on the floor reading a book. That was her escape time. Because we moms need those.

The Gift of Reading

My sister takes the Adorables to the library. And when she comes to visit it’s one of the first places my mom takes her. Bedtime means story time or reading time depending on the age and ability of the child. I hope that’s one of things my kids will remember when they get older. All those trips to library. All the books. The words. The pictures. The love that went into reading them. The time spent.

Some of you might enjoy this article: The Simple Practices to Nurture the Motivation to Read. Whether you’re reading to your kids, your siblings’ kids, the neighbour kids or your grandkids. Maybe you volunteer at a shelter, a community centre, or a library.

Book Recommendation

I’m wrapping up reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is our May book club pick. And what a fantastic read it is! If you find yourself in need of some respite, this is the book for you! An engaging delight for the senses in the form of a captivating story with intriguing characters.

Reading

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.

There are many things about this novel that are wonderful. That make reading it an experience to be savoured. One of the small things that I took away from it is the importance of creativity. Of books, of music, of art. And how those things can soothe, even for a moment, a tortured soul.

Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday. What’s a treasured book memory of yours?

W Is For Wrap Up #AtoZChallenge

W Is For Wrap Up

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Because I’m pretty much done even though it’s only Day W in the A To Z April Blogging Challenge. I’m blogged out. But I made it almost two thirds of the way through the alphabet so I’m calling it a win.

What I’ve Learned

  • I already knew it, but this challenge reinforced the fact there are a lot of clever and interesting folks out there sharing their stories, struggles, perspectives, and information.
  • Creativity and curiosity make for passionate people.
  •  Everyone loves quotes.
  • It is not possible to wing it during this challenge. Even though I had a topic list for every day it was still a lot of work to do on the fly. For me anyway. If I were to do it again I’d spend time writing and scheduling posts well in advance. This would leave me more time for visiting other blogs.
  • If I were to do it again I would zero in on a very specific topic.

This challenge came along at a great time. I needed to set aside my work-in-progress for a bit. The A to Z Challenge allowed me the opportunity to keep writing but switch my focus. These types of challenges are another way for me to fill my creative well and interact with others. I’ve done photo challenges and Instagram challenges because I love taking pictures. I’ve done NaNoWriMo and many other writing challenges. I do well within a flock, I think.

Community is a key thing for everyone, however big or small in whatever endeavour whoever you are.

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Do challenges inspire you?

Q Is For Q&A With Jana Richards #AtoZChallenge

Q Is For Q&A With Jana Richards

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

I so happy to have my friend and talented writer Jana Richards here answering questions about all things books and reading.Welcome to the A to Z April Blogging Challenge, Jana!

So Jana, inquiring minds what to know. What are you currently reading? and Why you picked it?  I’m reading three different books right now, in three different formats. I “read” audio books at the gym and currently I’m listening to Mary Balogh’s Then Came Seduction. Why? Because I love Mary Balogh’s books. On my e-reader I’m reading Please Release Me by Rhoda Baxter, who writes for one of my publishers. I was intrigued by the premise; on their wedding day, a couple is in a bad car accident, putting the bride in a coma. But this bride isn’t going to let a coma stand in the way of her happily ever after. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out. In print, I just started reading Somewhere in France, a WW1 romance. I saw this book on the Internet and it sounded so interesting I wanted to read it. I’m a sucker for a war romance. And it’s written by Canadian Jennifer Robson.

Those sound like great reads, Jana. I’m currently reading The Lake House by Kate Morton, part of which takes place during WW1. I’m really enjoying it! Two of the authors are new to me, but you can’t go wrong with any of Mary’s books!

Following up with the usual qualifiers. E-reader or Physical Book? Choice of Drink While Reading? Favorite Reading Spot?  I can honestly say I don’t have a preference between ebooks or print books. Both have their place. And I love audio books. They make working out at the gym, and long road trips, enjoyable.

My choice of drink – Water at the gym, and either coffee or wine at home, depending on the time of day. I have a comfy chair in my living room that I like to read in. I sometimes read in bed, but I have a tendency to nod off.

I want to know whom you’re an unapologetic fan girl for? An author you’ve read the most books from?  Lifetime, I’ve probably read more Nora Roberts’ books than anyone else’s. Mary Balogh comes a close second. I’m definitely a fangirl of both. They are both so prolific and write such wonderful books. I’m deeply in awe!

I couldn’t agree more with your picks! Love both their books! I’ve read a couple of hidden gems over the years. What book are you glad you took a chance on?  When I belonged to a book club I read some books I probably wouldn’t have read on my own. One that comes to mind is Lord of the Flies – maybe not so much a gem as an experience. Speaking of gems, I contributed a novella, Chill Out, to The Wild Rose Press’s Candy Hearts Series for Valentine’s Day this year. I had the opportunity to read some of the other stories in the series, and maybe I’m biased, but I thought they were all little gems. A couple of my favorites were Ask Me by Laura Strickland and Be My Love by J.C. McKenzie.

It sounds like a lovely series, Jana! I promise not to carve it in stone anywhere important. Three of your all-time favourite books?  In no particular order:  A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux; The Defiant Hero by Suzanne Brockmann; Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh.

I find most readers have an opinion on committing to a series. Book series fan? Favourite? Not a fan?  I love book series! I love being able to find out what happens to other characters, and hanging out in the world the author has created for just a little longer.

We romance readers love our heroes. Your overall pick for best book boyfriend?  Tucker Longstreet from Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts. At first he comes off as this womanizing, good ol’ Southern boy. I didn’t like him at all. But then Ms. Roberts lets us find out who he really is, and Holy Smokes, I’ve been smitten ever since.

Hah, he sounds like a great book boyfriend. One of mine would be Cameron Quinn from her Chesapeake Bay Series! Time to ‘fess up. Worst bookish habit?  Perhaps, on occasion, I have been known to read the last page first, just to make sure there’s really going to be a happily ever after.

One of my mine involves a New Year’s Eve stay at cabin that didn’t have a television, let alone an Internet connection. We took turns reading the first Harry Potter book to our five-year-old son.  A dear to you reading memory?  When my youngest daughter was about six, she brought home a book from school about a child whose father had just died. It talked about the father’s funeral and what the child was going through. I got choked up as I was reading it, and Rachel put her hand on my arm and said, “It’s okay Mommy. It’s not our Daddy.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget my six year old trying to comfort me.

Ah, that’s a sweet memory! Inspiration surrounds us. The name of a book or an author who has inspired your own writing?  So many authors have inspired me, but I’ll just talk about three. I’m going to mention Mary Balogh again; I know when I read one of her books that I’m going to root for her heroine and fall in love with her hero. And I’m going to laugh and cry and feel the depths of sadness along with the highs of happiness. Her books are always an emotional read.

I love Rosamunde Pilcher. I’ll never forget crying my way through “Coming Home” and not being able to put the book down. Perhaps it was that book, as well as “The Shell Seekers” that got me interested in writing World War Two stories.

I admire Nora Roberts’ ability to always put me in her settings. She makes me feel like I’m right there with her characters, experiencing their surroundings, whether it’s Chesapeake Bay or New York City or Ireland. And she’s so prolific! As a writer, I’m in awe of the number and quality of the books she’s written. As a reader, I’m thrilled to have so many to choose from.

Oh my gosh, I remember reading The Shell Seekers and being utterly enthralled with her storytelling ability. I loved that book! I think we would make excellent reading companions!

Thanks for being such a good sport and answering my questions, Jana! I’m always curious about other’s reading habits and how it influences their writing.

Jana’s book The Girl Most Likely is a wonderful read and will be a steal of a deal at 99 cents through May 13 to May 27th.

TheGirlMostLikely_w6227_300

Cara McLeod, the girl most likely to have the perfect marriage, is now divorced and, in her own words, “fat, frumpy, and over forty.” The thought of facing former classmates—and the ex-husband who dumped her—at her high school reunion terrifies her. Cajoled into attending by her kids and her best friend, Cara enlists help at the gym to lose weight and look great for the reunion. Personal Trainer Finn Cooper is more than willing to help—but does he have to be so to-die-for gorgeous?

Finn thinks Cara is perfect just the way she is. She’s everything he wants in a woman, except for one thing—she can’t get past the fact that he’s eight years younger. To Finn, age and weight are just numbers. But can he convince Cara the numbers she worries about add up to only one thing for him—love?

Amazon * The Wild Rose Press * Kobo * iBooks * Barnes and Noble

Find Jana!

Website: http://www.janarichards.com

Blog: http://janarichards.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JanaRichardsAuthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JanaRichards_

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/janarichards

Amazon UK Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B002DEVWWG

Newsletter Signup: http://www.eepurl.com/m3UnT

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2892274Jana_Richards

Google+ Profile: https://plus.google.com/100820406211390323245

What are some of your favourite books to recommend?

P Is For Profanity #AtoZChallenge

P Is For Profanity

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

I guess I should preface this with the fact that I very rarely swear. I confess to indulging when I was a teenager. Often, in fact, but not for a very long time. My husband doesn’t either. At least, not around me. I think the strongest word I’ve ever heard my mother say was shit. And that was one time. My father doesn’t use profanity around me either. But I suspect it might be a different story for my brother.

That doesn’t mean I think using them is right or wrong. They are words like any other. To use. Or not. Having said that, there are words that will never ever cross my lips or spill from my pen.

The reading stretch I’m on now has a decided lack of profanity. And it’s given me new reasons not to indulge in too much of it. I am loving the books I’ve been reading lately.

I think overuse dilutes the impact of cursing when it’s necessary. For myself, it’s a crutch I try not to use but I do indulge in. I never want it to come easily. Obscenities are like cheap wine, too much and it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. I find that by rewriting and omitting, a more powerful way to convey the emotion I’m reaching for is possible and often more effective. And it’s lots of fun to develop creative ways for characters to insult each other than the obvious and the cliched.

But sometimes f-bombs and the like are necessary. They are words used by characters when developed convincingly are warranted. Too much profanity makes for exhausting reading. But I have characters that swear for reasons that I hope are evident, but swear they do.

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You might enjoy this article from the Writers Digest: How To Use Profanity And Other Raw Talk In Your Fiction.

What is your reading or writing preference? To swear, or not to swear?

 

O Is For Outside #AtoZChallenge

O Is For Outside

And Other Writing Distractions

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

It’s that time of year again. The time when the need to be outside is strong. After months of being cooped up after winter. Even the winter that wasn’t, as is the case here in southern Saskatchewan Canada. It’s spring! Keeping my butt in my chair, my hands on the keyboard so as to type away madly is proving more and more of a challenge. The outside beckons. But it’s not only the warmer weather and the job list that goes along with it. There’s energy in the air and I’m breathing it in. I’m coming out of hibernation mode with the accompanying need to rearrange, reorganize, and – horror of horrors – tidy up closets and the garage and all manner of other strange inclinations.

Just this morning I had the bizarre notion to go through my entire closet, pull everything out and decide what stays and what goes.

O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.

Shakespeare, King Lear

I think I have Shakespeare on my mind after seeing Romeo and Juliet last week. I have to assume his distractions were very real and great in volume. And certainly he was no stranger to tragedy. He lost his son at age 11, as well as three sisters and a brother. But he managed to write 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two narrative poems over his lifetime. FYI, the 400th anniversary of his death is on April 23rd. I know this because I looked it up.

writing

Time to turn on some music. Loud and pumped directly into my brain through earbuds. Because, damn it, the birds are chirping their little hearts out outside my window.

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Easy peasy. Except it kind of is. Because I can do ten minutes. Can you?

M Is For Must Have Writing Tools #atozchallenge

M Is For Must Have Writing Tools

At least for me!

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

My Top Five Writing Tools

Scrivener. A writing program geared towards organizing long documents. Ideal for first drafts of books. That’s what I primarily use it for, writing the first draft. It allows me to write in a nonlinear fashion but still see at a glance where I am. I did take a class to help me make the most use of it and I’m glad I did. Scrivener Classes given by Gwen Hernandez was very helpful. A very low maintenance course with great information.

Karyn Good

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Words, words, and more words.

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale

A journal. And pretty pens. Some place to jot down and keep track of ideas. I’ve recently started bullet journaling and find it very helpful for keeping track of tasks, notes, questions, etc. I’m also a fan of colour and colour-coding which makes coloured pens essential.

My Journal

Music. Some days to get any writing done I have to turn off the noise in my head first. In go the earbuds and then the music comes on. Having music playing quiets the other noises in my head.

Music Playlist

And there you have it! My list of essential writing tools. What are some of your essentials?

Find out what other bloggers are saying here.

L Is For Love Stories

L Is For Love Stories

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Romance novels are written primarily by women. They are read largely by women. They are written for people who believe in love. In hope. And who are in need of a bit of respite from the stress of everyday life. Whether we read them for comfort, solace, or entertainment. They are necessary.

How Romance Novels ‘Imagine a World in Which Women Can Win’

They are varied. They are pertinent. They matter.

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NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE named DIAGRAM OF THE HEART as one of the best photo books of the year. It’s the compilation of images with translations about Muslim romance novels from Northern Nigeria. There’s a small but vibrant cottage industry of Muslim women writing romance novels, littattafan soyayya, in Northern Nigeria, a region best known for the acts of terrorist group Boko Haram. The writers face off with Islamic censors, and they sell their books in some of the same markets targeted by Boko Haram suicide bombers. The books are about love and marriage. Some are subversive and speak out against human trafficking and child marriage, while others are submissive, advising women on how best to please their husbands, offering fantasies of escape, and tales of the poor girl marrying the rich man. Guided by the themes of these novels, “Diagram of the Heart” explores romance, tradition, love and loss in the lives of women in Northern Nigeria.

K Is For Kiss #atozchallenge

K Is For Kiss

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

A kiss can mean different things. A kiss on the forehead means I care. A kiss on the cheek puts you firmly in the friend zone. A kiss on the hand means I cherish you. Kiss the back of my neck and make me want more. Kiss my shoulder and tell me I’m perfect. Because I love you when you kiss my lips I’ll let you in.

kissing

Chances are you remember your first romantic kiss. That first close and very intimate contact with another human being. It might have happened in a flash. Or lasted awhile. Maybe with someone you’d just met. Or someone you’d crushed on forever. Perhaps it happened because of an arranged meeting. Or because of a shift from friends to lovers.

However it happened, it turns out the physical act of kissing starts with the eyes. We focus in on our partner’s lips. Then we move closer so we can use our nose to get a whiff of the other person. Which leads to contact. It’ll come as no surprise that our lips are very sensitive. When we share a kiss, we create a bond with another person. There’s a rush of info to our brains. Our heart rate increases. Our pupils dilate. And then the age old cliche of time standing still comes in play.

There are many ways that first kiss comes about in romance novels. A little snippet from my latest Aspen Lake novel, EXPOSED.

“I love it. It’s going to be perfect.” Engrossed in their discussion she’d slid closer until they were hip to hip on the two-seat sofa. She faced him, a huge grin of approval aimed right at him. He watched her, his amber eyes serious, careful. She tilted her head. He was so close. So different than anyone she’d come across. And solitary confinement had lost its appeal the minute she’d laid eyes on him.

His eyes flashed. She didn’t imagine it. Didn’t think either. She simply reacted, leaning in with the certainty he’d meet her halfway. Instead, he withdrew a fraction of an inch. Not far but undoubtedly a retreat.

Oh, God.

“I…” She closed her eyes in horror. Or denial. But no, it was happening. She knew this because she opened her eyes and he was still there. Close enough to smell the sweat of humiliation pooling out of her pores. He was staring at her in ear shattering silence. With nowhere to go, she stood up. Wiped her hands down the side of her skirt.

Pull it together, Kate.

She refused to gasp out an apology like a fish. “I shouldn’t have done that. I crossed a line. I’m sorry.”

You can check out what other bloggers are writing about here!

Care to share a favourite kiss from a book? A movie? Your personal experience?

I Is For Insight #atozchallenge

I Is For Insight

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

There are all kinds of ways to gain insight into characters. Finding the answers to the big questions like a character’s greatest fear and their most treasured possession or their attitude towards money is helpful in creating multi-layered characters. Character interviews are very helpful. But sometimes you need to have a little bit of fun with them. Have them play a game. Like truth or dare.

They’d rented a cabin for the weekend. All six of them. Deep in the north woods by a small lake. The perfect spot. Secluded and quiet. Hiking trails through the bush, pickerel in the lake, and plenty of dead wood for an evening fire after plenty of the first two. Stars flooded the sky. Wood smoke wafted. Marshmallows flamed at the end of sticks.

Lily clapped her hands together. “Let’s play truth of dare.”

Chase leaned over and confiscated his wife’s wineglass. “You’re cut off.”

Lily grabbed for her glass. “Ooooh, is the big, bad police officer scared?”

Grace snorted. “Remember that time at camp when we stuck out down to the beach and dared Chase to go skinny dipping?

“That poor bear!” Kate doubled over in laughter.

“Poor bear, my ass. I almost died.”

Seth held out a hand and Mike reached into the cooler beside his chair. “This I gotta hear.”

“Nope.” Lily grinned, her red hair glinting in the firelight. “But you can ask him when it’s your turn to play.”

“I’ll go first.” Kate twisted to face Seth. “Truth or dare?”

Seth shrugged. “What the hell, truth.” Continue reading

H Is For Heroine #atozchallenge

H Is For Heroine

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Anne of Green Gables. Little House on the Prairie. Little Women. To Kill A Mockingbird. The Diviners. Stone Angel. These books contain the heroines of my childhood and teenage years.

I suppose I have a favourite type of heroine, like I have my favourite story troupes. They can have hard or soft edges. Little education or a PhD. Be child-free or buried in babies. Geeky gamers. Rudderless or driven. They don’t have to be likeable 100 percent of the time. They make mistakes.

Fast forward to crafting my own heroines and the characteristics I like to explore.

Confidence: No surprise there. Confidence is incredibly appealing. It affects how we feel, our behaviour towards others, and the outcome of any undertaking. It creates a heroine who is more powerful, more in control, and more satisfied. They expect equality, cooperation, and respect whether they bus tables or run companies. Whether they run a daycare or a country.

Passion: A heroine can be down and out, discouraged beyond belief, have lost hope. But once that fire within has been stoked it allows her to live life, experience it, and claim it. She does not live a life of temperance. When she regales her grandchildren with stories of her past, her tales are met with wide eyes and open mouths.

Determination: There is no superpower greater than determination. She will let nothing stand in her way. There is no obstacle big enough, no danger great enough to keep her from her goal. From winning. Because who can afford to lose if the life of their children is on the line? Their patient’s life? A total stranger’s?

Jane Eyre1

Strength: Often the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response is a luxury they can’t afford. Someone has to be around to look after the kids, the dog, the house, the neighbourhood, the community. Women are the fixers. The multi-taskers. The gatherers. They can be the hunters. The thief in the night. They can be whatever they have to be to survive.

Commitment: They know the cost of responsibility and are willing to pay it. When all seems lost they do not allow the feeling of wanting to quit to overpower their commitment. There is no ‘taking your best shot’, there is only try harder.

Purpose: The foundation for all the rest of it. To know what they are to do and why. Not to be confused with wanting power over something or someone else. It does not need to be about conquest and supremacy. It is deeply personal. It is passionate. It is backed up with thoughts, words and deeds. It will be evident in how she feels, heals, creates, and shapes her future.

Check out other A to Z April bloggers.

Have a favourite heroine?