My Reading Year

Jonathan Wolstenholme 

Well, my goodness.  I just looked at my grand reading plans for 2015 and discovered I only read one of the books in my five categories of Dusty, Chunky, Luke, Translated and Philosophical.  I usually don't plan out what I'm going to read and this is exactly the reason why.  My year took off and I never looked back, too busy with writing and classes and reading whatever books called my name. Yes, I'm a mood reader so don't know why I bothered to make any plans.  Unfortunately, posting on My Two Blessings took a back seat as well which means I didn't keep very good track of what I read when.    

I'm reminded of Robert Burn's poem To the Mouse in which he says  "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

I did end up reading more nonfiction thanks to my writing studies as well as historical books with James.  Which lead to discovering some very interesting creative nonfiction writers and opening up a whole new world.   Writing studies took a front seat this year and finished my writing group's reading of The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LePlante.  Also completed

Charles Baxter – The Art of Subtext
Constance Hale -  Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose
Dinty Moore  -  Rose Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction
Madison Smart Bell – Narrative Design
Peter Turchi – Maps of the Imagination

Statistics wise, I read 110 books and listened to 17 audiobooks out of which 36 are female authors, 15 male authors and 15 new to me authors.  I reread 5 different series including Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels, Anne Bishop's Others, Keri Arthur's Dark Angels,  Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter and Karen Marie Moning's Fever series.   Pretty sure I ended up reading more e-books than physical books because my stacks haven't shrunk at all. In fact, my books had babies and the babies had babies.  I leaned toward more comfort reads with the majority being paranormal, urban fantasy, or military romances with a few suspense novels thrown in for good measure.

Hard to say what my top five favorites are. However I fell in love with Karen Marie Moning this year and read the Fever series twice and listened to all the stories on audiobook as well.  Anne Bishop's Other series comes in a close second with J.R. Ward's Black Daggerbrotherhood series right behind.

An author and book that I'd never thought I'd ever read is Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.  I read Volume 1: Swann's Way this year and liked it enough to continue with Vol 2: In the Shadow of Young Girls in 2016.

The book that made me cry - Dean Kootnz last book in his Odd Thomas series, Saint Odd.  I'll miss Odd.  Also Hampton Sides true life adventure In the Kingdom of Ice. The book that made me laugh  - it's a tie between the men of  Black Dagger Brother hood and M.L. Buchman's fire fighters in his Firehawks series.  The book that was most  touching - Carrie Ann Noble's The Mermaid's Sister. The series that has me spellbound - Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. I finished # 4 Shadow Rising and #5 Fires of Heaven and look forward to reading the next two in the series during 2016

Where did my armchair travels take me this year:  The Arctic ocean and frozen tundra to Russia, Europe, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, China, as well as the United States. It's possible I hit South America at some point, but the visit was very fleeting.  *grin*

Who knows where my travels and reading will take me in 2016. I have all kinds of fun plans in store for my 52 Books in 52 Weeks crew.  Come join us!


Word Hoards: Writing versus Reading

Jonathan Wolstenhome

I'm working on my year end wrap up bookish wise, but thought in the meantime I'd share a flash non fiction piece written while working through Dinty Moore's Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Non Fiction.

Word Hoards

I met a woman who was rather didactic, who lived to learn, who loved to confuse with her rather pedantic soliloquies over the ramifications of a certain tome.  I met another, autodidactic this one, a lover of words who loved to read, who loved to share her thoughts.  Who also lived to learn, but also to teach.  Yet, you weren’t aware you were being taught anything at all.  She did it in such a way that before you knew it, you’d fallen in like with the sort of book you’d never considered reading before.  Reading and learning seem to go hand in  hand.  Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, whether scratching the surface or diving deep into the underbelly.

It made me stop and consider. Am I autodidactic or a bibliophile.  Can one be both well-read and self-taught.  By no means am I one of those intellectuals with snooty nose in the air with the pinky finger pointed upward as I drink my tea. I’m more of a laid back reader and student of words.  Can’t say I’m pedagogic either.  Do I teach or just pass on what I learn, enjoying the journey and as confused as the next person.  Perhaps.  I love to learn. I love to read.  

Reading is as necessary as breathing.  I can’t live without the words and the stories.  It is an escape or should I call it a decampment from the real world.  I get rather crotchety without my books. Writing isn’t as necessary as breathing.  When I first made that connection or disconnection between reading and writing, it was rather worrisome.  Shouldn’t  it feel the same?  Then I realized writing is a choice, a love, a desire.  I don’t need to write, I want to write.  And because I choose it, it gives me freedom.

I probably missed the boat, the yacht, the battleship in completing this lesson.  Word choices – big or small, pedantic versus natural, high falutin versus simple, genuine tell it like it is.  

Writing is like diving  into a rushing river and seeing where it takes you. You can either swim as hard and as fast as you can against the current, fighting it all the way,  or relax and enjoy the journey. And if you miss the boat. Don’t worry. Another one will come along soon.  

Life in the fast lane

This year went incredibly fast.  All my writing and reading goals basically went out the window once I became involved in Writers Village University MFA certificate program.  Bob Hembree, the brain behind WVU, developed an MFA program modeled after university programs.  Along with a one year creative writing, there is now a two year short story cert, and fiction or nonfiction three year certificate. I had completed a few self study courses as well as gotten involved in a group study reading and working through Alice LaPlante's Making of a Short Story. So when he asked for volunteers to help facilitate the classes, I jumped in with both feet.  It's been a remarkable year, learning and writing as well as guiding other writing students through different courses. 

Somehow, the crazy person that I am, volunteered for another year and will be facilitating all the non fiction MFA classes as well as the program's core course, Narrative Design.  *gulp* 

I'm happy to say that as a result of these classes, I've finished a couple short stories, several flash fiction and non fiction flash pieces.  I've also gained more insight into my leading character, Greg, from Eyes in the Ashes. Now I'm contemplating writing a prequel short story for him, the same as I did for Paul and Layla.  Although I have made progress with editing Eyes, the story is still not completely presentable yet. Still need more creative and constructive editing.  

In the midst of my studies, we continue to home school. James is currently in 10th grade and a budding historian as well as fan fiction writer.  His interests lay with World War II and he's now writing alternative historical fiction stories.  He is a passionate, prolific writer and I'm trying to pass on the information I've gleaned from my courses.  By George, I think it's working.

More later, my lovelies!

January Reading Wrap Up

January seems to have passed much too fast.  I'm sure since February is a shorter month, we'll be meeting back here in 28 days saying where did it go.  However fast it went, I've enjoyed myself.

Reading wise, even with slowing down I read 11 books and still leaning heavily towards the paranormal.  I finished the last two books in Nalini Singh's guild hunter series, the last book in Marjorie Liu's Hunter's Kiss and the last book in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series. Lots of endings, but also began Keri Arthur's new Spook Squad series.  

For my 52 Books Author Flavor of the month challenge, ended up reading Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.  Murakami's books are admittedly strange and in this one he choose not to give any of the characters names. We have the narrator, plus grandfather, the librarian, the chubby girl and well you get the picture. It was definitely different and had me wondering for quite a while how the two different story lines were going to line up. He gives the reader plenty to think about regarding the mind, the conscious and subconscious.

  1. Archangel's Legion -  Nalini Singh (#6 Guild Hunter, 385 pp, paranormal, eb)
  2. Archangel's Shadows (#7 Guild Hunter, 384 pp, eb)
  3. Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury (158 pp, nonfiction) 
  4. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami (416 pp, Japan)
  5. Memory Zero - Keri Arthur (#1SpookSquad, 385pp, paranormal)
  6. Bristol House – Beverley Swerling (416 pp, London)
  7. Becoming a Writer - Dorothea Brand (non fiction) 
  8. Labyrinth of Stars - Marjorie Liu (290 pp, paranormal)
  9. The Hot Zone - Jayne Castle (338 pp, paranormal) 
  10. A Case of Two Cities - Qiu Xiaolong (307pp, China)
  11. Frankenstein: The Dead Town - Dean Koontz (#5 423 pp, US) 

I usually don't have a lot of books in progress at one time, especially fiction. But it is a different story with non fiction.  I'm currently reading History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer with my Well Trained Mind group.   With my writing group Method and Madness, we are studying The Making of a Story by Alice Le Plante and doing Chapter 7 for February.  For my own amusement and edification, I'm reading Michael Card's biblical imaginings books - Luke: Gospel of Amazement.

I probably shouldn't say anything and jinx myself, but for the A to Z challenge, decided to add in a third category of A to Z non fiction.  Going to try and keep it primarily centered around writing and faith, so we'll see how that goes.  

Next up on my plate for February is the dusty chunkster Taylor Caldwell's Dear and Glorious Physician.  I've been meaning to read it forever, plus it was written in 1959, my birth year and it's about Luke. So it applied to several categories.  Nothing like multitasking.   Plus I just pulled James Scott Bell's Conflict and Suspense off the shelves to dive into. 

James and I are off to Barnes and Noble today while the rest of the world is watching the Super Bowl.  I managed to be true to my buying ban for the whole month of January.  Yeah me!  I'm breaking my ban for February since several new books by author I love - Anne Bishop, J.D. Robb and Dean Koontz - are coming out.  I simply have to find out what happens to Odd Thomas.   *grin* 

What books are you looking forward to reading this month?

Writerly Wednesday: conciously unconscious writing

Fascinating!  I'm reading Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer which was first published in 1934. Now I think I know where Julia Cameron got her idea for morning pages.  As we all know, in order to be a writer, we must write.   Brande says:

You must reach the unconscious to flow into the channel of writing.  Psychologists will forgive us for speaking so airily about 'teaching' the unconscious to do this or that.  To all intents and purposes that is what happens; but less elegantly and more exactly we might say that the first step toward being a writer it to hitch your unconscious mind to your writing arm.

She recommends rising early, half an hour or even an hour and without doing anything else, write. Write anything that comes to mind. Then the next morning, do it again without reading what you wrote the day before.  This basic exercise is training you to write.  After a while, increase your output by a few more sentences, a paragraph or two.  And soon, writing will become effortless and no longer 'arduous or dull."  Your subconscious and conscious will quit fighting....hopefully.

Once you are writing with ease every morning, take the next step.  Everyone has time in their day, so make use of it.  Schedule time during the day to write for 15 minutes and stick to it.  A debt of honor.  If you say you are going to write at 3:00, then do it, without complaint or excuse, no matter where you are or what you are doing.   The same as morning pages, write anything at all.  After a while, choose a different time.  You are basically teaching yourself to write at any time of the day without having to fight your subconscious. 

The important thing is that at the moment, on the dot of the moment, you are to be writing that you teach yourself that no excuse of any nature can be offered when the moment comes....You must learn to disregard every loophole the wily unconscious points out to you.  If you consistently, doggedly, refuse to be beguiled, you will have your reward.  The unconscious will suddenly give in  charmingly, and begin to write gracefully and well.
My conscious is already fighting with my subconscious - but what about your work days, how will you manage and blah,blah, blah.  Put up your dukes, subconscious.  

I adore Dorothea Brande and loving her book about cultivating a writer's temperament, teaching your two sides - left brain and right brain to cooperate - as well as making writing a habit, as well as displacing old habits.  Looking forward to reading 'the rest of the story' as Paul Harvey use to say. 

As for the rest of the story, go see what my fellow writers have to say over at row80 and give them a little pep talk if needed.

Writing and reading To Do list for the week

Grades for our first semester have been turned in, lessons planned for the week, laundry almost done, groceries have been put away and pork chops are cooking in the oven.  The guys are watching The Fall of Berlin and I have a few minutes to breath and think, plan out my to do list for the week.  

Writing  and reading wise, Ray Bradbury put a fire under my butt,  I'm instituting my Bradbury Book Camp for Writers goals which should prove interesting and hopefully not futile. 

My plan for this week is

Writing Wise:

1)  Write 500 - 1000 words a day, whether it is journal, prompts, blog, or creative writing class assignments which includes 

  • POV Exercise for Method and Madness:  Write a scene 3 different ways in 1st, 2nd and 3rd person omniscient.
  •  Vein of Gold -  Chapter One Kingdom of Story:  work on narrative timeline a bit everyday.
  • F2K - Write up bio for introduction 
 2)  1 hour of editing a day on Eyes in the Ashes 

Reading Wise

  • 52 Books Readalong:   History of the Medieval World  - Read Chapter 2 
  • 52 Books January Journeys and Author Flavor of the Month: Haruki Murakami - reading Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
  • Following a Rabbit Trail:  Bradbury suggested reading Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer which she wrote back in 1934.  Guess what dusty book I just happen to have on my shelves! Yep, plucked it out and started reading.  Enjoyed the first two chapters so far.
  • Book Camp:  read a poem, short story and essay a day:  Currently on my plate is 
    • essay:  Thomas Merton's Journal # 1 Run to the Mountain;
    • poetry: Max Felshin Leaves of Life (dusty book)
    • short story: selections from Art of the Short Story by Dana Gioia   
 That ought to keep me busy along with walking every night after dinner (faithfully done since new years eve), chronological bible read, and what ever life chooses to throw at us this week.  

If you are dropping in from Row80, welcome and thank you for dropping by.  

Happy Reading!

Ray Bradbury's Book Camp for Writers Training Program

Just finished reading Ray Bradbury's writing essays from his Zen in the Art of Writing and feel like I have been given my marching orders for Bradbury's Book Camp for Writers.  Zen is a short but powerful book and lights a fire under you with his passion and zest for life and writing.  There are so many snippets I underlined and wrote down, it is hard to know where to start.

Everything you have ever experienced in life goes into your subconscious as food for your muse.  How do you tap into that food to help you grow as a writer. Bradbury kept a book full of lists of nouns; words that reminded him of experiences. He'd refer to the list and a word or collection of words would spark an idea such as the ones that lead him to write Something Wicked This Way Comes:
The lake. The Night. The Crickets. The Ravine.  The Attic.  The Basement.  The Trapdoor. The Baby.  The Crowd.  The Night Train. The Fog Horn. The Scythe. The Carnival. The Carousel. The Dwarf. The Mirror Maze. The Skeleton.
In his essay How to Keep and Feed the Muse he says:

What is the Subconscious to every man, in its creative aspect, became, for writers, the Muse. 

How do you feed your muse? Read poetry every day which will flex your muscles and expand your senses. Consume essays, travel through the centuries. Learn and fill up your senses with the shape and size of the world, every color, smell, texture and sound. Read Short Stories and novels. Not only those who write the way you think but those that don't. It all serves to stimulate your Muse's tastebuds. And while you are feeding your muse, you have to keep it shape.  And you do that by writing 1000 words a day for the next ten to twenty five years.  Why? learn enough about grammar and story construction so that these become part of the subconscious without restraining or distorting the muse.

In the essay Zen in the Art of Writing, he goes on to say follow your own path, write for the right reasons and not for the money or accolades.

Fame and money are gifts given us only after we have gifted the world with  our best.

Write from the heart and emotions and learn. Keep writing.  There is no failure as long as you keep writing.  His Zen mantra is  WORK -- RELAXATION -- DON'T THINK

So work at your writing and shoot for 1000 to 2000 words a day for the next twenty years.  Write one short story a week for 52 weeks for five years. Much like the surgeon or artist or athlete train for years before they become proficient and successful, so must you train. Quantity provides the experience and with experience eventually comes quality.  As in all things, writing takes practice.  So feed your muse and start practicing.

To feed well is to grow. To work well and constantly is to keep what you have learned and know in prime condition.  Experience. Labor. These are the two sides of the coin which when spun is neither experience nor labor, but the moment of revelation. The coin, by optical illusion, becomes a round, bright, whirling globe of life.

I've never been fond of poetry or essays so this will be interesting, but I'm going to try.  We have plenty of dusty books inherited from hubby's mom that have been languishing on the shelves.   Speaking of which, Bradbury suggested reading as a supplement to his book Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer which coincidentally is one of those dusty books.  I love rabbit trails and synchronicity.  Already read the first two chapters and love it already.

If you need writing motivation for the beginning of the year or at any point, really, be sure to read Zen in the Art of Writing. 

If you have any favorite poetry or essay books, I'd love to hear about them.

2015 Reading Plans

As we all know, reading plans as well as buying bans often go astray.  I have more than enough books in my stacks, that I could probably get away without buys any new books this year at all.  *gasp* The horror!  Excuse me while I have heart palpitations.   

Okay. I came up with some Author Flavors of the Month and Reading Themes over on 52 Books purely for selfish reasons.  I have those authors on my shelves and need incentive to read them.  The little shelfie above will change in a month or so and it doesn't matter whether those particular books have been read or not.  It will depend on my mood.  Yep, I'm a big mood reader. However, I am in the mood at this point of the year for stories that challenge me a bit more than just paranormal or urban fantasies. My fall back books when I'm stressed or bummed.   But I also realize I have eyes/stomach syndrome so giving myself a break by going with 3/5/15.   I've been perusing the shelves and discovered I have many, many nonfiction books just waiting to be read.   So the majority of my categories will be nonfiction. 

My plan (as of this moment) is 


Isabel Allende - The House of the Spirits  (Spanish)
Mircea Cararescu  - Blinding  (Romania)
Halldor Laxness - The Great Weaver of Kashmir (Iceland)


Taylor Caldwell – Dear and Glorious Physician (also a chunky and part of study of Luke)
Sharon Kay Penman – The Reckoning
Bodie Thoene – Eleventh Guest


Mark Helprin -  A Soldier of the Great War (Rome 860)
Umberto Eco – Foucault’s Pendulum (Italy 623)
Vikram Seth - The Suitable Boy (India 1474)
Diana Gabaldon – Voyager (1059)  (bonus) 

Study of Luke:

Luke’s Story – Tim LaHaye (fiction – eb)
Luke: The Gospel of Amazement – Michael Card (NF)
Navarre Bible: St Luke (NF)


The Cave and the Light – Arthur Herman
Purgatorio – Dante
Essays – Michel De Montaigne

Plus I've fallen deeply in like with Thomas Merton and while I have The Book on Hours on my bedside stand I also plan on delving into The Way of Chuang Tzu and The Ascent of Man.

Currently up on plate is Haruki Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland, along with Susan Wise Bauer's History of the Medieval World which will be a year long read.  

What are your grand plans for the year?  More fiction or non fiction, book or author study or just trip the light fantastic and go where the muse leads you?  

Writing goals for 2015

Hello again!   I've cleared out the weeds on my blog, given it a fresh coat of paint, remodeled and turned on the lights. Come on in and make yourself at home, take off your shoes and have a seat. Curl up in one of the overstuffed chairs and have a cup of tea, or espresso if you'd prefer.  Hubby likes to roast his own coffee beans.

Alright, let's move forward, up those stairs and set some goals that are possible and flexible with  maintainable habits that are measurable and not impossible.

I'm currently working on finally completing Eyes in the Ashes, a story I started during Nanowrimo a few years back.  At least I'm persistent. My son would prefer I work on a new story involving a retired FBI agent and a bikini babe, but alas, he will have to wait.  An idea I had, not the bikini babe, but about the agent has been percolating in the back of my brain.  However, he has made an appearance and wormed his way into EitA, which actually helped move the story from A to Z.  I had an epiphany. Well a few actually and filled in the holes.  A technique I discovered this past year is having a conversation with my characters.  In written form, mind you, discussing the who, what, whys and arguing over who gets their way.  Invariably, they do.  *grin*  Which leads to my goals for the year.

  • Current Wip: Eyes in the Ashes - Goal is to finish edits by end of the year. How - rewriting one chapter a week.
  • 500 written words a day or 1 hour of editing which equals 1000 words. 
  •  DIYMFA:  I'm taking courses online through Writers Village University and currently involved in a study group - Method and Madness.  We are working through Alice La Plante's The Making of a Story, one chapter a month.  We are currently on Chapter 6. 
  • Also on WVU, I'm involved in the Novel Writers critique group.  There's nothing quite like 6 people taking a look at your chapters and providing feedback.  It's been educational and illuminating. Plus when I have more time, probably in the summer, I'll be participating in a few more of the MFA self study courses. They are so much fun and really spark my creativity.
  •  F2K Creative Writing Course - sponsored by WVU - I've been asked to be an intern for one of the classrooms during the January session.  So excited and most likely will be doing the exercises as well which will be keeping me quite busy and off the streets for the next 7 weeks.
  • I recently pulled out Julia Cameron's Vein of Gold which I'm going to work through ever so slowly.  However, I've already started the walking portion of the program.  I recently remembered that growing up, we used to take walks with my parents every night after dinner.  So I told my guys and they've been quite cooperative so far.
  • I'll be joining in on Row 80 (after a long, long break) for accountability breaking it all down into daily and weekly and hopefully it will push me to post on a regular basis as well.

I'm going to keep it simple and try not to over extend myself. 

A New Year / A New Day / A New Way

Yes, it's that time. A new day in a new year and time to think, dream, ponder, consider when and how and where life will take us this year. I've been contemplating the one word thing mentioned here and there.  One word to focus on for the entire period of 365 days that will guide you throughout. How can something so simple be so hard.  After going back and forth, coming up with intent, pursue, perceive, deliberate, purpose, and all the synonyms that go with these words, decided I need more than one word, a sentence, heck, a whole paragraph to focus on.  And how do I come up with a word that will not only guide me, but help me guide my son and my husband.   Our life is way too eclectic to narrow it all down to one word.  It would be too limiting and I've never really cared for labels.  

Then I came across Vance Havner's quote and my imagination took off:

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs.
We're constantly climbing up and forward and there are periods of time when we rest on the landing, before we start moving again.  Sometimes down a few steps, but mostly up and onward.  The stairs may split, giving us two directions to choose from.  Or magically like Hogwarts, may suddenly shift off into a whole new direction we didn't expect. specific word as we aim for the next step, the next landing, the next floor.  As clear as mud, right.  

So while we are thinking of all those life goals involving our business, education, health and spiritual, I'm working on figuring out my writing goals for this year.  Taking a tip from Gabriela of DIYMFA on how to make writing resolutions stick   I'm going to do my best not to have the 'eyes are bigger than my stomach syndrome'.  Stay tuned!