stealing time to read

I read a lot.  Every year for the last ten years I have read over 100 books. During two of those years, I read over 170 books.  As you can see from the little Goodreads widget on my blog, I’m usually in the middle of reading 3-5 books.

When people say they don’t have time to read, I both can’t understand them and understand completely.  In high school I remember sitting down on my bed every afternoon and reading for hours (this was pre-internet).  I don’t do that anymore, not very often.  This is how I understand when people say they can’t find time to read.  I certainly don’t have hours everyday to just sit and enjoy a book.

Or do I?

Nowadays, most of my reading is done while I’m eating.  I read while I eat breakfast, and while I eat lunch (dinner is usually on the couch watching TV).  But mealtime accounts for about an hour of reading time every day.

Lunch with Simon & Baz #carryon #rainbowrowell #books #reading #simonandbaz

A photo posted by Kate (@spoffk) on

I also listen to audiobooks during my commute.  That’s a half hour to and from work, so there’s another hour, and sometimes I’ll continue to listen while I do chores around the house, like folding laundry and preparing breakfast or dinner.  Sometimes I’ll also listen while I play games on the computer (generally only when I’m at a good part in the audiobook).

I keep my Nook in the bathroom, so when I’m doing my business I’m often reading then, too, but usually only when I’m reading a book with short chapters – right now it’s Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman.  That accounts for about 15 minutes of reading a day.

Recently, I’ve started reading in bed at night, too, mostly to eliminate the screen brain I have from being on the computer and watching TV in the evenings.  There’s another 20 minutes.

And, I have to admit, occasionally I sneak some reading at work as well (I’m a librarian, though, so I like to think it’s work-related).

All told, without sitting down expressly to read a book, I manage to carve out nearly 3 hours of reading every day.

Top 5 Reads of 2016

The only book I rated 5 stars in 2016 was the last book in the Captive Prince series, Kings Rising, by C.S. Pacat. This is a great series which is as much about the main relationship between two princes as about political intrigue.

Another series that I highly enjoyed in 2016 was the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes.  I had read the first book back in 2014, and on a whim decided to listen to the second book on audio.  The narrator for these audiobooks is fantastic, and I quickly ran through the rest of the series.  I’m eagerly awaiting the day my library gets the audio for the 5th book in the series, which was released this month.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin gave me all the feels, almost as many as Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasglow.  The first is about an intersex teen trying to find his place in the world after the unthinkable happens, and the second is about a cutter trying to make her way alone after being released from rehab.

Finally, I have to include the book that gave me the chills: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich.  As a girl slowly goes insane, she is haunted by creeping trees and a Slender Man-like figure.

Those are my top five!  I read a lot, so there are many, many books I enjoyed this year that were close calls.  Check out my Goodreads profile if you want to see ALL the books I rated as 4 stars – I review every book I read, too, and I’d love to be friends with you and see what you’re reading!

lost again

Damn, I wish my computer files would stop getting lost!

A couple of months ago, I finally took all my old floppy disks, bought an external floppy drive since no computer I have access to has a floppy drive anymore, and converted the files and saved them to my external hard drive.  Finally!  I thought.  I have all my computer files in one place!

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to be releasing The Art Kids with a new cover and I wanted to make some revisions as well, and guess what I couldn’t find?  ANY OF THE FILES OF THE PUBLISHED VERSION OF ART KIDS.  Like, really?  I definitely had at least two files, one formatted for Kindle Select Publishing and one formatted for Createspace.  Do you think I could find either one of them?  Or even the full cover Photoshop file?  Nope.  I have no idea where these things are.  I have checked every flash drive I could find.

I was at the point where I had downloaded the Kindle edition and was prepared to update my most recent draft of Art Kids to match it – and that file was at least 7 years older than the published draft – and then I found in my emails a PDF of the original published file.  I am pretty sure I made a few changes sometime in the past year, and yet… WHERE ARE THE FILES???  It’s even worse that this is the second time this has happened, the first being when I had to re-type the entire manuscript from a print copy I had made before publication.

Looks like my revision/cover update project will take a little longer than I had anticipated.

However, I’m feeling positive that I will be getting some projects done in this next year.  I really love the new cover design for Art Kids, and I’m looking forward to update covers for the Wolf Point series as well.

3 books on a theme: brothers who died in the war

img_3252I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters included among its characters a set of brothers, one of whom is “killed in the war” (the war being World War I).  Stephen’s ghost returns to haunt the narrator and resolve some things that happened between the brothers.

Shortly after reading this one, I read Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, which took place shortly after the end of World War I, and featured another brother killed in the war.  Sebastian “returns” via letters that are deposited in a desk, and haunts his fiancee as well.

Then I started reading an advanced copy of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, and yet another dead brother showed up.  No World War I this time, as the story takes place in a fantasy universe, but Fox dies in the war, and his sister brings him back from the dead.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  In any case, very strange that three books I read within a month’s time had brothers who died in a war and then returned from the dead.

the YA horror novel aesthetic

You could say that every genre has its own aesthetic, but lately the YA horror genre has been taking aesthetic to a new level – beyond cover design, or even typeface and chapter headings.

The first YA novel that did this really effectively was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – a novel which some might argue isn’t really horror.  But even if it is fantasy, it’s super creepy fantasy with invisible monsters that eat children.

Using real photographs, Ransom Riggs created a story.  The photographs became a kind of evidence for the text.  Sure, you could read the story (or listen to it on audiobook) without looking at the pictures, and you’d still get a creepy fantasy tale.  But the photographs were what drew me in.  They were mysterious, and did I mention real?  Of course, they were originally created using Victorian-era special effects, but the idea of finding these strange images made me as a reader feel just like Jacob, sifting through his grandfather’s collection.  The page layouts were even made to look like scrapbook pages.  I’ll call this style the Old-Timey aesthetic.


Quickly after the publication of Miss Peregrine’s, I began to notice other YA horror books using images and elaborate page design to draw readers into the story.  The Asylum series by Madeleine Roux had images that looked like they were found on the tiled floors of an old asylum.  Also included were images of scribbled notebook pages akin to what the narrator was finding and/or writing.

I enjoyed the feel of this series even though I didn’t enjoy the story as much – and part of my lack of enjoyment of later books might have been reading them as ebooks, which made them feel somehow less authentic.  I also found that some of the images were clearly photoshopped which made them feel less authentic than those in Miss Peregrine’s.


In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters also uses photographs to great effect – a look at the copyright page shows that most of the photos are from the Library of Congress.  These photos are entirely separate from the story, but mirror the events: seances, spirit photography, army hospitals, and flu victims, all of which ground the story to the time period.  The author did a great job of doing that through her writing, but the aesthetic of the book took it that much further.  You can see that the chapter headings also had a 1920s flair.

YA horror novels about historical events have a great advantage by the ability to use photographs.  But there’s another YA horror aesthetic that doesn’t.  I like to call it the House of Leaves aesthetic, where even the words on the page are arranged to lure the reader deep into a troubled protagonist’s mind.

(If you haven’t read House of Leaves, it’s a very complex story within a story within a story (perhaps even two more levels deep here).  There are footnotes, there’s word art (see image on right), there are hidden codes.  It took me months to read this book.)

Dawn Kurtagich’s novels The Dead House and And the Trees Crept In (UK title: Creeper Man) were definitely inspired by House of Leaves and have many similar elements – the word art, and the story within a story.  There are journal pages and words crossed out.  In The Dead House, the novel is meant to look entirely like a compilation of files and journal pages and transcripts.

Both of these books are very psychological in nature, where the characters question their own sanity, and the disordered fonts/cross-outs reflect that – while the appearance of “official documents” and files lend an authenticity to the story.

This aesthetic isn’t limited to YA horror (see House of Leaves, also the horror/comedy novel Horrostor which is laid out like an IKEA catalog – the story takes place within such a store), and it certainly isn’t limited to horror, but it seems the genre most befitting this type of treatment are horror novels.

And I love it!

(Did I miss any other examples of YA horror aesthetic?  Please let me know in the comments!)

 

11th consecutive nanowrimo win!

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winnerI achieved the coveted 50K word count on Monday night, with only 48 words to spare… yikes.  My novel is not complete but I feel like it needs quite a bit more editing to get it to a coherent enough place to figure out an ending, therefore The Mist that Falls at Night is now a page under the Works in Progress tab.

While I would like to finish this still having some idea of what’s going on, I think I am going to sit on it a bit before trying to do some editing.  But that’s okay, because I have a lot of other things I want to work on, including a new edition of The Art Kids, an omnibus edition of the first three Wolf Point books, and finishing the second Wolf Point prequel novella.  I have a feeling I’ll be needing to make some New Year’s resolutions in order to get all this done!

writing music

Like most writers, I enjoy listening to music while I write.  But you gotta have music that fits your writing mood!  I often also prefer music without lyrics – pop music makes me want to sing and dance so it really doesn’t help me when I write.  This Nanowrimo I already have a few go-to artists and albums.

  • Ludovico Einaudi – I heard one of his songs on an 8tracks playlist, and became an instant fan.  (The song was “Primavera” and it’s on my Scavengers playlist).  I’ve downloaded his albums Elements and Divenire and they are both lovely.  I’ve used them for my teen yoga classes as well.
  • Nox Arcana – Great music if you write horror or otherwise “dark” fiction.  They have a ton of albums, all with different themes.  Need a soundtrack for writing a haunted house story?  Try Darklore Manor or House of Nightmares.  How about a historical vampire tale? Try Winter’s Knight or Transylvania.  Creepy circus story?  The Theatre of Illusion or Carnival of Souls.  This does sound like soundtrack music and there are occasional (distracting) vocals, but definitely good mood music.
  • Zoe Keating – At one point I downloaded all the music from Maggie Steifvater’s writing playlists, and this cello artist was one of my favorites from all that music (there was a lot).  It’s all instrumental and because the cello is a low instrument, it isn’t distracting.

I have a few of my writing soundtracks posted over on 8tracks for your listening pleasure!  Hopefully I’ll put up my “Misty Mix” before month’s end.

What music do you like to listen to when you write?