Video Book Review: The Happiness Project

I’m following up last week’s review of When Bad Things Happen to Good People with another favorite nonfiction book, and one that also feels relevant to right now, though in a very different way – The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Now may be a good time to think about little ways to boost your happiness.

Blog Hop: Visit My Bookshelves

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Today’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  Share a photo of one section of your bookshelf randomly selected or go ahead and share the entire bookshelf.

I’ve been wanting to share a video touring my L. M. Montgomery shelves (so, not that randomly selected), making this blog hop prompt perfect!  Please enjoy the visit to my shelves in the video below. 🙂

Writing Wednesday: Round Robin, Round Three

My writing focus has been a bit scattered for the last couple of weeks, and this week it took a new turn.  It was my turn again to write a chapter of my next collaborative novel, Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  I’m trading chapters with three other writers, and this was my third chapter but Chapter Ten of the novel.  Considering we outlined a total eighteen chapters, we are well on our way through the story!

In this chapter, our heroines got closer but then had a huge fight.  Fun stuff to write!  I actually struggled a bit this time around, trying to figure out how to interpret our notes and whether they were lining up with some earlier sections.  A couple notes for different chapters actually were in conflict – for instance, Lola’s roommate Mario was supposed to flirt with Charlie in Chapter Six, but then it’s revealed in Chapter Twelve that he’s a member of Charlie’s coven, so what’s he doing flirting with her like he doesn’t know she’s a lesbian?

I ended up contacting my fellow writers and we held a video chat brainstorming meeting Monday night to figure some things out before we went further.  Very helpful, although we mostly observed that it’s all holding together surprisingly well so far!  We also decided Mario isn’t in the coven and kept the flirting 😉

I finished writing up my chapter today, along with adding a bit to the previous chapter about Charlie’s ballet production.  I researched modern ballet for Chapter Two, so even though I didn’t write Chapter Nine, I had the most expertise to add a bit about the production.  Charlie is dancing to the Rolling Stones, and it’s not at all what Lola expected!

For now, here’s a brief excerpt, from right after Charlie and Lola’s first kiss.

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“So.”  Say something, crack a joke.  “Is Mario going to ask me my intentions?”

Lola bristled, and it was so her that Charlie loved it.  “Mario doesn’t have any say in who I date.”

“I was just kidding,” Charlie said, even though she figured Lola probably knew that.

“Yeah.  Of course.”  Then Lola’s gaze, defiant for a moment, dropped awkwardly as she kicked one heel back against the door.  “Anyway,” she mumbled, “Mario likes you.  I mean, likes you for me.  I mean…”

“Do you want to, I don’t know, grab some drinks?” Charlie suggested.  Ugh, so cliché—but she didn’t know what else to suggest, she just knew she didn’t want this, whatever this was, to end.

Video Book Review: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I don’t expect every review I do in the future will be by video, but right now I’m home a lot and it’s a good time to film.  I’m home a lot because, probably like many of you, my region is under a “stay at home” directive for the coronavirus pandemic.  I decided a very small thing I could do in response was to make a video reviewing a book I have found helpful (and recommended in the past) for dealing with scary, tragic, unfathomable things.

I wrote a review of When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner before, and yesterday I made the video below.  The book explores the role of faith and God in the face of inexplicable tragedy, and offers enormous insight.

Blog Hop: A Taste of a Story

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Today’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  If you could add one interactive feature to reading books, what would it be?

I’d love it if books could be more sensory somehow.  There are picture books (and movies) for the visual senses, and audiobooks sometimes include sound effects.  Beyond that we’d have to stray into fantasyland, I expect, but it would be awesome if books could somehow give you (as an option) a tactile sense when they describe, for example, soft silk or rough tree bark.  There are plenty of things characters feel I wouldn’t want to feel, so it would need to be optional!  Likewise, I’d like to experience some of the smells that are described in a story, but not all of them.

Taste would be the trickiest but maybe the coolest too.  I tend to be intrigued by food in books, especially fantasy-sounding food like bubbly pies (from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern) or butter pies (from Diana Wynne Jones’ A Tale of Time City).  I’m sure fans have made up recipes online, and I’ve even read a few books that included a recipe or two at the end, but the truth is I’ve never made any of them…so I guess what I really want is a replicator that would just spit out the food described in the book I’m reading!

Writing Wednesday + Shiny Hardback Arrival

I’ll share my usual writing update, but first I wanted to share some very fun author news.  Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne will be published in hardback, and the first copy of the hardback arrived at my house yesterday.  You’ll be able to buy it in June, but you can see it in the video below!

That arrival was a nice boost to a very strange week…I hope you all are staying well and safe in the coronavirus strangeness!  I expect to be home a lot in the coming weeks, and of course I thought about how to use this time for more writing.  I thought at first I might try another week of writing a short story a day, as I did in February 2019.  I tried it for two days and couldn’t get inspired for anything, so maybe not right now after all.  Maybe in a week or two – we’ll see.  For now, I’m turning my focus to another Phantom side-project.  After the trilogy is out, I want to release a companion book of shorter pieces, and I’ve been meaning to make time to work on the scattered draft bits I have for that.

So for the next few days at least I plan to work on a shortish story (it may yet expand to a novellette) telling the story in my trilogy from Christine’s point of view.  I wrote it several years ago, partially just so I could nail down in my mind how she’s viewing events.  I’ve done something unusual with Christine’s character, so I hope readers of the trilogy will be interested to get her perspective.  But that means I need to edit the short story, and make sure it actually lines up with the books in their final form.

Here are the opening paragraphs; I can’t share much else without spoilers!

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My father was poor—terribly poor.  And it didn’t matter that he was a genius on the violin.  All anyone saw when they looked at him were the patches on his sleeves, and the ragged cuffs of his trousers.

Father had been a famous, respected violinist once, but he gave it all up when my mother died.  He took me on the road and we traveled about, sleeping in barns and earning mere centimes by standing on a corner, he with his violin, I singing.

Once when I was eight, a woman didn’t give us coins.  She gave me a red scarf instead, remarking on how sad and cold I looked.  No doubt she congratulated herself on her kindness.  I was already old enough to understand about pity, and about charity, and about dependence.  That scarf always felt heavy around my neck.  It was a yoke, weighing me down, reminding me that I was helpless, forced to live on the mercy of others, dependent on the kindness of strangers.  I only wore it on the coldest of days, when I couldn’t do without.

Except once.  Just once I wore my red scarf in early spring, one day when Father and I went to perform at the beach.

Video Book Review: Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera

I recently reviewed Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, the original book that began the story.  I had a lot of thoughts…so I decided this was a good book to start something new I’ve been thinking about trying.  See below for my video review of the book – how it differs from later versions, and why I don’t think we can be sure that it all happened quite as it seems!