A State of Gratitude

“Gratitude is a powerful emotion to use for manifesting because normally we feel gratitude after we receive something. So the emotional signature of gratitude means it has already happened.”

Dr. Joe Dispenza

And maintaining a state of gratitude creates an environment conducive to receiving what you want, because energy takes the path of least resistance. It’s science (😏).

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the warmth of my children in my arms, dense with blood and breath and bone–solid, squeezable, kissable. I am grateful for their cough and my gritty eyes from being kept awake by their cold, because it means their bodies are strong enough to fight to keep them healthy. I am grateful for soft and swelling music and lyrics that bring tears to my eyes. I am grateful for the turn of summer to fall at night and the wind whispering through the trees. I am grateful for the cold sip of a beer, the hot sip of black coffee, and the cool sip of clean water. I am grateful for the look of understanding–almost telepathic in nature–shared with my partner over the heads of our children. I am grateful for light falling through the shades, striated and languid–the sun has yet to die; we get to have another day. I am grateful for snuggly cats seeking me out in quiet moments (it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you have cats and lay down with a book, a cat will manifest on your chest). I am grateful for the soreness of muscles that have worked hard and dry, worn hands–a working creator’s hands.

I am grateful for the books I can get cozy with and lost in (The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Darkness Outside Us right now). I’m grateful for the movies and shows that fill up my well, for the memories of my father that come to me when I watch Star Trek: Next Generation–he was a sci-fi and fantasy geek like I am now, and I never realized that before. I am grateful to keep finding books and film and art and music to enjoy because it means the hunger inside of me is infinite. And it means the hunger inside others is infinite. And it means that I will never run out of experiences that let me feel connected to other human beings and their voices and stories.

I am grateful for the people giving me the opportunity to work with them and the venues who have published and will publish my own attempts to connect with other humans. The Grey Rooms Podcast accepted my first short story (twenty drafts later, mind you), and I will get to hear that story being given life.

I am grateful for the girl who used to come home from working two and three jobs while going to school full time to burn the midnight oil writing crappy stories. For the person who continues writing with a demanding day job and two 5-year-olds. The stories are still crappy sometimes, but I am grateful for them, grateful for the passion and my patience to continue working with them, to mold each story into its final form.

I am grateful for the story I am molding right now.

2019 Book Awards

I read 50 books in 2019. I rated many of them 5 stars, which is kind of a rare situation for one who avidly reads. I think it just means that in my advanced years, I am able to gauge what I will like. While I’m sure you’d love to hear me talk about all 50 of them, I will merely forcefully recommend all of the awards winners here with gorgeous cover thumbnails and vague categories that leave you salivating for more, and of course, my favorites at the bottom. A fellow Instagrammer inspired the Oscars-style roundup layout, without which, this would have been a much longer post.

 Longest Book & Best Worldbuilding

Strongest cast & Most Unique

Best Female Lead

Alice Proserpine, The Hazel Wood
or
Cassie Maddox, Into the Woods and The Likeness

Best Male Lead

Sean Kendrick, The Scorpio Races
or
Declan Lynch, Call Down the Hawk

And the winner, for my

Best Read of 2019

is

scorpio races

“It’s the surf in your face, the deadly magic of November on your skin, the Scorpio drums in the place of your heartbeat…it’s life and it’s death or it’s both, and there’s nothing like it.”

 

That’s it. That’s the book.

 

My favorite thing about this stunning fantasy is that you can reach out and feel the November iciness of the break, the steam rising from the horses’ flanks. It’s legend breathed to life. If this wasn’t already featuring as my favorite novel last year, it would be boasting the award for most atmospheric with Stiefvater’s fictional island, Thisby, and all of its traditions and prejudices. In an interview, Stiefvater said she traveled to cliffs all over the world to find the exact ones she saw in her mind:

 

“I went to four sets of cliffs. You didn’t believe me when I said I was obsessed. California, Yorkshire, and Dover, England are the other three. And then last year, I was in Paris with my husband in December, and it was snowing. It was the first time it had snowed in Paris in years and years. I’m with my husband, without the kids, in the City of Love. I have a day off from doing author things and I told him, ‘Rent a car. We’re driving to the cliffs in Normandy.’ “

 

 

That is serious dedication to building atmosphere. Like my favorites of Stiefvater’s novels, if you go into it a little bit blind, you’ll reach the end seeing in technicolor.

 

 

Other 2019 favorites

  • The first four in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad Series
  • Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
  • Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

What were your favorite reads last year? If you read any of these, what did you think? Any special 2020 reading goals?

If you want to write, write

I doubt myself as a writer a lot. Despite knowing this is part of the fear-before-leaping process after finishing a project, I doubt myself anew each and every time. After all, who do I think I am to write a novel? To create lives and conversations and homes and tragedies? These questions do not go away; no book gets easier. How could it be easier to splatter yourself on the page for not only others to see but yourself? Even if your work is not about you or your life or anyone in it, your work is still you. Every time you create, you are confronted with the shape of your soul and brain. Whether you’ve done it once, or seven times, or twenty-five times, it does not get easier.

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So last night, when I was keenly feeling this doubt, I did what I always do. I turned to books. I opened the door on my bookshelf and knelt before my little writer self-help section (see above). The first book I opened was Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I have been reading this on and off for a couple of years, and every time I pick it up, whatever section I open is exactly what I am going through. I opened it to “Doubt is Torture”, and read:

“If you want to write, write…have a tenderness and determination toward your writing, a sense of humor and a deep patience that you are doing the right thing.”

I immediately got a pen and sat back down. As I read, looking for guidance on how to keep pushing through this, on how to write when I absolutely did not want to plot but when I knew I needed a road map, my doubt was soothed. Inspiration would come in time. And it did.

Here is something I’ve learned: I found that I am inspired by nonfiction more than fiction. I have read a ton recently and while my best friend always wants to write after reading beautiful language, I remain a fat, happy voyeur–a reader. To be inspired to write, I need the left side of my brain stimulated. Another writing buddy told me that she loves the way I write about writing, and I think this is because dissecting writing gives me my life-force. During my drought after my last completed novel, I’ve been turning to other means of creativity to try and loosen that muscle, like attempting guitar and piano (ha) and drawing, which I don’t really do anymore, because it’s less of a struggle for me. I can look at something I’ve drawn and see the flaws and how to fix them. With drawing, I can tangibly see that practice makes (an approximation) of perfect. Writing is harder, and unfortunately, more gratifying for that exact reason. I learned last night that while some people like writing because they know they are good at it, I like it because it’s harder for me than most other things. Here is something else I’ve learned: my writing process is not linear or in any way organized. Here is something else I’ve learned: Everyone does this differently. Here is something else I’ve learned: The act of writing itself will not get easier.

What does get easier is understanding your process, which allows you more compassion with yourself. Goldberg assures the writer that “each [book] will get better because you have all the more practice behind you.” But I affirm that the more you write, the more you understand how you work and how you’ve grown with each terrifying leap into a new book.

Top 6 Reads of 2018

The time has come again for a book wrap up. Here are my 6 favorites from last year.

tsh

 

The Secret History

I finished this book at the beginning of 2018, and I still crave the feeling I got while reading it. There are books you love because the world feels real and transports you (Harry Potter) and books you love because of the characters (The Catcher in the Rye). Then there books that read like shooting a FEELING directly into your veins. And this one is it. The Secret History is dark, smart, and will leave you tense and gasping all the way to the end.

 

 

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

I notice a theme with some of my favorite books and that is setting, which Call Me By Your Name has in spades. Italy. Good god, it’s lovely. But also, Elio. Elio is the sweetest summer child that ever was. His emotional narration rips into your heart with teeth that will leave their venom behind, forever infecting you with FEELINGS. Elio’s narration will blur your vision with his angst. You will remember your exact self at teenage-years-old. In short, you will fully comprehend the concept of “shook” when you finish this novel.

Six of Crows | Crooked Kingdom

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Four words for you: No mourners, no funerals. I feel like I need a rollie and a burning  whisky as I write this. I’m kind of cheating on this one saying both were top reads of last year, but really, this entire universe is just…wow. The first novel in this duology gave me a revelation about how I read. The world is flat-out stunning–sexy, smart, but the characters and plot are phenomenal too. If you love action, slow burn, heists–shit, I didn’t even care about heists until reading this–smart heroes, villains, and the gray ones between, read Six of Crows. If you want to be completely transported, this series is your ticket to Apparating.

spinning silver

 

Spinning Silver 

I was looking for good fantasy feels when I started this book; let’s just say I struck gold (*waves hand* you’ll get it when you read it). It was even better than Uprooted (which I reviewed as one of my best reads of 2017) a feat I never dreamed possible, in this dimension or its parallel. I was craving fantasy, and this book is the genre’s epitome. When you read this, you will want to be zipped up in a sleeping bag and buried in a tomb with Spinning Silver clutched to your chest.

 

 

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

I have read four of Christina Lauren’s books and nary a one has disappointed me. But this one…whew. This is one of those books that overreaches its genre and plucks the strings of your soul and stays and stays and stays. I just got all mushy thinking about it again. This book is about gangly teens, growing up, reading in reading nooks, overcoming loss, and finding your soulmate over books. It’s endearing, funny, heartfelt, hot, and now I want to read it all over again.

 

annihilation

 

Annihilation

I did not read a lot of horror last year–three, in fact, and one was a novella–and it will show in how inadequately I will sing the praises of this novel. But this book, this little iridescent bundle of sci-fi horror like you’ve never seen  before had me holed up for days and contemplating which lines I wanted to tattoo on my body. The setting is stunning, but the narrator, and the way in which she just wields a good story like a shank in a psychologically and physiologically threatening frontier, is VanderMeer’s prize piece.

 

 

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Have you read any of these? What did you think? Did you have any favorites from last year? Please, share in the comments. I’m always looking for my next fix. 

My 6 Best Reads of 2017

2017 was INSANE for reading for me. I have never read so many words in all my life. Not only books you can quantify, but countless fanfictions. But alas, I confess too much.

Rereads

I also did a lot of rereading in 2017, and that included two favorite BrontĂ« classics, Jane Eyre and Villette. Also, before rereading a 2016 favorite The Madwoman Upstairs, which involves a lot of BrontĂ« family history, I wanted to tackle a biography about my favorite author first. I chose Claire Harman’s A Fiery Heart for its look at Charlotte’s relationship and correspondence with Monsieur Constatin Heger, her teacher in Brussells. For anyone who has ever wanted to read a biography on Charlotte BrontĂ«, I highly recommend this one (you know you’ve always wanted to know about her indomitable father who outlived all his children and the fiendish sot Branwell BrontĂ«).

Best Reread of 2017

Aside from the entire Raven Cycle series, which I listened to on audio book less than a month after reading them (and yearn to return to again!!!), I would say Jane Eyre was the best reread, because I already want to re-revisit it and all of its delectable intricacies–remember the horse chestnut tree split by lightning? Jane’s nightmare about a child being torn from her arms the night before her wedding? Or how about when Mr. Rochester dresses in drag as an old gypsy woman to try to get Jane to reveal her feelings for him? Yeah, didn’t think so. Add it to your reread list and thank me later.

Top 6 Reads of 2017

6. Jane Steele

jane-steele

 

Admittedly, I was iffy going into this book, being that it is about a serial killer Jane Eyre-esque character; I’m just not that type of girl into the whole Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies-type rewrites. But this was different than what I imagined. Jane Steele is an extremely witty, engaging narrator full of agency.  Her orphan story is a heart-breaking and harrowing one that leads her down a path of shaky self-redemption with one flawed and charming Charles Thornfield along the way. The history in this book is rich and laps at you in heavy, lulling waves. I couldn’t put it down.

 

5. Eligible

A phenomenal modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by the illustrious Curtis Sittenfeld. I have now read a good chunk of her bibliography (also Sisterland and Prep) and this book fits Sittenfeld’s MO to a T. Her deft handling of romance, her trademark humor, and lovable, flawed, witty narrator are expertly utilized in this modernized Austen story. You leave the society of 19th century England behind and bring the Bennett family and their beaus into a world of texting, fad diets, Crossfit, and reality television. A surprising retelling and clever read.

4. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

tggtvav

Can we just take a second and give that cover some much-deserved love? I usually hate seeing the characters on the front of novels, but this guy IS the Monty in my head, like the cover design artist incepted this dude into my medulla oblangata. The characterization, pacing, and story of this novel were all exquisite. I could hear Monty’s voice talking to me as I read the story. It was a really nice combination of light, fun modern day read but it was also very much a historical romance with thrilling highs and heavy lows. The balance between these two ends of the spectrum was most impressive. Lee has a follow-up novel coming out, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Pirating, and the fact that I definitely want it should say quite a bit about my faith in her as an author.

3. Autoboyography

autoboyography

 

This novel seriously broke my heart. Like, I have never been so viscerally affected by a novel, which is weird to realize. I have favorites that have moved me, but I was destroyed, shattered by this book when I was reading, after I finished, and for days after. It was like getting over a breakup to heal from it; and not because it’s all bad/sad (after all, no one dies), although the tension between religion and homosexuality was heavy, and these authors gracefully navigated the powerful realities, revelations, and emotions that came with this unique situation between the main character and his love interest.

 

 

2. Uprooted

fantasy novel

 

I read Uprooted very early on in the year, so it feels a bit like a distant dream. But a very, very good dream I wouldn’t mind having again. Soon. I loved the setting, the magic, the magic of place, the mythic atmosphere, the painful suspense, the horror, the magic tutelage, and the characters. These characters are so real that the book feels heavier in your hands. You think, while reading, that perhaps at any moment Agniezska will tumble out from between the pages in her stained and tattered home-spun dress or that the Dragon will open up a portal right into your living room. It feels like a classic and definitely earns its place with the monoliths in fantasy.

 

1. The entire Raven Cycle series

I have a separate, more all-encompassing review for here, because there is entirely too much to say about this series. Every plot point, every character, every nuanced detail surprised me in their uniqueness. If I have not convinced you over the course of three blog posts now to check this series out, then I’m just going to have to hunt you down and force you to read it until you fall in love. I fell in love at Chapter 4, about 38 pages into the paperback. That may as well be love at first sight.

Most Unexpected Read of 2017

All For the Game Series by Nora Sakavic

I found this series completely by accident. When looking up copies of The Raven King (by Maggie Stiefvater) to buy, I saw another novel entitled The Raven King by Sakavic. It was the second in her All For the Game trilogy. As I was reading the summary, I was thinking what the heck is “Exy”? And so I went down a hole for about two weeks last summer, sucked into this sport Sakavic made up and her crew of misfits that play it. The odd thing is, I am not exactly what one would call….sporty. Or even all that interested in sports, aside from an analytical standpoint. So I was blown away that her detailed descriptions of these fast-paced violent games engaged me so thoroughly. Also, there’s like a hitman/crime ring sub-plot, and who doesn’t need that in their lives?

Have you read any of these? What were some of your favorite reads from last year?