My August Reads

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. With the exception of the word lazy, the phrase is particularly apt this year. The skies are hazy from nearby forest fires, and the tempo of my life is edging to the crazy side. That means reading time is at a premium, and whatever book I pick up must be compelling enough to hold my attention and keep me away from my out-of-control ‘to do’ list. Lucky for me there’s no shortage of great material. Here’s what I’m reading this month:

Before bed: Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

At the gym: A Version of the Truth by Jennifer Kaufman

Beside the pond: The One and Only by Emily Giffin

Books read to date in 2018: 54

Revamp, Revise, Redo

If you follow astrology (and I don’t mean the daily horoscope stuff), you’ll know that there are six – count ‘em six – planets retrograde in the heavens right now. It may or may not be affecting you but it’s forcing some unexpected revamping, revising and redoing around here.

Last week, during a home inspection, we discovered a whole lot of galvanized pipe running from the street into our house. We thought we had copper . . . we mostly do have copper . . . but there was a long length of galvanized piping and it had to come out. The good news is one of the companies that came to give us an estimate had a cancellation; they could do the work Friday morning, providing we dug up and moved the plants.

So Thursday afternoon, rather than writing, I was digging out perennials and moving them into the shade. At the same time, Mr. Petrol Head was hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of landscape pebbles out of the way. Friday morning, the guys showed up just after 7:30. By 1 pm, they’d dug down 24 inches, replaced the galvanized pipe in the ground, drilled through our foundation to replace the length in the house, and put the soil back in place.

It was our turn to replace the pebbles and the plants, basically to turn that scorched earth back into something pretty. For one, the plants we’d dug up wouldn’t tolerate sitting in their temporary homes, even if they were shady, for long. And for another, we pitied the poor neighbors having to look at the disaster that was our front yard. So this weekend we dug and placed and planted and watered. It was hot, tiring work but in the end we have a much tidier rockery and entrance to the house.

I had planned to revamp the area this summer. The rockery was overplanted and without a sense of cohesiveness. In fact, the rockery redo was quickly reaching the top of my ‘to do’ list; good thing I hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Ironically, and as is often the case, my garden project mimicked what is currently happening in my writing life. My current WIP is overwritten, meandering and without a sense of cohesiveness. I need a better handle on the through line. As I ripped out plant after plant, it occurred to me that sometimes manuscripts need a little tough love too. This one does; it needs some ruthless gutting and reshaping. Gutting and reshaping, like digging and replanting, is hard, hard work. But it’s often the only way to end up with a book – or a garden bed – you’re satisfied with.

My Favorite New Thing

The key word of this summer is noise. Noise from the neighbor’s chain saw as he removed the old pear trees bordering our properties (sob!); noise from the gut and rebuild taking place around the corner from us (the jackhammers are back for the second week); noise from a neighbor on the other side bulldozing part of his lawn and hauling in loads of gravel so he can park more cars.

And noise from Team Sheltie as they protest the auditory assault that has been relentless for weeks. We could shut our windows, but it’s been a hot summer and we don’t have air conditioning; we rely on air flow to keep things cool. I’m fine with that. Noise doesn’t normally bother me, at least not like it has lately. This summer the noise seems extreme . . . or maybe I’m more sensitive to it. Perhaps it’s a little of both.

Either way, after several weeks of listening to me moan and gripe, Mr. Petrol Head surprised me with a pair of wireless Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones. They’ve quickly become my new favorite thing. I put them on, pull up some soft background music (orchestral, no lyrics, but not quite meditative or I’d get sleepy), and I start writing.

It’s only been a few days but my focus is sharper and my word count is up considerably. With any luck, the key word of the rest of my summer will be productivity.

My July Reads

We’re staying close to home this summer, which isn’t exactly a hardship when you live in a city as beautiful as Victoria. Since we’re planning a move in the not-too-distant future, we’re savoring what my hometown has to offer while we can. We’re also keeping on top of garden chores and tackling a few inside renovations as well. It doesn’t leave much time for reading but when the opportunity presents itself (and when Mr. Petrol Head isn’t looking), I seize the moment. Here’s what I’m diving into this month:

Beside the Pond: The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

On the Kindle: The Past Life Perspective by Ann C. Barham

Before Bed: The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman

Books read to date in 2018: 46

Summer Time . . . Book Time . . .

It’s that time of year when friends are packing up and heading out on holiday. Books inevitably find their way into carry-ons and suitcases, and I’m sometimes asked to recommend titles. It’s easy if I know their taste (and especially if I share it) but that’s not always the case. When I’m at a loss I always recommend they talk to their favorite book seller or check out some of the lists that pop up at this time of year.

Time Magazine has compiled a list of 22 new books to read this summer:  http://time.com/5285980/best-books-summer-2018/

Since Canada Day is less than a week away, my attention was drawn to the CBC’s 100 Novels That Make You Proud to be Canadian list. Check out their recommendations here:  http://www.cbc.ca/books/100-novels-that-make-you-proud-to-be-canadian-1.4194710

If you’re buying for children and teens, Scripps National Spelling Bee has released its 2018-2019 Great Works (and Great Words) book list. I especially like that they break their recommendations into very specific age ranges (they use grades but you can easily extrapolate to determine suitability for the children in your life). I also like the fact that they mix classics with contemporary reads. http://spellingbee.com/book-list

Finally, if you’re looking for an easy summer beach read you can’t go wrong with one of these romances: https://www.bookbub.com/blog/2018/05/22/summer-romance-books-preview-2018

Happy reading and happy travels!

My June Reads

I’ve been in the weeds of late. The garden is producing them at a rate beyond which they’re controllable. The path you see to your left has been weeded several times already but you’d never know it. The butterflies and bees are happy, even if I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. It’s not an unusual feeling for me at this time of year; the garden is at its most demanding now. This year, however, we’re juggling spring garden chores with indoor renovations as we’re contemplating selling our house. Lots of changes . . . and very little downtime to read. But when I do stop for a break, here’s what I’m reading:

At the gym: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

On the Kindle: Flipside – a Tourist’s Guide on How to Navigate the Afterlife by Richard Martini

Before bed: No Time to Spare: Thinking about what Matters by Ursula Le Guin

Book read to date in 2018: 37

A Creative Pause

Today is National Creativity Day. With that in mind, I reached back into my memory bank for a TED talk on creativity that I found particularly inspiring. Here’s one from Elizabeth Gilbert. It puts in perspective any doubts, rejections, or bumps in the road we encounter on the creative path.

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_success_failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating?referrer=playlist-10_talks_from_authors#t-415339

On an unrelated note, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about GDPR over the last few weeks. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of the new regulations (GDPR stands for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation) but given the changes, I thought it was a good time to thank you for subscribing to this blog, and to reassure you that if you’re happy receiving my posts, there’s nothing you need to do. If at any time you wish to unsubscribe, you’ll find the link to do so at the bottom of the email notifications, before you click through to my post.

Even though most of my blog and newsletter subscribers reside in Canada and the US, I have upgraded my privacy policy to comply with the GDPR. Word is amongst those in the know that the new regulations will soon spread to North America, so I thought it was prudent to make the changes now.

Stories, Stories, Everywhere Stories

Along with working on my own books, I also hire myself out as a freelance editor. Switching gears allows me to step back from my own stories but still do the work of a writer, only to the benefit of someone else. Last week I was immersed in a contemporary love story featuring the mythical (or not!) sea creature Cadborosaurus. Caddy, as he’s sometimes called, was spotted years ago in the waters of the Pacific Northwest close to my home. It was a lot of fun to witness the developing relationship between a skeptical reporter out to find Caddy and the protective photographer who wants to make sure Caddy stays hidden from the prying eyes of the public.

Later this week I’ll be head down and editing an historical cozy mystery. In June, I’ll be switching gears yet again and editing the third book in a dystopian YA series that I quite enjoy! And of course my own books will be getting their fair share of my attention over the next few weeks too.

If you’re looking for help with your manuscript, check out my editing services here: http://lauralangston.com/editing/

 

My April Reads

Spring often conjures thoughts of spring cleaning. It’s more like spring purging around here these days as we go through cupboards and drawers and hidden corners of the basement eliminating the things we don’t use and no longer need. With the exception of my garden (crammed with plants,) my bookshelves (crammed with books) and an impressively stocked kitchen pantry (eight kinds of rice at last count, and herbs and spices into the triple digits) I’m something of a minimalist.

Part of it is necessity – a writer’s salary isn’t large (at least this writer’s salary isn’t large) – and part of it is the way I’m wired. I don’t love shopping. I don’t hate it, but it’s not what I do for fun or for relaxation. Reduce, reuse, and recycle was part of my lifestyle before it was trendy, back when it was considered weird.

So I was keen to pick up and read Cait Flander’s Year of Less. After getting rid of 70 percent of her belongings, Flanders stopped shopping, other than for necessities (and those were very narrowly defined), for an entire year. Unfortunately, the book didn’t have the depth I was hoping for. It wasn’t so much a memoir about living with less as it was a memoir about a millennial struggling with love, loss, career and family angst during a year when she also stopped shopping. It was a fun, easy read but it didn’t speak to me in quite the way I’d hoped. So if you’ve read any great books on minimalism, let me know. Spring purging should only go so far.

Here’s what I’m reading this month:

At the gym: Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Beside the bed: The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

On the weekend: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Books read to date in 2018: 31

My March Reads

The daffodils are blooming  and so are the cherry blossom trees. Spring officially arrived yesterday. The air, which seems to get warmer by the day, is fragrant with possibilities. Life is especially sweet at this time of year . . . and especially so if you have a good book to read. Here’s what I’m reading this month:

At the gym: Same Beach Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Beside the fire: We, the Arcturians: A True Experience by Norma Milanovich

Before bed: Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd

Books read to date in 2018: 20