What I’m Reading

I’m hesitant to say things are getting back to normal because they aren’t. Covid-19 is still very much part of our daily lives, with all the restrictions it entails. At least that’s the case if one chooses to err on the side of science and take precautions, which we continue to do in our house.

One thing that has gotten back to (some kind of) normal, however, is our library system. In late winter, our libraries closed their doors and borrowing stopped. I’m a huge library user and the move hit me hard. I have an e-reader but it’s not compatible with the library system in our new community, so borrowing electronic books wasn’t an option for me. Given that I like my Kindle Paperwhite, I wasn’t inclined to change either, though I seriously considered it as the shutdown dragged on. Luckily, things loosened last month and the libraries here opened their doors. We can request holds and borrow again as long as we make an appointment to pick up our books. There’s no going inside, no browsing the shelves as I love to do. But the libraries have found a way to serve their community while still making it safe and I’m grateful for that. Here’s what I’m reading this month.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O’Neal

Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

Books read to date in 2020: 40

Happy Canada Day!

July 1st will be different this year without the concerts, large street parties and especially without the fireworks (Team Sheltie is quite happy the latter are cancelled). I hope you get a chance to celebrate somehow. I’ll be away from my desk, aiming to catch the sunrise and hopefully the sunset too. We aren’t a perfect country by any stretch, but I’m proud to call myself a Canadian. Enjoy the holiday everybody!

A Writer’s Better Half

Today happens to be my anniversary and though the news of the world is grim, I’m choosing to focus on happiness. Here’s a blog post I wrote five years ago in honor of my husband. It’s as true now as it was back then.

Happy anniversary to my better half  . . .  a guy who wears a variety of hats:  Mr. Petrol Head, Dad, son and lord & master over Team Sheltie (and thank God someone is in control of those two).

The phrase ‘better half’ is something of a cliché these days. While it’s come to mean the superior half of a married couple, it originally referred to a person so dear that he or she was more than half of a person’s being. Whatever way you look at it, the intent is clear: someone who is good and true and holds a place of deep importance in one’s life.

That would be my better half. Much has been written about the wealth of support writers receive from editors and readers and critique partners and writing friends. It’s support we depend on and appreciate. But a writer’s better half is rarely mentioned. It’s too bad. They’re a silent (and sometimes not so silent) yet intimate companion on this crazy publishing journey, a journey they didn’t always expect when they took their vows. In our case, there were signs but I’m pretty sure Mr. Petrol Head chose to ignore them.

Over the years, he has offered advice and solace, he has paid the bills when my writing didn’t, he has brainstormed plots and character arcs, he’s made too many dinners to count and he spent as much time as I did with our children so I could have this career. He built a sluice box for my gold rush book, designed business cards and websites, and he gave me innumerable hugs when the journey seemed too tough to manage. He has helped me make sense of royalty statements, understand the business side of publishing better than some publishers could and he has pulled me back from the brink when I’ve been ready to press send on an irate email that needed a more tempered response.

He accepted without reservation my decision to trade a lucrative and successful job as a journalist for the uncertain and low paying job of a novelist. He has believed in me and loved me and never once complained that things didn’t turn out quite the way he expected on the career front. He is the wisdom and calm in my world.

He is, and always will be, my better half.

My January Reads

We had a snow week not long ago. Okay, maybe not an entire snow week but we had three days of snow, followed by several more days of sleet, making the roads treacherous. Team Sheltie was limited to one midday walk, and only if temperatures rose enough to make sure the roads were free of ice. Considering what the rest of Canada goes through most winters, and especially the blizzard that hit Newfoundland this year, we are lucky. We get just enough bad winter weather to justify cutting back on work and curling up by the fire with a book. Here’s what I’m reading this week.

Maid by Stephanie Land

Life & Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

The Wedding Guest by Jonathan Kellerman

Books read to date in 2020: 5

And That’s A Wrap

The final few pages of a novel should bring a sense of completion and ideally some satisfaction or fulfillment too (which is why I love a well-written happily ever after). At the same time, a good ending should be logical, appropriate and have a sense of inevitability about it. It’s an art, hitting those perfect notes when writing a book. But it’s an art that allows for revising and tweaking until you’re satisfied with the story you’ve written.

Life isn’t like that. Endings come whether we’re ready for them or not. We can’t always control the outcome and they’re rarely as tidy as we’d like them to be. Endings have been on my mind a lot lately. Spring has ended and summer has started. This year, the end of spring brought a couple of things to competition in my life. And they were the best kind – happy endings.

The e fraud and stalled royalty issue I wrote about in a previous blog post   https://lauralangston.com/the-royalties-that-failed-to-arrive/  has been resolved. There was a big, black moment near the end (as all good endings have) where the bank refused to compensate us for the fraudulent interception, but ultimately that decision was reversed. The money was returned and my royalty payment arrived soon after.

My first ongoing mosaic project reached a natural conclusion recently too  (if you missed my process, go here: https://lauralangston.com/filling-the-well-mosaic-style/ ) I spent a few hours over a period of several weeks learning all about mosaic art and filling my creative well by trying something different. The final product may not be technically perfect or as artistically ‘tidy’ as I’d like it to be, but I’m happy with it.  In fact, I’m planning another mosaic project. And that’s another thing about endings. Done well, a good ending always brings with it the possibility of a new beginning, a fresh start.

 

 

 

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.

Book Buys for 2017

Books make awesome gifts. If you’re looking for the right title for that special someone, here’s a selection of books I’ve enjoyed reading this year. If my suggestions don’t resonate or if you’re still feeling uncertain, wrap up a gift card to an independent book store or on line book seller.

Books make awesome gifts. I know I said that already, but it’s worth repeating.

For fiction Lovers:

General Fiction: The Almost Sisters by Jocelyn Jackson. A timely southern drama featuring quirky characters, sharp writing, and a complex story that manages to deal with some heavy issues yet not get bogged down. I love Jackson’s writing and this was a satisfying read.

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs. A nicely layered, emotional story that moves between present day and World War 11 France. The setting is beautifully rendered, family dynamics (and the concept of a second chance at love) are deftly explored, and there’s a bit of a mystery that kept me turning the pages until the end.

Romance: Blood Vow by J.R. Ward. I’m a huge fan of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series so naturally I wanted to dip into her Black Dagger Legacy series. This, the story of Axe and Elise, is book two in the series and it’s dark, sexy, funny and fast-paced. It’s the perfect read for vampire aficionados, or for those who need to be converted.

Dating-ish by Penny Reid is book six in Reid’s Knitting in the City Series though I read it as a standalone and it worked well for me. Fresh and funny with surprising depth and intensity, the character development and attraction between Matt and Marie was extremely well done. Reid was a new-to-me author and I’ll be looking for more of her books.

Young Adult:

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan. A thought-provoking young adult fantasy with touches of mystery and suspense, Julia Vanishes is book one in the Witch’s Child Series. Julia is an appealingly flawed heroine with the ability to make herself unseen, a skill that comes in handy since she’s a spy and thief. Clever, original and ideal for readers who appreciate strong female protagonists and fantasy fiction.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren. A poignant coming-of-age novel about two boys who fall in love in a writing class, one who comes from a progressive family and the other from a deeply religious one. Beautifully written and a profound look at bisexuality, the love of family, religion and how we view right and wrong.

For the wee readers on your list, Stephanie Simpson McLellan’s The Christmas Wind is a gorgeous, just released picture book and a lovely reminder of what’s really important, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

For mystery thriller fans The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. Here’s the promo line for the book: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind. If you like thrillers, how can you not buy it? I did and I loved it. Anybody who appreciates a good, dark read will devour this book.

For the non-fiction lovers on your list, check out these titles:

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal Al-Sharif. A gripping true story by Manal, a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who was arrested by the religious police for daring to drive. While there’s no law forbidding women from driving, the religious police are powerful; Manal became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Sandburg, the COO of Facebook, faced the unexpected death of her 47-year-old husband while they were away on holiday. What followed was painful and raw as she tried to figure out what life could look like when it wasn’t what she had planned. Not always an easy read but one that lingered with me afterwards.

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters. Any foodie on your list has heard of Water’s Chez Panisse, the iconic restaurant which quite literally redefined North American cuisine for chefs and food lovers. This memoir recounts the events leading up to the opening of America’s most influential restaurant.

Since we’re talking about food, there’s always a time when you want to get in and out of the kitchen quickly, yet still want to eat well. That’s why Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients, Quick & Easy Food is wrapped and under the tree waiting for a lucky recipient in my life. I may have to spring for my own copy; I have several of Oliver’s books and this one looks like a keeper too.

Finally, any gardener, no matter what they like to grow, will appreciate receiving a copy of The Bee Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn. Winner of the American Horticultural Society 2017 Book Award, this book gives you all the information you need to create a vibrant and colorful habitat that will attract both honeybees and native bees. And with threats to our beloved honeybees on the increase, it’s a resource every gardener will utilize over and over again.

My May Reads

Reading time is at a premium right now as the garden calls. The tomato plants are taking over the greenhouse, and so are the peppers, basil, sweet peas and a few restless eggplants. Normally everything is in the ground by now but things are different this year. After weeks of not being able to work outside much, of wearing a hat and a heavy coat to walk Team Sheltie, we’re now outside in t-shirts and capris. Seemingly overnight we’ve gone from October-like cold to July-like heat. The garden is confused. Some beds are still heavy with moisture while others are sprouting weeds faster than I can pull them. Consequently I’m working outside most evenings until sunset trying to get on top of things. Here’s what I’m reading when I finally come in for the night.

On the Kindle: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

At the gym: The Happiness Animal by Will Jelbert

Beside the bed: 100 Best Plants for the Coastal Garden by Steve Whysall

Books read to date in 2017: 32

News!

I’m excited to announce that my next Laura Tobias title MILLION DOLLAR BLUES is now available for pre-order. This is book one in the Girls Who Dish series and it’s about what really happens when you strike it rich. Here’s the synopsis:

Take one 75 million dollar lottery win. Toss in a struggling restaurant and a weasel of an ex-husband. Spice heavily with one true love. Is it a recipe for disaster or the recipe of Temple’s dreams?

Winning the lottery will help Temple turn her restaurant, GIRLS WHO DISH, into a world-class establishment. Except, everybody wants a piece of lotto pie: her mother, her daughter, her best friend . . . and the furious staff members who didn’t win and sue for their share.

As Temple struggles with a case of MILLION DOLLAR BLUES, she’s blindsided by the return of her first love, James LeShan. Now a successful lawyer, James will help Temple out of her legal mess . . . but he has something much more personal in mind for the two of them.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering for your e reader, you’ll find the book here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MSP38SC/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479788904&sr=1-10&keywords=million+dollar+blues

iTunes:https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1178822222

Kobo:https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/million-dollar-blues

Nook:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/million-dollar-blues-laura-tobias/1125190148;jsessionid=5C0FD405CB12F2347C26A1421A40A87F.prodny_store01-atgap13?ean=2940153490854

The Sweetness . . .

bee1A few weeks ago, bees invaded my office. It started with one bee. I got a glass and a sheet of paper, trapped it, and let it free outside. By the time I returned to my desk, there were four more bees on the window. They were loud and angry.

Uneasy and not knowing what to do, I walked back to the doorway. By the time I got there, two more bees had materialized. I couldn’t tell where they were coming from but they were clearly joining their angry cohorts in my office.

And I was heading out of it.

Yes, I’m a wimp. I shut my office door and stuffed a towel at its base. One bee was doable. Even two I could have handled. But six? There was obviously a hive nearby and my office was on the flight path. I needed human back up or a beekeeper’s suit or a plan.

I wandered outside and waited for Mr. Petrol Head to arrive (Did I mention Mr. P. used to be allergic to bee stings? He says he’s outgrown it but I’m not sure. However, I’m allergic to fear so I figured we each had something at stake). My office has an outside wall and when I got outside, I spotted a lot of flying activity around it. Sure enough, once Mr. P. got home he confirmed what I suspected: there was a large hive under the eaves. And they obviously had back door access to my office.

Mr. P. suggested I sit at my desk and watch to determine where the bees were coming from. I suggested renting office space outside the home until bee season was over. Like until next Christmas maybe. Mr. P. quickly got busy looking for that back door.

Eventually he discovered a microscopic opening around a drain pipe running through my closet. That, he said, was the problem. He stuffed the tiny hole with coarse steel wool and declared the problem solved. “Even mice won’t chew through that stuff,” he reassured me.

I got back to work. Two hours later, immersed in my latest manuscript, I felt a tickle on my neck. And I heard a buzzing in my ear. Let’s just say I scared the bee more than he scared me.

Mr. Petrol Head returned. The short version of a very long story is this: mice may not chew through steel wool but determined bees will crawl through it looking for nectar rich flowers. So out came a pressurized can filled with expanding foam that hardens when it dries. The tiny hole was sealed once and for all. The bees no longer had back door access to my office. Now they come and go through the front door of their hive. As they should.

What does this have to do with writing? A writer friend asked me about a week later why the bees had shown up in my office in the first place. What were they trying to tell me? (Because that’s what writers do – we make ourselves crazy looking for meaning not only in the books we write but also in the lives we live). I told her I’d been wondering the same thing.

So I looked up bee symbolism. Bees are an unstoppable force of nature. They symbolise love and cooperation, the magic of believing. They remind us that anything is possible. They ask us if we’re busy (I was) and putting out 100% effort (mostly, yes, except for my occasional HGTV habit). What are we feeding ourselves, bee magic asks. Are we rewarding ourselves for our efforts? Basking in the sweetness of life?

Um. That would be a ‘no.’ At least the part about basking in the sweetness of life (I have no problem feeding myself, and doing it well). But as for rewarding myself for my efforts, I’m bad for that. I don’t take nearly enough breaks. In fact, I haven’t had an actual holiday in a couple of years. So I decided to listen to the bees and book one. We leave tomorrow.

Mr. Petrol Head is going too. Given that he (possibly) risked his life looking for the back door, he deserves it. Besides, it’s our anniversary. And I don’t know anything sweeter than that.

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