Currently, Podcasts, Reading, travel



WRITING: I am almost finished the first draft of Christmas at Starlight Lake. Just have to write the Christmas festival and the Christmas Eve dinner sequence. I hope to have it done next week and off to my developmental editor mid-April. I’ve also started the character work and outline for my planned October release, titled Double Dating with the Dead. It’s a ghost story. Having a super fun time letting my imagination go wild on that!

LISTENING: As you all know, I’m a podcast junkie. I listen to them daily while driving, cooking, walking, doing chores. I’ve got three new (to me) ones to recommend to you this month.

  1. The Drop Out. ABC News inside look at the Theranos scandal. Are you as fascinated by this case as I am? I loved John Carreyrou’s excellent book about Theranos (Bad Blood) but really enjoyed this in-depth podcast too. Just a few episodes–perfect for binge listening.
  2. Before Breakfast– Laura Vanderkam (author of 168 Hours and Off the Clock) gives quick, practical time management tips. This one just started this week but I love it so far. Less than 10 minutes and great tips. Perfect!
  3. Satellite Sisters –How did I miss this one for so long? Liz and Sarah from my beloved Happier in Hollywood podcast appeared on the Satellite Sisters and now I’m hooked. They’ve been broadcasting for 19 years so the back catalog of shows is pretty huge. Any can’t miss episodes you can recommend for me?


READING: I am on the 12th book of the 44 Scotland Street series (A Time of Love and Tartan) by Alexander McCall Smith that I recommended to you last month. I’m savoring it because I don’t want to let these beloved characters go just yet. And I just listened to Lin-Manuel Miranda read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. One of my favorite books ever. I loved this sweet story. I listened to it on my daily walks and actually kept walking for an extra mile just to hear the end. I squeed so much that I scared a neighbor walking their dog. It’s great. Go read it!!


WATCHING: Have you seen The Fix on ABC? It’s by the brilliant writing team of Liz Craft and Sarah Fain who host the Happier in Hollywood podcast. It’s a twisty, fascinating legal thriller and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Who do you think killed Jessica? Also, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is about to end (*sniff*) so I’m watching that one too.


LOOKING FORWARD TO: Next month, we’re off to Aulani in Hawaii to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve never been to Hawaii so I’m super excited to go on this trip. Will have lots of photos to share in next month’s “Currently” post so stay tuned for that!

Becoming a Writer, Podcasts, Reading, Welcoming the Muse, Writing

More Top Ten Books for Authors

Last week, I discussed my favorite writing craft books. I’m back this week with a second list of recommended reads for writers.

Becoming a Writer

1) If you’re ever planning to attempt National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). In November each year, hundreds of thousands of writers attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. Don’t go for it without the definitive guidebook from the founder of the annual writing exercise. No Plot! No Problem! by Chris Baty.


2) Novelist Claire Cook (most famous for Must Love Dogs) recently came out with Never Too Late. There’s also a free companion workbook at her site. Great reinvention stories in here. If you ask me, the story of the table read and Christopher Plummer was worth the cost of the book. Love this one.

Never too late

3) Another novelist, Barbara Samuels wrote The Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement which is another collection of inspiring essays about the writing life. Stephen King coined the term the boys in the basement for the weird, subconscious mind of a writer. The romance novel version of this is the Girls in the Basement. It’s why I figured out the missing second half of the second act just as I sat down to watch the Minion movie. Successful writers learn to hone those strange flashes of inspiration and Samuels does a good job discussing it.


4) Kristine Kathryn Rush’s best known writing work is the Freelancer’s Survival Guide, which is excellent. I loved her Pursuit of Perfection though and have read it at least twice.

Pursuit of Perfection

5) And her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, also has some great writing books out there. They both have fabulous blogs also. I think if I had to pick my favorite, I’d pick Killing the Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing, but much like Rusch, you can’t go wrong with any of his titles.


6) Larry Brooks is another author in this same category. Anything he’s written. All of it’s great. And his website is wonderful (Storyfix). I think Story Engineering is my favorite but I also laugh at Warm Hugs for Writers a lot. If I need just the right pick me up, I’ll grab that.

Story Engineer

7) Though it may seem odd, one excellent way to learn to structure novels is to learn from screenwriting. There are multiple books out there on that very subject. One of the best and easiest to understand is by author Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. She also wrote Writing Love, which may be helpful if you’re trying to write a romance.


8) Okay, so maybe it’s not technically a book (yet-I’d love for him to write one). Storywonk’s Alastair Stephens The Journeyman Writer, a thrice weekly podcast of 5-7 minutes on various writing topics, Alastair does a brilliant job of dispensing practical advice to the working writer. I seriously have breakfast with this podcast three times a week. Love it. (Full disclosure–Alastair is also my copy-editor).


9) Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure. This book contains the famous explanation of a scene and a sequel scene showcasing the character’s reaction and making a plan. I’ve read this one over and over and still find new insight. Definitely a keeper.


10) And my own book of writing prompts,  Welcoming the Muse. Available for less than $1 🙂

Welcoming the Muse

Next week, we’ll talk about some fantastic writing blogs.

Becoming a Writer, Reading, Writing

Top Ten Books for Writers

Last week, I talked about my path to becoming a writer. This week, I thought I’d share some of my favorite craft resources. I am a craft book addict. I read writing blogs, listen to podcasts, and read writing books constantly. I’m always seeking to learn and improve my craft in any way I can.

Once, when I was having a particularly discouraging writing day, I looked around my home office at the craft books lining the walls and realized that I’d never actually be able to quit writing. It’s just too ingrained in me now.

So, without further ado, here are my top ten writing book recommendations.

Becoming a Writer

These first three books are pretty standard creativity recommendations. I’ve read all three multiple times. I can’t recommend them highly enough and often turn to them over and over again.

1) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and on Life by Anne Lamott.

Wise, witty, and wry take on the writing life. Great to read when you’re stuck on your WIP or get a savage critique. I love it so much I own the audiobook too.


2) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

Part autobiography and part direct, straight shooting advice about living a writer’s life, King does an amazing job in On Writing. His metaphor for writing as digging for fossils is how I still think about drafting today. And the clearest explanation of a writer’s mind I ever read is the one he gives about driving along and bouncing between radio stations. I re-read this every few years and mine new gems out of it all the time.

On Writing
3) The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

Cameron lays out a 12 week course for recovering creatives. She insists on two tools, Morning Pages, and Artist’s Dates. In later books, she adds a twenty minute solo walk. I’ve never been able to fit Artist’s Dates (a one weekly creative excursion) into my life but I have done morning pages before. Except I never wrote them in the morning 🙂 Some people find Cameron a bit airy-fairy but I can’t deny that the tools work. I think every writer should try a twelve week stint of morning pages, at least once.

Artists Way

The rest of my recommendations tend toward pragmatic writing advice. Even in school, I was never great at theoretical teachings and I think this list reflects that. These are in no particular order.

4) Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

Actually, any of his writing books are fabulous. I’ve read them all but Plot and Structure is the one I’ve read over and over again. I’m still working through his analyze six books exercise.

Plot and Structure

5) Much like James Scott Bell, you can’t go wrong reading anything by Chuck Wendig. His blog, Terrible Minds, is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve read all his writing books and they are all great. The Kick Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience is probably his best. Warning: Chuck isn’t your guy if you’re easily offended by profanity. But he’s hilarious and fun and smart. So there’s that.


6) If you’re like me and struggle with putting emotions into your writing without saying “She was mad!” the Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is the book for you. It lives on my desk. I use it nearly daily. Fabulous resource!


7) Anything by Holly Lisle but especially her Create a Character Clinic. It contains my all-time favorite exercise, the Shadow Room. You can also find that exercise by subscribing to her fabulous website. When I first read the exercise, I was skeptical and then I tried it. Now, it’s the first character exercise I do, every time.


8) All writers struggle to learn point of view (POV). The best, clearest explanation I have ever read is Alicia Rasley’s The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come to Life. Buy this book, read it five times, you’ll be a POV master in no time!


9) Let’s round out the top ten with two writing business books. Any writer needs to master social media in order to thrive but it’s especially critical for self-published writers. Kristen Lamb runs the My WANA sites. Her Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World gives step-by-step advice for setting up your social media presence. If you’re planning on publishing, you need this book. Probably yesterday.


10) For a very thoughtful, direct take on the state of self-publishing today, read The Indie Author’s Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn. (NOTE: Be sure to get the second edition as the first edition is outdated in this ever-changing new publishing landscape). She’s got a sequel coming out soon, called For Love or Money. I’ll be snapping that up too. Great actionable advice in here.


And that’s it for the first top ten. I’ll be back next week with ten MORE recommended writing books.