What I read: This author’s early literary influences

Someone asked me the other day what books I read growing up, and for some reason I struggled to come up with an acceptable answer. All that came to mind while I was under that spotlight was the boxes of trashy romance novels I used to get from my maternal grandmother. My high school best friend and I used to devour those novels, often reading together and stopping occasionally for one of us to read aloud to the other a particularly cheesy passage while giggling uncontrollably. While those were good times, my romance novel stage barely scratches the surface of the richness of literature I was exposed to in my early reading years.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of my all-time favorite novels.

As a child growing up in a rural area with no access to a library, the books I read were  limited to whatever I could get my hands on. I loved reading Richard Scary, the Sweet Pickle books, and Dr. Seuss at the doctor’s office. I don’t remember if we had any picture books at home before I started kindergarten and gained access to the Scholastic Book Club. If we did, they were few and far between. I think we had three of the Sweet Pickle books, but I’m not sure where they came from. At some point in my early years, my dad invested in a full set of encyclopedias, and that’s what I remember him reading to me in the beginning. Continue reading “What I read: This author’s early literary influences”

DIY High

DIY High: On the plight of the Working Poor in Small Town America

Thursday, August 1st, I had the opportunity to present my very first formal book reading of my new novel, DIY High, at Ryburn Place, the former Sprague’s Super Service on Historic Route 66 in Bloomington, Illinois. If you’re ever in Central Illinois, USA – especially if you’re a Route 66 fan – Ryburn Place is a must-see!

Amanda L Webster read from her new novel, DIY High August 1st at Ryburn Place in Bloomington, Illinois
Amanda L Webster read from her new novel, DIY High, August 1st at Ryburn Place in Bloomington, Illinois.

Because I was speaking at a Route 66-themed venue, I tailored my talk to the location. The following is a transcript of portions of the presentation (minus introductions and other extraneous materials regarding the location and timing of refreshments at the event.) In addition to discussing modern life along Route 66, I also read a brief snippet from DIY High, which is also included below. Enjoy!

Working Poor Americans on Today’s Historic Route 66

DIY High isn’t about Route 66, but it does take place in a small town on this iconic highway. It is a small town, much like the central Illinois town where I live, with its busy truck stop and historic Route 66 tourist spots. The Paul Bunyan statue down the road in another town even makes a cameo appearance in this book. Continue reading “DIY High: On the plight of the Working Poor in Small Town America”

Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge

Summer Writing Challenge Check-in: Week 5 | I just don’t know how to say no

my new kitten lulu la gata
This is my new baby kitty. Her name is Lulu La Gata. (La Gata is Spanish for “the cat.)

I should consider changing my Friday Writing Challenge Check-in series to “This Week’s Excuse for Not Writing.” Seriously, people, if I keep this up, I’m going to have to stop calling myself a writer. Maybe I should change my title to “blogger” since I can at least manage that.

Anyway, last Friday I headed out to Illinois for a huge family campout (huge as in somewhere around 60 to 70 family members showed up.) Of course, I brought my notebooks. Of course, I was too busy camping and visiting with family to write in them.

We camped until Sunday morning, then went to my parents’ house for a couple of days. Then I made a stop at my sister’s house a couple of hours north of my parents. I was planning to come home Wednesday, but she begged me to stay another day since she was off Wednesday and we could actually hang out and see each other. Once school starts, I’ll hardly get to see any of my family at all until next summer, so I couldn’t say no. Continue reading “Summer Writing Challenge Check-in: Week 5 | I just don’t know how to say no”

Book Reviews, Reading

This is why I don’t buy books

Portrait of a Byzantine empress, possibly Theo...
Portrait of a Byzantine empress, possibly Theodora. 6th century a.D. In the Museum of Ancient Art in the Castello sforzesco in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, january 6 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love books as much as the next writer. But I’m poor, so I typically opt to borrow them from the library rather than purchasing them. The book I bought at Barnes & Noble the other day reminded me why I shouldn’t bother purchasing books at all.

I picked up a historical novel about the Byzantine empress, Theodora that looked like it might be a good read. I do think it could have been an intriguing story, but the writing was terrible. (I’m not going to tell you the name of the novel because I don’t really believe in writing bad reviews. I’d like to be a published author someday and know I’d rather do without internet trolls raving on about how horrible my work is.)

Although the author is a historian who seems to know her facts, her novel is an excellent example of how poor writing can take a true story and render it completely unbelievable. Her attempt to create language that is authentic to the time is feeble at best. The constant use of clichés and modern colloquialisms kept dragging me out of the story as I had to continually remind myself what time period I was reading about.   Continue reading “This is why I don’t buy books”

Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge

Summer Writing Challenge Check-in: Week 3 (I wrote something. I actually wrote something!)

The writing life - a stack of notebooks
My current stack of notebooks includes a pretty fairy journal. Follow me on Instagram for more pretty pictures.

We are now three full weeks into the Write Your Novel this Summer writing challenge, and I can finally report that I have written something! This week, I finally managed to break through my writer’s block and am gaining some momentum. Here’s a quick look at what I have accomplished:

Book Reviews, Publishing

You must read Hugh Howey’s novel, Wool

Hugh Howey Wool
Hugh Howey’s novel Wool is now a New York Times Bestseller.

A long time ago, I thought about writing book reviews for every book I read. What an easy way to come up with content for my blog, right? But for some reason, the books I had read just kept piling up around my desk without me ever getting around to writing those reviews. Until now. Now I have finally read something so good, I feel compelled to blog about it.

I just finished reading Hugh Howey’s novel Wool, and I must say, it is the best book I have read in a long, long time. Wool is a futuristic dystopian novel that follows the story of a people who have been living in underground silos since the destruction of the outside world several years in the past. Continue reading “You must read Hugh Howey’s novel, Wool”

Guest Blog Posts

Author Amanda Martin discusses her Daily Blog Challenge

Two Hundred Steps Home, by author Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin is the author of Two Hundred Steps Home.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to author, Amanda Martin, from the WriterMummy blog. Amanda is the author of Two-Hundred Steps Home, as well as the following guest blog post. Thanks, Amanda, for sharing your blog with us and for helping to lighten my blog load while I’m writing my Master’s thesis this semester!

Guest Post

The lovely Mandy has let me come to talk about my Daily Blog Challenge on my WriterMummy blog. Thank you Mandy! It’s always nice to get a change of scene.

I decided late in 2012 – on 30th or 31st December – that 2013 needed structure. My husband was made redundant (or laid-off, as one would say in the U.S.) in October and both my kids are still preschool age, so we lurch from day to day with virtually no plan. My ambition for 2013 is to have a novel accepted by an agent and/or self-published via Smashwords, and I hoped forcing myself to write every day would help motivate me. So I had the (crazy) idea to join Post-a-Day 2013. Continue reading “Author Amanda Martin discusses her Daily Blog Challenge”

Random Writing Rants

This says it all

Source: via Rita Pospeshil on Pinterest

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” ~Flannery O’Connor.

Last fall, my son was working on a family history project for school, so we went to interview my grandma down in Illinois. Who knew grandma was so cool? We got some great stories out of her, and along the way, she informed us that we are O’Connor’s. She kept repeating it like it’s a bloodline she feels more pride in than others. Anyway, upon reading this quote this morning, it occurred to me: I wonder if I’m related to Flannery O’Connor? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Who knows? It is a small world, isn’t it?
Now that I know I’m Irish, I am SO celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year!
~Mandy Webster

What does your nightstand say about you?

My writer friend over at SlimeGreen recently shared a post where she discussed how you can tell a lot about a person from what’s on their nightstand. She shared a pic of her end table, along with an analysis of what her end table says about her. I love this idea, so I’m stealing it. Anyway, here’s a picture of my nightstand. I’m opening myself up to my readers. Please tell me (in the comments below,) what do you think my nightstand says about me?

What does my nightstand say about me?

Continue reading “What does your nightstand say about you?”

Novel Writing, Writers on Writing

How to get your story line back on track

Master’s Thesis
Should I put my story line aside for now and concentrate on what I need to accomplish for thesis? | Master’s Thesis (Photo credit: hsivonen)

I’ve been zipping through the story line of my novel for the past couple of months in an effort to get the entire story on the page without worrying about revisions. I’ve hit 46,472 words, and I’ve been feeling pretty good about the whole thing. That is, until a few days ago when I got the idea that my story line had somehow veered away from where I wanted it to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m open to changing direction when it’s appropriate. However, it seems like this time I have turned down a dead-end. The story train has derailed, and I’m left wondering how to pick up the pieces of the train wreck and put it back on the right track. Continue reading “How to get your story line back on track”