Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break!

Today I leave for the UCF Book Fest in Orlando Florida. I got to go to this event last year and it was one of my favorites I've ever done, so I am psyched to be returning. Can't wait to see old friends and make some new ones. The author lineup there is wonderful, so if you live nearby, come out! The event is free and they offer great stuff for your kids, too! Last year I got my picture made with a Stormtrooper and the smallest pony I've ever seen. That's not something you get to do every day.
When I get back, I'll unpack and repack for a few days at Ocean Isle Beach, where my Uncle Bob and Aunt Frances have a house they've graciously allowed us to come visit. We'll spend most of the week down there, where I'll do some research for my newest Sunset Beach novel, meet with some folks about possible events to promote the novel that releases this summer, and hopefully head over to Wilmington to visit my friend Rachel Olsen and her family. And of course we plan to take many, many walks on the beach.

All in all, it'll be a fun time, and a nice break from the reality of our fast-paced lives of late.
For this reason, I'm taking next week off from posting. I'll return the following week with pictures from our trip and I'm sure something new I've discovered. Whatever you do between now and then, Happy Easter!
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Things Don't Work Out

Last week my daughter received some unwelcome news: she wasn't going to be able to attend the college of her choice. Even though she'd received a letter saying she was admitted, we just couldn't make the money work. We're willing to pay for in-state college, but this one was out of state and the long and short of it was, we (her dad, me, and her) didn't want to strap her with college loans totalling in the tens of thousands to start her adult life.

But receiving the news was hard. Even though we knew it was the right call to make, it wasn't what she wanted. At one point last week she and I sat together and we both cried. I sat down and wrote her a letter reminding her that we supported her and loved her, and that-- in spite of how she felt-- God still has a plan for her life. And it's the best plan.

But more intervention was needed. So last Friday I sprung her from school at lunchtime. Curt and I took her to lunch (Red Robin-- yum!) and talked to her about her plans. Then I took her shopping because she needed some spring clothes and it was a good time to do a little retail therapy. And when it was all said and done, she was a little happier, her step a little lighter. Did we solve all her problems? No. Of course not. But I think at the end of the day, she knows that we're here for her.

Sometimes things don't work out. This lesson is as much a part of life as anything else she'll learn in college. She's learning it the hard way right now. And my heart is broken for her. It's hard to watch your own dreams die but I'd say it's even harder to watch your child's dream die. All I can say is, I'm glad I was able to be beside her as she navigates this new direction. There's nowhere else I'd rather be.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Wednesday!

This week over at Southern Belle View we are sharing what we would want our last meal to be. Sounds a little morbid but the idea is in keeping with the Last Supper, which gets talked about quite a bit around this time of year. One of the Belles suggested that we share what we would want our last meal to be-- and we thought that would make for a nice week-long discussion on the porch. What would my last meal be? You'll have to jump over to to find out!

Also I'd like to remind you that over at She Reads we're finishing up a month with Nicole Baart, author of Far From Here. If you're looking for a good read over Easter break, you'll want to pick this one up-- and head over to She Reads to learn more about the author, and the book.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

When I was given a copy of Not A Fan by the publisher, I gave it to my husband because I figured he might want to read it. It was written by a guy, after all, and I rarely like books written by men (sorry guys, but it's true).

But then a friend recommended Not A Fan in such a way that I felt compelled to give the book a second chance, so I dug it out from Curt's TBR pile. It seemed that this guy-- this pastor in KY-- felt the same way I did about the state of Christianity today. His book, from the sound of things, challenged the status quo, calling people away from stadium style churches where everyone's all "rah rah, yay Jesus" (fans) to simple, humble servanthood (followers)-- to really living like Jesus did without all the fanfare and calling attention to oneself. If that was true-- if my friend was right-- then this was a book I could get behind.

So I started reading a chapter each morning, then writing down what I was taking away from each chapter. On more than one occasion I was brought to tears. This book was an oasis in the desert. This book gave me hope that the entire church wasn't off its rocker. There are still people out there who get it, who aspire to something... more.

And so, this is a book I want to recommend to you. I know it's only March, but I think that this book will be my most influential read of 2012. I would urge you to read it. Get a copy and read a chapter each morning for your quiet time-- they're the perfect length. Let Kyle Idleman's words inspire and spur you. Write down your own responses so you can go back to them long after you read the last chapter. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me. I don't typically read Christian nonfiction, but I'm glad I didn't miss this one.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Italian Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole

My family loved this dish. Raved about it. Didn't complain when I served the leftovers. That's why I'm posting it here. Because my family rarely raves. So when they do, I take notice. And then I share...

Italian Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole

2 pounds of ground Italian sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 3/4 cups long-grain wild rice (throw away any flavor packets it comes with-- you won't need it)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 13X9 baking dish.

In a large skillet, combine sausage, onion and celery and cook until sausage is browned and crumbles. Drain well.
Stir in soup, broth and rice. Spoon into prepared baking dish; cover, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

You Go Before Me

It's so simple: 4 little words. Words I've heard many times. And usually they slip right past me. But last Sunday, in church, we sang those four little words. And my eyes filled with tears. Because at that moment, those four words were exactly what I needed to hear.

The preacher went on with his sermon. And I'm sure it ministered to people. But my takeaway wasn't from the sermon. My takeaway was from those four little words we sang: You Go Before Me. I've been thinking about them ever since.

On a notecard beside my bed is this verse: "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19 We are in a phase of life that I've been anticipating ever since we started having kids-- the dreaded college years. We've got six to get through college and from the looks of things all six will be going, and all six will not be receiving aid. (We have financial aid directors in the family so believe me, we've covered our bases there.)

So now that we're here I am... nervous. Anxious. Wanting to fill in all the blanks and have all the answers and... see into the future as to exactly how this is all going to work out. Hence the need for that card beside my bed, a reminder for my spiritually amnesiac self that God's got this. Just like He's had all the other times before. And I don't need to worry, or fret, or wring my hands. I just have to believe, which is its own kind of work. (John 6:29)

And that's why I needed to hear those four little words at that moment-- a reminder that, while I can't see into the future, He can. Not only can He see it, He's already there, working it out, not held by the contraints of time. He's orchestrating that bonus for Curt or that sale he needs to make, or a new book contract for me, or an opportunity I can't yet see. He's not only working on the circumstances, He's working on the timing. And it's all so complicated that if I tried to work it out my head would explode. But His won't.

And so I scrawled "YOU GO BEFORE ME" on the top of that index card with Philippians 4:19 on it and put it back in its place beside my bed. Now I have the added reminder that not only will He supply all our needs, He's already there, working out our future. And the cool thing is, that means I don't have to.

Someone else needed to hear that today-- someone else has spiritual amnesia like me and has forgotten that He's gone before you. He's already there, in that future you're afraid of. He's got it. He's supplying your needs, working out your complexities with His supremacy, making a way in a place you can not see.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

What I Learned From A Pinterest Comment

The other day I saw this pin on Pinterest that said that only 2% of the population has green eyes. I commented on it, saying that both my parents have green eyes, but my brother and I ended up with blue. It was a random thing-- I'd commented on a few other pins so I didn't think much about it. Days later the comments on that one pin are still pouring in. It seems that everyone who has green eyes needs to say something about it. I learned two things from this:

1. Think long and hard before you comment on Pinterest, or disable the thing that sends you emails letting you know other people have commented. Last night I had no emails. I sat down to watch an episode of Cold Case (thank you, Ion channel for airing these back to back several nights a week) and after the show was over I noticed I had 37 new emails. THIRTY SEVEN. Almost every single one of them was another comment about green eyes!! So then I had to delete all of them and that made me grumpy. I realize this was not a monumental discovery, but perhaps I am saving someone from this same fate. This has been going on for several days and I am tired of the follow-up comments.

2. (This is an actual discovery and not something trivial like number one.) People want to feel special. I know. It's not rocket science. We all know people want to feel special on this basic level. But I'd never seen it played out like this, in black and white for all to see. (Or at least for those of us who are getting every. single. follow. up. comment.) Over and over people are commenting with this... exuberance over finding out just how unique they are. "I knew I was special!" seems to be the prevailing thought. In a world where everyone seems to want to follow the trends-- they want to wear what's in style, eat at the most popular restaurants, watch the shows "everyone" is talking about, etc.-- you have this simple thing of people wanting to simultaneously feel unique. Special. Exceptional. Part of the 2%, not the 98%.

I'm not sure what any of this means except that I learned something about people from this. And I hope it's something I carry into my dealings with them in the future. It has challenged me to Seek The Special in those I come in contact with. Whether it's their unique eyes, or their unique talent, their unique perspective, or unique background, I can seek the special-- and then point it out. I can remind them, "You're not like everyone else. You have something that makes you different from the masses. And that difference counts. That difference could make all the difference."

So that's what I learned from one random Pinterest comment. But I have to say, in the future, if I comment on a pin, I'm going to disable the follow-up emails.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Wanderings

Today is Wednesday, which means I'm posting over at Last week we talked about our impressions of the new show GCB in regards to the southern stereotypes depicted. This week we're talking about it in regards to the spiritual stereotypes. Would love to hear what you think, as I know opinions will vary-- many based on our own run-ins with women in the church. Some of us have had positive encounters across the board, others of us... not so much. We'd love to have you join our discussion on the porch!

Also this week I posted over at She Reads about my literary first loves. Head over there and leave a comment about what your literary first love was. What books kept you up with a contraband flashlight long after lights-out? What high school tome grabbed you by the throat? What writer made you understand the power of story in a whole new way? Literary first loves are a fun thing to think about because one way or the other, we all have them.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

88 Great Daddy Daughter Dates: Review and Giveaway!

Could your husband use some inspiration in the dating department? And I don't mean with you. I mean with the little girl who looks up at him adoringly, the little girl who longs to know he treasures her. This new book, 88 Great Daddy-Daughter Dates, gives dads fun, easy and creative ways to build memories together in inexpensive and unusual "dates" both at home and out. I've met Rob and Joanna Teigen and I can tell you they espouse the family lifestyle they write about in this book. I think you'll appreciate having it as a resource in your home.

And just a tip-- don't let dad have all the fun! I found some ideas in this book I think I might have to do with the kids myself. For those of you who have spring break coming up, you might have occasion to put these ideas to work very soon!

With today's busy schedules, it can be difficult for fathers to create meaningful memories with their girls. 88 Great Daddy-Daughter Dates provides dads with a wide variety of fun ideas for spending quality time with their daughters. Each date tells dads what to grab (any needed supplies), where to go, and how to grow together while having a blast and making great memories. Included for each date are Scriptures and questions to get the conversation flowing. From bird-watching and making paper airplanes to bowling and photo scavenger hunts, there's something for every dad and every little girl ages 6-12.

The perfect gift for Father's Day or any time, 88 Great Daddy-Daughter Dates is sure to help Dad connect with his daughter in new and fun ways.

Good news! I have 2 COPIES of this book to give away! Leave a comment here for your chance to win. I will draw the winners one week from today!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Finding The Right Home For Your Work

The other night I got to sit on a panel about the publishing process. I was the token writer, and it was great fun-- though a bit daunting-- to speak on behalf of writers about our part in the publishing process. I kept thinking "Shouldn't someone more qualified be here?"

But that's not what this post is about.

It's about a story that the agent on the panel told. About one of her clients who went through four years of rejections before her work sold. And how this agent hung in there and kept trying to sell it because she believed in her client.

I hear stories like that all the time. Kathryn Stockett. Madeleine L'Engle. JK Rowling. All faced rejection and discouragement. But they kept believing in their work and they kept submitting. And so many people are glad they did.

The other day I was reading a guest blog post on a blog I subscribe to and it reminded me of my attempt at being a guest blogger on this blog. Several months ago I submitted a piece to this blog... and never heard back. I won't lie and say I wasn't disappointed because, honestly, I thought the post was good. It was a blog post I would want to read, which is my own personal gauge for my writing. (I'm a reading snob.)

But here's the thing: While I didn't hear back about that guest post, I didn't just hang my head, say "Oh well, guess it was no good after all." Not this time. I went in search of another home for this piece of writing that I thought was worthwhile.

I submitted it to a trade magazine within the writing industry (the piece was on writing). Within days I had a response from the editor. She loved the piece, wanted to publish it fairly soon considering this was a print edition, not an online magazine, AND (here's the best part) instead of the freebie I was going to give away for the guest blog post... this one PAID MONEY.

In the end, I am so glad I didn't give up. I'm so glad I believed in my own work. And honestly, I am so glad I didn't get my guest blog accepted. Because in my opinion, my piece found a better home. A home that will get read more widely in my field and that pays. Can't beat that with a stick.

Why did I just write all that? I'm not sure. I think because someone out there needed to hear it. There's many times I write something that I think is for one person-- just one-- that it will make a difference to. If it's you, I'm glad to be of service. If it's not, maybe you'll have cause to encourage someone else today or tomorrow or next week-- advising them to not give up, to keep believing. That applies not only to writing, but to any garden variety dream.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

This Is Why We Do This

I have to admit that lately Curt and I have been passing in the hall, negotiating the busyness that is his travel schedule, some new responsibilities at his job, three kids' playing sports, our oldest girl rocketing towards her high school graduation and making college decisions (sigh!), my novel deadline, and the reality of owing money on our taxes this year (say it ain't so!). It had gotten too easy to throw out updates as we ran by each other, to focus on all the things screaming for our attention and not on each other.

Somewhere in all of that, this weird anger had slipped in. I wasn't angry at him, per se. And I couldn't put my finger on where it was coming from or how to get rid of it. So I stayed busy, kept my nose to the grindstone. And hoped it would go away.

Sunday afternoon we had a window of opportunity to sneak off just the two of us after a busy weekend spent with our kids. We'd had a wonderful, valuable time focusing on them-- but there was still that nagging feeling that we needed to focus on us if we were going to get back on track. So we went out to one of our favorite restaurants, got a glass of wine, ate and... talked. A few sentences into the conversation, Curt asked me, "So you gonna tell me why you're mad at me?"

And it was in fumbling around for the answer to his question that I found the answer that had been eluding me. We talked and talked and talked. About our lives and our individual stresses. We talked about money and the kids and our daughter who's graduating and what it means to let her go off into the big big world. We talked about... everything we hadn't talked about in any depth for weeks. I saw his life from a vantage point I had not had, and he saw mine. But we had to take the time to look.

At the end of the night I looked at Curt and said, "This is why we do this." Somehow in all that talking, the anger dissipated. We became an "us" again instead of just a "you" and "me." I'm a big believer in going out for dates with your spouse. I love doing double dates with couple friends. I love going to see movies together. But I'm a big, big fan of sitting across the table from your spouse and taking the time to answer the hard questions, stare down whatever your issues are, together. I'm so glad we found that little window of time to escape from the pressure cooker that has been our lives lately and let off some much needed steam. I highly recommend it.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Southern Belle View

Today is my day to post over at Southern Belle View. Instead of reinventing the wheel and creating two separate posts, I've started sending you guys over there, hoping that in checking out my posts you'll stay and meet the other SBV ladies and join in our conversation. This week we're discussing the new-- and controversial-- show GCB, which stands for Good Christian Belles (it originally stood for something else but the network had to change it). Since we were Belles first, we figured we'd talk about what it really means to be a good Christian belle and not just go by what the tv says. Come on over and see what I have to say about the show at
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Hopes Of...

Here's something I'm hoping to make this week:
(Breakfast for dinner anyone?)

Here's something I'm hoping to write this week:

A post for She Reads on why characters need to feel like friends.

Here's something I'm hoping to read this week:–-part-1
(I am hoping to read Part II)
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Down The Rabbit Hole

If I post a little less these days, it's because I'm busy writing something else-- my fourth novel. It's due in mid May and I am pushing myself pretty hard to meet the needed word count for each day in order to turn it in on time. This is both the fun part and the hard part of the process. Seeing the story take shape, witnessing the unexpected twists and turns that pop up-- I love that. Feeling like something's missing, worrying the middle is muddled, and trying to decide if the pacing is fast enough-- don't love that. Put it all together and you've got... what it feels like to write a novel!

I can't believe I'm writing my fourth novel. I can't believe we're speeding towards the release of my third novel. It's all very exciting and I can't believe I've gotten to do all of this! Thanks for your patience as I disappear down the rabbit hole. Novelist's confession: I have to admit sometimes I love the world I create a whole lot better than the real one.
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Friday, March 09, 2012

Going For It

"Story is characters in conflict. Characters with impossible dreams. Characters willing to do anything to reach their dreams." Randy Ingermanson

Last weekend I went to hear Kristan Higgins, NYT bestselling novelist, speak on writing. She gave a great presentation that helped me see some issues in my current novel. That was good and bad-- good that I saw it, bad that I had to address it once I saw it. Definitely messed with my rigid, self-imposed writing schedule. You can't very well keep writing if you know you've got big trouble in River City (or Sunset Beach, as it is in my novels). I've spent this week trying to deal with the issues that were present before I wrote another word.

But that wasn't what I wrote this post to talk about.

One thing Kristan said in the presentation really stood out to me. She said that everyone knows the things they would need to do to achieve their dreams, to realize the person they were meant to be. But very few people actually do it. She said that that's why certain characters resonate with us as readers. They're the characters who go for it.

I'm still thinking about what that means. On one hand, it means that there's stuff holding all of us back, and that's sad. But on the other hand, it means that I learned something about how to make my characters stronger, more heroic. The best, most memorable characters are the ones who go after their dreams. It's made me think of the characters I've loved, and why I've loved them. It's made me delve into how I can have my characters do that. And also examine how I can be a person who does that... who realizes the full potential of what I was intended to be. I don't want to just write about it, I want to live it.
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Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Voices In My Head

Change those voices in your head
Make them like you instead


I heard this song the other day while writing and had to stop and write down this line. Because it's so true. The voices in my head can be the meanest voices in my life. Who needs enemies when you've got yourself?

One of the things I always liked about Anne Lamott is she talks in a couple of her books about speaking kindly to herself. She showed me that's something I need to do. Sometimes I will catch myself pushing myself too hard, not giving me a break-- which is so crazy, but there it is. And I will have to remind myself that I can either be my own worst enemy or my biggest ally. And a lot of times it involves that subtle shift of simply speaking kindly to myself, using a gentle tone, easing up. Changing those voices in my head, making them like me instead.

Someone needed to hear that today. If it's you, I hope you'll listen to my voice instead of the ugly ones in your head. And then change those voices. Because you can, and that's the part we forget sometimes.
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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Love A Good Love Story

Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true
Bruce Springsteen

Whether it's The Vow or Valentine's Day (which was a stupid movie that I made my poor husband sit through), Notting Hill or The Notebook, I love a good love story. When Harry Met Sally or You've Got Mail or Sleepless In Seattle or... you fill in the blank, I can lose myself in a love story. I get so excited when a new one comes out. These stories totally fuel my creativity and send me home ready to churn out some love stories of my own, which is always a good thing.

So I'm looking forward to the newest Nicholas Sparks movie-- The Lucky One, which comes out in April. I'm hoping Zac Efron comes off as a leading man and I can put the image of him dancing around in High School Musical out of my head.

Here's a summary of the story, and a link for the trailer:

U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Efron) returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive—a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name is Beth (Schilling) and where she lives, he shows up at her door, and ends up taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Despite her initial mistrust and the complications in her life, a romance develops between them, giving Logan hope that Beth could be much more than his good luck charm.
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Friday, March 02, 2012

The Law of the Garbage Truck

You know those cheesy forwards you get via email and you just delete em? Well, I do. Maybe you're nice and feel obligated to read them, or worse you believe the chain mail threats and actually forward them on to your so-called friends. Not me. I am all too happy to send them into cyberspace oblivion. And I don't lose a minute of peace over it, either.

Except this one that I'm posting today. I did read this one for some reason-- I guess because the idea of a philosophy about garbage trucks drew me in. (Hint to writers: think of an interesting title to make your intended reader actually read.)

And after I read it, I thought about it. And this morning I saw this woman nearly ram her car into this other woman and then proceed to scream and gesture at the woman while we (the other drivers) all looked on in horror and confusion. (Why was the woman whose fault it nearly was going off on the poor unsuspecting driver who just happened to be in her vicinity when she decided to execute a poorly-timed unprotected left hand turn? None of us knew.) The first thing that came to my mind was the garbage truck metaphor. And that's when I knew I would share it with you all. Because if it stuck with me, it might stick with you too.

Admit it, now you want to know what it is... well wait no more!

Law of the Garbage Truck

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport

We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us.

My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly.

So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!'

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call,'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run aroundfull of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment.

As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally.

Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.

And so that's my shared wisdom for the day. It's one of those things I just know I'll be sharing with my kids at the earliest possible opportunity. I realize it's not Nietzsche or Plato or Aristotle or any of those other philosophers that get quoted a lot that I have a theory none of us have actually really read.

But the next time you encounter someone spewing garbage, maybe now you'll see them differently and not let them rattle you or detour your day into THE BAD PLACE. (I don't know about you, but I have lots of shortcuts to get to the bad place-- I can go there faster than most.) But not anymore-- oh no! Now I will smile, wave, and drive on, intent on getting where I'm going.

Ok, and-- no lie-- as I finished writing this, Carly Simon's song "Haven't Got Time For The Pain" came on Sirius. Perfect song for this post!
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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Some Well Written Books

Sometimes when I'm reading I just want a good story. If the writing is passable that's all I need because I'm just there for the story. It's kind of like watching Law and Order-- I have a cousin who gets on me because it's not realistic. (She's an ADA so she knows.) "I don't care," I tell her. "I just want to know who did it." Sometimes it's like that with a book-- I don't care about the writing. I just want to know what happens-- that's what has me turning pages.

But sometimes it's about the writing, and the story isn't the driving force. While I'm engaged in what's happening, I'm more in awe of what the writer is capable of. It's like watching Cirque on the Oscars the other night-- to witness that kind of ability is pretty amazing and more than a little inspiring. So today I'm going to share a few recent books that have been that for me:

The Weird Sisters: I love Eleanor Brown. She can write. The Weird Sisters is a book about sisters and how birth order dictates our place in the family-- but also our place in the world, to an extent. When three sisters return home ("We came home because we were failures.") to help care for their mother who has cancer, they find themselves reverting to who they were, but also striving to break out of those roles-- to redefine themselves beyond who their family says they are. The Weird Sisters isn't a book where a lot happens per se. Not on the outside. But a lot of change is going on inside these three sisters. If you're a person who likes really strong writing, I recommend savoring this book for two reasons-- this is a book where the author took her time to write it. It never once feels rushed or hurried. And also the use of the interesting "We" narrator-- it is the sisters, plural, telling the story. While it's been done before, it hasn't been done much and Eleanor did a great job pulling off this unique point of view.

Alice Bliss: I loved Alice. I loved her pluck. I loved her outlook. I loved her resilience. I loved how she survived even when her world was coming apart. If you've ever been a teenage girl, you will identify with Alice. Laura Harrington is another author who worked to make this book good. She's not just there to spit out a story. She's there to show what a well-written book can elicit in its reader. Each character was real and memorable, developed to the point that I felt I knew them. Like Eleanor's book, Alice Bliss didn't feel rushed. I could tell Laura Harrington worked to choose the right word, to make each sentence pack all the punch possible. Again this story is less about what happens and more about how the characters are changed by what happens. A novel about a young girl whose father is deployed, and how she and her mother and sister cope with his absence and the fears of letting him go, I dare you to read this novel and not be moved by Alice, and by Laura's talent.

The Arrivals: There are lines from this novel I still think of. I loved the writing, how the tension in the house seems to hum along the lines of prose. A story about empty nesters who, through several different turns of events, end up with all their adult children back home for a summer, this was another novel where not much happens. They're all just sort of existing in this house, dealing with their stuff, as they learn to live together again. But again, it's the writing that powers this novel. You're not there to turn pages quickly. You're there to read and to think, to be those characters in that situation-- father, mother, daughter, wife, husband, daughter in law. You're there to decide what you would do if it were you. Because that's what the best fiction does-- it engages you to such a degree that you become that character. That's you in that struggle, you making that decision, you feeling that doubt.

I recommend all of these novels to anyone who's looking for strong writing. It's fun to see writers flex their muscles on the page. That's what you'll get with these.
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