I’m so behind on updating my Goodreads list. I know this because I keep getting prompts from the 2017 Reading Challenge – “You’re 5 books behind schedule! Do you need a boost? A pep talk? A life line? Or maybe you should get your shit together and read some freaking books already.”
I actually have read some books over the past three months. I just had yet to collect my thoughts.
So finally, here they are – the books and the thoughts.
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
I started re-reading this for the third or fourth time in my life for inspiration for my current manuscript. I feel like it’s become vogue to say that Erica Jong is an old irrelevant white (read: not legitimate) feminist, but I get something new and totally on point out of this book every time I read it.
For example, this little snippet of the protagonist’s inner dialogue:
ME: You want contradictory things.
ME: I know.
ME: You want freedom and you also want closeness.
ME: I know.
I mean, did Jong just look into my mind during any one of my 12:05 a.m. wake-ups and snatch those words right out of my head?
On one (of many reasons) women are terrified of freedom when they get a taste of it:
“I had forgotten how awful it was to be a woman alone—the leering glances, the catcalls, the offers of help which you dared not accept for fear of incurring a sexual debt. The awful sense of vulnerability.”
Nailed it, Erica. True then, true now.
“I’m always waiting for things to be over so I can get home and commit them to paper.”
Me. Every single Saturday night.
Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun
So, logically, the next book to read is one that defies all the bullshit women get to go through—an erotic romance about a thirty-something investment broker who goes looking for one mind-blowing encounter of hot sex and gets it from a twenty-something cop. One night turns into weeks. Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. This book made NPR’s 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances list and for good reason. I pretty much wanted to turn around and start re-reading it as soon as I finished it, and I would have—if not for that pesky Reading Challenge.
Bonus: the author, Anne Calhoun, visited my LERA writing chapter in February, so I got to tell her face-to-face how amazing her book is. At the LERA meeting, Anne gave a talk about manuscript revisions, and one of the books she recommended is . . .
GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon
I’ve entered a few contests recently, and the feedback I keep getting is “I don’t really connect with or care about your characters.” Wow, that hurts, considering I care about my characters almost more than I care about myself. “What will it take to make you people care?” my inner thoughts wailed in despair.
The answer came to me the very next morning when I started reading GMC. Debra Dixon says that the key to making readers care is motivation. And in my mind, external and internal goals and motivations are all the same thing, which might have something to do with why it’s not coming across clearly on paper. Dixon illustrates how to break everything down into GMC charts so all the components are clear and visible. So now I can use these charts to help rewrite my scenes and make someone care about my characters as much as I do.
Last but not least
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown, because due to an upbringing I am still trying to unpack, I grew up the bassackwards way around. But apparently I’m not the only one. J.J. Abrams blurbed this book, for crying out loud.
I really needed this book when I had my first place of my own, my first car, and, quite frankly, when I first started dating. But water under the bridge. I have it now and thank goodness. Most recently, this book inspired me to write a proper thank you note to my friend for a birthday present she gave me. (Thank you notes are becoming a lost custom. It’s like, “did you ever receive that $25 gift certificate from Lush I sent you?!”)
Anyway, my friend was so thrilled by my hand-written note, she posted a photo of it on Instagram.
Yes, I do see the irony there.