Tag Archives: The Sunday Salon

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: The Benefits of Having a "Books Read" Goal

I had an unbelievable reading week, considering I’m still working on all the deadlines. I’ve discovered that setting a “books read” goal and then keeping track of that goal in a spreadsheet does wonders for any reading ennui I might be feeling.

Yes, apparently I am one who is easily motivated by the thought of adding another book to the spreadsheet.

And because of my “books read” goal, I’ve been finding bits of time in which to read – instead of doing what I used to do, which was wait until I had a nice big chunk of time. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of books, reading during breaks from work, reading in the ten or fifteen minutes before going to bed, reading when I’m waiting for Dylan to finish dance class – and astonishingly, all those bits of time have added up to my finishing four books this past week!

Mind you, two of them were graphic novels. I already loved graphic novels before setting my reading goal. I love them even more now.

I think my next book will be:

The Dream Thieves

From everything I’ve heard, The Dream Thieves is a great sequel, and I’m excited, too, that I also have Blue Lily, Lily Blue waiting for me too.

These are the books I read in the past week (and another surprise: none of them are in audio!):

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone: Such a marvellous read. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did.

days of blood & starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight. Luckily I had book two in the trilogy, so as soon as I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I turned immediately to Days of Blood & Starlight. This one was so eventful, I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through to take a breather.

During this breather, I picked up: The unwritten volume 3 The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. Lovely to be back in the Tommy Taylor world. I finished this one and then went back to Days of Blood & Starlight, and when I read breathlessly to the ending, I decided to pick up the next volume of The Unwritten. Leviathan The Unwritten: Leviathan, Volume 4 of The Unwritten series.

Fingers crossed here that next week will be another great reading week for me!

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: SAGA

Short post today, because I’m still catching up on deadlines.

(And you’re all saying, ha! Belle write a short post? Is such a thing even possible?

It is! The deadline crunch thing can transform my writing from rambling to clear, concise, non-rambling and short

Now, where was I? …)

Saga

I picked up Saga, Volume One from the library earlier this week, and am just kicking myself now because last year, I’d borrowed both volumes one and two of Saga – and ended up returning them unread to the library.

Sigh. I could be well into the series by now, you know.

Anyway, I’ve started reading volume one, and it is so good so far!

My treat for finishing the latest deadline? More time with Saga! It’s an incentive that’s making me more focused on my deadline. Hence this short(ish) post.

{TSS} Bookish Bliss: The War of Art

The War of Art quote

Back in December I made a commitment to myself: in the new year, I would sit down every day and write. And when January 1 rolled around, I started doing just that.

I initially set a daily goal of 2,000 words, but within a few days realized that wasn’t reasonable. Some days it was very doable, other days it wasn’t. So I reduced my goal to 1,500 words.

And rolled along merrily … until yesterday. It was kind of a lost day. I took my youngest to dance classes, which ate up the entire afternoon. I’d brought my iPad and keyboard but I found needed the comfort of my regular keyboard and laptop to write. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling well, I was tired – and I had a bunch of blog posts to write for one of my writing clients.

I sat down and I was only able to write about 600 words on my novel.

One of the word tracking spreadsheets I’m using makes the day’s word count light up only if I meet my daily goal. Yesterday’s word count definitely wasn’t even close to getting lit up.

But I still felt good, typing in those three digits into my spreadsheet. Why?

Because despite everything, I had sat down at the keyboard and I had done the work.

When Joy Weese Moll announced The War of Art readalong I knew it was a book I needed to reread. And it was a book I needed to reread now, in January, right when I’m determined to set up new habits and implement the systems I need to make real changes to my life.

For years now, I’ve done a lot of talking about how I want things to change. This is the year I’m committing to actually doing the things necessary for the changes I want to happen. It’s no secret: I spent too many years not doing much writing. I had my rationalizations: I had to work, make enough money to get us through day by day, month by month, year by year. I had kids. I had no time. My God, I didn’t even have time to read, much less time to write. And so on.

Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor. It’s Resistance’s way of hiding the Big Stick behind its back. Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us and impel us to do our work), Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.

What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate. …

What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.

– Steven Pressfield

Reading through Book One of The War of Art, which is all about Resistance: Defining the Enemy, I was a little startled to see how well I know so many of the characteristics of Resistance. I know this is a reread for me, but I can’t remember, for example, nodding my head quite so vehemently when I first read the passages on “Resistance and Trouble” and “Resistance and Self-Dramatization”.

Because the way Resistance shows up in my life has always been two-fold. First is that initial Resistance to sitting down and starting. As Pressfield says:

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Over and over, I’ve been able to defeat this first part of Resistance, even if it’s only for a short while. I’ve done it several times for NaNoWriMo, but I’ve also done it for months at a time outside of November. It’s  never lasted (this year, that will change …) and one of the main reasons it’s never lasted has been because of those two other characteristics of Resistance: Trouble and Self-Dramatization

Last year, for example, right after I finished writing a novella in July, I came face to face with some personal issues. And then after that cleared up, I came down with chronic back pain and unexplained nausea. Once that cleared up (the nausea turned out to be a magnesium deficiency, of all things) I was neck deep in work deadlines as my busy season began.

I participated in NaNoWriMo for three weeks but the work pressure was too much for the final week. And for most of last year both my blog and my reading landscape were like deserted wastelands.

And now that I’m writing daily and am really committed to staying on course all this year? That chronic back pain has cropped back up. I haven’t been feeling well. I’m starting to think about some of those personal issues again. My sister just emailed to tell me she thinks my mom needs someone to help her with her apartment and she can’t do it because she’s too busy with work. Meanwhile, January is looking to be even heavier with deadlines than last November was.

In other words, Resistance is back at work, brewing up more Trouble and Self-Dramatization.

It’s good to see this so clearly. I plan to stay on track, and “knowing your enemy” makes this much easier.

By the way, if you’re interested in The War of Art and Steven Pressfield’s other books, make sure to pop over to Joy’s The War of Art #Giveaway. It’s a wonderful giveaway opportunity, as the winner will receive not just The War of Art, but also his other two books on defeating creative blocks, Do the Work and Turning Pro as well as The Authentic Swing, the story behind his writing of his first big novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Have you read The War of Art? Is there an endeavour or activity in your life, creative or otherwise, that’s been calling to you and to which you’ve been feeling Resistance?

{TSS} Bookish Bliss #5: The First Books of the Year

It’s a new year, and I’m finding I’m really excited about my reading. This is the first year I’ve ever set a reading goal. I’ve watched so many of you do it every year, but I never realized how motivating it can be to say to yourself, “this year, I’m going to read X number of books”!

In order to help me reach my goals, I’m armed with this fabulous books read tracking spreadsheet from Fyrefly’s Book Blog. It’s a great spreadsheet that looks like it will make all sorts of fun graphs for you at the end of the year as well. In addition, if you accumulate a number of years worth of stats, one of the sheets will also do yearly comparisons! I saved it to Google Drive, so I can access it at any time from any device.

Books I was already reading coming into the new year

I was already reading a few books when 2014 became 2015. One of these books has become my “first book finished in 2015″ although, of course, it wasn’t a “true” read-in-2015 book since I started it last year. But it still counts as a book I read in 2015, right?

168 Hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam is the first book entered into my spreadsheet for this year. It was an enjoyable read, and it’s also prompted me to start a time log to see exactly where my hours are going. I was going to start tracking my time earlier this week, but it’s really been an unusual week (what with New Years being in the middle of it) so I’ve decided to start tracking beginning tomorrow.

I’m headed into a regular, deadline-jammed month this month, and I always feel like I’m spending all my time working. I have to find a way to carve out time for all the fun things I want to do (which, coincidentally, are also mostly my new year’s goals – I like the way that worked out!). So I’m hoping the time log will help me see where I have some extra hours that I need to put to better use (like reading).

I also entered the new year with a few other books:

Syllabus by Lynda Barry

I’m loving Syllabus by Lynda Barry: it’s been ideal for jumpstarting my creativity. One of the things I’m adopting from the book is her idea of the 4-minute Daily Diary. (Although, I did forget to do mine last night … I didn’t include journaling in my goals and it’s amazing how much easier it is to forget because of that!)

In this version of journaling, you maintain lists of your day: what you did, what you saw, and what you heard. And you also draw one thing from your list of what you saw. The whole point is to jot these down quickly, so you don’t sweat over your picture, either. Even though I’ve only been doing this for a few days, I find I’m far more observant as I go about my day-to-day, so when I sit down to do my Daily Diary I have things to include in my lists.

The Boundless

I’m also reading The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel with my son – it’s on his homeschool Battle of the Books list. It makes for an extremely exciting read-aloud book: the first chapter had SO many things happening! And each subsequent chapter has tons of action as well. There are steam trains, sasquatches and traveling circuses, a real bounty of stuff that should be a hit with most kids.

Books I’m picking as my first books of the new year

It’s also been exciting choosing  my “true” first books of the year, the ones I’m going to both start and finish in January. Part of the reason I’m choosing these books is because they’re library books, so I’d like to get them read before I have to return them.

land of laughs by jonathan carroll

I can’t remember how I ended up with The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll in my library holds list, but it has an endorsement by Neil Gaiman on the back, so that’s good enough for me. From the book’s back cover:

Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs, a novel about how terrifying that would be.

The imaginary by a.f. harrold

Of course, I have to head into the new year with a middle grade read, too, right? My pick is The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett. It’s about a little girl’s imaginary friend:

Nobody else can see Rudger – until the sinister Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger.

what did you eat yesterday by fumi yoshinaga

I also want to start the new year off with a graphic novel, too. For this, I chose What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga. It’s about food! I think I’m going to love this series.

Shiro Kakei, lawyer by day and gourmand by night, lives with his boyfriend, Kenji Yabuki, an outgoing salon stylist. While the pair navigate the personal and professional minefields of modern gay life, Kenji serves as enthusiastic taste-tester for Shiro’s wide and varied made-from-scratch meals.

making ideas happen

And finally, my nonfiction pick: Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, the founder and CEO of Behance. I’m very much an ideas person – ideas come easily to me – but my sticking point is in the execution. Making Ideas Happen is about just that – bringing creative projects to completion. If there ever was a book that spoke my name, it’s this one, and it’s the perfect read to give my new year a great start.

So these are my first books for the new year. What about you? What books are you starting off the new year with?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Buying Bookish Gifts That Are Hits

I can’t help it. I love to give books almost as much as I like to receive them. So every Christmas, I end up buying at least one or two books for everyone on my list. And since some of the people receiving the gifts are non-readers (like my daughter), it can be hit and miss.

This year, though, I’m patting myself on the back. Because I picked some bookish gifts that turned out to be hits on the receiving end!

First up: my daughter Hayley. Hayley’s a filmmaker, and she’s far more into visual stuff than she is into reading. Two years ago I gave her Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, because I’d read it earlier that year and I loved it (plus I cried a lot while reading it). Definitely a fail, unfortunately. She tried reading it, but it just wasn’t her. Last year, I tried again with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, another book I’d loved. I thought this one would be a hit, because Hayley’s big on diversity, and Park, one of the main characters, is half-Asian. But I don’t think she’s gotten around to reading it yet.

This year, I got smart. I bought her all graphic novels – she’s particularly fond of Batman. And I’m definitely on the right track, because the day after Christmas, she told me how much she liked this book:

the shadow hero

The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, features The Green Turtle, the first Asian American superhero. Hayley had finished it by Boxing Day – definitely a hit!

Next up: Dylan, my eleven-year-old. He prefers graphic novels to regular books too.

Sisters

Earlier this year I’d gotten a copy of Smile by Raina Telgemeier from the library, and he’d seen it lying around, picked it up and loved it. So this year I bought him both Smile and Sisters. On Christmas Day, right before bed, he said, “Wow! Sisters is SUCH a good book.”

Yes! Another hit!

This last gift, for my son Sean, qualifies as a quasi-hit, I think. Usually it’s easy to get Sean books, as he likes a lot of the same thriller/action books I do. Last year, for example, I got him Dr. Sleep, N0S4A2 and the Jack Reacher novel Never Go Back (he’s read most of the Jack Reacher books), and all of them were hits with him. This year, though, I didn’t think Revival would be a good fit for him, and I’d started listening to the most recent Jack Reacher, Personal, and I didn’t really like it as much as previous ones in the series.

The Martian

So I ended up getting Sean, among other books, The Martian, by Andy Weir, because I’d simply LOVED this book (I listened to the audio version and it was just so very, very good). Sean hasn’t started reading it yet, but one of his good friends is absolutely thrilled that I gave Sean this book – his friend has been trying to get him to read it for months now. When Sean told him I’d given it to him for Christmas, he wanted my phone number so he could text me “thank you”. So I think that counts as a quasi-hit!

2.5 hits is pretty good, I think …

Do you buy books as gifts? Do you find your bookish gifts are big hits, or not really much of a hit at all?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Christmas Mysteries

Now that I actually have a bit of time to savour the holidays, I’ve been thinking about Christmas reads. Earlier this month, Ruth Anderson from Booktalk blogged about Christmas mysteries for Becca’s Holiday Extravaganza series, and I was so intrigued by the idea of reading Christmas-y mystery short stories, I promptly requested both books Ruth talked about from the library.

Photo 2014-12-21, 5 02 16 PM

They arrived earlier this week, and I’m excited that I will actually have the time to dip into them over the holidays!

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is a more recent compilation edited by Otto Penzler. Looking through the table of contents, the stories are organized in the following groups:

  • a traditional little Christmas
  • a funny little Christmas
  • a Sherlockian little Christmas
  • a pulpy little Christmas
  • an uncanny little Christmas
  • a scary little Christmas
  • a surprising little Christmas
  • a modern little Christmas
  • a puzzling little Christmas
  • a classic little Christmas

It contains 59 short stories all together, so there’s lots of selection. The first short story I’ll be reading from The Big Book of Christmas is Rex Stout’s “Christmas Party”. it’s a Nero Wolfe story, and it will be fun to head into the holidays with Nero and Archie.

Murder for Christmas, edited by Thomas Godfrey, is an older collection – my copy from the library is copyright 1982 – and it looks like it’s out of print, so check your library for this one (and it looks like there are lots of used copies available). Out of the 26 stories in this collection, 12 of them also appear in The Big Book of Christmas. The first short story I’ll probably read from Murder for Christmas is “Mr. Big”, by Woody Allen – I think it will be fun to read a Christmas mystery by Woody Allen!

Have you read either of these short story collections? Will you be doing any Christmas-y or holiday reading?

[TSS] Napping after ‘American Gods’

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Last month, while still in the heat of deadlines, I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods over the course of ten days. Normally, for a book of this length (the version I read was 588 pages) it would have taken me about two days to finish, but since I was in the middle of deadlines, I didn’t have as much reading time as I would have liked.

Also, I found myself reading every single word, slowly, letting myself be pulled into the atmosphere of the book. Gaiman’s writing is like that, I find; where I’m usually one to gallop through a book, flipping pages, inhaling the story, with his books I tend to take my time. The whole thing becomes quite a joyous ramble.

Over those ten days of reading American Gods, I had two Saturdays during which I was able to devote a good five to six hours to the book. On Saturday mornings I take my son to drama class and then to dance class; consequently, I have time to read while I’m waiting for the classes to finish. That first Saturday, I continued with my reading of American Gods, and, as often happens when I dip into a good book for an extended period of time, when we got home, I picked up the book again and kept reading.

I’m normally a late riser, so another thing happens most Saturdays. By around three or four in the afternoon, I’m tired, and in need of a nap. On that Saturday, I read American Gods until I was in danger of dozing off, and then I did what I normally do on Saturday afternoons. I took a nap.

And I dreamt about American Gods. Not the characters, or the story, but the book itself, the atmosphere woven by the words, the greyness, that sense of something real underlying the not real underlying the real.

It was truly the most awesome thing ever. And, I thought, probably something that wouldn’t happen again.

Except that it did. The next Saturday followed the same pattern – I devoted another five or six hours to American Gods, and then I slept, and I dreamt, and it was the same dream. There I was, deep inside the landscape of American Gods.

I’ve never experienced this before, but I know one thing. At whatever future date I reread American Gods (and I expect I will), I’m going to sleep right after. Because that dream was amazing, and I’d love to have it again.

Gaiman’s words are really magical.

[TSS] Recently Read

I’ve been busy with work deadlines lately, but looking back on what I’ve been reading, it seems audiobooks have come to the rescue! With audiobooks, I’m never “too tired to read”, so it’s been a great way to keep reading despite putting in loads of work hours every day towards my deadlines.

One of my reading resolutions this year is to keep track of what I’ve been reading. In past years I haven’t been that diligent, despite various Goodreads and Pinterest lists. So I thought for today’s Sunday Salon, I’d post an update as to what I’ve recently read.

police by jo nesboPolice, by Jo Nesbo. The latest instalment (#10) in the Harry Hole series, when my copy arrived at the library, I knew I had to drop everything to read it. I took a day off working on my deadlines, and devoured this one. The gist of the plot: someone is murdering police officers at the sites of old unsolved murders in which the officers were involved in investigating, but there’s a whole lot more going on which I really can’t mention for fear of spoilers. Lots and lots of twists, right down to the very end. This was one very enjoyable, suspenseful read.
no mans nightingale by ruth rendellNo Man’s Nightingale, by Ruth Rendell. In this latest instalment of the Wexford series, former Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford is settling into retirement, working on his goal of reading all volumes of The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. When Kingsmarkham vicar Sarah Hussein is murdered, though, Wexford is glad to have Detective Inspector Mike Burden pull him into a consulting role in the investigation. There’s a flaw in one of the premises Rendell uses (she states that two brown-eyed parents cannot have a blue-eyed child, which is not true, as two brown-eyed parents both having a recessive blue eye gene can have a blue-eyed child) so if errors like this annoy you, this might put you off a bit. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable read with a nice twist at the end.
the invisible code by christopher fowlerThe Invisible Code, by Christopher Fowler. In this latest instalment of the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, the elderly detective duo of Bryant and May are asked by their old adversary, Oskar Kasavian, to find out why Oskar’s beautiful young wife has been behaving in such an odd and bizarre way. As always with this series, there are many strange goings-on, including an unexplainable murder and codes and symbols, plus lots of nice twists. Lots of laugh out loud moments, too. I started this one in print format, but finished up by listening to the audio version narrated by Tim Goodman, who did a great job.
bryant and may off the rails by christopher fowlerBryant and May Off the Rails, by Christopher Fowler. It seems I’m working backwards through this series, after having read most of the earlier books back to back quite a few years ago.  The Peculiar Crimes Unit has arrested the murderous Mr. Fox, only to have him break out, killing one of their own in the process. The chase is on, and we are lead through the shadowy corners of the London Underground. As always with the quirky Bryant and May detective duo, there are some very complicated twists and skillfully-placed laughs. I did this one entirely in audio, narrated by Tim Goodman, who once again does a great job with Bryant and May.
killer by jonathan kellermanKiller, by Jonathan Kellerman. It was good to see Alex Delaware back in form in this latest instalment of the series. Things start out slower than they do in most of the other books in the series, with Alex embroiled in a probate case involving the fight between two sisters for the custody of one sister’s child. But soon enough, there’s a murder, and Alex works with his old friend Detective Milo Sturgis to unravel the clues. This one’s not as intricately plotted as some of the older books, and the unveiling of “whodunnit” is a little bit out of the blue, but still it was an enjoyable read.
blood and circuses by kerry greenwoodBlood and Circuses, by Kerry Greenwood. In this earlier book (#6) in Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, someone’s been sabotaging Farrell’s Circus, and Phryne leaves behind the comforts of life, her title and her money in order to go undercover to find out why. Throw in the murder of a circus performer and some nasty characters from the Melbourne underworld, and Phryne’s in for an interesting ride. As usual with the Phryne Fisher series, there are sex scenes, although perhaps a little less than in some of the later books in the series. I could have done without the sex scenes myself, but they didn’t wreck my enjoyment of the book. I listened to this one in audio, narrated by the delightful Stephanie Daniel.
bryant and may on the looseBryant and May on the Loose, by Christopher Fowler. I continued to move backwards through the series with Bryant and May on the Loose (#7 in the series) in audio, narrated excellently once again by Tim Goodman, although this one was a reread. I was enjoying the audio versions so much, I decided to get this one, and then as I started listening, I realized I’d read the book before – but long enough ago, I didn’t recall how things ended.  In this book, #7 in the series, the Peculiar Crimes Unit has been disbanded despite their success in solving the bizarre crimes that have come their way in the past. But the discovery of a headless corpse by one of the unit’s members gives them the chance to persuade the Home Office to change its mind – as long as they can solve the case in a week. To complicate matters, there have also been a number of bizarre sightings of a half-man half-stag creature with knives for antlers who has been carrying off young women. Intricately plotted with lots of twists, this was another enjoyable listen.
the memory of blood by christopher fowlerThe Memory of Blood, by Christopher Fowler. I obviously have no problems reading a series out of order! This one is #9 in the series, but yes, I listened to this one after listening to Bryant and May on the Loose above. This one involves a locked room mystery: the young son of a theatre owner is, seemingly impossibly, killed in his bedroom during a cast party held in his father’s home. The only clue is a life-size puppet of Mr. Punch which the killer has left behind. Along with yet another complicated plot, there’s quite a bit of history of the origins of Punch and Judy, but the information is weaved seamlessly into the plot. Another fun and enjoyable listen!

So that’s what I’ve read so far in the past four weeks or so. I see now that I’ve been focused exclusively on mysteries, but I’m breaking the trend right now, as I’m a currently a third of the way into Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

What have you been reading lately? If you’ve read any of the books on my recently read list, what did you think of them?

[The Sunday Salon] Filling the Creative Well with Nonfiction

This year I’m committing to something a little different from previous years’ reading resolutions. I’d like to read a lot more nonfiction as well as keeping up with all the fiction on my to-read list.

I love reading fiction because good fiction transports me into another world and introduces me to interesting characters and thought-provoking situations. I can become immersed in a good book and it’s that immersion that forms the foundation of the pleasure I get from reading fiction.

Fiction can also fuel my creativity; I’ve gotten many ideas for stories and novels as a result of seeing something in another novel I’m reading. This happens to me with television and movies, too.

But it’s nonfiction that really ups my creative output. Maria Popova talks about combinatorial creativity – how all the bits and pieces of information and memories and knowledge you carry inside your head comes together to form ideas, lots and lots of ideas if you let the process happen – and this has always been the way creativity has worked for me.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about "filling the well". She’s referring to the idea of an inner artistic well that informs all of our creativity. It’s an analogy that I think works well with the idea of combinatorial creativity. While Cameron advocates going on "artist’s dates" – actual physical excursions – in order to keep our inner artistic well maintained, for me such excursions are more appropriate for helping me open up to the present moment, something else that’s required when I’m involved in a creative endeavour.

But the best way for me to keep my inner artistic well pumped and primed and well-maintained is by opening myself up to a flotsam of information. Anything and everything I find interesting has a place in my creativity, and the randomness of the information plays a key role. It’s in reading nonfiction that I most often stumble onto such things – interesting-to-me ideas, facts, concepts, often mere scraps of information, sometimes just a sentence or phrase – that ignite the spark that pulls together other completely unrelated pieces of information to form a shiny new idea.

Myths and legends work that way for me, too. I guess such work is really fiction, but I tend to place myths and legends in a category all its own, not quite nonfiction, not quite fiction – but definitely fertile fuel for the imagination.

So this year, along with tackling my fiction to-read list, I’ll be reading stacks and stacks of nonfiction too, with a stack of blank index cards at my side for jotting down the bits and pieces that interest me. I plan on using the index cards as a tactile, visual aid when playing with my creativity, in much the same way I use archetypal oracle cards.

Here are some of the nonfiction titles I’ll be using to fill my creative well over the next few weeks:

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson

Finding Arthur by Adam Ardrey

Finding Arthur, by Adam Ardrey

making of middle earth by Christopher Snyder

The Making of Middle Earth, by Christopher Snyder

A London Year by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison

A London Year: 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters,

by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison

Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary,

by Caspar Henderson

What about you? Do you read nonfiction, or do you mostly stick with fiction? If you’re a writer, what are some ways you use to fill your creative well?

[TSS] The Week That Got Away From Me

It’s been one of those weeks – you know the kind, where at first glance it doesn’t look like you have too much scheduled, and then you find out first glances can be mighty deceptive.

It started with a trio of deadlines – which weren’t, surprisingly, the problem. I met the deadlines with no problem. Post-deadline, though! Dylan turned ten (I know! Ten! If it wasn’t so trite, I’d say time really does fly), and there were all the activities associated with a little guy turning ten – gifts to buy, the perfect birthday card to get, lunch, dinner, get-together with family. And Mother’s Day on top of everything – another lunch, more shopping.

(I know, it doesn’t sound that rough. And it wasn’t. But I just hadn’t been expecting all the running around and eating out, which cuts huge chunks of time out of the day.)

And it’s already time for another Sunday Salon! I never even got around to replying to comments from last week’s post, so I hope you all won’t mind if  I just pretend that I already did and start fresh with this one. When seen from my Sunday Salon perspective, this week actually doesn’t look as chaotic as it really was:

Eating: Ward didn’t have a performance Friday night, so he made roast chicken. To those not in the know, my husband makes the best roast chicken – juicy, tender and lightly flavoured with rosemary and lemon. To make things easier for today (we’re heading over to my sister’s for Mother’s Day), he roasted a second chicken and we’re bringing cold chicken slices and scallion and ginger oil as our contribution to today’s feast.

Drinking: This week I discovered the pleasure of iced mint tea. It turns out Second Cup, my favourite coffee place (even now, when I’m not drinking coffee) will make iced tea out of any of their regular teas, so I gave the iced mint tea a try. It is SO good!

Reading: I didn’t have much time for reading this week, but I did manage to finish one book: Anne Holt’s Blessed Are Those Who Thirst. I know a lot of people liked this one, but it just didn’t grab me. I must admit, I skim-read through the second half rather than DNF’ing it because I wanted to know who did it. It might, however, just be the translation, and perhaps if I understood enough Norwegian to read it in its original, I would have liked it better.

Writing: Totally out the window this week. Not even a blog post to break up the midweek monotony here. (Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame.)

Making: Zilch. Nada. Nothing. It’s been that kind of a week.

Exercising: I finally downloaded a pedometer app and when I went for my run on Monday this week, I came back and told Ward my time. After doing the necessary km to miles conversion, I announced, “I ran a 14-minute mile.” Ward, polite guy that he is, managed a strangled, “Oh, yes?” but I could tell from the look on his face that most people probably could walk faster than that. I’m chalking it up to my using my meditation songs playlist for running (running meditation, get it?) so I put together a faster playlist and I’m happy to say when I went for my second run of the week, on Friday, I ran an 11-minute mile. Much better, although I’d love to get it to ten minutes.

I seem to have developed a consistent walking habit, which makes up for not running as regularly as I’d like to. Most days I manage a brisk 40 minute walk, with some days (when I’m going to Chinatown, mainly) I clock 80 minutes.

Rice_noodle_rollsSource: By Themightyquill (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

(Those 80 minutes walking to and from Chinatown are a good thing, as I tend to head over to dim sum when I’m in Chinatown and it’s a good way of walking off the calories before and after I ingest them. Sadly, rice flour, the main ingredient of my favourite dim sum dish – shrimp cheong fun or rice noodle rolls with shrimp – is very high in calories.)

Anticipating: A more restful week, during which I plan to (1) clean/clear out my desk (a Herculean effort may be required, I’m afraid), (2) clear out my clothes drawers to make room for hot weather clothing and (3) READ, READ, READ!

What about you? How has your week been?