Finding Comfort in Tracking my Reading

I’m sure you’re as tired as I am of hearing about all the “uncertainty” in the world today. Let’s face it, the world has always been uncertain. Excluding the flabbergasting impact the pandemic has had on the total unpreparedness of the United States, 2020 is different only because there is more visibility on issues that already existed. Not to be a total downer here, but these issues aren’t going to go away in 2021 unless we all choose to do something about it.

All that said, I’ve been looking for things that bring a feeling of stability and predictability, such as revisiting favorite books from my personal library. Even if these are re-reads, I keep track of them in my reading journal.

Why keep a reading journal?

I have kept a reading journal since 2006. There’s something oddly comforting about looking over the years at the types of books I read. Some years, it’s clear I was doing research for a new novel. Some years, I was pushing my reader horizons by picking up a lot of fantasy or literary fiction. And some years, like this one, I revisited favorites either to dissect the narrative, or just to have something at hand that I knew I’d enjoy.

My journal follows a light version of bullet journal techniques, meaning I include a:

  • Key to indicate my opinion of the book
  • Index to locate each year (some years span multiple pages/spreads)

Journal key

Photo of my reading journal's "key"

In my reading journal’s key, I have special symbols for the following reading statuses:

  • Started or in-progress
  • “Meh” as in, it was OK but I’d probably not read it again
  • Disliked or hated
  • Liked
  • Quit
  • Loved
  • Try again, as in migrate this title to next year’s list because I didn’t get to it by the new year

And then I have two symbols for the format of the book, because I noticed that I started reading eBooks out of nowhere in 2011, with 2015 being the first year where I read more eBooks than print books.

  • Print book
  • eBook

Noticing reading trends

Photo of my 2006 reading list

This year, I’m back to only reading print books because I’ve been full-time work from home due to the pandemic. I have more than enough screen time with the job and doing DIY home improvement research on my phone, I just have no interest in reading books on my phone or tablet.

I wish I had started this journal back in high school instead of halfway through college. I’ve been seeking out books I liked at the time but didn’t have the money to buy, such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Some books I purchased in college, such as the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, and some I’m now collecting through eBay to avoid spending too much money.

Photo of my 2020 reading list

Of course, I also have been relying on the local library for newer books, but the new books have been such a hit-or-miss that I’ve given up on new fiction for a while. If you’re concerned about the virus transmitting on shared materials like library books, check out the REALM project from OCLC, which is a study tracking how long the coronavirus lives on such items.

What is something you’ve done recently for comfort?

Some friends keep a daily journal, just jotting notes about what happened that day. Some are keeping a specific gratitude journal. For me, it’s my reading and writing journals. Anything to keep me off another screen! I’m even considering going back to writing on legal pads since the thought of opening a word processor makes my skin crawl.

Best,
Belinda

5 New Resources on Worderella.com

Thanks to chatting with my educator friends, I am realizing that the young adult fiction from when I was a young adult… is more like middle grade or children’s historical fiction these days.

This was kind of a breakthrough for me. I’ve been browsing books by Laurie Halse Anderson, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Amy Timberlake to really help me understand this publication space. I’ve been busy running around the my Worderella.com website refocusing content.

It’s still a work in progress, but I did want to highlight that I’ve added five resources to help readers and educators when they visit my website…

1. Children’s Titles

Young Reader Picture Book

My heart loves to write for children, and I do have a picture book published under another name. I’ve brought the title over to this website, knowing that I plan to publish more books under my Kroll name.

The story is called Beatrice Learns to Dance, and it’s a lovely little story about a robot determined to learn how to dance her way. It’s meant for young readers… 3 – 5 years with a parent, or 5 – 7 on their own.

2. Discussion Guides

For readers who need help connecting to a story, I’ve added a couple of discussion guides per each publication. The questions are meant to help developing readers connect deeper with the content. If you have good questions, let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

3. Bibliographies

I do a fair amount of research to inform my Victorian fiction for teens. Rather than leaving all that research in the back of the book, I wanted to highlight the bilbiographies on the website. This is something I’ve meant to do for years, but never got around to it. Once I started my design exploration of other children’s historical fiction author websites and realized this can be common (especially since students are often asked to do a small project in conjunction with their reading), I was sold.

4. Suggested Reading

And lastly, I’ve always wanted to list other books kids and teens should read if they like my books. Some of the books on my suggested reading list are ones that inspired me when I was young, some are my books, and some are books I’ve found thanks to my educator friends.

Have more suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

5. Author Visits

P1060926I love to chat about reading, writing, and publishing with students. They ask some really great, insightful questions! I’ve visited my elementary school a couple of times since becoming a published author. I’ve also visited the classrooms of my educator friends, and I’m in talks to partner with next year’s class so I can get some brutally honest beta-readers for my work-in-progress.

Since my daytime job is fairly demanding, I can only visit schools in the Central Ohio area. If you have an educator friend looking for a guest speaker, let me know!

 

Such a Slump

Dear Reader,

I haven’t written a word for The Rebel’s Touch, something which continues to bother me. However, over the weekend I hosted two swing dancers from Louisville and their interest in my woefully neglected manuscript has begun a spark of something which I hope will ignite into full-blown chapter writing.

These two ladies, being from Kentucky, were most interested in the location of The Rebel’s Touch. I told them the majority of the book is in Ripley, OH, and I had intended to visit the area last summer but never made it down.

They encouraged me to visit them this summer, not only for a bluegrass jazz festival which sounds amazing, but also because they can show me a Civil War hospital, and we could take a bike ride to the waterfront where Tempest would have been carried across to Ripley.

Have to admit, it sounds like a pretty fun weekend vacation. In other news, my entire body aches, and I’m not sure if it’s from allergies or the fact that I kicked my own butt on Monday by running for 20 min on the elliptical machine at resistance level 8. Maybe a mixture of both. Combine that with the fact that I think I ate something bad yesterday, and I feel like I have the flu. Ugh.

So yes. In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for some fun historical romance books to read. Lately I’ve been in such a slump! Everything I read seems to depress me. What is on your radar?

Best,
Belinda

Reading: Cry Wolf

Title: Cry Wolf
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Supernatural (Science Fiction Romance)
Length: 294 pages

Summary: Anna didn’t believe werewolves existed until she was bitten and became one. For reasons unknown to her until Charles came into her life, she was sexually abused by those in her pack. Charles, son of the leader of the North American werewolves, appears in Anna’s life to reveal she is the Omega, a rare wolf that is meant to be protected and treasured, not abused. Together, they work through the residuals of Anna’s abuse while hunting a rogue werewolf bound by black magic which threatens all of  North America.

Excerpt:

pg 56 -And that’s when Anna realized that what the wolf had been asking Bran for was death.

Impulsively, Anna stepped away from Charles. She put a knee on the bench she’d been sitting on and reached over the back to close her hand on Asil’s wrist, which was lying across the back of the pew.

He hissed in shock but didn’t pull away. As she held him, the scent of wildness, of sickness, faded. He stared at her, the whites of his eyes showing brightly while his irises narrowed to small bands around his black pupil.

“Omega,” he whispered, his breath coming harshly.

pg 114 – For her he shook like an alcoholic in need of his gin, because he felt she needed to know her options, no matter how his wolf felt about losing his mate. Her knight, indeed.

Why should you read this book?

If you’re leery of supernatural books, the kinds that have werewolves and witches practicing black magic, etc, don’t let this book fool you. This book is so much more than magical creatures. Why is it that supernatural books are the ones that handle the topic of sexual abuse better than any other genre I’ve read? Anna is a fragile character, but she survived three years of sexual abuse. Survived, and wants to learn how she can heal some of those wounds in order to try a relationship with Charles, who is head-over-heels in love with her.

I loved the metaphor of Brother Wolf as the survival instinct we all have. When Anna feels threatened, such as the first time she tries to be intimate with Charles, her wolf comes “into ascendance,” essentially, she pulls on a deeper strength in order to swallow the timidity, fear, nausea that comes from anyone touching her. All because she wants it to work with Charles. I also loved that as the Omega wolf, her strength was in bringing out the best in others.

Read this book for an entertaining, gripping story that starts off running and continues at a loping pace. Read it for a tactful treatment of the aftermath of sexual abuse and the wish for a healthy, equal relationship. Another book to check out, if interested in another fascinating treatment of the same topic, is Robin McKinley’s Deerskin.

Don’t Write Every Day!

Dear Reader,

I’ve told you to write every day. I was wrong to tell you that.

I’m not going back on my word entirely as I do feel we need to be practicing our craft as often as we can. Taking my own experience as an example, however, I’ve found that this undue pressure we put on ourselves to write every day and come up with brilliant words every time we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is often what causes my dreaded “writer’s block.”

So what am I saying?

Maybe writers don’t need to write every day

Writing for writers is important. For me, it’s like breathing. Most times, I breathe normally, but sometimes I hyperventilate, and sometimes I feel like I’m being strangled. Those are the days when my writer’s block is the worst, and last night while I had trouble falling asleep I tried to figure this one out.

Is writer’s block really a block, or just frustration?

When I feel drained of words, I turn to reading. I pick up the nearest book and read at least a chapter. This seems to shift my metaphorical writing cup from half-empty to half-full. My imagination is sparked, and I begin asking my favorite question: What if?

The next thing I know, I’ve written a couple hundred words and hey, they aren’t even that bad.

So what am I saying? Maybe it isn’t important for writers to write every day. But it is important that writers do something related to writing every day. See the difference?

There is more to writing than the act of it

When I was learning violin in elementary school, it wasn’t enough to learn where to put my fingers on the fingerboard, or how to hold the bow, or how to read music. I needed to listen to existing musicians. I needed to watch their movements and mimic them until I became comfortable enough with the tools at hand to create my own movements. I mimicked until I was comfortable enough to create.

I am not saying to plagiarize. Good God I’m not saying that. I am saying that if you take time to read books, magazines, anything, to refill your cup (or bowl) of imagination, you are more likely to write because you won’t be burned out.

So on the days you feel like you can’t write, or don’t want to write, pick up a book and know you’re still making progress. Other things you can do that are related to writing include:

  1. Read what you’ve written previously
  2. Edit what you’ve written previously
  3. Draw a mind map of your story
  4. Draw a sketch of your main character
  5. Make a collage relating to your book
  6. Find music which inspires you to write
  7. Make an exercise routine tailored to your main character, and then do the exercises
  8. Buy your character’s favorite food from the grocery store and eat it

Take a note from Dory in Finding Nemo. What does she tell us? To just keep swimming.

What did we learn from Meet the Robinsons? Keep moving forward.

And finally, what have we learned about Belinda? She watches a lot of Disney movies.

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella does an Interview

Dear Reader,

The amazing thing about the internet is how it is able to connect you to people who care about your work. Tomorrow, Critique This WIP is interviewing me on their blog.

We will be talking about everything from why I began writing to how I defeat the Dreaded Writer’s Block. Definitely check it out, because Critique This WIP is a great group of ladies who talk about the publishing world.

In terms of my progress with Catching the Rose, I’m applying to be a seller on Amazon so I can submit the interior of the book for the Search Inside functionality.

As a reader, I love it when I can browse the interior of the book. In fact, if given the choice, I will always choose the book that allows me to search inside vs the one that won’t. Are you the same way? Do you prefer to read a little of the book before you buy it?

Are you like me, a cheater who reads the ending before I decide I’ll spend the money? I like to know if I’ll like the ending… if so, I’ll probably enjoy the journey. But then, that’s me.

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Geeks Out about a Book

Dear Reader,

Forgive me as I go on a happy rant. Today was a fairly good day, as I lived today. Living, as opposed to what, you ask? Well, reading and writing about living. I think it’s very important that we writers know when to stop and take a break, and man, I needed a break. This week was a bit stressful at work because I’m still learning the ropes. I was invited out last night by friends and co-workers, but since the bar scene isn’t really my scene, I stayed home and finished reading Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal. I’m hoping to write one of my old book reviews about it because I enjoyed it so much.

Get on with it, Belinda, is this your happy rant?

No. It is not.

This is.

Libraries are AWESOME

I ran a number of errands this morning, and visiting the library was one of them. I encourage all writers to be regulars at their local library. I go there when I want a fix of Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Poets & Writers magazines.

I’m blessed to have a library that is always buying new books, so I make it a point to check out the new historical romances to discover trends. You know, like cover imagery, blurbs, topics, etc.

On my way to the new books section, however, I glanced at the mini-book shop they have in the library. This shop is really just a book shelf with a desk in front of it with a donation box. The books are donated by people in my community, and the library sells them for a profit.

Wait for it, this is where my happy rant really picks up.

I found the entire Little House on the Prairie books for $2! TWO DOLLARS. That’s eight books. EIGHT BOOKS for TWO DOLLARS.

I remember wanting these books when I was young. I grew up reading these books. These books are what turned me on to historical fiction.

I picked up the boxed collection and walked it over to the sweet old lady who was reading a letter from 1966. She seemed very shocked by what she was reading, and didn’t notice I was hugging a box of books to my chest as if I knew there was a bandit around the corner waiting to snatch them from me.

You may think I’m exaggerating. Sadly, I am not.

After a couple of minutes she noticed I was standing there, waiting for her to finish reading. Which, by the way, it was fascinating to watch her. She reads letters line-by-line. The handwriting on the page was large, with constrained flourishes, and healthy spaces between each line. The paper was yellowed, but didn’t look fragile. I wanted to smell it—I’m that weirdo who smells old books for fun. I wish I had thrown my camera into my purse because she really made such a lovely photo with her white hair and white cardigan draped over her shoulders.

“Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t even see you there,” she said, flustered, when I placed the box of books on the little desk. She fluttered her hands and tucked the letter in its envelope. “I was just reading an old letter I found, it’s from 1966, and I was just shocked at what I was reading, I couldn’t believe it…”

She didn’t continue, and I felt it would be rude to press for more, but can’t you imagine a wonderful story springing from that one little interaction? What do you think she was reading? Why did it shock her so much, reading it almost fifty years later? Where did she find it and why was she reading it in such a public place like a library?

“Oh, that’s okay,” I said, smiling. “I didn’t want to disturb you.” I motioned to the box. “Is this priced right? It must be wrong.”

She adjusted her glasses and peered at the little white price tag. “Why, it says it’s only two dollars!”

“I know! It’s got to be wrong.”

“Well,” she said with a little frown, “if it’s marked two dollars, it must be two dollars.”

I shook my head. That was just outrageous. I wanted that boxed set my entire childhood and never received it. I managed to collect all the books over the years, but deep in my heart, I still wanted the boxed set. That boxed set. It was imperative that I owned that set.

“Well, I don’t care. I’m going to give you ten for it.”

“Oh no, you can’t do that, the price is for two dollars.”

I have to admit my mouth sagged open a little. “I saw one of the books, a hardcover version, priced at two dollars by itself. Someone mislabeled this.”

“Well, then that’s their fault, isn’t it? We get such nice discounts in the general stores these days, and you don’t apologize for that, do you?”

A smile was starting to creep back onto my face. “Well, no.”

“Take it and run with it. And enjoy it! That’s a treasure you found there.” She accepted my cash, and as she tucked it into the cashier’s box, asked, “Are you a teacher?”

My smile turned sheepish. These were children’s books. It made sense that she thought I was a school teacher. I was young enough to seem right out of college and looking for books for my students. I was far too excited to not be a teacher looking for a cheap boxed set of books.

“No, but I grew up on these books.”

She nodded, understanding me. “Today is your lucky day, sweetie.”

I grinned. Yeah, it was. And I couldn’t have had it if I’d stared at my computer screen all day.