Tag Archives: nonfiction

Genre Bingo 3

fantasy time clock sleep

Long review post ahead!

You may wonder why I choose to enter these reading challenges when I dislike some of the genres that appear on the bingo card. Well, I’ll tell you! I think it’s valuable to read a variety of authors as well as genres in order to write well. If I’m only reading Regency romance, my thinking tends to narrow and my writing does too. I want loads of different ideas, styles, voices, etc., floating around in my head as my “muses” when I’m in the mood to work on a story.

1. For the young adult fantasy category, I tried to find a book that wasn’t the first in a series. My preference is to finish a complete, standalone story and not be tantalized with something getting resolved in a sequel, or after many sequels. I don’t mind related stories, if each one is complete (Lawrence Sanders [RIP] wrote excellent sets of novels and Anna’s Sugarplums are related via a workplace). Anyway, I chose The Fae of Darkwood: A Tellusm Tale (Beyond Horizon) by Ben McQueeny, despite the irritating title. It looked interesting from the blurb, and it wasn’t the typical setup about an orphaned teen girl fighting evil spirits and falling in love with someone from the wrong tribe. Geez, writers, a little variety, if you please!

So why do these mythical lands full of supernatural beings always have a map in the front that looks suspiciously like England? Rhetorical. The Fae story grabs me, right from the start, with a barber who has a side gig as a scientist. Rehan needs to collect “fresh specimens” of humans and other creatures to study in his lab. Gory, but cool. Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of distracting typos scattered throughout. Ben seems to have taken David Gaughran’s advice about pestering readers to join a mailing list, but sadly not the advice about hiring a proofreader. As it turns out, this is only a short story to chronicle how the Fae of Darkwood came to be (no spoilers), and we must continue with more stories to discover his adventures. Sigh. I gave it 3 stars because I enjoyed it, especially the unexpected turns, but I’ve no desire to read more about the Fae.

Key on stones

2. The book (another short story really) I chose for the satire category is Happiness, Inc. by A.E. Hodge. It was OK, a quick read, kinda fun in the way it was styled with the protag never actually saying anything, but still it was soooo heavy-handed. I gave it 3 stars because I liked it enough (like the Fae story above), but it wasn’t anything great. In my opinion, satire is best with a lighter touch and it’s more difficult to do than people think. Comedy is hard, yo. It just so happens that Paula Light (aka me) has a novella that satirizes a huge swath of things, lightly. Hehe. Hodge does a great job with his marketing at the end of his story though, unlike some people (aka me). If you read his book, you’ll understand why I chose the pic of stones; if not, probably not!

3. For the historical nonfiction square, I chose An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl. Wow, this book covered a lot of ground, from the founding of Jamestown, New York through WWII and beyond, focusing mostly (but not exclusively) on the life of Allene Tew… who had five other last names (along with a couple royal titles) in her life due to multiple marriages. Despite my usual disdain for nonfiction and history in particular, I really enjoyed this book. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars because I thought the chronology could have been smoother, and it took a bit too long to introduce (actually re-introduce) Allene ~ I didn’t need to know so much about the history of Jamestown and Lake Chautauqua. But overall the book is interesting and I recommend it. One thing that Annejet did very well was humanize the events I’d previously only studied in a dry way, such as the economic boom of the late 1800s and the subsequent crash of 1929. Imagine, ordinary people complaining that the wealthy are too greedy and ostentatious and we need to vote out politicians who cater to them. You’d think I was reading today’s news!

Alrighty then. Onward with the genre challenge…

Genre bingo challenge

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©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Genre Bingo 2

Wolf howl night sky stars

Warning: very long and boring post.

Wow, it was difficult to find a free classic book on Kindle that I enjoyed. I began The Call of the Wild by Jack London with high hopes. It started off great, from the POV of the dog, which I love, and then it became absolutely brutal and horrible. I had to stop ~ I can’t bear reading about animal abuse. Next, I downloaded Emma by Jane Austen. It was hugely long, but even so I was excited to begin, as I figured it would be awesome. Loved the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow (1996). But ugh! The writing was SO BORING. I couldn’t take it after two chapters, and the whole thing was over 500 pages, omg. How is this even a classic? Maybe people used to have longer attention spans.

1. Finally, for the classic square, I read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, a nice short book. This story was narrated in a form I really dig, which is “someone” telling a story about an event. We don’t really know who the narrator is or if we should necessarily believe them, but as the pages go on, we kind of forget that as we’re drawn into the experience. Remember, the narrator is actually a character too, but we don’t find out much, if anything, about them. Idk why, but I really like this form. I also like it when things about the narrator are revealed as the story progresses, but either way is fine. Anyway, EF is basically about a doomed romance, and we are immersed in every detail about it ~ not the normal romance novel clichés but Ethan’s conflicting feelings, veering from impulsive to practical throughout. And there’s something here you don’t often find in romantic fiction, especially current stuff: money talk. Yes, for many of not most of us, economics is a big factor in our decisions, including ones regarding our love lives. Four stars.

2. Again, I had difficulty finding a “travel” book (whatever that even means) that I could stand. Most were so boring, and then I read a sliver of an essay too short to count (liked it though), called The Bin & the Bomb by Matthew Felix about a tiny apartment in Paris. Very fun read. I decided that would be cheating though, so I found a novel in the (free) travel book section on Kindle called Finding Love in Florence by Shanna Delaney, and though it began in a very stereotypical way, I kept reading. I guess I have a higher tolerance for mediocre romance than for meh mystery and non-fic. I gave the book two stars. The lurve story was predictable but sweet, and I got a tiny taste of Italy.

Shrug

3. I chose Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran about self-publishing for the self-help square. Hey, not all self-help books have to be focused on getting rid of your flab or learning how to love some dumb man, or vice versa, as the case may be. I skimmed a lot of this book at first because it went on and on and on about all the things it was going to tell me instead of telling me already. So boring! But then we got to the good part, which was informing me that everything I’ve done is wrong wrong wrong. I kinda already knew, but it was nice to have that confirmed by a professional. Design your own cover? WRONG! Do your own proofreading? WRONG! Build a “platform” by jabbering on a blog? WRONG! If only I had spent $500 on each cover, shelled out $500+ hiring proofreaders for each book, and nagged y’all to sign up for my newsletter (not to mention creating one), then I’d be rocking bestseller lists as we speak. Right. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

But seriously, this is a valuable book for aspiring authors (after you skim through the overlong intro). If I were just starting out, I would take his advice, especially on building a mailing list and focusing on one genre only to “fit in” with the writers there instead of flitting around from erotic romance to angsty poetry to political satire. Ugh. Just thinking about all the flitting makes me dizzy. I always knew I should pick something and stick with it ~ at one point I had a romance Facebook page, a dedicated romance blog, and a Twitter account just for Anna. But my problem is I never tried to find the romance readers ~ I still kept talking to my friends, most of whom don’t read these stories. No offense, but hey. I never built a mailing list or did any serious marketing except for an occasional ooh look I have a book. It’s just not in my nature to pester people to buy something or sign up for a list. As Ashley says (paraphrased): I don’t feel good about bugging readers to do something I hate when done to me. So anyway… even if you (like me) have already screwed everything up by losing focus, diluting your “brand” by posting about cake, and interrupting your author success trajectory by sliding into teenaged poetry, still… I recommend checking out Let’s Get Digital. You will definitely learn things. Four stars.

K, I’m going back to link things, like a person who is serious about selling books. LOL

Genre bingo challenge

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©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Pam and Tommy

Movie

I started watching Pam and Tommy on Hulu the other night. It took me a while to try, due to the fact that I dgaf about either Pamela Anderson or Tommy Lee. I’ve never seen Baywatch nor am I a Mötley Crüe fan. But I am a huge Lily James fan, due to her outstanding performance in Mamma Mia 2. I also loved her in Cinderella (2015), Rebecca (the 2020 remake), and Baby Driver, 2017 (even though I didn’t care for the movie overall). So when I read a critic saying that Lily is fab in P&T, I had to give it a shot.

The first episode had barely any Lily. It was all about Seth Rogen as an idiot contractor who steals a safe from Tommy’s house after Tommy stiffs him on payment. I loved Seth in Pineapple Express (2008) and he was OK in Knocked Up (2007), but I basically liked that one because of Katherine Heigl. I found Zack and Miri (2008) intolerable and also was disappointed in An American Pickle (2020). Though I try not to let an actor’s political views influence me… after a certain point I draw the line, and he’s crossed it with his Israel comments. The only reason I kept watching P&T was in hopes of seeing Lily.

In the second episode we get Lily as Pam. I hadn’t realized that Pam is so unbearably stupid ~ and if she’s not, then Lily did her a disservice. She looked gorgeous of course, more beautiful than the real Pam. Tommy is portrayed as an idiot also, as well as grossly repulsive. It is unfathomable to me how she (or any woman) could be attracted to this guy, but then again I don’t get the draw of the bad boy covered in tattoos and acting like an obnoxious jerk. Never have been able to relate to that.

There was a lot (a lot) of nudity and porn, which I guess was the point because of the sex tape fiasco, but it was just so… boring. I don’t see what was so great about Lily’s performance, and I can’t believe that this icky show has been nominated for so many awards. I’m not watching any more of it ~ possibly it improves in eps 3-8, but life is short so adios. I’ve been trying to find things to watch on Hulu and AMC before I dump them, but I always end up back on Prime or Netflix.

It should be noted that neither Pamela Anderson nor Tommy Lee had anything to do with the creation of the P&T series.

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©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Genre Bingo 1

Gatsby cat book lederer

Before I began my genre bingo card on July 1, I’d read 39 books this year. That’s less than last year, when I was over 50 by this point and on pace to hit 100 by December 31. I’m not interested in doing that again, now that I’ve proven I can, as I’m socializing more this year and am also into some TV shows. But I enjoy the bingo challenges, particularly when they get me out of my reading ruts, and here are mini reviews of the three books I’ve read so far for the genre challenge.

1. Humor and Comedy. Gatsby and I loved Richard Lederer’s A Treasury for Cat Lovers, and gave it 5 stars on our chart. I thought it would be all jokes and puns, and while there are plenty of those, there is also cool cat info curled up in these pages. What a fun read! Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Lederer, and he’s just as funny and gracious in person as he is in writing. He’s also happy to share writing and publishing info with other writers.

2. Family Saga. Drowning with Others by Linda Keir defied my expectations. Usually, I don’t care much for stories in diary form, and there was a lot of that here, plus I’m not generally interested in high school antics and romances. But this book was free and ticked a box, so I tried it. I liked it! I found the protags quite compelling, and I wanted to discover who murdered the sexy poetry professor. But I didn’t care much for the ending. I awarded it 3 stars, which is a good rating. Four means I liked it a lot, and 5 means I loved it. Contrast that with 2 stars, which is meh/just OK, and 1, which means I totally disliked the book. If I truly hate a book so much I can’t read past a few pages, I won’t star it.

Van Gogh starry night

3. Chick-lit. Some peeps may not know what exactly chick-lit is, so I am here to say… neither do I! But I know it when I see it, even if it’s slippery to define. For some reason, the characters in CL are always ridiculously awkward and clumsy, especially the heroines. They mumble and stumble all over the place (without being drunk) and utter a ton of ers and ahs and uhs. Romance novels don’t have much of this, though there could be an initial clumsy moment to facilitate the meet-cute. CL’s don’t really have meet-cutes, just clunky banter and cringe blunders. That’s how I know I’m in chick-lit world ~ I am constantly cringing.

Now that we aren’t supposed to use the term chick-lit because it’s not woke enough, they’re calling it light women’s fiction. It’s not though. Women’s fiction generally features older heroines who have faced some stuff and are not all awkward and incapable of forming a coherent sentence around an attractive man. In fact, she may be his boss! WF is also not laser-focused on a romance and sexual attraction like RN’s; in fact, there may not be a romantic happily ever after in a WF novel. Women can be happy without a man! But CL is focused on a romance to the exclusion of pretty much everything else, and there is a HEA, though I find all the awkwardness detracts from any sexual tension.

That said, I did read a CL novel to fulfill my bingo square. It was actually a book of six short stories by various writers and called Summer Daze. I read 4 of the 6, so I think I’m entitled to my checkmark… and I also give the whole thing only 1 star. OMG, these stories were horrible. The only one I could somewhat tolerate was Sunny, with a Chance by Laura Greaves because it had a cute dog in it. The first two were awful, and the one following Sunny was so bad I had to stop. Life’s too short to read icky chick-lit!

Genre bingo challenge

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©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Read Everything?

Books and butterflies

Dr. Tanya continues her Blogging Insights series this week with a quote from George R.R. Martin about how we (as writers) should read everything we can. You know, of course, that Martin is the author of the Game of Thrones books, not that everyone has read those or even seen one episode of GOT on TV. How do we know when people have no interest in GOT? Easy… they’ll announce it repeatedly! Anyway, Dr. Tanya would like to know how we feel about Martin’s advice: “You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).”

I don’t read everything. Life is too short to read boring books or genres we dislike, which is why I usually eschew history, historical fiction, and biography, though naturally I have read some or else I wouldn’t have discovered it isn’t my cuppa. I also don’t read much non-fiction in general, though there are exceptions for owls and other interesting creatures. Real people aren’t usually that interesting to me, which is why I prefer fiction most of the time ~ imaginary characters and situations are vastly more intriguing than real ones, with a few exceptions. I don’t read a lot of science fiction or fantasy, but I can be hooked in on occasion, especially if a story contains something cool like a dragon. I dislike horror these days, though I read a bunch of it in the past (King and Koontz, mostly). Same goes for erotica. Yawn…

I note that Martin doesn’t include romance in his list, which I’m sure was just an oversight. There are a ton of good romance novels out there, some of which are now classics, such as Pride and Prejudice. I go in phases of reading Regency romance, but sometimes I prefer stories set in the present day. In fact, lately I’m more intrigued by what writers do with the world as it exists right now and how the protagonist deals with the challenges presented by current political realities, Covid-19 concerns, the insane economy, etc. One of the problems I have with romances is that they’re too fantastical with little acknowledgement of risks and consequences or dollars and cents. Yet other times they offer me a nice escape from all that; it just depends on my mood.

I don’t read many magazines and newspapers these days, though I check the news online from several sources a few times per day. Many of the articles online feel rushed and poorly proofread (if at all), which is something to learn, as Martin says, about what not to do, such as toss off a crappy piece of work just to meet a deadline. I began a couple books lately and didn’t get very far before abandoning them. Focus on one character at the start of a story. Hook us in by creating an emotional attachment to the protag (good or bad). Give us some action before droning on about the protag’s parents, street names, HOA rules, and other boring nonsense. Most of that should be cut on an edit anyway. I periodically remind myself of all this too when I have the time and energy to work on my stories.

Happy writing!

~*~
©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Nonfiction Is a Train

train tracks

Nonfiction is a train
Chugging down the line
It gets you to the station
You arrive just right on time
But fiction is the flower
You stop to smell along the way
And then you switch your ticket
To a completely different place
Fiction is a ghost town
Mystery and danger
A broken down old Chevy
The beautiful blond stranger
Fiction keeps you guessing
Fiction is a game
The rules are ever changing
Nonfiction is a train

~*~
©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Book Talk

Books and butterflies

Maggie continues Throwback Thursday with questions about our family reading habits.

1. Who were the readers in your family?

My family consisted of my parents and me, and we all loved to read. I don’t know if my extended family were readers because we hardly saw any of them except for my dad’s parents. I don’t remember that they read anything but the newspaper.

2. Were there some people who did not like to read or could not read?

Probably, but I don’t actually know. I say it’s likely though because there are loads of folks who never read for pleasure.

3. Did your family subscribe to the newspaper?

Yep. My dad was a huge fan of the NYT, even after we left the East Coast. We also had the local papers ~ the Chicago Tribune in Illinois (though I secretly read the Sun-Times at work) and the LA Times out here in Southern Cal.

4. If you did get the paper, was your Sunday newspaper considered special? What part did you enjoy?

Yes. Early on I liked cartoons, then later on I read the lifestyle and arts sections and also tried to do the NYT Sunday crossword puzzle. Unfortunately, I was not interested in current events or politics until much later.

5. Did your home have books strewn around? Hardbacks or paperbacks?

We had loads of books of all kinds… fiction, biography, self-help, cooking, poetry, etc.

bears book

6. Did you frequent the library at school?

Yep, especially in high school.

7. How about the local community library? Did you have a library card?

My mom took me to the library all the time and I’ve always had a card… though I don’t actually remember having one during the 4 years we lived in Chicago. I bought loads of romance novels during that period.

8. What was the first book you remember reading?

The first book I remember reading by myself was Arty the Smarty. It was about a rebel fish.

9. Did you have a collection of books (Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters, etc?)

I had Little House books and the Bobbsey Twins collection, and when I was around 9 I became obsessed with stories about dogs.

Rory lily dogs
Rory and Lily taken by Sam

10. Did you read comic books? If so, what titles?

No.

11. Did you end up a bookworm, a casual reader, or someone who read only when required?

I read constantly and always have.

12. Is there a book from your childhood you would like to read again? If so, what book?

I occasionally reread The Velveteen Rabbit.

13. What book or books have been extremely meaningful or influential in your life?

The Velveteen Rabbit was pretty meaningful to me with its themes of love, loss, reality, and feeling like an outcast. Also, Harriet the Spy had an outcast theme, which I related to. But the problem with these books is that they all have happy endings where the protagonist ultimately finds a peer group who accepts him/her. I didn’t find one until I was 50 years old and spent the preceding years wondering what the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t have friends like the book characters did.

Woman phone text bed night

BONUS QUESTION: What book(s) do you frequently gift to others? Why?

I give people what they like. Gifts shouldn’t be about the giver ~ I learned this from my children when they weren’t especially thrilled with gifts I bought for them that I thought were cute. I began to put myself in the mind of the recipient instead. I’ll get a biography of an artist someone likes, or a Stephen King book for a horror fan friend. I buy the grands books about topics they’re currently interested in, such as Cookie Monster and unicorns.

Books are awesome gifts for readers!

~*~
©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Write What You Don’t Know

coffee notebook pen write list

Dr. Tanya @ Salted Caramel continues her Blogging Insights series today with a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

“In order to write about life first you must live it.”

I disagree with EH and so does Dr. Tanya. She gives the perfect example of Jane Austen, a novelist who lived a very sheltered life and yet wrote complex fictional stories about relationships and human behavior. I’d also mention Emily Dickinson, an extreme introvert who wrote zillions of lovely poems while sequestered in her room.

My poetry is usually inspired by an event or experience in real life, but then I take the emotion and fling it to the winds. I allow my imagination to ride upon the feeling and see where it floats. If we limited ourselves to only our actual, factual experiences, there would be no pirates or dragons or vampires or any other fun fantasy/symbolism.

Purple dragon wings mythical fantasy

The same goes for my fictional stories. I was “ghosted” in meatspace, by someone I had fallen madly in love with after a couple dates (as ridiculous as that sounds now), and that feeling of loss and despair inspired my novel Ghosted, though of course I created much more drama surrounding my heroine Lily ~ otherwise the story would have been as boring as my own life! As Anna Fondant, I have written a bunch of erotica, and my actual experience in that area is somewhat limited. I imagine this is true for most fiction writers, though for some strange reason when you write about anything sexual, people assume you must have engaged in that specific activity.

I also love to include new locations in my writing. For example, I looked up a ton of stuff about Aruba in order to send Lily and her son there. Of course I’ve never been to Aruba (I’ve hardly been anywhere outside the US), but I was very careful to get things geographically correct. I’ve never had a son either, but I gave Lily one. Fiction would be so sadly limited if we followed the stricture of ”write what you know.”

Then there is nonfiction to consider. I’d say it falls into two main categories for the point of this post. The first is our nonfiction research. Many of us enjoy looking up facts about the songs we love, even if we’ve never actually met the artists or seen them perform live. This is perfectly acceptable imo.

Music instruments guitar drums

The second category of nonfiction is different however. This would encompass self-help writing, medical advice, cooking, automotive repair, etc. I certainly would not take medical advice from someone who isn’t a licensed professional in the field they’re expounding upon, nor would I follow a soufflé recipe written by someone who has never made one! If you’re giving advice, best stick to things you have directly experienced and are actually qualified to discuss.

This is why I never give advice on the best way to jump out of an airplane, but I am perfectly comfortable talking about con men on dating sites.

~*~
©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Beyond Redemption

sorry rose

I’ve noticed you’ve been coming around again, with puppy-dog eyes and a hand extended. You fling out apologies like cheap party favors purchased in bulk from the discount store. I forgave you once, and you hurt me even more; so march your hollow promises right back out that door. You don’t even know how to be a friend, and this is where our story ends. I’m done with you because your behavior is beyond redemption.

Well, that’s what I wish I’d said…

~*~
©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

Written for Six Sentence Story.

Mom’s Flowered Suitcase [repost]

flight-airport-airplane-plane-34631-pixel-photo

I stood alone at the empty carousel. It had finished spinning out the bags from my flight and mine wasn’t among them. I glanced at the people around me–they were busily texting and briskly wheeling their suitcases outdoors toward ground transportation.

“What did it look like?” The friendly customer service rep was trying to help me find my lost bag as I waited in her office.

I was a little embarrassed. “It was small. And green. With um bright flowers all over it.”

She smiled. “Oh! We have it here. I’m sorry but it seems to have come apart a bit, so we kept it safe.”

“That’s the one.” There was no mistaking the unique floral case the rep brought out from the back. It had been shabby to start with, but now the handle was dangling off and one side was shredded. “It was my mother’s. I guess I’ve had a hard time letting it go.”

“I understand. I could tape it up as a temporary solution.”

As I watched, I thought of the broken vase and the lost earring and the other disappearing mementos. They would all be gone eventually, except for the ones in my heart.

~*~

Written for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. (Cheated a bit ~ this is a true story.) Image from Pexels.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.