my to-read list

Well, I finished Middlesex over the weekend, on the plane (Kindle version here). I don’t want to talk too much about it yet because I’m saving all my good discussion for Family Book Club. Don’t forget you have until the end of the month to read it to participate! But now what do I read?

under the dome

I started Under the Dome because it was already on my Kindle. You guys know I love Stephen King, and so far I’m really enjoying it. I am only about 10% into it, and so far most of the characters I have met have died, but King does a really great job introducing people and making me care about them before he kills them off. And I have a good picture of the town in my head. As you can maybe guess from the title, a large dome drops down over a Maine town and encloses everyone inside. The dome is invisible, but you can feel it. This reminded me of something someone said in real life book club about Safe As Houses: The author could really make you see an invisible church. I feel that way about this invisible dome, too. I’m pretty into it so far, but it seems less urgent than all the other awesome books I want to read. [paperback, kindle]

lean in sheryl sandberg

I’ve also heard great things about Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s come out recently and has been all over the internet. Plus, I’ve gotten recommendations from friends. I’m really into reading about people talking about feminism and women in the workplace. Especially since I am a woman in the workplace. [hardcover, kindle]

in cold blood

In Cold Blood is this month’s book club book. I started this book a few years ago but gave up because I had a nightmare. So I’m excited to reread it as a more mature (??) adult who doesn’t get scared by detailed stories of real-life brutal murders. Also, I just talked to my dad, who is from Kansas, and he remembers when it happened. Exciting! [paperback, ebook, from Word]

the revolution was televised

I didn’t grow up watching much TV. I mean, sure, I watched the Disney channel, but it wasn’t until I got older that I realized the incredible storytelling of serial dramas. So I’ve made up for it, plus some. This book covers The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, and how they changed TV. I just want to finish watching The Sopranos and Buffy before I pick it up, but I’m just about done with both of those series. [paperback, kindle]

Which book should I do first?!

(I bought these books on my own and am not being paid to write about them. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it. I am not affiliated with Word; I’m just a fan.) 

odd thomas

odd thomas

Odd Thomas! How I loved your quirky characters, your heart, your ghosts, and your central mystery.

But let’s talk about your girlfriend. You know, Stormy? Your soul mate, your feisty partner who knows her way around a gun and isn’t afraid to use it. You have matching birthmarks and you’re ready to marry her after years of being amazed by her strength and her love.

So how do you show you love her, trust her, and respect her? You hide from her, Odd, and I don’t understand it.

Odd Thomas can see the dead. He speaks to them (though they don’t talk back), and he tries to help them so they can move on. This has often led him into dangerous situations and into a tricky relationship with the chief of police because many ghosts who find him in Pico Mundo are trying to uncover their murderers, who are very much still alive.

And in this first adventure with Odd in Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz (Kindle version here), he gets into some dangerous situations indeed. But Odd chooses to hide his extracurricular activities from Stormy. He doesn’t want to put her in danger, so he lies to her and tells her he’s fine, omits that his friend has been shot and that a killer (or killers) are on the loose. And I believe that in doing so, he put her in more danger than she would have been than if she were well informed and prepared.

I get not wanting to put your loved ones in danger–I am a human with a heart. But Stormy is not his child, or his dog. Stormy is a real life human who Odd is supposed to be an equal with in a loving relationship. And in hiding these truths from Stormy, Odd does her and their relationship a disservice.

He says he trust her and believes in her, but his actions don’t say that at all. He doesn’t trust her to make wise choices and be ready to face danger with him, so he keeps her out of the loop and out of his life.

We see this a lot in fiction, and maybe in real life too. Edward lies to Bella to get her out of danger when a rival vampire comes into town (yeah, it’s Twilight–stick with me). In the Fifty Shades trilogy, Christian lies to Ana to keep news of a bribe and kidnapping from her. Both of these men are lauded for their strength and protection of their women (bleh).

This is often held up as an ideal–that men are protecting women and that’s what you should look for in a perfect partner. But if my boyfriend/husband/best friend/anyone kept these things from me, I would feel betrayed and hurt. Together we should be able to find a way to handle the situation. I’m not saying send me to the front lines here (But yay! Women can do that now!) but I am saying women should be treated with respect–always, but especially in romantic relationships. We are not flowers who can’t hear dirty words, we are not weaklings who shrink from life, we are not passive participants in our relationships. I hope.

Where have we seen some really kick-ass women in modern stories? Katniss was pretty badass. Let’s see how it would go if Peeta was on the run and didn’t talk to Katniss about it. I daresay he’d have more to worry about if Katniss found out than from the murderers themselves.

Hermione, oh Hermione. She’s right there with Harry and Ron making plans and taking punches. They love her, and so of course they want her to be safe, but they respect her skills and her brains. They couldn’t have made it without Hermione, and they know it. (Not to mention Ginny, Luna, Mrs. Weasley, and Professor McGonagall.) (Interesting fact: the authors of Twilight, Fifty Shades, HP, and The Hunger Games are all women.)

And Stormy is (supposedly) one of the strong ones. She is outspoken, never shies away from Odd’s peculiar gift, and even helps him out of a sticky situation like a pro. And there’s other strong women and good relationships in Odd Thomas. The chief of police’s wife is right there by her husband’s side, discussing who’s on the loose, and she’s in his inner circle when he needs to talk about work, or probably anything else.

So I just don’t get it when it comes to Odd and Stormy. But I did love everything else about Odd Thomas. The characters are wonderfully weird and Odd is great in every other instance. It was a fun ride and a good mystery, and I will be reading more Odd Thomas for sure. Thanks to my sister for telling me to check it out!

I also wrote about Odd Thomas here during a screen-printing craft.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.) 

family book club

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I come from a family of readers (for this, I am #thankful). I’ve never known a moment where reading wasn’t celebrated or encouraged, and believe me when I say I am grateful and know this isn’t the norm for everyone. Now that we are all adults (I’m the youngest), we keep reading and talking and sharing our stories.

So this may have been a long time coming, but we’ve recently started Family Book Club. We are picking one book each quarter, and rotating who gets to choose. Our first book was The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Kindle version here) purely by accident because several of us picked it up when it came out. Our discussions were loosely structured and a lot of fun. We decided to do one book each quarter, so one book for every three months.

This time, I get to pick the book. So whoever wants to participate (no pressure) will pick up Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Kindle version here) and we’ll talk about it on the phone or in person or on video chat or in email around the end of March.

middlesex jeffrey eugenides

So, friends, would you like to read it too? Whoever wants to should pick up a copy and join the discussion! It will be casual, it will be fun, and I’d love to talk about it with you. You have until March 31. If you’ve already read it, feel free to join in as well! We’d love to have you. I’ll post some of our talking points on here, so get ready to comment away. You can follow my reading also on Goodreads and find me always on Twitter.

Also also, I’m reading Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino so I can participate in Word bookstore’s book club meeting this weekend on Feb. 2. If you’re in the area please come with me! I’ve heard great things about this book and can’t wait to get some book club experience under my belt.

(I bought these books on my own and am not being paid to write about them. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it. I am not affiliated with Word; I’m just a fan.) 

on writing (and editing)

stephen king on writing

I’ve never understood the idea that you can’t write in books. Or bend pages, or have spines cracked or covers ripped or all the other things that can happen to books. I’ve also never gotten the argument that Kindle books “aren’t real books” or aren’t worth reading or are just so unfair to books they should be protested.

Sure, some books are collectibles. And books, like any other object you spend money on, shouldn’t be thrown around or not cared for responsibly.

But a book is ink on bound paper. What matters, the reason people defend this ink with all their might, is the story inside–the words (and worlds) between the covers. And if you dogear your favorite page, or underline a beautiful line, or read a book so many times the cover falls off, isn’t that really loving books? And isn’t judging someone for the way they consume those words against the entire idea of sharing stories–the idea that many people can read the same words and feel the same things and go somewhere new together?

So my position is this: read. Read any way you want, anywhere you want, draw in the margins, highlight long sentences, rip out a page to mail to your friend, listen to an audiobook, read on your phone or a computer or a new thing that hasn’t been invented, no matter how you do it just, my goodness, read.

I think, though I’ve never met him, that Stephen King would agree with me. In his book On Writing (Kindle version here), he says “books are a uniquely portable magic.” He says he listens to an audiobook in the car and brings another book with him wherever he goes. He reads because reading and writing are a part of him. He couldn’t separate them from himself if he tried. He is a writer.

I am an editor. I edit for a living, which basically means I read what people write and make it better. There’s a thousand different ways to do this, and the really good editors spend a lifetime getting really good. On Writing is my favorite book on writing and editing. It’s filled with truly practical advice (my favorite of which is “only God gets it right the first time and only a slob says, ‘Oh well, let it go, that’s what copyeditors are for'”).

Stories seem like magic sometimes, but writing and editing are mechanical skills just like any other. It takes practice to be good at them, and there are some rules you need to know and times you need to break them. On Writing lays them out beautifully, mixed in with some autobiographical stories from King. If you have any interesting in writing or reading, and even if you don’t, I’d highly recommend it.

page127 stephen king on writing

Some of my favorite guidelines from On Writing:

Write a lot. Delete all the boring parts. This should cut you down by a lot. The more you can cut, the better. The goal isn’t length, it’s clarity and solid writing. In On Writing, King says, “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts.”

Stop hedging. If you think something is great, don’t tell me why you think so, tell me why it is great. Be assertive in your writing. It’s scary, I know. What if other people don’t agree with your opinion? Well, if you’re assertive, I bet you can convince most. And the ones who disagree with you will disagree with your intelligent, sure writing and not a wishy-washy piece that couldn’t decide.

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing…You probably do know what you’re talking about, and can safely energize your prose with active verbs. And you probably have told your story well enough to believe that when you use he said, the reader will know how he said it…Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.

Trust your readers. You’re a reader, and I’m a reader, and I think we’re pretty smart. They will figure it out if you show them. You don’t have to tell them over and over. King puts it this way:

If I have to tell you, I lose. If, on the other hand, I can show you a silent, dirty-haired woman who compulsively gobbles cake and candy, then have you draw the conclusion that Annie is in the depressive part of a manic-depressive cycle, I win.

King also says the object of a story is “to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.” Clean writing is a part of the magic. If a reader gets hung up on trying to understand a sentence or trips on “form” when you meant “from,” it interrupts your story, makes reading an effort, and does a disservice to both the reader and writer. Take pride in your work, and turn in clean copy.

Write simply, and in active voice. Avoid the passive tense and passive verbs: “I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.” I see a lot of passive voice in my line of work and I work to put it down flip it and reverse it. King’s example: “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” versus “The meeting’s at seven.” It usually wont be this simple to detect, but 99% of the time active voice will make your writing better.

But most importantly, keep reading. “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

I loved this book because it’s 300 wonderful pages on my work. I believe in what I do, and it was nice to get some back up by one of my favorite writers. I loved King’s personal stories, too. When he started writing, he sent his stories to any magazine taking submissions. He kept his rejection slips on a nail in his bedroom. Pretty soon, the nail filled up with slips, so he replaced it with a stake and kept on writing. He worked at a laundry and as a teacher, and he met his wife and started a family. And he kept writing. He battled alcoholism, and kept writing. He sold paperback rights to his first novel for $400,000, and kept writing. His perseverance and passion are contagious, and it’s great for readers and writers alike.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.) 

odd thomas talks to elvis; i screen print him

I’m reading Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz and loving it. Odd is a pretty normal guy–he works as a line cook, hangs out with his girlfriend, and can speak to the dead. Not that they talk back. But they do show him things, and he helps them when he can. Odd tries to use this gift to help the dead and the living, and in the first novel of the series he attempt to stop a huge tragedy from occurring in his town. I don’t know if he succeeds–I haven’t finished the book yet. But I’m having a great time getting there.

Odd is ghost friends with Elvis, who seems to make his own rules in death, as he did in life. Normally Odd’s interactions with spirits are people who died in his town. He doesn’t know of any ghost travelers–except Elvis, who has taken a liking to Pico Mundo even though there’s no evidence he visited when he was alive. He hangs out often, sometimes dancing, sometimes watching, and sometimes crying, but never singing (ghosts don’t talk, or sing, I suppose).

I’d like to think that Elvis and Odd are sort of friends, at least the kind of friends that spirits who don’t speak and living people who eat and breathe and yell can be. So I made a tribute to Elvis, and to Odd.

I recently took a class on screen printing and really enjoyed it. It’s fun, and once you start making prints it’s pretty addicting. (But be careful, otherwise you’ll have 30 copies of Elvis and nothing to do with them.) I still have an empty space on my wall, and I’ve been longing to fill it with another handmade artwork. And my family gave me a screen printing kit for Christmas, with ink and a screen and everything! The stars aligned.

I started with the idea of an image of Elvis singing and dancing. I found some images I liked, but I wasn’t sure how to get those images onto my larger canvas that would fill up the empty space on my wall. I’m ok at drawing, but drawing his entire body, hips swiveling, was a little advanced for my first at-home project and the first time I was using my new tools. So I simplified my idea and started sketching.

elvis sketches for screen printing

Once I had some elements I liked, I drew them on a larger scale on freezer paper, which is what I made my stencil from. I cut out the shapes, and then attached my stencil to my screen.

screen printing red ink

And then started! The first attempt was the worst.

first attempt at elvis screen printing

But that’s probably normal, right? The next few came out great! I like the imperfections and I love the color. These will go great on my wall.

elvis prints in red

books heal hearts (donations for newtown)


Books heal hearts. I believe that’s true. Books can offer a safe place to escape, and a familiar story with a happy ending can be a unique source of comfort.

In Newtown, right now, there are a lot of children who may need this comfort. Who may need a small break from grief. I am packing up a box of children’s books to send to the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown. The library has also set up the Books Heal Hearts fund to provide materials for the community, now and in the future.

Please join me in giving, if you can. You can make checks out to Cyrenius H. Booth Library with Books Heal Hearts written on the memo line. Please mail donations to:

Cyrenius H. Booth Library
25 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470

You can also donate through the library’s JustGive page, where you can select Books Heal Hearts and donate with a debit or credit card. All donations are tax-deductible.

Books are an escape for me, even if it’s just from a crowded bus. Familiar characters become your friends. New details in an old story give fun, new insight. Books can stretch your imagination and bring joy without batteries and without traveling. We can’t stop the hurting in Newtown, but we can be kind to one another and try to provide something that could help. Rae’s Days is about making a beautiful life and finding inspiration from stories. I hope you are inspired, too, to give back any way you can.

cannery row

I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at not batting an eye at seeing crazy things. I’ve lived in New York for a few years now and you have to just accept the crazy and move on with your day. But my cynicism is nothing compared to Steinbeck’s in Cannery Row.

Without so much as a hyphen, he drops in doozies like finding a beautiful dead girl while out on a fishing trip. And he slips in a family that lives in a boiler and rents out pipes so quickly that if you sneeze you’d miss it (you can hear the snores echo at night if you listen closely). Hilarious, scary, and touching moments are all a part of life at Cannery Row, and Steinbeck weaves them in so naturally you need to really pay attention to see the beauty of it all.

But maybe that’s not cynicism. Maybe that’s optimism. To find these moments of hope and heart in your community among the work and strife is truly beautiful. And these moments were my favorite moments of the book.

The rest of the town was also great. Doc is a wonderful character whose pathological lies are the perfect counterbalance to his goodness. Mack’s manipulations are only matched by the love for his new puppy. We know Mack’s selfish schemes can’t end well, but the way they fall apart is a lovely surprise each time. And the language was another beautiful surprise.

My favorite quotes:

  • They did not measure their joy in goods sold, their egos in bank balances, nor their loves in what they cost.
  • ..where men hungering for love destroy everything lovable about them.
  • …for a starfish loves to hang onto something and for an hour these had found only each other.
  • No one has studied the psychology of a dying party. It may be raging, howling, boiling, and then a fever sets in and a little silence and then quickly quickly it is gone, the guests go home or go to sleep or wander away to some other affair and they leave a dead body.
  • Who wants to be good if he has to be hungry too?
  • And no one was invited. Everyone was going.

You may not be invited to the community you live in, but those who live at Cannery Row choose to participate. They share kindness, hope, distress, and–best of all–a good party.

in my white tee

I was planning on writing about something else today, but it turns out I still can’t get The Casual Vacancy out of my head.

Or out of my fantasy closet.

I try to find inspiration in what I’m reading, and there is a lot to be found in this book. Even on how to dress. When Samantha Mollison gives into a crush on a boy band member and buys tickets to take her daughter to see the band perform, she dons a band T shirt, jeans, and heels.

T shirts are so great. They are so simple, and I love how they can add a fun, casual vibe to any outfit, even if you’re dressing up for a big night, like Samantha. With the help of Polyvore, see how I’d like to wear a T shirt for several occasions.



I’m going to try to have some real-life closet examples in the coming weeks. Do you turn to T shirts as a wardrobe staple? Or do you leave them for the gym?