Friday, February 5, 2016

My Father is Terry Pratchett

I don't mean that Terry Pratchett is my father. I'm 99.9% certain my mother never laid eyes on the man, let alone created a child with him.

But my daddy IS Terry in so many ways.

When I think of my father, I think of him holding a Discworld novel. Probably, he IS holding a Discworld novel. At the very least, there is one open on a shelf or table nearby. Almost every Pratchett novel I own was snatched from his shelves.

If my dad were to write novels, he and Terry would have written pretty much the same novels. They even look alike physically. They hold the same opinions on everything I know their opinions on. They speak with the same sort of intellectual and literary wit and arrogance that is just enough to be charming.

I have been listening to A Slip of the Keyboard on audio, and every other line, I think, "Gah, that is so Dad."

I think how brilliant both men are...

but then I have to change it to past tense for Terry, because the world lost that great man last year.

And then I realize I will lose my daddy one day.

And then I have to suck down the cry ball in my throat.

And that is why I go from laughing to sobbing in an instant when reading (or listening to) Terry Pratchett.


P.S. We bought a house and moved and I started work as a substitute teacher all in the last couple of weeks.  Also, I am sick and doing manuscript revisions. So, this is about as coherent as my blog writing is gonna get today.

P. P. S. On my way to the teacher's lounge at a local high school, I was mistaken for a teenager. I will be riding high on that one for at least another week or so.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Pre-order Machinations today!

And don’t forget to add it to your list on Goodreads!


Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

No Jeans. How Sad.

I had to go shopping yesterday. I am about to start substitute teaching, and my typical wardrobe doesn't fit the bill. Apparently, tees with book covers and sarcasm don't scream, "I am a grown-up and you will respect me."

Who knew?

Also, no jeans.

I am bereft.

Okay, not really. I don't mind dressing like an adult from time to time, but finding clothes that fit and make me feel good isn't an easy task. Especially since I am cheap. I don't want to spend more than $5-10 on a shirt. But I'm learning, other than when I find something great at a thrift store, clothes that work for me cost more money.

I hate that.

I want to spend my money on books and food and travel. Not clothes. Especially not clothes that aren't fun.

I loved shopping when I was a teenager. I wandered the local outlet mall yesterday, wondering what changed. I came up with a few things that probably are obvious. For instance, as a teen, my money paid my car insurance, filled my gas tank, and was otherwise all for me. I did tithe. I know, what kind of abnormal teen was I, right? But, really, all of that left quite a bit to spend on clothes and movies and the cover cost to go dancing in the Vista.

I wasn't worried about buying a house, sending kids to college, buying kids cars, covering youth trips and summer camp. I wasn't worried. Period.

Add my existential thoughts while shopping... You know the ones. I stare at the excess, the fountains and fire pits and fancy statues that adorn our local shopping area, and I am baffled. Why do we need all this? We are building temples to consumerism. I don't like being a part of that machine. I want to opt out.

But I need clothes to wear to work.

And someone explain to me why so many shirts are see-thru and cropped? I feel like I have to choose between complicated combinations to make an outfit or dressing like I remember my grandmother dressing when she was alive. Where is the in-between? Am I just too impatient to dig for it? Sure, if I want to buy the see-thru blouse, I can then put a cami under it, but that means making sure I have a cami that will look good under it, and that means buying another item, and then, I will probably need a sweater to go over it, because even with a cami, it is still see-thru. So I am basically just wearing the cami, right?

I used to love clothes and fashion, but now I wish someone else would dress me each morning.

Just to be contradictory, I do love Project Runway. Maybe when I am JK Rowling* I can hire one of the Project Runway designers to outfit me. Problem solved.

So, that is where I am. I spent an entire morning in outlet stores. I left with one pair of grey pants (marked down from $80 to $20, score!), a black sweater, and a purple sweater. It's a start. Now can I go to the bookstore?

*I harbor no illusions to being JK Rowling, either literally or metaphorically. It is just a joke we have in our family that all of the giant expensive dreams can happen one day when I am JK Rowling. Ha Ha. Funny. ;)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Currently: Your Third Most Common Month for Madness

Current Books: I'm reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert with my morning coffee and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan the rest of the time. In the car, I'm playing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Current Playlist: I've been listening to songs friends have suggested to match my 2016 theme, Daring.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Not packing today. We are buying a house, and I should be packing today, but there are so many things that need doing, and I am leaving on another road trip tomorrow, so I am procrastinating. I'm not sure this counts as a guilty pleasure. It's just a guilty relief.

Current Color: Grey, deep charcoal grey and light silver grey... all the grey.

Current Food: I'm eating a dark chocolate granola bar as I type this.

Current Drink: Last month, I realized I have been dehydrated, so I am upping my water intake.

Current Favorite Favorite: The Middle Sisters... a group made up of current writers on Middle Places and some former writers for Middle Places. I am watching as they pull together to support a sister again, and they blow my mind in the best kind of way.

Current Wishlist: Mostly things that aren't buyable... to have my step daughter be a bigger part of our lives, to give my friend her mother back, to know the answers...

Current Needs: Money for this summer's month-long jaunt to Honduras

Current Triumph: I had a poem selected to be published an a great lit journal and I have been writing short stories.

Current Bane-Of-My-Existence: Preteen hormones and science fair projects

Current Indulgence: I'm sitting on the couch with my heated slippers on, taking the time to do this blog post.

Current Mood: Both optimistic and heavy, motivated and exhausted

Current Outfit: Dark jeans, my Wizard of Oz long-sleeved tee from Out of Print, a black and white sweater, and those heated slippers I mentioned

Current #1 Blessing: My husband, as usual... Only one of us can travel for the visitation and funeral of a friend's mother this weekend, and he immediately decided it should be me. There is every good reason for him to go instead, but he is letting me do this, and I am grateful.

Current Quote: “If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 

Current Photo:

Title taken from: “Lots of people go mad in January. Not as many as in May, of course. Nor June. But January is your third most common month for madness.” ― Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Canary

Thursday, December 31, 2015

And I Read... 2015

In January...

I turned 33.
I played way too much Candy Crush.
Haydn attended his first D-Now at church.
David had his best friend over to spend the night.
We packed meals for Stop Hunger Now.
We went ice skating with FUMC Tupelo.
Haydn went on Confirmation Retreat at Camp Lake Stephens.
Corey went to Honduras.

And I read...

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
*Wine from these Grapes by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Flight by Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Fall by Mercedes Lackey
Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

In February...

I attended the community MLK Jr. celebration.
Leila and I met for lunch in Olive Branch.
I went to a spoken word workshop at the Lee County Library.
I performed at Asia Rainey's spoken word event.
It snowed.
I met Amena Brown at The Gathering in Jackson, MS.

And I read...

Orchards by Holly Thompson
Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Princess Bride by William Goldman

In March...

I went on a day-retreat with friends.
I mourned Sir Terry Pratchett's death.
My in-laws kept the kids over Spring Break.
I spent a few days in Brandon, at Leila's.
I deep cleaned the boys' bedrooms and the playroom.
Corey went on his last Going Till the Van Stops trip.
We visited Savannah in Montgomery and went to the Zoo.

And I read...

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Oblation: Meditations on St. Benedict's Rule by Rachel M. Srubas
**The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Unabrow by Una LaMarche
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
**Bossypants by Tina Fey
I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn
Acquainted with the Night by Paul Raeburn
Winds of Fate by Mercedes Lackey

In April...

I bought a fab green dress for Easter.
I participated in the Poem a Day challenge.
We went to the church picnic at Ballard Park.
I spent a ton of time "praying in color."
I used a lot of Stress Away oil on my wrists.

And I read...

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
**The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
**The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
*The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum
*Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
The BFG by Roald Dahl

In May...

Haydn was confirmed, and Corey got to confirm him.
Haydn got a math award and honor roll.
David won 6 awards at school and did a fun run with his best friend.
My friend, Janet, sent me a care package that included Unicorn Fart lip gloss.
There was a youth party to tell Corey goodbye.
I took Haydn to see Tomorrowland.
Rosemary took me to Memphis to see Kinky Boots.
My father-in-law picked up my oldest son for a summer in TN.

And I read...

**Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
**Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
**Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A Field Guide to Happiness by Linda Leaming
You are Good at Things: a Checklist by Andy Selsberg
**Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
**The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
A Separate Peace by John Knowles

In June...

I won limbo on roller-skates.
David's best friend came over to celebrate his birthday.
I spontaneously decided to take David and go to Annual Conference.
I got bifocals.
David went to Vacation Bible School for the last time.
I got my first gel manicure.
I went to Honduras and helped build a house in memory of Natalie.
David spent a week at Camp Lake Stephens.

And I read...

**Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
**Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Eleanor &Park by Rainbow Rowell
**The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

In July...

We moved to Olive Branch.
I locked my keys in my car in Georgia and sat at a gas station for hours.
I spent a week in SC.
Benjamin ran away and a couple found him and returned him.
I watched the battle flag come down while Mom taught me how to make rice pudding.
David went back to Tupelo to celebrate his best friend's birthday.
Izzie painted me a gorgeous poppy.
I took David to the Pink Palace museum in Memphis.
Lauren, Lynn, and I had a girls' night out.
Corey, David, and I went to Louisville, KY for a PATH1 conference.
We picked Haydn up on the way back to MS.

And I read...

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton
**Doll Bones by Holly Black
**My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
**Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman

In August...

The boys started 6th and 8th grade.
I started EMDR therapy.
Lauren and I picked paint for her office.
I colored a LOT.
I started Central American Spanish with Rosetta Stone.
Haydn had to get stitches in his head.

And I read...

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
**A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
Family on Mission by Mike Breen
Wearing God by Lauren F. Winner
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
**The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The Red House by Mark Haddon

In September...

We started our first Acts Bible Study at the parsonage on Sundays.
I listened to the Spanish version of "Oceans" by Hillsong a LOT.
David was an acolyte for the first time.
I had a tattoo consult and Lauren went with me.
I went to MidSouth Bookfest in Memphis.
I went to a writers conference.
Amy and Sapada came up to cookout and watch football.
I had some dental work done.
I went to Leila's for a weekend.

And I read...

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo
Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Mucha by Patrick Bade
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
**Partials by Dan Wells
Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde
The Clue of the Black Keys by Carolyn Keene
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
**The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

In October...

Lauren and I took David and Ethan to a corn maze in TN.
David and Corey went to a Toby Mac concert.
I took a writing class through Iowa Writers Workshop.
I went with a group to see Carrie the Musical in Memphis.
We took the kids to Disney along with my best friend's family.
I started a 12 Steps series on Middle Places.
The boys went to their first school dance.
I started level 2 of Rosetta Stone.
We sold our house in Tupelo.

And I read...

Queen Zixi of Ix by L. Frank Baum
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Small Damages by Beth Kephart

In November...

I went to Words Matter in Memphis with Karen and Lisa Lynn.
I interviewed for a job I really wanted and didn't get.
I ran media when Corey spoke at Camp Lake Stephens.
Cheri sent me the coolest journal.
We visited the National Corvette Museum.
We went to Tennessee for Thanksgiving.

And I read...

Saving Wonder by Mary Knight
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
The Walking Dead: Compendium 1 by Robert Kirkman
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
*To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Allegiant by Veronica Roth

In December...

David had his first band concert.
We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.
Haydn worked really hard to do well on exams.
I got Corey orange highlighters for his birthday.
The Christmas parade went right past our driveway.
I finished drafting a new novel.
We made an offer on a house.
I had a poem accepted for publication in a lit journal.

And I read...

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
The Walking Dead Compendium 2 by Robert Kirkman
Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber
The Walking Dead Compendium 3 by Robert Kirkman
**Slam by Nick Hornby
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
Jesus Without Borders by Chad Gibbs
Mosquitoland by  David Arnold

TOTAL: 104

**audio book

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

10 books in 2015

I have the most trouble narrowing down over 100 books into a list of the top ten, or even the top twenty. So I'm not going to. Instead, I am going to pick ten books I have something to say about. Ten books that made me think or made me dream or made me angry even. I don't know. I haven't picked them yet as I'm writing this. I'm going to pick them as I go through my reading list for 2015.

Jesus Without Borders 

by Chad Gibbs

“What if living my entire life in the buckle of the Bible Belt had given me not only a narrow view of the world but also a narrow view of my faith?”

This title caught my eye on the library website and I borrowed it for Kindle. I spent Christmas reading it straight through, which is something I rarely do with nonfiction. The author is from Alabama and decided to explore Christianity in other cultures. What is it like to be a Christian growing up and living in China? Spain? Uganda? Australia? The result is a book that combines a few of my favorite things: interesting facts, travel stories, and broadening spiritual horizons. Travel always gives me new meat to chew when it comes to my faith. I cannot tell you how our Holy Land trip opened my eyes to realities about Israel and Palestine and made me dig deep into my opinions on the whole situation. I wish everyone could travel there and to other places around the world. I wish everyone had the chance to step outside of their own life and experience someone else's. Empathy. Empathy is what keeps us from being selfish and unloving. We need more of it.

Go Set a Watchman 

by Harper Lee

“[T]he time your friends need you is when they’re wrong, Jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right—”

I reread To Kill a Mockingbird over Thanksgiving so I could finally read this sequel.  Only it isn't a sequel, not in the truest sense of the word. It reads, to me, like the book Harper had to write to get to Mockingbird. Most of us writers do similar. The first book we put on paper is often thinly disguised autobiography. I am no exception. I have a manuscript from ten years ago that is based on a relationship from my own high school days. The story just poured out of me, and I mistook that urgency for good writing. I had to get it out, and now it's out, so I can go on to write better things. Go Set a Watchman feels like that, like Harper returned to Alabama and had all of these big emotions and opinions and ideas, and she had to get them out, but where? She didn't live in a time where she could blog all about it and find like-minded readers. 

This book made me think a lot. Since reading it, I find myself imagining my own return to the tiny town where I was born. I didn't grow up there, so it isn't exactly the same as Scout's experience, but I think my return would feel similar. I don't see myself as a "liberal" but standing next to 99% of the residents of my hometown would make me look like the biggest liberal to ever live. I love my hometown. I love Eastern Kentucky. It is a beautiful place, and I often long to be there. But I know my opinions and the way I approach my faith would make me stand out there in a way I don't here. And that's saying something, because I often feel different here in Mississippi as well. 


by R. J. Palacio

“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”

This book was on my to-read list for a long time. I heard nothing but good about it. This year, my youngest son had to read it for school, and he was obsessed with the story. It was the first time I saw him really fall in love with a book that wasn't Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the like, if you know what I mean. He was reading and thinking and exploring deep ideas. It was a truly beautiful thing to watch. Of course, that was the nudge I needed to finally read Wonder myself. I was instantly in love. I see why this book has captured so many hearts, and I wish I could make every child read it. Heck, I wish I could make every adult read it. Like I said above, empathy matters. When we build empathy, we build peace and love and understanding, and we need all of those things in spades. If you haven't read Wonder, read it. Buy it for your kids. Buy it for your grandkids and nieces and nephews.

Made You Up 

by Francesca Zappia

“Believing something existed and then finding out it didn't was like reaching the top of the stairs and thinking there was one more step.”

I have thought a lot about this book since finishing it. It was well-written and highly readable. I loved the characters. There was so much good in its pages. What kept me thinking about it, however, was the portrayal of "Schizophrenia." I have a friend with a child living with it, and there were so many details that did not ring true to me. Of course, every person's experience with a disorder or illness will be different. So I can't say for sure the experience portrayed in this book could never be accurate. I simply didn't know, so I did some Internet searching and found a psyche student who was asking similar questions. The student pointed out a lot of inaccuracies. Still, I don't know. I just don't know. I wish I could hear from some people living with Schizoaffective Disorder. What do they think of the portrayal of their struggles? 

Some of you are thinking, "It's just a book," and I get that. I write stories. I love that I can make things happen and change things to suit my purposes, because I'm the author. The problem is, when I'm using a real issue that real people are facing, I'm called to a certain level of respect and authenticity. Personally, I live with chronic depression, and if someone wants to write a character living with chronic depression, I want them to do a good job of it. Because what they write will affect how their readers think about chronic depression. That's what good fiction does. It builds empathy and understanding. I don't want people getting wrong information about my illness. 

The author of this book is a good writer with an awesome ability to tell a story and draw you in. I hope her book brings good things for people living with Schizoaffective Disorder. I'm glad I read this book. It gave me a lot of food for thought about my own writing and how I portray the issues facing my characters.

Searching for Sunday 

by Rachel Held Evans

“I am writing because sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties,”

I sobbed through most of this book. If any of you have followed my posts on Middle Places, you know I have been living in a sort of faith crisis this year. I have battled with my view of the Church, and I have felt a lot of anger and bitterness. If I weren't married to a pastor, I can't promise I would not have given up at some point. I'm glad that hasn't been an option for me, because the fruit of my continued wrestling match has been worth it. At the time I picked up this book, I was feeling very alone in my struggles. I wondered if I would ever get past them. Every other page had me crying, "me too" and, well, just crying. The right book at the right time can mean the world.

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister 

by Amélie Sarn

"I don't want to be afraid of Majid or anyone else. I don't want to live in fear. I don't want my choices to be dictated by fear. I don't want to be what others have decided I should be. I want to be myself."

As I said, I think empathy is the key to peace in our world. One of my favorite things about fiction is how fiction can build empathy. When you read a book, you step inside someone else's story. You walk in their shoes and live their life for a while. This book allowed me to step into the world of a young Muslim girl living in a land not her own, surrounded by a culture that does not understand her. You will feel fear and sorrow and anger and remorse while reading this novel. It is beautifully written and well worth reading.


by Holly Thompson

"and moments when I have to pause / catch my breath / hold on to a branch / and not because I'm tired / or lost my balance / but because I'm seeing you, / Ruth, / alone / in Osgoods' orchard / setting down your pack / having chosen / your tree"

I picked up this book because one of my reading challenge categories was "A Book by an Author with my Initials." I might never have found this little gem otherwise, and I am glad I did. The book is written in verse, a format that intimidates me. As a poet, I feel like I should be able to write a novel in verse with my hands tied behind my back, but when I try, nothing comes. This one was beautiful, and the subject matter was hard but important. Bullying is a big topic right now, and this novel touches on a kind of bullying similar to what I experienced in middle school. It is often subtle but also direct and make the target feel so unworthy of breath... Well, you will just have to read it.

A Hat Full of Sky 

by Terry Pratchett

“There's always a story. It's all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything's got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”

This is the second in the Tiffany Aching set of books, considered to be young adult fiction. I happened to be reading this novel when Sir Terry passed away. My dad introduced me to Terry Pratchett  in middle school, when he handed me Mort and then Soul Music. Since then, I get in Pratchett moods and have been slowly picking my way through Discworld. He is my dad's favorite author, and I often joke that my dad is the American version of Sir Terry. Pratchett's death was a reminder that I cannot keep people forever. Stories end. Or, perhaps stories never end, but eventually you have to quit reading. You have to close the covers.

Love Letters to the Dead 

by Ava Dellaira

“But we aren't transparent. If we want someone to know us, we have to tell them stuff.”

I got this book for Christmas last year. I asked for it because my agent mentioned that something about the feel of my manuscript reminded him of Love Letters to the Dead. Of course, that made me anxious to read. My copy has one of those really soft covers that are comforting to pet. My husband finds it odd that I pet books, especially when I pet them in public. But, what can I say, books are like babies to me. Each one is someone's baby, and they deserve to be loved.

This one? I feel like all I should have to tell you is the first line: "Dear Curt Cobain." You know you want to read it now.

Say What You Will 

by Cammie McGovern

“There isn't any one big test or way to validate ourselves in the world. There's just a long, quiet process of finding our place in it”

Often, when a main character in a book has some sort of disability or illness or disorder, the whole story is about that one issue. What I loved about this book is that it wasn't about Amy having cerebral palsy. It was about Amy. It was about Amy falling in love and making mistakes and, you know, being a teenager. I don't want to say what mistakes she makes or what crazy things she does, because learning about that is part of enjoying the story. I listened to this on audio while packing for our move to Olive Branch, and it was very very good. I will pay attention to this author.


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