Weekend Reading 3.27.2020

With most of us living and working in isolation, now could be a great time to catch up on your reading and writing. There are lots of online writing groups and book groups to join (the book group I lead just moved online for now). I’m trying to “shop my shelves” and am somewhat overwhelmed by the amount I’ve found for my TBR list.

Focusing on writing proving to be a challenge with so much unstructured time. I’m determined to use my trusty planner to make a schedule for myself. As much as I love to read away a day, my novel will never get finished if I do that. But, everyone needs a break too. If you’re looking for some distractions, try these:

Look for a Magical literary city to explore.

Review some of the best software to use when writing your novel.

Check out this Vintage WD article on Decoding the Secrets of Selling Popular Fiction. (Find Part 2 here.)

Mental Floss is hosting a bracket to determine the greatest character on The Office.

Looking for the week’s new releases? Find them here.

Find out more about the new #StayHomeWriMo movement.

See how podcasting is coming of age during the coronavirus outbreak.

Check out one perspective on the positive effects of a morning routine.

Stay safe and sane out there! Reach out for help when you need it, and lend a helping hand when you can.

Recent Reads: You’re Staying In, So You Might As Well Read.

Since we’re all staying home more because of COVID-19, it’s a good time to catch up on your TBR list. There are a lot of great new books coming out, but don’t forget those backlist picks. It’s also a great time to buy e-books or download them from the library (try Overdrive or Libby). Audiobooks are great choices for listening to while you’re working from home (support independent bookstores through Libro.fm).

Here are some of my recent reads (just a few this time):

This is a dark, but interesting story. The lead FBI agent Elsa Myers is on the case of the disappearance of Ruby. The case blows up into the hunt for a serial kidnapper and killer. The team Myers is working with sorts through the clues and information to try to find the man who has kidnapped and killed girls in sets of three. During this race against time, Elsa is triggered by her own past as she tries to care for and reconcile with her father, who is dying. As the case ramps up, the third kidnapping makes it personal.

This can be a hard book to read at times, because of the dark subject matter. Elsa is a well-developed, complex character who is hardly predictable. The supporting cast on the team as well as her sister and niece play pivotal roles that lead Elsa down a twisted road to solve the case and resolve her feelings about her past.

I can’t say this book was enjoyable, because of the focus on child kidnapping and abuse. But it was interesting and a good read. I would recommend the author’s future books. Just follow it up with something light.

**Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book review copy in exchange for an honest review.**


This is the third book in the St. Caroline series. I haven’t read the others, but this can be read as a stand alone. Cassidy Trevor is off limits to Matt Wolfe, but when the two are thrown together the chair a holiday event. Their experience becomes a secret friendship that blossoms into love. 

In this somewhat spicy book, the author creates clearly drawn characters that are interesting and fun. The reason they’re “off limits” to each other seems a bit contrived, but the storyline is generally believable. You find yourself rooting for Matt and Cassidy as the story comes to a satisfying end. 

I’m guessing I would have understood all the relationships in the book a lot more easily in I’d read the first two books. 

This is a good, fun, enjoyable escape with some spice for those who like that.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of the e-book in exchange for an honest review.

I love a great cozy mystery, and this one didn’t disappoint. Sammy runs a community crafting store and must involve her cousin Heidi and sister Ellie (who together make up the S.H.E.s) when a woman dies while posing as a live mannequin in Sammy’s window display during the Fire and Ice festival in Hartford, WI.

This book kept me guessing. I’m usually pretty good at guessing the killer by about halfway through, but this one took a little longer. There are some good suspenseful scenes that turn the plot on its head and were great ways to speed along the story through the middle. (No saggy middle here!)

The ending left me with a few questions, but overall it was satisfying. This is the third book in the series, and while it wasn’t hard to read as a standalone, I think some of the characterization would have been easier to understand if you have read the first two books.

A delightful author. I’d love to read more by her.

Thank you to NetGalley for the review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You’re Staying In, You Might As Well Write: Fighting Distractions When Your Routine Is Upended By Coronavirus (or whatever)

COVID-19 has a lot of people scared. We’re being advised by the CDC, the President, and other elected officials to work from home, practice social distancing, and avoid any unnecessary trips out of the house (as if there were anywhere to go!).

These changes can upend your routine, big time. Even if you already work at home, you may now have young kids there with you during the day that need you, or college kids that are studying from home for awhile (that’s us!). In many places, libraries and coffee shops are closed, taking away writing sanctuaries for those on the go.

Still, before you turn to Netflix to fill your non-working hours, consider the opportunity to squeeze in some extra writing time. After all, you can’t really go out on Friday night, or you may not have to commute to your job for awhile, so little pockets of time are opening up that could be used to help you get further along on that novel or freelance project.

A few tips:

  • Rethink Your Routine — You may have to create an entirely new routine based on your new “normal.” See if new time slots have opened up that you could squeeze in some writing. Our college kids are home right now, and seem to want food regularly (and can’t go out to eat right now in our small mountain town), so that takes extra grocery shopping and meal planning.
  • Try Sprints Instead of Marathons — Your style may be to sit for extended periods of time working on a writing project, but your circumstances might make it possible to only work in short bursts. Fit in what you can when time is available. This is where reworking your routine comes in handy. I normally work from home, but am using my planner to schedule writing sessions during my off hours when I may have been out doing something else in other circumstances.
  • Preplan Your Sessions — Try to plan the night before for what you want to accomplish during your sprints or marathons. Outline an article while the kids are working on homework. Write a scene during what used to be your morning commute. As those opportunities arise, you’ll be able to maximize your efforts. This is where my planner is coming in again. I try to set word deadlines for my novel for each block of time I’ve set aside for the next day, along with some time for freelance projects.
  • Don’t Overload — Not every pocket of time has to be filled with writing projects. Leave time to let your mind wander. Dump some ideas into your writing journal (more on organizing that to come). Color, hang out with your kids, plan a romantic indoor picnic with your significant other (may do that this week!), or (yes) binge-watch some Netflix. Your brain is most effective when it has some downtime to recharge, making your writing sessions more effective too. And you’ll be happier for it.
  • Chat With Other Writers Online — Social isolation can lead to depression, which inhibits every area of your life, including your writing and productivity. Now may be a good time to join that freelancing Facebook group, or to put together a Zoom meeting with some of your writer friends. Instead of getting lost in a sea of social media, use technology to your advantage and reach out to others who are also home and looking for someone to talk to. A group of mystery writers that I’m a part of has chat groups that give me a line to the outside world as I try to make progress on my novel.

We’re living in a unique time. Since you’re stuck at home anyway, you might as well try to find some time to tackle those writing projects you’ve been putting off for “when you have some extra time.”

Stay safe, be well.