At the end of every month, we do a What We're Reading blog, but now and then, we mix it up. Today is What We're Reading plus A Few of Our Favorite Things.
So these are a few of our Favorite Things!:
CARA/ANDREA: Today Mary Jo suggested we talk not only about favorite books we’ve recently read, but also other “favorites" that have caught our fancy. Now, I always have books to dish about, but last week I saw a wonderful art exhibit in NYC and wanted to share some thoughts it provoked. As a college undergrad, I was lucky enough to have studied drawing with William Bailey, and have loved his work from the very first time I saw his paintings. (In addition to being an amazing artist, he was the nicest, most encouraging, warm-spirited teacher one could ever wish for.) Viewing the current exhibition reminded me of how much he influenced my creative life. He’s a leading American Realist, and yet he paints from his imagination—he looks at the objects, but doesn’t set up an actual still life. He simply sees what he wants to do in his mind’s eye.
He always talked about personal expression and finding your own creative “voice,” whatever medium you chose to use. That elemental message has shaped my writing—I look at history and love all the real details. But then I use it to shape and imagination my own stories. As I walked around looking at his canvases, I was reminded in such a wonderful way of how that important lesson he taught about “voice" has stayed with me all these years. (And I love his paintings more than ever!)
As we're also doing favorite things, I'll add spring, which we actually have here, even though it's nippy right now; and spring means promises of summer bounty. I've been starting seeds of all kinds. I like to grow a couple of plants of a lot of things, so seeds suit me better than packs of four, six or more.
I have three different kinds of tomatoes and two different kinds of sprouting broccoli, as they now have a summer sprouting broccoli. (We're harvesting the winter type daily now, and it's delicious.) I'm also trying a new one — brokali, a cross between broccoli and kale. Lots of other seeds germinating, including flowers, and they all make me smile with anticipation. But as tiny seedlings aren't very interesting, here's a photo of our garden and the spring flowers.
So many favorite things. Let me show you what's favorite today.
Icicles. Aren't they beautiful?
Icicles just seem so unlikely, y'know.
Snow … sure.
Ice … sure. But ice spread out on the ground or weighting down the trees or falling from the sky in 'ice pellets'.
Ice dripping down in long columns, clear in the sunlight, glistening. Sooo unlikely. So magical.
PAT: Since I’ve just come home from a mystery conference, I’ve been reading stacks of mysteries, but I can’t label any of them a “favorite.” I’d have to go back a few decades to find a favorite mystery, so I thought about “favorite things,” and came up equally inconclusive. After just giving up most of my favorite possessions—an entire library, my crystal, artwork, and antiques—for the move to California, I’m pretty certain things aren’t what inspire me.
The main reason for our move was people, but that doesn’t qualify for this blog. The next reason is climate and nature, unless one considers them the same thing. Or are they things at all? Can I say my favorite thing is sunshine? My need for sun and warmth is so all-encompassing that I actually have to force myself to remember to add rain to my English historical romances. I love the ocean, I love flowers, I love heat, but really, my most favorite thing of all is pure sunshine. I operate on solar power. Anyone else out there who prefers nature to things?
ANNE: WWR — I've been rereading some old favorites — The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart, catching up with JAK/Amanda Quick's Arcane series, and reading some new books, including Sherry Thomas's Luckiest Lady in London. I'm in the RITA historical finalist list, and there are 17 other books in the list, and I'd like to read them all.
But if we're talking favorite things, at the moment I'm doing one of my favorite things — I'm on my annual writing retreat with eight of my writing friends — multipublished romance writers from all over Australia and one from New Zealand.
We meet in a holiday apartment complex in a tropical part of Australia. The mornings are spent in quiet writing time, though a few people sneak out for a mid-morning swim. We usually meet for lunch and have a bit of a discussion, and in the evening we have a workshop, followed by dinner and more talk, most of which is about writing.
This is the eighth year we've done this and it's utterly inspirational. So much so that we wenches are fantasizing about doing something similar, though being world wide wenches, it's a lot trickier to organize.
Spookily, like Anne I have been re-reading old favourites including Mary Stewart, though in my case it was Touch Not the Cat. When it comes to favourite things, though, I have been doing a lot of walking with my dog, Angus. We've been lucky enough to have some fine spring days and we go up on the hills above our village and enjoy the fresh air and the wonderful view (and in Angus's case, playing in the fields with his frisbee!) This is a picture taken from the top of White Horse Hill. I love this spot for so many reasons. It's a great place to sit and feel inspired. I always come back bubbling with ideas. Plus it is steeped in local folklore. It's said that on the night of the full moon the carved white horse comes alive and wanders down to graze in the manger below the hill. This is also the spot where Saint George was said to have slain the dragon, on the little round hill below!
So many myths and legends – perfect for a writer!
It was easy for me to come up with a new favorite book since the latest Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson book, Night Broken, was released in March. I bought the hardcover immediately, read it immediately, and lent it to a friend, who read it immediately. I love this series for the wonderful characters and how they grow through the books.
Mercy is a coyote shape shifter and Volkswagen mechanic, which gives her an interesting life. <G> Over the course of the series, a terrific romance has developed with Adam, the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack. In Night Broken BROKEN, the fun starts when Adam's ex, who was his wife but not his bonded mate, appears in need of protection from a stalker. The stalker is real and incredibly fearsome, but Mercy also has to deal with the ex's manipulation, undercutting, and good cooking. I love the characterizations and the way people grow and change in this series, so if you like first rate urban fantasy and haven't read this series, you might want to give Mercy Thomson a try.
In other favorite things, we recently again watched a couple of funny favorites: Miss Congeniality, with Sandra Bullock as a tough, unladylike FBI agent being transformed into a convincing beauty pageant contestant. Also, Romancing the Stone with the heroine, Joan Wilder, sobbing into her typewriter as she finishes a book. Except for the prehistoric typewriter, it's dead on. <G>
So what are some of your favorite things? Books! Movies! Weather things! Please share…