Best Books for Writers (and a Giveaway!)

 

I just returned from having coffee with fellow authorette, Bonnie Hardy. She’s got a great mystery series going, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s to talk shop. Although I’m sure I babbled like an excited second-grader at Disneyland, the bigger mystery for her was why I couldn’t speak coherently about books I’ve read and loved.

There are too many. They are one big sparkly blur. This is why I make lists.

When I first began my list of favorite books, I wrote this post. The Bottomless Bookshelf debuted in 2016, was updated in 2020, and now resides as a loooong list of “books I’ve read” on Goodreads, here.

That list is ordered by date, so I thought I’d pull together some titles by theme for better reference. If you’re a writer, these “sweet sixteen” books are for you. You might already have a few on your shelf or in your Kindle, but there’s always room for more, amiright?

These are books that were recommended to me in writing classes, in seminars, during webinars, by friends. They’ve encouraged, inspired, and generally kicked my butt into gear. I hope they do the same for you. Some are general, some are specific, and I’ve spread out the selection over a gamut of professional authory names. If you like what you see when you click and maybe *buy* one, I will get a nickel. Not that it changes anything on your end. You will still get a super fun reading experience or maybe end up writing your pages at two in the morning, but neither of those is my fault.

I just work here.

If you’ve recommended any of the above books, or discovered one that needs to be on this list, drop your comment below and have your name entered in a drawing to win my personal much-loved hardcover copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightning. Must have a USA mailing address to qualify. Drawing ends next week at midnight, March 16th. Winner announced in the March 17th newsletter.

Thanks for the highly caffeinated inspiration, Bonnie!

Fair-n-Height

It’s not that I’m opposed to onion rings, I just object to spending over ten dollars for five of them. Six, if the little one counts, which it does not.

Who does that?

The fam took it’s yearly pilgrimage to the county fair this week and I want to start by saying that I had a firm grip on reality this time.

This is how the fair looks in my fantasy world:

 

And this is how the fair really looks:

help

Screaming, while they shake money out of your pockets.

The fair is not my favorite.

I make everyone begin at the barns because, chickens.

All about the attitude, baby.

All about the attitude, baby.

We said hello to Scooby Doo and Scrappy.

We said hello to Scooby Doo and Scrappy.

Mooove over, honey, I need a nap already.

Mooove over honey, I need a nap already.

My favorite flavor of fair.

The kids ran off (there are perks to them getting old enough after all) as Hubby and I wandered through endless displays of What We Need to Buy Immediately.

We needed massage chairs and wooden plaques carved with our family crest and oysters holding pearls and grooming brushes for dogs we don’t have and new cooking pans and a Vitamix blender which we do have and fancy humidifiers and elk jerky and Russian nesting dolls and a jacuzzi and glass bead jewelry and a rubber ball that splats flat on the ground and magically reforms into a sphere while you watch and it’s only four dollars and we should buy one for everybody because that’s pretty cool.

But we didn’t.

Because we had a plan.

The kids rejoined us when they saw us stride towards the edibles, which took some doing considering the sheer volume of humanity standing in lines, shrouded in thick smoke from the turkey leg tent.

Healthy food…at the fair? I don’t think so. I can eat corn at home.

Fair thee well, figure.

The onion rings were first, because this is California and not Louisiana and we deep fry our veggies, not our amphibians.

As mentioned, they were over ten bucks.

We each got one.

We proceeded to buy the foot-long-hot-dog-on-a-stick which measured from your elbow to your wrist, with the stick reaching beyond your fingertips. Everybody cut off a portion and tried the recipe, sauces on the side.

Next up was a half pineapple, hollowed out and filled with rice, pineapple chunks and teriyaki chicken. It was gone in a five minute furious fork fight.

Cinnamon roll smothered in cream cheese frosting was an obvious choice and then we broke down and got the deep fried cookie dough because we are only human.

The chocolate drizzles tipped us over the edge.

We staggered around in the fine arts building until the pain dissipated.

You’re wondering by now…what about the carnival? The million-lightbulbs-on-a-stick machine that screams, “Throw your money away here! Win a giraffe the size of your mama! Climb into a rickety contraption held together by paper clips and run by a teenager who hasn’t slept in days because this party never ends, even after the fair shuts down!”

Not gonna happen. If I want to risk my life by launching into space in a ball slung from a giant rubber band, I won’t be doing it after eating what we’d just consumed.

This is the Fair in 4D.

messy

jump2

lit2

Somewhere between the hypnotist, the rock band, and the tilt-a-whirl I ran out of steam.

I started looking up and away from the frantic reality and there was my fantasy, waiting patiently for me.

heaven2

carousel

candy

And my fam couldn’t pull me away from the scream zone until my priceless souvenirs were tucked away safely in my memory.

Black Eye Friday

If you have been up since midnight today, you have my deepest sympathy.

There’s not one thing I want bad enough to trade sleep for. Neither is there a bargain so great that I’m willing to risk a black eye over it. It’s all yours.

But on my list for later is a lingerie shop. Somewhere in the back, between the perfume and the silk stockings, they must sell what I’m looking for: a hairnet.

Because nothing lights up my Hubby’s eyes like a fat lady in a hairnet handing out free samples.

I suppose you’re a fan of Costco too?

It’s the only place he goes on Black Friday. He could get any of this stuff online. And there’s always a line outside the door, not just today. They always have deals. In bulk.

Last year he filled a cart and two flats with stuff. Simply because he could. He was like a kid in a candy store. All the impulse shopping he could do and no regrets.

“This place is great!” he cries constantly, “You can return anything. Any time!”

And we did. Over the next few weeks, it almost all went back. But boy did he have fun.

Here’s my little rant, and feel free to disagree. Costco is ridiculous.

You will never walk out with just what was on your list. And what was on your list, you must buy in vast amounts. So your budget…yeah, creamed.

But if Costco sells it, Hubby will buy it. My only hope for ever getting new furniture or a blender or diamond jewelry is if they sell it. Vacations, clothing, tortillas and backpacks, you name it. Hubby is positive that Costco has done all his research on a product for him. Costco will add their own warranties to products and let you return that crusty used toaster for a full refund.

Even if you threw away all the packaging and you’re dragging it by its cord.

Even if the receipt is stuck to the bottom of your trashcan with maple syrup.

Even if the melted pop tart is still fused into a slot.

Because that’s the kind of customer service we’re talking about, by George, and that’s five stars by him.

I’m horrified. Straight up. That he would even try a stunt like that.

And Costco is enabling this behavior.

He loves to go there on his lunch break during the week. He feels like he gets a cheap meal that comes with a floor show. You can sit down and eat a hot dog with a Coke and watch the most random people buying the most random items.

But first, he works the building and visits the hairnet ladies.

There is stiff competition for the free samples around the store. He spars with an elderly man over a quarter of a cheeseburger. He pushes in front of a lady’s motorized shopping cart to get his taste of rolled taco bites.

When the family of four starts taking more than one sample each, he has to reach right between them and snatch his fair share of chocolate covered pretzels.

But when the bacon lady is ready to pull out her next batch of hickory smoked kibble, you’d better believe he maneuvers to be first in line. And even that isn’t a guarantee he’ll get one. Scalded fingers and burnt tongues are a small price to pay for your share of tasty goodness.

Sadly, our sons are also learning to love a lady in a hairnet.

I stand aloof, my back to the sock displays, and watch with unabated horror. I act like I don’t know my own family and only make eye contact to silently shame them into stopping.

“Don’t take the sample!” my eyes plead, “we aren’t going to buy that. It’s not right. Why are you fighting for something you don’t need?”

But the siren song of the hairnet ladies overrides my calls for composure and they flit helplessly from cart to cart, only bypassing the ones handing out Ensure and chia seeds.

It’s nice to know that Hubby would leap tall buildings in a single bound if only I wore a hairnet and was handing out bacon bits.

So I guess my shopping list is much smaller than yours. Wake me up when it’s noon.