1. Several years ago, I officially deemed myself a "cold person." I'm mostly cold from mid-October through the end of March, regardless of how many layers I wear, how much hot tea I drink, how many blankets I pile on myself. To add to the coldness, I've never found a jacket that really keeps me warm. I have an assortment of fleeces, coats, and jackets, but put me outside in anything less than 60 degrees, and I turn to ice. Enter the North Face Thermoball jacket. Matt got it for me for Christmas, and since it was a balmy 77 degrees on Christmas day, I patted it fondly then tucked it in the closet. Finally the temps have gone south and it is chilly enough to wear it. It's possible I've been cured from my "cold person" affliction. I'm not really a brand-y type of gal, but thank you North Face.
2. I've found two great podcasts this year--one for writing, the other one for general entertainment and brain relaxation. The first is called A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, and it's hosted by Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie. This is an inspiration, expletive, music, wisdom (for life and writing), and humor-packed podcast that has gotten me pretty far down the road on trips back and forth between Mobile, Birmingham, and Perdido Key. Jess Walter has written several novels, including Beautiful Ruins, which I loved. He has a super deep and perfect radio voice that I could listen to for hours. Sherman Alexie is an author, poet, essayist, and a Native American. (I mention that only because his heritage factors into everything he says and writes, giving his words a certain depth and weight.) These two guys are hilarious and brilliant writers, yet they talk about writing in such a way that almost everything they say makes me say, "Yes! That's it exactly!" They don't shy away from how hard it is and they're quick to say they sometimes have no idea what they're doing. (Even though they really, really do.) **I just recently learned they've put their podcast on hold, presumably until their schedules allow them to pick it up again. I sincerely hope they are able to start it back up again, but until then, you can listen to all the older podcasts and glean volumes of hilarity and genius from them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a podcast called The Popcast, hosted by Knox McCoy and Jamie Golden.
(By the way, is Knox McCoy not the coolest name you've ever heard? Kudos to his parents for that one.)
A friend mentioned this podcast on Twitter one day and, looking for something good to listen to on the way to Mobile (probably because I'd listened to all of Jess and Sherman's podcasts by then), I decided to give it a go. All I knew was that it was about pop culture. The first thing I noticed was their lovely southern accents, especially Jamie's. Then she said something that made me think, "I think this gal lives around here." Lo and behold, she's in Birmingham, which makes her that much cooler. Then I was just laughing too much to notice much anything else. They cover everything on TV, movies, music, social media, and good grief, too many other things to even list. They're knowledgeable about pop culture, super funny, and you can tell they're just good people. I don't know what's ad-libbed and what's scripted ahead of time, but they have a great rapport and back and forth banter. Check out the podcast and find them on twitter, instagram, all the usual outlets.
3. I love southern fiction. I write southern fiction. I thought I was aware of pretty much all the good southern fiction writers, whether I'd read them or not, but I was wrong. I few weeks ago, I picked up Greg Iles's Natchez Burning and it I was hooked from paragraph one. It's the first book of a trilogy featuring protagonist Penn Cage. In this book, Penn's father has been accused of murder and Penn is attempting not only to clear his dad's name, but to decipher events that happened during the 60s in Natchez and surrounding areas involving the KKK and a splinter group the Double Eagles. It's gritty and educational and enthralling.
Bonus, I read on his website that the series is going to be made into a cable series for TV! (One of the producers worked on Friday Night Lights, which I am still devouring on Netflix.)
4. This morning in the minute amount of time I had before the kids woke up, I read from Psalm 90. Several verses talk about God returning people to dust, sweeping people away in the sleep of death, and how people are like new grass that comes up bright and green then withers and dries by evening. Sobering stuff. It says, "A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by." At first glance, it can sound like God sees people as rather meaningless and inconsequential--sweeping us away in death and how all those years just flash by. However, this is the same God that knows the number of our hairs, who cares for the tiny sparrow as carefully as he cares for us, the same God who doesn't allow anything to touch us that he doesn't deem good for us. Still, in light of what seems like more death and sadness around lately, the words about death were particularly poignant. Then I came to this: "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Oh, how I long for that kind of heart. And numbering our days--I don't usually think like that (I'm not Suzy Sunshine all the time, but neither am I a total Debby Downer.) But to consider our days, consider the passing of time, consider that we truly don't know when our days on earth will be over, consider that any interaction we have with another person could be our last...it really puts things into perspective. We have this day, this moment, this person to love right now, this thing to do right now. (Pretty appropriate thinking for the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.)
5. 2016 is looking to be a big one for me, as far as my writing "career" goes. (I don't know why I feel the need to put career in quotation marks, but I do. Maybe I won't always do that.) Starting this month, I am digging into book 2. I'm both excited and nervous, confident and trembling. It feels big and important, but that may be just because for the first time, someone is waiting on this book, expecting this book. I'm not just writing it in the hopes of someone wanting it--I'm writing it with the expectation that it will be read. This is an entirely different feeling than when I started writing The Hideaway three years ago. In addition to writing book 2, I will begin the year-long editing and production process on The Hideaway with my editor before its publication next spring. I'm super excited about getting back into that story and fine-tuning it and getting it ready for the world. I love Sara and Mags and William and Crawford and Allyn and can't wait to introduce them to all of you!
Happy New Year, friends!