Sunday, October 5, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite Books (in no particular order)

I started this post a few months ago but put it on pause. Now I've picked it up again because my sister challenged me and I can't back down from a challenge! One reason I've put it on hold is that I'm somewhat self-conscious of my list. I'm drawn to true stories of WWII and the Holocaust. It's heavy stuff, I understand, but I love what they teach us about humanity, good and bad. Not to despair; there are a few light-hearted choices as well. 

My list of favorite books seem to change from here to year. But here goes.

1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. The vivid imagery is spell-binding in this one. That and the fascinating cross-generational stories kept me turning the pages.

2. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose. Excellent true stories of the Easy Company paratroopers of WWII. It doesn't sugar-coat or aggrandize war. Even the heroes' flaws are shown. The thousands of hours Ambrose muse have done are quite evident and I love a well-documented story. (The movie adaptation is on my favorite movies list as well.)

3. In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke. Like I said, I read a lot of Holocaust books, and this one is absolutely gripping. I was so enthralled that I brought it with me to the movies and read it in the car.

4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. It has to be the complete version, restored after so much was edited and removed from earlier versions. I have never read a more powerful story that helped me relate to something of which I have no right to relate. If there's an opportunity to meet folks in the hereafter, you can bet I'll be in the Anne Frank line.

5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. If you take a fascinating, survival war story and put it in the hands of one of the most gifted writers, you find yourself at Unbroken. Amazing. Can't wait for the movie. I hope I'm not disappointed! And on a lighter note...

6. Holes by Louis Sachar. I love stories like this one where all the plot lines connect like a puzzle to complete the whole.

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Another great story for young (and old) readers. I have a whole separate blog post on this one.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A masterpiece in its own right. Scout is one of my favorite characters of all time.

9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. People always ask me why I love this one because of the tragic ending. My reasons: great writing and great symbolism.

10. In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. It surprised me that I enjoyed this one so much. It's all about the whaling industry in 19th century New England and follows the crew to unimaginable horrors.

Equal honors go to anything by William Shakespeare (another soul I'd love to meet), Jane Austen, the ancient writer Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey), and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's BACK!

My muse, song, my inspiration, my kick in the pants. It's back and the words are flowing again. Just thought I'd share that bit of good news.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Point of Crisis

I'm at a point of crisis with my book. I've been working on it actively for five years, at least. When I say "actively" I mean whenever I get a spare moment I write. I've re-written it umpteen times. I've fact checked until I was BLUE IN THE FACE. I've had beta readers give me feedback, and I've made major changes that have needed to be made.

I had a few moments to write this morning so I went through the familiar process of opening it up on my computer. At that moment I felt a disgust and disdain that one would feel toward their bitterest enemy. We're talking vomit-inducing. Maybe that's too strong. At the very least I am bored out of my mind with it and my characters and my plot and everything. In my heart, I still love it dearly, but for goodness sake, you can only re-hash something so many times.

Recently, I received the advice to let it go. (Darn you, Queen Elsa.) That if you've been working on a book longer than 2 years it's time to let it go. "Put it aside and you will be amazed at what your creativity can do." Even my husband, who has sacrificed all but his right arm so that I could work on it, is telling me to set it aside and work on other projects. It's true, I have gobs of ideas for books. But let all of it die? Five plus years of my blood, sweat, and tears gone just like that because I didn't have the drive to see it through?

I really want to cry when I think about that, which is appropriate since one of the themes in my book is about loss and letting go.

Gosh, there is so much I wish I would've known before I began this process. SOOOOOO much.

Honestly, I don't think I have the strength to let it go. I don't have the desire. I CAN'T DO THAT. That's where I'm at right now. Apparently, I'll have to wait out this storm because letting it die is not an option for me at this point.

Future Shelli, keep this in mind when you write your next book:

1. Write it ultra quick. The quickest I can imagine. One to three months TOPS. Don't worry about fact-checking, finding the perfect names, words, or phrases at this point. I shudder to think of the sheer hours I spent making sure all the words and phrases in the text were actually in the vernacular prior to the year 1860. JUST GET THE STORY DOWN. Work out the details later.

2. Keep going to writing conferences and keep networking with other writers. And, yo, I'm still in the market for a critique partner or writing group. So if anyone is serious about being successful in this department, give me a jingle.

3. Follow the principles in the Universal Story. The book that has caused the kerfuffle around here--the one that has really shaken things up and made me see all the flaws in my manuscript is Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisperer. For real, girl, where was this book five years ago? Not in print yet, apparently. It published in 2011 so finding it even then would've been helpful. Oh well, I can only move forward. (And if you didn't catch that plug in all my frustration, make no mistake. This book is invaluable. A MUST-READ for any writer. PURE GOLD.)

There are more, but that will suffice for now. And I suppose I'll find more things I wish I would've known (but still don't know yet) as I get into the publishing aspect of this whole thing.

Heaven help me. I really thought I would've published my first book by now. OK, cease rant.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I had to post anew. I was getting tired of that 'denied' picture. These days I feel a lot of positive motivation. I don't know what for, just motivation for life, I guess. Life is truly amazing if we allow it to be. We have to make the choice to enjoy it and to be happy, though. That's the catch. There is so much about the world that can cause us to be cynical and negative, but I believe most of those barriers come from our own selves.

Even as I type, there are negative thoughts trying to take up space in my head. Things that happened yesterday, for example, that embarrassed me and made me feel like an idiot. I have to consciously make the effort to swap that out. Instead, I'll think of all the people I love. People who I don't have to impress. They just love me anyway. Think of those people who inspire me.

My latest  inspiration is Nick Vujicic. He was born without arms or legs, yet he doesn't let that stop him from doing anything. No excuses for this guy. He's learned how to walk, swim, ride a skateboard, SURF! He got married and had a child recently. I love listening to him speak because he radiates positive energy. One of the things I love about him is he shares his messages about Jesus Christ everywhere he goes. He truly has an UNCONQUERABLE spirit. That's what I want, too.

Since I "liked" him on Facebook, his motivational minutes show up on my newsfeed every day. There's some good stuff there.

For more go to

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rejection Letters: Nice Reminders to Keep On Going

I received a rejection letter from an agent today. It was from one of the four agents I met at a conference back in September. 

Coming out of the "pitch slam" I was walking on sunshine. (A "pitch slam" is basically speed dating for authors and agents. You've got three minutes to pitch your work. If they want to know more they give you a business card and request pages or the whole manuscript.) The reason I was so light and happy is because all four of the agents I met loved my pitch and wanted to know more about my book. 

Today I heard back from one of those four. She didn't like it. To be exact, she "didn't fall in love with the pages as she had hoped." Ouch. This was an agent I wasn't planning on hearing back from anyway since I sent her the pages months ago. Would it have been better not to hear from her at all?

No way! (Activate personal pep talk.)

One rejection letter doesn't make something a failure. It's a bit of an owie, like maybe a pin prick, but it's certainly not a stabbing knife. My story is worth more than the hurt of a pin prick. In fact, that shot in the arm is just what I need to get going on my book again, which has lovingly been placed on the back burner these past few months.

Getting a book published is a labor of love. And so I labor on. 

My dear characters. I LOVE my characters. They are real people to me with personalities, desires, motives, quirks. Getting others to love them...that is my goal.

So I will look at my first ten pages again and see if I can't make them more "lovable."

And I know I can.

Monday, March 17, 2014


So I'm going to out myself as a complete SQUARE here--and even more so for using that term--but I have to make a retraction for my readers. (Most of whom have probably abandoned ship for the lack of material in three plus months.)

Back in the post where I listed my Top Ten Favorite Movies of All Time, there is one that has fallen off my list. That is to say, I don't know if it ever belonged on there. The movie Amelie showed up on Netflix so I was eager to watch it. This whole time I had been thinking it was one of those "soft Rs." WRONG! There is so much inappropriate stuff that I found myself cringing, hoping nobody had taken my recommendation. I apologize if you did. To be fair to myself, it was the only movie on my list that I hadn't actually seen in 10 years. Apparently my brain was in a different place at that time. Yes, the love story is cute and the characters quirky, but not enough to warrant a spot on my Top Ten. 

For a movie to be in my Top Ten, it has to represent a small part of my personality. I have to be able to watch it again and again and NEVER tire of it. All the other movies fit that category (except for Inception, which I have only seen once.)

That said, I'd like to replace it with another favorite. One that I have seen dozens of times and will still watch again. So here you have it, I replace it with the squeaky clean, and oh-so-loveable The Sound of Music. I love Julie Andrews, by the way. Isn't she the epitome of classy?

Another little factoid. When I was little, I played the part of "Gretl" in the Pleasant Grove High School production of The Sound of Music. Good memories. 

Question: Am I the only one this has happened to? Have you ever been shocked by something you once loved? Any other squares out there?