New Reading Rotation

A Reading Rotation

As happens periodically, usually at least once per year, I get tired of my established reading rotation, and I revise it.

(So, why bother? Because I have found in the past that without some form of genre rotation, I get stuck in a rut reading the same kind of book over and over again, despite my wider range of interests. So, when I get tired of one rotation, I find it worth my while to reinvent the “beast”.)

This time, I felt like I was not getting to spend enough time in the genres I either write or love to read. So I revised.

Here is the New Rotation

How Does it Work?

The basic rotation is the column on the left and the top chunk in the middle. I read through this from the top down through the two columns and mark with the month and year each listing read.

Nightstand Book: If a book I’ve read in the rotation is a series, the rest of the series goes on my nightstand to pick from so I do not have to wait for a full rotation to read the next book in the series.

Other Fiction: This is a list of other fiction genres/categories (ex. Goudge is author Elizabeth Goudge, a long-time favorite. I just keep rotating through rereading her books.)

Mystery Rotation: This category allows me to rotate through my favorite mystery authors so I don’t have to wait for them to get their turn in the alphabetical rotation. (I have a lot of books in my favorite genres.) You will find the list of authors to rotate through in the right column.

Non-fiction: I both enjoy and need to read nonfiction (to expand my horizons, build my writing craft, and support the world-building for my fantasy writing). So, this is the list of non-fiction works I rotate through.


I know it looks rather crazy and complex, but it works for me. What really matters is not that I rotate through the genres but how much I read different types of books. This newest helps me read my favorite genres, while sticking to a desire to read other types of works as well.

Your Turn

How do you organize your reading time, or–not? What do you feel are the benefits of your method or non-method for organizing your life? I’d love to know! Just use the comment space below.


Wonderful Words on the World of Children’s Books

In an age when a limited diet for hundreds of millions of Americans daily is prescribed through the medium of TV, there is more nourishment, more privacy, and—best yet—more freedom of selection to be had in children’s reading. Because it is personal and powerful, reading can help weather children into an individuality which will help them to weather that which is impersonal and powerful.

~Gregory Maguire, from Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature: Introduction

Your Turn

Are you reading with your kids?
What would you recommend to read to a child? (Or simply to enjoy on your own!)
I’ll start the list with two, one an old favorite and one a new:

  1. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  2. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pierson

The Kiss of Deception


Literate Lives Reading Log: November 2016

I knew last month I had read more than one book! I had just misplaced said book when it came time to blog my monthly reading. So, here are the books I read this November along with the one neglected title from October.

6505894Word Pictures, by Brian Godowa, was an interesting read (I promise!) from October. As a fiction writer, I really enjoyed the premise of this book: that art/stories/images readers perceive through imagination and sensory description have enormous power to both move readers and assist them in gaining deeper understanding. Godawa’s text was approachable and thought-provoking. I particularly enjoyed the history he provided on the conflicts related to texts and images over the last 2,ooo years.

Forging the Sword: The Farsala Trilogy Book 3, by Hilari Bell, was every bit as good as the previous two novels248375 in the series and provided an intense and satisfying resolution to the conflict between the kingdom of Farsala and the empire of the Hrum. I highly recommend this series. Start with Fall of a Kingdom, book 1, by Hilari Bell. If you enjoy fantasy that contains faint echoes of real history, you will love this series.

1943742Silent in the Sanctuary is the second entry in Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey mystery series. I loved the richly realized later 19th century setting of this novel and the complex trio of mysteries that weave their way through the story. The only critique I really had is that the eccentricities of Lady Julia’s family are so over the top, it is a little difficult to suspend my disbelief as a reader ought. However, I was sick when I read it. It may be that I was just feeling like a curmodgeon.

Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey was loaned to me by a curly-haired friend. This book has 8510227revolutionized my hair care. It is a light, breezy read with loads of practical advice for not just managing naturally curly or wavy hair, but actually enjoying it. It even includes recipes for hair care products. I highly recommend it.

37361Innocence & Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature edited by Barbara Harrison, is the book I started reading in September during our school’s Reboot time (the first fifteen minutes of class reserved for free reading or journaling). This book, published in 1987, provides a fascinating (and now historical) survey of the field of children’s literature, from picture books through young adult novels. It includes essays and speeches from authors I love, including Eleanor Cameron, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Ursula LeGuin, and many more and discusses books that are still beloved today. As a children’s author and school librarian, I highly recommend it as an overview of 20th century children’s book world.

What did you read in the last month? I would love it if you could recommend some of your favorites in the comments!

A Reading and Writing Lifestyle: Who is This Blog Written For?

Mini orange coffee cup with notebookYesterday, I had an awesome day with one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since I was five-years-old. We’ve done a lot of “life” together, and she is a beta-reader and encourager of my writing. One of the things that made it awesome (besides going to the craft store, eating decadent fudge for a our afternoon snack, and doing an entire jigsaw puzzle in one afternoon–okay, confession, it took us until midnight) was she sat down with this blog, asked me questions, provided some pointed critiques, and made lot of useful suggestions.

The Question

The question that floored me was, “Who is your reader?” This was accompanied by the observation that lots of times I talk about writing as a profession, and when I do, it makes her feel like this blog is really only intended for pros. Whoa!

That rules out a lot of my intended readership, including her!

So Who am I Writing To?

The stated purpose of Literate Lives is to encourage a reading/writing lifestlye.  This means I want to encourage a lifestyle that invests in reading and writing as a means of enrichment for anyone.

Anyone? That’s Kind of Vague

Yeah, it is isn’t it. Here are some mini portraits of potential Literate Lives readers:

  • someone who once loved to read but has been having a hard time prioritizing that pleasure in their life
  • someone who loves to read and loves to celebrate the pleasures and rewards of prioritizing reading in their lives
  • someone who interacts with young people and wants to facilitate skill and pleasure in reading, as well as writing, in these young people.
  • someone who enjoys journaling, letter writing, or otherwise capturing their thoughts and lives on paper or on screen
  • someone who aspires to be a professional writer, or already is, that can use a little encouragement
  • someone who is interested in the lives of writers
  • someone who enjoys multiple fiction genres, but has a special love for fantasy
  • someone who enjoys fiction across multiple age levels: that written for adults, young adults, and middle graders–kids from third to eighth grade

A Whole Lot of Anyones!

My mission is to love, serve, and encourage all of you.

There is work I need to do. Some of it is as simple as making some changes to the actual appearance of my blog to make it more reader friendly. Some of it is much broader, like tracking the kinds of posts I write and making sure I write across this broad range of readership.

Your feedback is highly valued. What can I do that would make following my blog a better experience for you ?

My Much Belated November Reading List

Byzantium by Giles MorganDue to a bad case of “The Descent into Darkness” when daylight saving’s time ended, the only reading I really did in November was finish the books I started to reading in October. They are:

    • Byzantium: Capital of an Ancient Empire by Giles Morgan–an interesting overview of the Byzantine Empire. I read this as research for a new novel idea
  • The Ends of the Earth by T. Davis Bunn–a novel of romance and adventure, and the early Byzantine Empire. This was a novel I started, but through no fault of the author, I could not read until nearly the end of the month. (Did I mention “The Descent into Darkness”? Yeah. Sometimes it blots out my desire to read. What do I do instead? Work, sleep, stare, and add to my boards on Pinterest until, eventually I get hungry for books again.
  • The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima–book 2 in The The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams ChimaHeir series, just as gripping as the first. This is the book I read at school–in the morning and in the afternoon for our sustained silent reading time at the beginning of each session. Fifteen minutes were never enough. I had to bring it home to finish over Thanksgiving break.

And for this month? I’ve moved on the third book in Chima’s series, The Dragon Heir, and am enjoying some sweet little Christmas novels at home.

How about you? What does your December reading look like?


Wonderful Words: Madeleine L’Engle & More Thoughts on Age and Writing

2Q==Last week, I shared a sign I’d seen in a popular bistro while dining out on my birthday. It said, “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you say you are?”

Coincidentally, I am rereading book I read and loved many years ago–Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, and on page 74, I came upon this:

I need not belabor the point that to retain our childlike openness does not mean to be childish. Only the most mature of us are able to be childlike. And to be able to be childlike involves memory; we must never forget any part of ourselves. As of this writing I am sixty-one years old in chronology. But I am not an isolated, chronological numerical statistic. I am sixty-one, and I am also four, and twelve, and fifteen, and twenty-three, and thirty-one, and forty-five, and…and…and…

If we lose any part of ourselves, we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be thirteen and sixty-one simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.

One of my dilemmas with the prompt I gave you is that my first instinct was to respond, “I am eight, or eighteen.” I wanted to capture the capacity for wonder that I deeply treasure as part of who I am.

But I have been through some LIFE. I am not only eight or eighteen, I know things that I have paid dearly to learn. Would I say thirty-five, maybe forty? Just how old am I?

And then I came across L’Engle’s statement. I am all my ages. I think the fact that all of them are very real to me is one of the qualities that enriches me as an author.

How can I write a picture book if I don’t know what it is like to be a child who is read to?

How can I write a middle grade or young adult novel if the middle grader or teen is not still very much alive inside of me?

I love writing for children, but when I’m actually writing, I am very seldom writing for some present day child. Instead, I write to delight the child in me. I write to answer my questions and yearnings as a middle grader, a teen, a young adult, an individual facing the challenges and journey that are life.

L’Engle’s words helped clarify the confusion within me when I first pondered the plauque on the wall. I am all the ages I have ever been, and I am continuing to grow into the age I am. And I savor that. What a rich and wonderful thing is life!

What about you. How does your age influence your thinking about literature and writing?

Motivation for Writers: Wonderful Words Describing Why I Write

Writing Yesterday morning, as I was reading some of the blogs I follow, I came across this post, “Some Thoughts on Hope, Cynicism, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves,” on Brain Pickings, which is excellent reading, in and of itself.

However, I was most moved by portions of a  quote shared from William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, moved enough to seek out the speech in its entirety. After discussing the world-wide angst triggered by the development of the atomic bomb and the cold war, Faulkner says:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his head, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars, to help him endure and prevail.

Such beautiful, ringing, and inspiring words! I wish I’d written them. I long to write words like them, to tell stories that do exactly what Faulkner is charging the artists of the world to do.

As a children’s and YA author, I love that one of the trademarks of our corner of the literary world is that we not only try to write true, to write real–even in the fantasy realms, but we also strive to leave our readers with hope.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, as a lover of people in all our wide variety of lives, and hopes and dreams, as someone who appreciates the goodness we are capable of doing and the beauty we are able to create, I am committed to bring my readers a vision of hope.

What motivates the writer in you?

Chilling: In a World Without Books, There are Only Drugs


In The Daily Beast, on October 3 of last year, Seth Lehrer made a comparison between J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and her new, adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, reflecting in particular on the role of literacy in the stories. He writes:

“Unlike the Hogwarts students, the adults who populate the Pagford of The Casual Vacancy…are not readers. They do not ride into imagined worlds; they do not fill their lives with books. The conflict of the novel hinges on competing institutions” and “those who try to escape them. In a world without books, there are only drugs.”

I know Lehrer is talking about a fictitious world, but isn’t that a stark reality of our own literate societies as well?

Agent Quest Part 3: A New Vision

Last week I was away at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference where I had lots of opportunities to take some excellent classes and pitch a few editors and agents. I made some good contacts, was invited by several agents and editors to send them my novel, The Swallow’s Spring. However, the most remarkable thing that happened was the new vision I gained for my writing career.

I have been a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and publishing in the field of juvenile fiction for over a decade. I like this little pond. I have many friends here. And so I have kept hoping that I could make The Swallow’s Spring fly as a young adult novel.

Now a part of me has been suspecting for some years, thus my involvement with Oregon Christian Writers, that perhaps The Swallow’s Spring is really a work of adult historical fantasy. After all, in the second book the heroine does get married and deals with issues of marriage and fidelity into the third and final novel. (I know, at this point a few of you readers are thinking, “Duh, Debby. That doesn’t sound like YA to me.”)

Consider me a little slow on the uptake, or more accurately—a chicken. I like my little SCBWI and OCW pools. The water is warm. They’re comfortable. There’s lots of other friendly fish. However, after talking to agents and authors over these past few weeks I have to finally admit the truth. I write fiction for grown ups. Yikes!

So, while I came home with submission invitations to follow up on, I also came home with a new mindset to absorb. And you know what? I think I like it. I’m actually feeling excited. I think I’m ready to stretch my wings. (And just to confirm it a whole new novel with a twenty-something protagonist downloaded itself while I was in the shower Sunday morning. How cool is that!)

So I admit it. The Swallow’s Spring  is a work of adult historical fantasy, and so are its sequels. So is Crown, the working title of the novel I am eager to get to revising this fall.

However, I still have a little YA in my pocket—Set in Stone, the other novel I shopped around is a young YA or older middle grade novel, and it got some invitations this month. And Sleeper—a novel I’ve got drafted and awaiting revision, and Lillianna—my intended NaNoWriMo project for this year are definitely YA’s.

This is exciting! I need to sit down and get writing.

Kay Snow Writing Contest Results

I am so excited! This news supersedes  my planned post. (Yes I had fun at the Art Fair, picked up more business cards from artists for “Play with Your Words” and visited a few of the artists I featured this past year. The Renn Faire was so fun! I wished I was in costume, watched a tournament, and was assigned a knight to cheer for and imagined what it would be like if I were a young maiden, having to cheer for the knight who is my kinsman when what I really want to do is cheer for the handsome Green Knight. Hmm…)

Back to the big news. This year I am registered  to attend the Willamette Writers Conference and as I was registering, screwed up my courage to enter the  Kay Snow Writing Contest… I’ve never entered a writing contest before. I’ve submitted to publishers, been published, but never got up the courage to try a contest.

Today, I have been informed that the opening chapters of my middle grade fantasy novel, Set in Stone, has taken honorable mention in the “Juvenile Fiction” category. Hooray! Why did I never tried this sooner?

Have you ever entered a writing contest? If so, share what was your experience like? Was it educational or useful to you whether you won or not? What would be your advice to contest entry newbies like myself? I’d love to hear from you.

And wherever your pursuits take you today, I wish you all good tidings, and may the brave knight you are cheering for be yourself!