writing life

Tidying up the Books

Book Internet has been all abuzz lately with furor over Marie Kondo’s advice about clearing out books. I haven’t seen her TV show, since I don’t do Netflix (too busy reading), but I have read her book, and I suspect that the people getting upset about her advice haven’t read her book because I thought her advice made a lot of sense.

For one thing, she never says you should have just 30 books. She says that as you go through the process of deciding which of your possessions truly “spark joy,” you’ll start to get the sense of the ideal number of possessions for you, what makes you feel happy and peaceful. For her, she’s realized it’s about 30 books, but she recognizes that some people, particularly writers, will need more.

The thing that I suspect is really getting to people is her idea that you shouldn’t have a lot of books you haven’t read, that if you don’t read a book soon after buying it, you probably aren’t all that interested in reading it and don’t need to keep it.

That actually makes some sense to me, but I don’t really have an ordinary To Be Read pile in that I didn’t buy most of my books. For someone who reads as much as I do, I don’t buy a lot of books. For the most part, I buy a book when I want to read the book, and it’s only traffic laws that keep me from reading it on the way home from the bookstore (I don’t even like Amazon because when I want to read a book, I want to go to the store right then and buy the book, not wait for it to be shipped to me). I’m actually more likely to get books from the library, so the books I buy are the ones I already know I’m going to want to keep, or they’re books I’ve already read and know I want to have my own copy of. The exception is my friends’ books that I buy to support them, usually at conventions or booksignings, and then they may or may not be something I want to read NOW or even something I’m super interested in reading. I don’t do a lot of book-buying sprees of buying random things that look kind of interesting, other than reference books at library book sales.

Most of the books in my Strategic Book Reserve are books I didn’t buy. One of the lovely things about being a writer is that people want to give you books. Writers read a lot and talk a lot about books, so a good way to get a book talked about is to give it to writers and hope they’ll talk about it and spread some buzz. If you go to writing conferences, you frequently get given a tote bag of books. Publishers may host signings where the books are free. At my first few conferences, I kind of went nuts with all the free books, but then I learned that I wasn’t likely to read them all. Now I’m very selective and only take the ones that really interest me.

But I still have a lot of books I haven’t read, and I’ve started sorting through them, being brutally honest with myself about whether or not I have any interest in reading them. Most of the ones I’m getting rid of are romance novels I’ve had for more than twenty years, and getting rid of those has been a weirdly emotional process because it means really facing my own goals and my choices.

My ambition has always been to be a fantasy or science fiction writer. I got sidetracked into romance during the summer after I graduated from college, when I was stuck on a farm while I looked for a job. There was no library in town, and the nearest bookstore was at least 15 miles away. Not that I had the money to buy books or the transportation, since my car had become unreliable and I had to borrow one of my parents’ cars to go anywhere. So, I read what was handy, which included my mom’s stash of Harlequin and Silhouette romances. I liked a lot about them, but didn’t ever find one that had me saying “yes, this is it, this is what I like,” so I had the common wannabe writer reaction of “I could do this better” and set out to try. When I did get a job and moved to the city, I looked for writing groups and stumbled upon a Romance Writers of America chapter. It was about the only really substantial writing organization that taught about the business and the craft. That strengthened my career goal of writing romances. The problem was, I hadn’t realized the difference between “I like this thing, and I think I could do it better than some of the people who are doing it” and “I like some things about this but don’t really like it, and I want to write it the way I like it.” I had some success, but I’m a classic overachiever, so I managed to power through and actually do it in spite of not liking it and not being all that suited to it, but it was a massive struggle. It was only when the romantic comedy chick lit books showed up that I realized that what I actually liked wasn’t genre romance. Then I got the idea to add magic and remembered that what I’d really wanted was to write fantasy.

Facing all those romance novels I’d amassed during that time when I was trying to be something I wasn’t meant facing the fact that I might have delayed my own career by sticking to the wrong thing for so long. It meant addressing my dishonesty with myself, my sense of failure, the sense of letting people down. It meant noticing the friends I’d had and lost when I drifted away from that world and the hurt that came from realizing that they didn’t seem to have missed me at all. But then it felt really good to be able to just hand those books over to the Friends of the Library for their sale and get all those old reminders out of my house. Clearing out the To-Be-Read books I will never read has made it easier for me to see and keep track of the books I might read, the more recent fantasy books I’m getting at conferences now, the ones I carefully choose out of all the ones in my tote bag.

Meanwhile, I’m going through my bookcases and rearranging the shelves, which means sorting through my old books, and I’m trying to be honest with myself about whether I’ll really re-read something, whether having that book makes me happy or whether it’s just taking up room on my shelf. I know I’ll end up with many times more than 30 books, but I think I’ll be much happier when the books on my main shelves are all things I’ve read, loved, and want to read again and when the To-Be-Read shelves are manageable enough that I don’t feel oppressed by them. I think that’s all Marie Kondo seems to be trying to teach people, so maybe we could ease off on the cries of “monster!”


The Life Cycle of a Book

I seem to have finally hit the “hey, this is actually pretty good” state on this book. Writing a book is a love/hate relationship. When you first get the idea, it’s the most brilliant thing ever and you’re madly in love with it. Then you start writing, and it loses its luster once it becomes reality. It’s not quite the book that was in your head, but you can’t seem to make it be the book that was in your head.

Then you hit the middle, when you’ve gone past all the initial ideas you’ve had but you’re not yet at the thing you had in mind for the ending, and you really start to hate it. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea. What made you think you could write this thing? You don’t like the characters. You want to just scrap it and start over. This is when a lot of people give up, especially on first books. You realize writing isn’t fun all the time. It’s hard, and you’ve run out of enthusiasm. You start to doubt yourself. This is also when the Shiny New Ideas tend to hit, and you’re tempted to give up on the thing you’re working on that obviously isn’t going well to work on that Shiny New Idea that’s even better.

But you power through, and you get an energy surge that gets you to the end. Though, if you’re like me, you get impatient to get to the end and kind of skim through the conclusion, so that’s the first thing you have to go back and rewrite. Now you’re feeling pretty good. You have a whole book, and you think it might be pretty good.

Then you go back to rewrite/revise/edit, and that’s when you notice the plot holes, the repetitions (how many times did I use that word?), the little inconsistencies, the scenes that aren’t working. What were you thinking? Was that line supposed to be a joke? You wrote it, but you don’t get it. Hack, slash, change. It’s a mess. Who would want to read this? Maybe you should just start over.

And then, finally, you do one last read-through. I read it out loud so that I’m forced to really read every word. That does make me spot some things like repeated words or phrases, but on the whole, I find that I really like the story. I remember what I liked about the idea, and while it’s still not quite the perfect book that lived in my head before I started writing, it’s a good book. I love the characters and feel a little sad to leave them behind.

That’s where I am now. I’m starting to remember that I liked this idea, and I’m enjoying reading the book.

I’ve wondered if authors are ever tempted to go back to an old idea and try writing it again — the execution the first time was okay, but it wasn’t quite the book they really envisioned, and now that they’ve grown as a writer they could try again to get to what they initially thought that book would be, and it might come closer to that perfect vision this time. There have been authors who had similar books at different times in their career, but they came out very different. For instance, David Copperfield and Great Expectations have a very similar pattern and a lot of things in common, but are very different books at different points in Dickens’ career. Was that a case of him going back to an idea he’d already written and executing it differently? I think today people might accuse an author of being a hack with just one good idea, but it would be an interesting experiment.

On the Home Stretch

I need to turn in a book this week, and I’ve got the Choristers Guild workshop this weekend, so it has to be done on Thursday. That means it’s a busy week. I finished the latest round of editing last night, so now we’re on the reading aloud phase, which is especially important for a book being written as an audiobook.

Then I have to do copyedits on a book. And then rewrites on another book, but I may take a little time to write something short in between because I’m getting a bit burned out on editing and am itching to create. Ideally, I’d balance editing and writing, but I had several projects pile up in this way.

Meanwhile, I got yet another idea yesterday, a random whim that started developing, and I woke up this morning mentally writing the opening. It will take quite a bit of work before I’m ready to write it, and I suspect once I do my “write everything you know about it” trick, there will be a lot less than I think. But I am getting that tingle of “oh, this could be something,” which is exciting.

Now, off to read my book out loud to myself. Since I’m going to be doing a lot of singing this weekend, that means I’ll have to take frequent breaks, drink a lot of water, and not talk when I’m not reading the book.


Mulling Over Mysteries

A number of years ago, I noticed that many of the “people who bought this also bought” books on the listings for my Enchanted, Inc. books were cozy paranormal mysteries. That made me curious, so since I love mysteries, I tried reading a bunch of these.

I could definitely see the comparison. Like my books, these had a sassy first-person narrator who had to deal with some kind of crisis, and there was a slow-burn romantic relationship over the course of the series. The only real difference was that in my books the crisis involved magical mayhem while in the mysteries it was usually a dead body, and in the mysteries it seemed that the romance was usually with some law enforcement officer.

This made me think that I should look into writing this sort of thing. It really seems to be right up my alley, a mix of fantasy, mystery, and romance. I even came up with a setting/scenario for who my sleuth would be and why she was there. Oddly enough, the hard part was coming up with the paranormal element. The main difference between the paranormal mysteries and urban fantasy seems to be in the world. In the mysteries, the world is more “normal” and the sleuth is the paranormal part, so there’s some conflict between her and the world. She has some kind of ability that’s what gets her involved in the mystery — she can talk to ghosts who complain to her about their murder, she can touch an object and learn something about its owner, she can enter a space and tell what happened there — but because it’s paranormal and she’s in a world where that’s not commonly accepted, she can’t exactly tell the cops how she knows who was murdered and how, and her evidence isn’t the sort of thing they can use to get an arrest warrant or even a search warrant. Sometimes, knowing what she does can even make her a suspect. In fantasy, on the other hand, usually more of the world is magical. There’s some kind of magical subculture, so if the heroine has powers, she’s not the only one. She still might clash with the normal cops, but there’s a network of magical beings around her.

I’m more used to doing the fantasy kind of thing, so my first stab involved inverting the usual setup and having my heroine be the normal one who’s trying to use evidence while the rest of the town is all going, “Yep, a wizard did it,” but then I realized that would be difficult to sustain for long. It was hard coming up with some sort of ability that only the heroine might have and that would be considered odd in the world and that hasn’t been done to death. I also love the “strange little town” story, so I wanted the heroine to be a semi-normal outsider trying to fit into the strange little town, but then how is she going to solve mysteries?

I think I may finally have an idea that could work, so I guess I’ll be adding that to my list of things to try to write. It just shows you how long it can take to go from “I should write this” to having something even remotely viable. It was 2012 when I did all that mystery reading and first started thinking of this. It hasn’t usually been front-burner, but still, that’s a long time to gestate an idea before even getting to the point of developing it.


Another Trope I Can’t Resist

I’ve been thinking more about tropes that call to me, and after my discussion of recent reading from earlier this week, I’ve got one to add: framing stories. That’s when the bulk of the novel is framed as a story being told or discovered in a separate story at the beginning and end (with maybe some in-between stuff) of the book.

I think I first developed a fondness for this with all the Jack Higgins WWII thrillers I read in my teens. His usual pattern was that a nameless first-person narrator (implied to be the author) was in some place researching some element of history for a book he was working on, and then a mysterious stranger would approach him and offer to tell the real story that no one has heard. The novel would then be that story (told in standard narrative format). At the end, the mysterious stranger would finish his story, the author would be left pondering whether it could possibly be true, and then he’d find some piece of evidence that supported the story, and his mind would be blown. I think I liked this structure because it gave the illusion that the story might possibly be true, that it was secret history rather than just a novel.

I like it even better when there’s an actual plot in the “present” part of the story, so that it’s parallel stories rather than just a frame. There’s something going on in the present as someone researches the past, and meanwhile we get the story of what happened in the past. One good example of this is Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Or there are things like The Thirteenth Tale or The Historian.

One other thing that I like about this structure is that it’s a way to let readers know the long-term outcome of the characters after the end of the action — not just did they survive those events, but how did the rest of their lives go? The person in the present usually learns some of this information. You wouldn’t really be able to put that in a normal novel structure, but you can if part of the story is the person in the present researching it. It then becomes part of the resolution for the present-day character to learn that the characters in the past got married, had three children, started a successful business, and died peacefully in their sleep of old age.

And, yes, something like this is on my literary bucket list. I have a plot idea that’s perfect for it, but it’s going to take a lot of research and some travel before I can write it.


Introvert Love Stories

I read an article recently on why writers of all genres could benefit from reading romance novels, mostly because romance writers are experts at conveying emotion. Conveying emotion is something I struggle with (and possibly a reason why my romance writing career sputtered), and it’s been a long time since I read a genre romance novel (as opposed to a romantic novel or novel with romantic elements published in another genre), so I picked one up at the library.

I seem to have found the book aimed directly at me. After a long day at work, the heroine doesn’t want to hang out with her friends. She just wants to go to the sanctuary of her home and read a book. She comes in the door, takes her glasses off, changes into comfortable clothes, and curls up with a book. I felt so represented.

Alas, this is a romance novel, so the whole point of it is to get her together with someone, so by the end of the book she’ll have realized she was wrong and it’s better to come home to someone. And it looks like she’s not treating her home as a sanctuary because she’s truly an introvert and is happy that way but rather because she’s been hurt before and is afraid of intimacy. It would be nice if someone ever wrote a true introvert love story, where the heroine finds the person who fits into her solitude without being an energy drain and who enhances a life that was already good rather than her learning that her life is wrong and empty. But then there wouldn’t be any emotional conflict and drama, so you wouldn’t have much of a romance novel, and that may be why I drifted away from the genre. You can depict that kind of relationship if there’s some other kind of conflict going on, like a mystery or a battle against dark magical forces, but it makes for a pretty lame romance novel.

Anyway, one of the signs early in the book that she’s damaged and wrong rather than just an introvert who’s figured out what works for her is that the guy comes to her place while she’s at home reading and figures out that she doesn’t actually need her glasses because she’s not wearing them at home. They aren’t near her book, so she doesn’t need them to read, but he asks her about a book on her shelf, and she can tell him the title from across the room. Aha! She’s using the glasses to make herself less attractive and to hide from the world.

That was when I felt like I ought to speak up on the heroine’s behalf (except the book said he was right). I need glasses. I even have the corrective lenses restriction on my driver’s license to prove it. But I don’t wear glasses at home. I do just like the heroine in the book does. I come home, put down my keys, and take my glasses off. They live next to my keys. I have an older pair of glasses that lives on the coffee table for when I’m watching something on TV that has a lot of letters or numbers (like the weather report) or that I really want to focus on. I could probably tell you the titles of most of the books on my shelves from across the room because they’re my books and I know what I have, even if I can’t read the words on the spine from a distance. So that whole thing was bogus.

I’m not far enough into the book to really have all the emotional stuff I’m reading it for, other than the heroine’s intense embarrassment when the guy pointed out his realization about her glasses. I’m afraid, though, that I’m not in his corner. That’s another one of the reasons I stopped reading genre romance. I seldom wanted the guy to get together with the girl because I usually didn’t like at least one of them and I thought the other one could probably find a healthier relationship somewhere else. I guess the whole point of this exercise, though, is that I need to turn off the analytical part of my brain and just surrender to the emotions, then figure out how the author does it.


Holiday (and not) Reading

I did a lot of reading over the holidays, not all of which I’d necessarily recommend, but I did find some good books to share.

If you’re looking for a good Christmas season read that isn’t necessarily a “Christmas” book, take note for next year to look for One Day in December, by Josie Silver. It’s a chick-litty romance that’s kind of like a British When Harry Met Sally in book form. On a December day, a young woman looks out a bus window and makes eye contact with a young man waiting at a bus stop, and there seems to be a moment of instant connection. She has an impulse to get off the bus and go meet him, but the bus moves on before she can act on it. He becomes something of a figure of fantasy for her, but she doesn’t see him again — until the next December when her roommate introduces her new boyfriend to her, and it’s the guy from the bus stop. The story follows this group of friends over the next decade. I’ll admit, I did want to throttle some of the characters some of the time, but they’re probably acting as you’d expect for that age and I’m just being old. On the whole, though, it was the kind of book you end up reading in one or two sittings because you want to know how things will work out and you need to get these characters out of the painful situations they find themselves in, like the dilemma of whether she should tell her roommate that her new boyfriend is the fantasy man they’ve been talking about for a year. Does it count that they’ve never actually spoken and she’s not even sure he remembers or recognizes her? Although the book is quite romantic, I think it’s really more about friendship. The holiday season plays a big role, and most of the major events happen during the holidays, so there’s some nice atmosphere, but it’s not really a “Christmas” book, so it’s good if you want something to kind of fit the mood but Hallmark movies are overkill for you.

After Christmas, I guess I went the exact opposite direction because my next read was an urban fantasy called The Immortals, by Jordanna Max Brodsky. I’m not even entirely sure how I came to pick this up. I think the title of the sequel (which I now don’t recall) caught my eye in the library, then I saw that it was a sequel and looked for the first one. In this series, the Greek gods are still around and have taken roles in the modern day. They’re also gradually losing their powers and immortality as belief in them has faded. Artemis is our main character, and she’s now a private investigator in New York, specializing in protecting women from abusive men. She comes across a grisly murder that looks to her like a sacrifice from an ancient Greek ritual, and since it was a woman who was murdered, she considers it her jurisdiction. Meanwhile, a classics professor who knew the murdered woman has also recognized that it’s not just an ordinary killing, but he can’t convince the police of his theory. The two of them team up to solve the case. I’m not ordinarily fond of “the gods walk among us” stories, but this one worked for me because it was fun seeing how the Greek gods fit into the modern world (Apollo is an indie rock star, because of course) and how they’re coping with their relative weakness and looming mortality. I also like the professor. He’s pretty much my type of character (in the Owen and Lord Henry vein). If you like American Gods and that sort of thing, or if you like paranormal mysteries, this is something to look for. I’ll definitely be picking up more books in the series.

Then I went to something completely different, a book I guess you could look at as the British version of Southern Gothic — the disintegrating family full of secrets. It was The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. It has a lot of parallels with Downton Abbey — same time period, similar look at what’s going on upstairs vs. downstairs. In a framing story, an elderly woman in the 1990s is approached by a filmmaker making a movie about an event that happened in the 20s at the grand manor house nearby. The woman is the only living person who was there for the event and the filmmaker wants to consult her. That sends her down memory lane, recalling how she went to work there as a housemaid as a teenager, just before WWI started, and how she became fascinated with the lord’s grandchildren, who visited often. The story follows them into the 1920s, when the narrator has become lady’s maid to one of the granddaughters. There are layers and layers to the secrets surrounding this family — secret loves, secret ambitions, secret motives — and they all build toward tragedy. It’s not exactly a light, fun read, but it is really juicy and probably something that fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy, with even more drama and scandal than in that show.

It kind of makes me want to write something like that, but with magic involved somehow. I also like the idea of the framing story, of the person in the present tracking down what happened in the past.


Revising Forward and Backward

I’m considering last week a kind of trial run at the new year. I tried to treat the week after New Year’s Day like regular working days, but the epic ordeal of waiting for a plumber for days on end disrupted my schedule. But now the last holiday party is over, all the Christmas stuff is down and out of the way, and I’m back to what passes for “normal” around here, so the new year is beginning in earnest, for real this time. It’s time to get out of holiday mode and back onto my usual schedule (well, until the next plumbing appointment for the serious work required to do the repairs the plumber assessed when he finally came).

That means I really have to get to work on this book that’s due in a couple of weeks. I’m in the phase of revision in which fixing one thing means going back and tinkering with something else. I’m also having the “hey, wait a second” moments in which I question things I’ve written. For instance, I’ll know why my viewpoint character is in a scene, but then I stop to wonder why the other characters are there and realize either they shouldn’t be there or I need to come up with a reason for them to be there. But then when I come up with a reason for them to be there, that changes something else.

I seem to be working both forward and backward. As I move forward fixing things, it brings up fixes I have to do in the past, which bring up other fixes I need to track back and do.

But I can feel the book getting better, and that’s a good feeling.

writing life

Feeding the Muses

I’ve been trying to use my time more productively, so even if I’m procrastinating, I’m still doing something worthwhile. As an alternative to clicking around on social media while I’m putting off doing something, I dug into my files and found a bunch of online courses I took about a decade ago. Some of them, I actually remember taking, but I’ve changed and my career has changed, so my answers to all the homework assignments are totally different. Some I don’t even remember taking. If I really don’t want to do whatever it is that I should be doing, at least I’m reading this material and doing the exercises, which is moderately helpful. It’s also been good this week since I’ve spent much of the week waiting on a plumber. I had an appointment on Wednesday, and when the appointment window passed with no word, I called, and they thought my appointment was Thursday (I’m almost certain it was Wednesday because I took the first open slot after the holiday). Then Thursday they called and said one of their trucks broke down, so could I reschedule for Friday. Now I’m waiting yet again. I can’t really focus on writing when I’m waiting, so doing these courses is a good way to spend the time.

Anyway, one of the courses was on finding and nourishing your “muses.” I’m not sure why I have these materials because I’ve never been that big into the “woo woo” side of writing. I haven’t named my muse, I don’t talk about “the girls in the basement” or anything like that, so I doubt I would have paid for this course. It must have been a bonus offering or something that came with a writing group membership. But the theme of the year is exploring, so why not?

The course encouraged us to really visualize our muses — the creative part of our subconscious — and then that will allow you to figure out how to feed and care for them so they can be even more creative and you can learn to listen to their input. I’ve never really thought of my creative side other than as The Voices (as in “the voices in my head said I should do this”), but I decided that if I have muses, they’re a group kind of like the Inklings, that group at Oxford that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I imagine a group of professors hanging out in pubs and tea rooms, chatting about fantasy by the fire over cups of tea, or else they take long rambles around the countryside, making up stories as they go. Feeding these muses would involve going to libraries and bookstores, sitting by the fire with a cup of tea, or taking long walks.

Since it was a cold, dreary day yesterday, I decided to take “feeding” literally and made crumpets and tea to have by the fireplace (my fireplace is filled with candles so I can get the warm glow without the hassle or mess). I don’t know if it sparked any creativity, but it was a fun break in the day and I still met my working time goal (the crumpets have to rise for about 45 minutes, which put a nice timer on a writing session).

crumpets and tea
Now I’ll have to make time for other things my professors might enjoy.


Tropes I Can’t Resist

During the holidays, I saw a thing going around Twitter of people talking about what tropes make for an automatic “yes” on a book — if you see that thing mentioned on the back cover/cover flap, you’ll buy the book. Thinking about this, I don’t believe I have any because other things can balance it out or overwhelm the one thing I do like, but there are certainly things that get my attention, and when I think about those, they’re not quite what I’d have expected.

One of the tropes I can’t seem to resist is magical memory loss. I pretty much hate anything to do with amnesia in romances, but put it in a magical (or possibly science fiction) setting, and I’m all over it. I love exploring the idea of what would you be if you didn’t know who you were — get rid of all the baggage and expectations, and what kind of person are you? I also like the related trope of magical false identity — due to magic, you’re given a fake identity and the memories that go with it. Can you tell that something’s wrong? Does your real self try to break free? I had some fun with this in book 7 of my Enchanted, Inc. series.

I know that the secret/hidden royalty trope is considered a cliche in fantasy, but I love it so much. I suspect I was heavily influenced by Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty, who lived in a hut in the woods but learned she was really a princess. I think that escapist thing is a big part of the appeal of fantasy. You can imagine that you may seem ordinary, but could you possibly be someone important, hidden away? Give me an apprentice underwater basketweaver who turns out to be the long-lost heir (or possibly the child of the great wizard), and I’m there. I’m not quite as keen on the related Chosen One trope when it involves prophecy, but do love when the unexpected person turns out to be exactly what was needed or has abilities that no one would have thought to look for in someone like that.

Portals! I love a portal fantasy. I think that’s because it makes it possible to imagine that I could have that kind of adventure. I don’t live in a fantasy land, but I love the idea that I could visit there (and if I turn out to be the long-lost princess, that’s even better).

Colleagues into lovers — you have to work together to solve a problem/go on a quest together, and as you go through difficulties, you develop feelings? Yes, please. But only if you keep your priorities straight and focus on your goal. No pausing for a romantic interlude when you’ve got a deadline and the bad guys are right behind you.

I seem to have a thing for charming thieves, which is odd because I can’t really stand the “bad boy” type, but when I see a Robin Hood kind of character — a thief for a good cause in a society where the usual rules aren’t working — I want to read it. No ordinary criminals, though. On the other hand, I also can’t seem to resist nerdy wizards, especially the guy who seems utterly inept, but that’s because his talents are so unusual that the typical training doesn’t work on him. He may not be able to do the most rudimentary spells that even young children learn, but he can do things that even the most advanced wizards can’t even imagine. There’s a lot of bumbling and angst before they figure out that he’s not utterly incompetent or clumsy, after all.

I’m sure I have a few more book triggers, but I’d have to go through my shelves to figure out what they are because I’m generally not conscious of what it is that makes me want a particular book. And if I start going through my shelves, I won’t get anything else done all day. Eight hours later, I’ll be sitting on the floor in front of the bookcases, re-reading a book I hadn’t thought about in ages.