What I’m reading: The Clackity and Save the Cat!

I spent all of November and more than half of December toiling away at my Work in Progress. I say toiling because it’s the first draft of a complete rewrite, and oy are first drafts rough. So, when I thought I’d finished the first draft, I took a break to enjoy the holidays and some just-for-fun reading. I’d heard good things about The Clackity  by Lora Senf and decided to give it a go.

Cover of book called The Clackity, by Lora Senf. Shows girl in front of creepy tree.


It is now one of my favorite middle grade books and at the top of my list in the spooky/horror category. In it, a young girl lives with her aunt in a town overrun with hauntings, some mild, some humorous, most harmless. However, Evie is told to follow one rule: stay out of the old slaughterhouse at the edge of town. When her aunt senses trouble there and disappears within its walls, Evie decides to go after her. The new world she discovers — and its dangers within — challenge any hope she has to rescue the only remaining member of her beloved family.

Inventive and spooky. I highly recommend The Clackity for lovers of fright.



Image shows the book cover of Save the Cat Writes a Novel and depicts a cat hanging from a rope.

In January, I started reading (actually, re-reading) Save the Cat! Writes a novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody. I bought this in 2018 when it came out, thanks to great reviews by people whom I respect. When I first tried reading it, though, I wasn’t in the right place with my writing and so I had a hard time getting out of it what others had. I knew I had to wait until the information would hit me more directly. I’m glad I did. With the first draft completed (so I thought) and heading into revision, I was in the mood for reading about story structure. This time, the info hit right. I see I have more to add to my first draft, but the book’s story beats will help guide those additions and future revisions. I’m so glad I revisited it.

Save the Cat! is a solid and fun guide to story structure, fundamentals, and spark. Recommended for readers who want to know how stories tick.


I’ve also been listening to more and more audiobooks the past few years. I haven’t really posted much about them, but let me say, it’s a joy to relax and have a story read to you.

I wish you happy reading in 2023.


(The above are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)



Cleansing the Palate – What I’m Reading

Just a fraction of the Uffizi Library in Florence, Italy

Just a fraction of the Uffizi Library in Florence, Italy

Every once in a while, I like to cleanse my palate from my normal reading tastes. As a writer of young adult fiction, I tend to read a lot of YA Fic. But the past month, maybe because of the weather and wanting a change, I’ve plunged into other styles. So here’s what I’m reading and my thoughts on them.

the joy of leaving your sh*t all over the place - the art of being messy by jennifer mccartney

the joy of leaving your sh*t all over the place – the art of being messy

by jennifer mccartney

(Even typing that without the capitalization required by civilized society hurts.) Look. I like orderly spaces. I’m more organized than not and generally don’t appreciate people leaving messes, especially in shared spaces. So a comical book about being messy challenged my sense of duty. Onward then!

This book genuinely had me laughing out loud. I can’t get to the point of living the lifestyle (which isn’t really the point, of course), but I sure had fun by the author trying to convince me to embrace consumerism and messiness with a light heart. Hey, life happens. Author Jennifer McCartney makes a solid point lamenting how grownups lose the ability to enjoy an environment without feeling the need to change it (i.e., tidying). The neat freak in me, though, just pictures the neighbors desperately wishing a force of nature would whisk the backyard flotsam far away. Funny read. There’s swearing (Duh, read the title), so lighten up.

Sleep No More - Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James

Sleep No More – Six Murderous Tales

by P.D. James

I cannot read real crime stories as entertainment. Fictional stories are another matter, though, especially short stories that are low on gore, high on motive, and follow in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe. I blazed through these six wonderfully written stories (I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator.) and found myself thinking about motives long after I’d put down the book. Written by the incomparably thrilling and recently deceased P.D. James, whose talent the world misses. Recommended.

Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from Around the World by W. W. Norton & Company

Flash Fiction International Very Short Stories from Around the World

editing by James Thomas, Robert Shapard, and Christopher Merrill

Flash fiction is just like it sounds: very, verrrry short works. They range from just a few paragraphs to just a few pages. Think of it as a story you could read during a cigarette break, if you smoke, or a quick chocolate break, if you’re… well, human. I’m half-way through this book and find it interesting to read if just for the descriptive writing. Some of the stories aren’t stories in the traditional sense of having a beginning, middle, and end; they’re just glimpses of life without a story-driving conflict, much less a solution. Some of the other works are traditional short stories. Recommended if you’re looking for quick reads or to explore a condensed writing style.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

by Lita Judge

This book retells the personal history of Mary Shelley, author of the literary masterpiece Frankenstein. I sat next to the author/illustrator at the author signing table of the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference last month. Lita told me it took her six years to complete this book, and no wonder. It’s 312 pages, each pair of pages a spread containing a free verse poem and her accompanying black-and-white watercolor illustration. The art is chilling – in a good way – again reminding me of the way Poe’s work is often illustrated. I start this book tonight and will report back later.

UPDATE: I read Mary’s Monster in one evening. The poetry is story-driven and accessible; the art haunting and a wonderful match to the narrative. If you’re a fan of Mary Shelley, you’ll love this book.

So that’s how I’m mixing it up. Do you also find the need to change your reading habits now and then?