Realistic Detail

woman standing backstrap weave loom

I’ve just finished Dies The Fire, a dystopian thriller set in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. In it **mini-spoiler alert** something causes all electricity to stop working at the same moment. Lots of reactionary, ‘worst-of-humanity’ debacles follow this event called the Change, but the book got me thinking about realistic detail.

Not a few of the Goodreads reviews criticized the book for its unlikely cast and heroes. I can see some moralizing, some exposition, and some God-playing, for sure, but it doesn’t bother me too much because the premise is fascinating, and the band of unlikely renegades band together in a rather Firefly-like way to beat back the tide of evil, which I do appreciate in today’s times.

What details does the author include in his end-of-times action-packed plot?

  • Wicca and pagan religious practices
  • Gaelic speech and sayings (S’math sin!)
  • Pacific Northwest landscape
  • Survival needs
  • Engineering & Construction
  • Archery, Weaponry, & Warfare

last chance to breathe deviantart archers

I’ll be honest. I allowed my eyes to glaze over when the engineer-wizards starting talking about how to weld this and that together or cobble a horse wagon out of a flatbed. Blehhhhhh.

But most of the other stuff was completely fascinating, and intensely unknown to me.

Does the unknown intrigue you?

For a writer intrigued by the unknown, it can be a fun but uphill battle to wade through the details of a certain specialty in order to be able to write knowledgeably and convincingly about it for a paragraph. Some of the things I’ve had to research are:

carriage mail coach 1835

  • Types & classes of carriages used in 18th ad 19th century Britain
  • Collapse of the kelp industry in western Scotland
  • Breakdown of shillings & pence in Victorian Britain (Errrrg)
  • History of the herring industry around the British Isles
  • History of canal & railway building in the UK & Canada
  • Various Secession movements in Church of Scotland (OMG)
  • How mail was delivered in the 1820s and 1880s
  • Which holidays were celebrated, how, and where
  • How a loom works for a home weaver (h/t to Steven at Alpaca By Design in Sisters, OR for the mini-tutorial!)
  • How to harvest barley and oats by hand
  • Makeup of virgin forest in Nova Scotia
  • How blackhouses were laid out and furnished

Some of these topics were more enjoyable to read about than others (see editorial comments above-ha!), but you can’t cut corners on things and expect people to continue to believe you once you’ve demonstrated laziness or inaccuracies.

It’s a lesson that is well-learnt the first time. We all learn as we go!

What discrepancies have you stumbled on while reading that took you out of the book?


Images via BackstrapWeaving, DeviantArt, and Google/Public Domain

10 Reading-Related Habits

As an author, I take it as a given that I should be reading, widely and deeply. This is a rather convenient ‘should.’

crossroads of should and must ella luna illustration

claire beauchamp fraser outlander catriona balfeThis is in addition to the Must Read command my brain gives me a dozen times a day, whether to sate curiosity, escape worrying about a life problem, or follow a beloved character’s adventures.




gail carriger parasol protectorate octopus

How else does reading shape and influence my life, though? Books get their tentacles into many aspects of a reader’s habits: how and where to eat, for example, or the aesthetics of one’s apartment. Here are a few of my idiosyncracies, readers. How do yours compare?


  1. Home Décor: every available surface holds books somehow. The shelves above the microwave. The headspace above the dryer. The custom window-seat with hinged lids. And aaaaalllllll the bookcases.
  2. Productivity: reading the current book is a reward for tasks completed. This means that as an adult I have far fewer long stretches of deep-dive reading and more hour-long indulgent stints.
  3. Schedule: Due to the above, I almost never read in the morning, my most focused and productive time slot, but almost always do before bed, which is the worst time for me to attempt to accomplish anything.
  4. Addiction: I try as best as I can, but sometimes I still find myself buying armfuls of books when I am in austerity-budget mode, and have to merely shrug my shoulders and say, “I’m allowed a vice, right??”one does not simply boromir meme lotr
  5. Decluttering: due to the above, when I declutter periodically, instead of kitchen gadgets or shoes, my cast-offs are always books, and from time to time, clothes.
  6. Friends/ Lovers: If you don’t read, do I really have enough in common with you to hold a conversation?i love lucy friends read together
  7. Rest: Since I compulsively read lettering within visual range, if I want to meditate, I have to close my eyes. It’s a weird feeling to try not to read and interpret the signs when one goes on a walk. You try it and tell me if you see what I mean!
  8. Carry-all: As a writer, I always try to have a pen with me, for when inspiration strikes. As a reader, I always try to have a book with me, for when boredom (e.g. the waiting room) strikes! So, I don’t usually leave the house without a bag. If I do, I don’t carry a wallet either, and generally am back after an hour of exercise in the fresh air (like today).
  9. Politics: Perhaps I became an early environmentalist partly due to the feelings of guilt surrounding the acres and acres of board-feet I was consuming in paper form…
  10. Gift-giving: What will you get from me? Likely, a book!

margaret pinard costume grasping root book

In what other ways does being a reader alter the shape of your life?

…And the photos above are symbols of some of my favorite books of all time. Click on their links for my reviews on Goodeads. 😉



Images via ofundisputedorigin, PinterestParasol Protectorate Wiki, Pinterest, DavidBruceSmith, and Author

Reading Round-up & Reviews

Reading Round-up

lasso book reading roundup

How many of you have made reading goals for 2018?

I am continuing my tradition of increasing my book-reading goal–although since I was close to not making it last year (!), I’m only increasing it by one book: 102. Improvement is improvement, amiright?

If you’d like to track what I’m reading and reviewing, check out my profile on Goodreads. Here are some highlights from the beginning of the year.

A History of Bristol & Gloucestershire

I got this book by chance and ended up reading it because my NaNo novel took place partly in the Cotswolds and I wanted to see if the geographical history suggested it would be a good place–since I’d picked it at random in desperation during the drafting process.

Lots of interesting stuff and perfect fodder for vacation dreams!

Scrappy Little Nobody

I scrinched my way through this audiobook, as the material was great but the condition of the CD very scratched. Anna Kendrick is an actress-hero, and I’m glad she decided to write up her experiences of growing up and dating and making it big and feeling poor and drifting in the margins of acting before being successful.

She’s honest, sarcastic, and thoughtful, if very self-deprecatory. Didn’t have to take off my rose-colored hero glasses.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Favorite book so far! Los Angeles Times Review said it well, “Like John Le Carre…and Graham Greene before him Peter Hoeg has given a thriller moral and political resonance.”

I appreciated learning about Denmark’s relationship with Greenland, about which I’d previously known absolute-zero-nothing. And I loved Smilla’s internal monologue–she’s sassy and turns tough as the going calls for it…buy it from ART and support my local bookseller!


I have long had the mass market paperback version of this but then I got the deluxe illustrated version and–Well. It was gorgeous. Tongue in cheek and tolerant and self- and genre-mocking and yet looking to greater truths inside us all. I loved this adult faerie tale story.

Do you like my widely-varying reading list?? It’s how I roll! Because, as the Celtic Lunar Astrologer says, I am both a Chariot archetype, and have 2018 as a Chariot growth year, meaning

…it’s all about balance. Light and dark. Quietness and activity. Stay tuned for my research into Ostara, the next pagan festival of the Celtic year, which celebrates the Vernal Equinox, when the light and dark are exactly equal…

…and if you have been reading The Grasping Root, please don’t forget to leave a review for me! 🙂

light horizon dark sky

Images via Pinterest