Summer reading: what makes a good beach read?

Reading at the beach. Credit: Minh Nguyen

Reading at the beach. Credit: Minh Nguyen

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about reading during the summer (and on vacation). For many of us, the summer is an opportunity to unwind and catch up on our reading. If I’m actually at the beach, I love reading a book and being able to look up over the edge of the book (or e-reader) and see the ocean waves. But what makes a good summer read? I have several kinds of summer reads that I adore, and certainly let me know if you have additional thoughts.

For me, the most traditional summer read is an escape. Not so much that the book has to be very simple or completely different from my regular life, but that I am transported somewhere while reading the book. I love a book that causes me to forget where I am or what I am worrying about these days. These are often fantasy or adventure novels. I have two book series I particularly enjoy for escapist summer reading.

I also love an interesting book that I don’t think I’ll have time or mental energy to read at other times of the year. I know this is bit of an illusion that I only have time during the summer, although for books that take a substantial amount of time to read, it is nice to not lose the thread of the book. For me, these summer reads are very intricate novels or lengthy history books. I love these three dense, interesting fiction books.

Summer reading can be related to work — but only if it’s something I’m excited to read. If it’s been assigned or feels like an obligation, I end up carting the book around with me and not reading it. Maybe I will absorb the information through my fingers? But I do like a chance to step back from my day-to-day labors and think more broadly about the work I am doing. I usually only have no more than one of these books in me each summer.

In a similar vein, my summer reading can also include a self-help book. This book could be a more philosophical reflection on our world or full of practical strategies or techniques for surviving life. A summer vacation can be a great time to step back and take stock of how I’m living life, as well as an opportunity to change habits and behaviors.

And of course, all of these things could apply to reading year round, if I can make the time!






Progress on my next book, Good Fortune

I’m currently working my way through the first round of editing on Good Fortune, the sequel to Best Laid Plans. I’m very excited to start getting feedback from my very early readers on my next book! If you’d like regular updates on my progress, you can sign up for my email newsletter.

When I work on my books, I mark each section by their status: to-do, hot mess, first draft, etc. I’ve successfully gotten much of the book out of the hot mess status, although I’m sure there will be some new hot messes I introduce later this month.

Good Fortune has a similar structure to Best Laid Plans, in that we get Sam’s and Wil’s perspective in each of the four seasons. Instead of covering three years, Good Fortune will cover two years — between the two books, we will cover five years. I’ve enjoyed writing books with a more rigid structural requirements. It’s been an interesting challenge!

I absolutely adore the characters in Good Fortune, particularly Sam’s sisters. The Queezy sisters are a force to be reckoned with. Their affection and support for each other is loosely based on the relationships between my mom and her sisters, but they also very much have their own identity and dynamic.

Some of the early feedback has focused on drawing out more about Wil and how he’s growing and learning (or not). I’ll be working on the next draft later in June and early July, and then the manuscript will be off for the round of edit.s

I’m aiming for mid-November to officially launch the e-book and print editions. Sign up for my email newsletter if you’d like regular updates.

I’ll be looking for reviewers in the fall — drop me an email if you’re interested. And you can sign up for my email newsletter for regular updates on my progress.

Portland and the Greywater Chronicles

Portland plays an active role in the Greywater Chronicles books. The map below breaks down some of the key Portland locations. Mistakes Were Made locations are in blue, Best Laid Plans locations are orange, and Good Fortune (coming November 2016) are in green.

There are other key Portland things that don’t quite line up with a pin on a map, including Bridgetown Comedy Festival and Forest Park.

I really enjoyed making this map and seeing a visual representation of the various locations (real and imaginary) in Greywater Chronicles. I clearly need to have more locations in SE Portland and heading further south into SW Portland, and someday we’ll get to leave the central core of the city.

And remember that in the Greywater Chronicles, we’re in the future. New buildings have been built. Not all restaurants have continued. Businesses that are institutions in the Greywater Chronicles don’t even exist yet. Bikeshare: we don’t have Biketown (Bikey-town) quite yet in spring 2016, but it’s going strong in the 2040s.

Did I forget anything? Drop me a note and I’ll update this post!

Party for Best Laid Plans at Taborspace

We had a wonderful party in May for the launch of Best Laid Plans in print and digital editions. Many great friends — new and old — came out to celebrate the launch, and we spent a great couple of hours laughing and talking.

We were at Taborspace in SE Portland, and the venue was a delightful, all-ages space. I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

Interested in attending future parties? You can sign up for my email newsletter for monthly updates on all things Taylor Rush.

Coming home

An original essay by Taylor Rush, reflecting on returning home many years ago. Enjoy!

I volunteered to take the middle seat. My boyfriend sat on my right, dozing. The woman to my left claimed the arm rest with an unyielding elbow.

Plane to go home

I’d been traveling for two months with Devon, and neither of us knew what awaited us back home in Portland. My job had been unraveling before I left and Devon was unemployed. Our landlord had sent us a nastygram the previous week about subletting the apartment. I already missed traveling between Dutch towns on rented bicycles and drinking coffee at ten in the morning in the town square.

The seat in front of me pushed back, and I contemplated the safety message about water landings. What body of water between the Dakotas and Oregon would we find to land in?

Devon nudged my side. Out the window, the North Cascades disappeared into the distance. Furthest away, I could see Mt. Baker with its bevy of small peaks. Mt. Rainier was always larger than I expected. Closer, Mt. Adams sat in the midst of a patchwork of forests. Unlike the mountains and hills of Europe, each volcanic mountain rose from the valley floors in majestic isolation.

The plan flew. We were over the high desert of Eastern Washington and Oregon, where the sky is enormous and the air is effervescent. We were over the ponderosa pine forests that creep up the hills into foothills, with puzzle bark that grows in deep grooves smelling of summer.

We were over the douglas fir forest higher up the foothills. The snows hadn’t yet arrived for the winter, and the trees were dusty. The slanting light tinted the mountains pink, glinted off of the mountain lakes.

From St. Helens, close to home

From St. Helens, close to home

I could see my favorite mountain: St. Helens. She was still sending up poofs of steam. I elbowed Devon. Before we left, I had spent the summer watching Mt. St. Helens from our porch, taking photos of each small burst of activity.

The Columbia River rolled beneath us, dammed but still mighty. The plane jostled over the air that always bubbled out of the Columbia River Gorge. I squeezed Devon’s hand. The engine noise shifted and the plane began dropping back towards earth.

From the other side of the plane, there were gasps as we traveled just over the edge of Hood, the pointy mountain of our city. I knew they could see the Cascades heading south—Mt. Jefferson, the Sisters, Mt. Bachelor—lining up all the way to California.

I stretched across Devon, pressing my nose against the window, squeezing every glimpse of the northern mountains. Adams was gone and I was losing St. Helens as we dropped towards Portland. Houseboats clustered along the banks of the Columbia. Light spilled out in front of us. The sun was up. I was home.

Tech and water: the computer (part 2 of 2)

I had some conflicts last week between technology and water: phone v. toilet; laptop and drop surface table v. glass of water.

I was happily working downstairs last week as it was a bit cooler. A pint glass of water sat next to me on the dining room table as I typed away on my third book.

Twilight Imperium is serious business.

Twilight Imperium is serious business.

Our table is a magical table — built by Geek Chic six years ago when they were popular but only wait for nine months popular. There is an amazing drop surface under the leaves for playing games. This is the table that Wil inherits from his parents in Best Laid Plans.

We have some custom maps printed that live under the plexiglass down there in the drop surface.

When I knocked my water over into the laptop keyboard, I was first concerned about technology. But my Lenovo Thinkpad is a champ — the water ran out, I pulled back the keyboard cover and dried that sucker out. No problem. I mean, let’s not fool myself, I was pretty upset. But after about 30-45 minutes, I was pretty sure I was okay.

And then I started thinking about the table. I open it up, clean the crumbs, remove the plexiglass (it’s big; really a two person job), lift the grid carefully, pull out the two maps that are something like 3 feet by 4 feet, balance my favorite fan on the edge of the table to dry them, knock the fan over breaking the fan blade. Lay down on floor. Get back up, finishing drying and cleaning, put table back together.

Contact Vornado fan customer support — they are sending me a new fan blade. I’ve had this fan for fifteen years. I love this fan. Maybe not as much as the table, but close.

Watch computer anxiously. Discover primary writing project (Book three in the Greywater Chronicles) file is corrupted and missing sections. Email Scrivener technical support. Get response in less than hour. Scrivener is AWESOME! Fix file. Find missing sections. Turn everything off and sit very carefully in the backyard.

Finish day at Rose and Thistle on patio. Thank god.

Lessons: never go anywhere near water again? Although I suspect I’d have worse luck with whiskey.

Tech and water: not such a great week (part 1 of 2)

I had some conflicts last week between technology and water: phone v. toilet; laptop and drop surface table v. glass of water.

bathroomPart 1: the phone saga. I had my lovely Nexus 5x jammed in the back pocket of my jeans. I love this phone. It’s about five months old. It’s also way too large for most of my pockets.

So, with the phone sticking out of my back pocket, I sat down on the toilet to pee. When I stood up, the top edge of the phone caught on toilet seat and flipped into the pee water. My first toilet/phone accident.

I’m proud to say I immediately grabbed that phone without thinking about it. Turned it off. Dried it off. Stuck it in some rice, which kept pulling water out of the bottom ports. Ran a hand vac over it. Dabbed at it with Q-Tips.

Wonderfully, it powered up just fine a few hours later.

Only a day later when someone called me did I discover that the speaker for talking on the phone didn’t work. The good folks at Gadget Fix on NE Broadway took it apart, cleaned it, and now it’s working again. Phew.

But little did I know that I had more disaster in my future. I’ll pick at that wound tomorrow.

Delightful things from April 2016

April has been lovely in Portland, Oregon, and we are full of delightful things (take that aslilac you will). Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Little Free Libraries: I keep stumbling across these wonderful little boxes of books, and I’m a bit happier every time. These are all over the world!
  2. BodyVox: one more weekend to see their fun and thought-provoking dance show, Pearl Dive Project, here in Portland. Eight dances choreographed by non-choreographers. Very cool.
  3. Portland Art Museum: a fascinating exhibit of photography by contemporary Native American photographers: Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, and Will Wilson. I really liked getting to see their work with Edward Curtis’ photography from a hundred years ago.
  4. Finishing Pandemic Legacy: this game is really fun. If you’re already playing Pandemic, you should treat yourself and a couple of friends to playing this serial game over twelve months of fighting a pandemic. More on Board Game Geek.
  5. Lady Rizo: I always love getting to see Lady Rizo, and the show this last week at Star Theater in Portland was particularly wonderful/awesome/inspiring. I’m not sure why I love how she eats a glove, but it makes me so happy every time.
  6. Bikeytown is coming to Portland!!! I’m terribly excited about bike share. So often I want to ride in one direction and walk in another, or take a bus, or hitch a ride with someone. I also hate locking my bike up on the street.

Marketing. It burns. It burns.

My pretties!This started as a normal update on the ins and outs of marketing books and rapidly took a turn to weird. Consider it an essay. About marketing.

So, I’ve got two novels available and a third in active edits, but I’m still finding my audience. Fair enough. I’ve working in digital marketing. I know (sort of) how this works. (See Rules for Being Online and Theory of Twitter)

But then I start getting tangled up in my methodology. And then I get tangled up in the word “methodology.” I won’t follow this tangle any further.

But fundamentally, I want to try to do this on my own, from scratch. No smoke and mirrors. I currently have minimal budget other than my time. Sounds great. What could go wrong?

Know your readers/customers/audience: well, since I don’t have that many yet, I have my imaginary personas. They are helpful only to a point.

Know your self: working on this one. Silly, fun, kind stories about the complicated, mixed-up, inconsistent nature of who we are.

Content Marketing: this blog post, email newsletters, videos that I haven’t made, podcasts I haven’t recorded. Provide real people with interesting content, and they will connect to me and to my books. Sounds great. But takes time. And hard to not judge this content even more than my original fiction writing.

And again, none of matters if the books aren’t selling.

Social media: damned if I’m going to pay for any services to get followers/likes/strokes. I’ll use a service like Hootsuite to help me time my own content, but I’m not going to automate anything. Everything will be touched by me. But then I start get sucked into the numbers game. The ego stroke. The sexbots. The drugs. Well, not the drugs. But the whole world is bizarre. And maybe I’m being stupidly stubborn on the manual management.

And at some point, none of this matters if books don’t sell.

And I start crossing paths with people who seem mean. I want the friendly marketing bots to come back. Come back, friendly marketing bots. Make me feel better about myself without being a scary person.So far, I’m sticking to my principles of touching everything. Even the sexbots.

Advertising: costs money and requires copywriting skillz I lack. Brief experiments did not have the return on investment (ROI) I wanted. But I know about ROI. So that’s something.

Giveaways: sure, I have some books on hand. But shipping costs money. Although I always have Little Free Libraries. And my Goodreads giveaway actually was really fun (and I think may have helped with sales). I should try again.

Events: a little tough as a friendly introvert, since writing a blog post is always an alternative. Also quickly costs money since I feel strongly about beer and wine being present at events. Maybe I could find a beer and wine sponsor? Someday I’ll have to actually talk to a book store as well. But they are as scary as some of the grumpy people online. Chase my tail in circles.

Publicity/PR: well, shoot, I have no idea how to do this. I talked boldly about press releases and outreach and press kits and blah blah blah. I read the advice of writing marketers about press releases and interesting pitches. I did none of it. Perhaps this blog post will push me into taking action.

I’m also not sure how much to believe the writing marketers. A lot of the advice seems like it’s from the 1980s and was never updated. An easy solution would be to have a conversation with a few reporters about how they find stories. But they seem scary.

Sits down with bourbon and pouts. Clearly, I need to talk to people. All sorts of people. I have learned to order pizza over the phone. For my spouse’s travel hacking hobby/obsession/awesomeness, I talk to credit card companies. I give professional presentations with a minimum of stress. I write scolding emails about appropriate information management techniques and code documentation. I can learn how to do this.

And I’ll always have the social media sexbots. They want me. I know it.

Next steps

Writing this blog post was cathartic. I was going to say oddly cathartic, but I think catharsis was exactly what I was looking for. So, moving forward…

  1. Take advantage of local friends’ expertise and classes. Meeting with people and attending a one day small business class on marketing later this week. Pulling all my marketing thoughts into one primary document in preparation for marketing class.
  2. Focus on the Portland angle right now. I have had this vision of finding a worldwide audience right away. But my story as an author (and within my books) has a strong Portland bent. I might as well us this. I am passionate about this.
  3. Use my current (small) profits to run some online advertising campaigns and see how it goes. Amazon and Goodreads seem like the most promising…I think.
  4. Reviews, reviews, reviews. Keep chipping away at this.
  5. Content marketing is great as a baseline, but gotta keep moving forward on items 1-4.

My first two books are now available on this site and You can follow Taylor on GoodreadsTwitterFacebook, Instagram, and/or sign up for email updates — whatever works for you.

The Future in the Greywater Chronicles

The Greywater Chronicles are in the future. It’s true. But also not particularly overt. In fact, you could easily read the books as taking place in the 1990s as much as the 2040s. The first three books are focused on love and friendship, and the time period of the books is a (delightful) surprise for anyone who is paying attention.

But if you are paying attention, there are some interesting things going on.

  1. Things that are different in the future aren’t really remarked upon by the characters. The future is usually more boring and less exciting that we suspect.
  2. The cars drive themselves. We still have taxi drivers since we’re not allowed to have self-driving cars without human oversight.
  3. Global warming is real; greywater plumbing and energy efficiency are all the more critical.
  4. Portland became uncool, cool, and uncool again. In the mid-2040s, Portland is considered a bit provincial and not a hip place to live.
  5. The earthquake has not yet hit. This might change in a future book.
  6. We have mobiles and computers, but there is no discussion of what these look like and how we interact with them. For my  characters, the technology is unremarkable and unremarked upon. Some technology is seamless, with more devices referred to with a simple noun rather than any fancy new language.
  7. Old and young live together. The baby boomer generation is dying off, leaving us with a surplus of housing built for the old. At the Misty Forests Recovery and Adult Living Center, the longer-term residents are mostly older, but this is likely to continue to shift to a more balanced demographic.
  8. Portland has figured out how to deal with mental health crises with MenPros (Mental Health Professionals). Yay!
  9. The United States has not solved debt for higher education. Boo!
  10. People are still silly.