Book Favorites, Bookbinding
Books in General
Conferences and Workshops
Contests & Websites
dolphins, deep sea fishing, Mexico, Chef
Favorite Places, Indie Book Stores
flooding, Missouri, thunderstorm, small towns,
Frankenfoot, The Carlton, Writing Frenzy, Foot Surgery
ivy, ivy league, prune, edit, fiction, blog, wise old woman, neighbor
manuscript evaluation, editing
NaNo, writing, blog, writers
new novels, works in progress, kidney failure, transplants, Transplant tourism, china
New Year, Goals, Year in Review, Lists, Accomplishments
Once Upon a Time, Robert Carlyle, Rumplestiltskin, Mr. Gold, query letter, grant
Queries, Tracking, Synopsis, The Business End of Writing
Recommended reading list
Test Driving my E-Reader
Woodrell, Lesann Berry, Kostova, George, Bestsellers, Recommended Books,
Words of Wisdom
Writing Forums, Q & A
Writing Groups, Critique Groups, Improving Writing Skills
Page & Paragraph
Here's the list. Did you read any of the same books I did? If so, what's your opinion of them? Let's discuss.
2016 Reading List
1. Dead Witch Walking
by Kim Harrison
2. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
by Kim Harrison
3. Every Which Way But Dead by
Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison
a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison
Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison
Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison
Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison
Demon by Kim Harrison
Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison
After by Kim Harrison
Undead Pool by Kim Harrison
Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison
the Woods by Kim Harrison
by Sally Beauman
Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Revenant by Michael Punke
Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Summerhouse by Jude Devereaux
Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Special Grace by Benjamin Bradlee
by Ana Castillo
Scattering of Bones by Lesann Berry
Sister by Goce Smilevski
Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck
Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
Through Fires by David Nasser
Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen
Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
As you can see, the first fourteen books of 2016 were a paranormal series. This is not a common genre for me, but Kim Harrison made the series appealing and a little bit addictive.
I love works that are well-written and send me to the dictionary, and I found that to be the case in Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman. This is a sequel to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Question: Can I call it a sequel if it's not written by the original author? Would the change in author make it Fan Fiction?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova sent me to a world map which is equally enjoyable. This novel would be great for a literary road trip.
I found The Revenant by Michael Punke to be somewhat disappointing. I did not see the movie so my opinion is based solely upon the reading. I did use this novel to show some students how the storyline changes based upon the writer's audience. The original story came from a Philadelphia journal article written in 1825 by a lawyer. While Hugh Glass did exist, and was mauled by a bear and left for dead in 1823, the tale has never been told without some fictionalization. The book by Punke is very different from the first account of the story, and the hollywoodized adaptation found in the movie is very different from Punke's version. It made for a good teaching moment, but I didn't find the novel to be a compelling read.
The Weird Sisters was an interesting read, but not nearly as interesting as the title suggests.
Two novels by Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red and The Maid's Version, made it on to my reading list, in part, because his stories take place in the Ozark Mountains. Each time I read one of his works, I become more and more grateful that I did not grow up in the area he mines as his writing muse. I like how he juxtaposes the beauty of the region with the ugly actions of the people who populated it then and now. It's harsh and lovely at the same time.
I rarely (if ever) read romance, but when I do I turn to Jude Devereaux. Within a few chapters, her novel, The Summerhouse, struck me as more chick lit than romance. I enjoyed the concept of "What if I had it to do all over again?", and the way she handled the braided storyline of three women who share the same birthday, and met for a single day in the past. Their long weekend together in the present touches base on regrets for lives not lived.
The Library at Mount Char started wonderfully, but left me wanting in the end.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay was advertised as the book that frightened Stephen King. After reading it, I would like to think that Stephen King is made of sterner stuff. I didn't find it frightening--somewhat interesting, but definitely not frightening.
Lesann Berry proved to be an engaging writer. Her novel, A Scattering of Bones, was well-written and sent me to the dictionary a few times. I will probably watch for another release from her to see if she can maintain the same quality of writing throughout this series. So far, I'm impressed.
Freud's Sister only solidified my belief that Freud was in desperate need of a therapist.
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fanny Flagg was reminiscent of It's a Wonderful Life, and made for a pleasant and reaffirming read.
I found Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling to be an okay read despite the moans and groans from her Harry Potter fan base about the stage play script formatting. I'm beginning to wonder if Rowling will ever be able to write anything outside the Potter series or in any other style with success--not due to a lack of talent, but rather a lack of tolerance by her diehard Potter fans.
The Twenty-Seventh City, the first novel written by Jonathan Franzen, was more attention grabbing for its location rather than for the plot or characterization.
Last on the list is The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I read this book based on the reviews it received from Amazon readers. At first, I couldn't get into the story. I'd read a few paragraphs, then put it down, and wander off. I had to force myself back to it on multiple occasions. I couldn't believe that so many people could have been that wrong about it. What did they read or see in it that I didn't? It wasn't until nearly two thirds of the way through that the story finally clicked for me. At that point, I couldn't put it down.
If you read any of the works on my 2016 Reading List, I would love to hear from you. What was your take on these novels? Will we agree or disagree?
December, while being a hectic holiday time, is also a time of reflection. At least, it is for me. Between December 25th and January 25th, I make a point of reviewing the events of the past year to see how close I came to achieving my goals.
I also ponder on what I would like to accomplish in the new year. These are not resolutions. Resolutions are lucky to last a week or two. Instead of drunken promises made on New Year's Eve, I make a written list of goals that I would like to attain during the next 11 months. Be they personal, professional, or physical, I'm more likely to work toward them if they are written down and put in a prominent place where I can't help but see them and be reminded to make an effort.
It's a rare year that I check off everything on my list. It's also a rare year that I don't check off the majority of items on my list. The list gives me a direction to turn when I'm floundering. The list keeps me on track. The list is a constant reminder of the "promises" I've made to myself.
List making is one of life's constants for me. Over the years, I've collected thirty--give or take a few--annual lists. I keep them in a small file folder where I can review them every five to ten years. If the same goal pops up year after year, yet never gets accomplished, I have to ask myself why? Maybe, I write it down because I think it's something I should do, but would really rather not. Maybe, it's another's expectation of me. If it's something I want to accomplish, but don't, then maybe it's time for some professional help or a severe reality check on my part.
Some of the goals from my twenties are laughable to me now that I'm in my fifties. What seemed so important thirty years ago has little meaning in the world I live in today. From my lists, I can track my growth or the lack of it.
Lists are not for everyone, but they work for me.
How do you view the end of one year and the start of another? Do you have any traditions or rituals that have evolved over the years? If so, what are they? If you don't, might I suggest making a list?
In April, I had foot surgery and was confined to my bed for two weeks.
Even after my bed rest period was up, I continued to write and within four weeks I had written 25,000 words!
That may not seem like much to NaNo people who write 50 to 60,000 words in the same time frame, but for me I set a personal record.
Yesterday, I printed out those 104 pages to read through and organize.
Rather than write linearly (from beginning to end), I skipped around and wrote scenes that piqued my interest. Some characters are well-developed, while others are sketchy outlines.
My next step is to put these scenes in a linear sequence, and figure out the gaps. Once I know what's missing in terms of plot, I will fill in the plot holes. This method should also allow me to see which characters have been neglected and need further development. I've never written this way before, but it seems a lot faster and more productive. This is actually my fourth novel, but only one of them is finished. In the past, I wrote from beginning to end, but would stop when I got bogged down on a particular scene. I was writing like a champ on my third novel, Spared Parts, until I reached a scene that takes place in the Beijing airport. That's when inspiration flew out the window. I've never been to China and I floundered. My cousin was living there at the time and graciously offered to help me with the details. However, since she was not supposed to have email while in China, I didn't want to be the reason she ended up in a Chinese prison. (She's far too cute for that!)
In the next two weeks, I hope to make a list of what I'm missing and then prepare for another writing frenzy.
I have another foot surgery scheduled for late July, so my plan is to make good use of my bed rest time.
Wish me luck, and I'll keep you posted.
My writing took a serious hit during the last half of 2015. It wasn't pretty. The flashdrive on which I kept my creative writing crapped out on me. At first, I wasn't even all that concerned since I had been diligently backing up my computer. HOWEVER, I was living in a fool's paradise. While I was backing up everything on the laptop, my flashdrive with over five years of creative writing was not included as part of the laptop even when it was plugged in.
Apparently, everyone but me. When I bemoaned my loss, I found little sympathy among the more technologically advanced.
I tried several data recovery programs and took the flashdrive to various local computer stores. Nothing.
I finally decided to ship the flashdrive to a place in Florida which advertised recovery for about $100. I could afford that. It wasn't until a few days later, the Florida recovery team emailed me with the bad news that my flashdrive was a "more complicated" model called a monolith. To recover data from this type of flashdrive would set me back $500 with no guarantee as to how much or how little they could find. Either way, the price was $500--a sum I couldn't afford. I asked that it be shipped back and it now sits in a drawer that I don't like to look at.
Reeling from the loss of my "babies" (yes, I labored to create each short story, novella, and novel), I couldn't write. I fixated on what I lost even though I couldn't remember everything that was on the drive, even though I found copies of some of my works. Until I had thoroughly mourned their loss, I couldn't put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Instead, I read. I read books by authors who hadn't lost their flashdrives or at least knew enough to back them up or put them in a cloud. I read good fiction, bad fiction, and dare I say it? Romances.
Here's my 2015 Reading List:
2015 Reading List
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric
First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple by Cameron West, PhD
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo
by Chuck Palahniuk
Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain by Kirsten Menger-Anderson
Women and Ghosts by Alison Lurie
The Widow’s Walk by Robert Barclay
10. Chasing Rumi by Roger Houseden
11. The Short
Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie
12. The Robe of
Skulls by Vivian French
13. Invisible Boy
by Cornelia Read
14. The Bone
Church by Victoria Dougherty
15. Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton
16. Cane River by Lalita Tademy
Writers School by Steven Carter
18. In the Woods by Tana French
19. Me, Dead Dad,
& Alcatraz by Chris Lynch
20. The Junk-Drawer
Corner-Store Front-PorchBlues by John R. Powers
21. Going Away
Shoes by Jill McCorkle
22. Incantation by Alice Hoffman
Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
24. A Shortcut In
Time by Charles Dickinson
25. Temptation by Jude Deveraux
26. Daughter of
Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
28. High Tide by Jude Deveraux
29. Hope: A
Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
30. The Mystic
Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
by Charlie Houston
31. The Right
Hand of Evil by John Saul
32. Travels in
the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
33. The Twelve
Terrors of Christmas by John Updike
34. Gossamer by Lois Lowry
35. These Is My
Words by Nancy E. Turner
36. Black Magic
Sanction by Kim Harrison
37. White Witch,
Black Curse by Kim Harrison
38. The Gift of
Years: Growing Older Gracefully by
Sister Joan Chittister
I found some new authors (to me) and re-read some of my favorites. I mourned for my lost works, and slowly healed.
Today, I wrote about 3,000 words on a story that didn't exist even in my mind until a few weeks ago. It felt good to write again. Perhaps, someday when I have an extra $500 laying around, I'll pay to get the data off that flashdrive, but until then I'll have to content myself with producing new and hopefully, better works.
Who knows? Maybe a fresh start is exactly what I needed.
While much of Missouri is under water, I'm sitting high and dry. After growing up close to the Mississippi River and spending many weeks of my childhood filling sandbags and playing in flood waters, I chose to spend my adult life on higher ground.
However, once a River Rat ( a person who grew up on or extremely near the river), always a River Rat. The child part of me wants to play in the water, swim, fish, and float around. The adult part of me now understands the feelings of loss that my parents experienced as our house floated off its foundations.
Getting anywhere when it floods becomes a chore as roads are closed or washed out. A visitor to the area is hopelessly stranded, but a native knows which roads will stay open and for how long. This time, even the natives are at a loss.
Hwy 40-61 near Troy, MO
Winfield, MO is under water.
Main Street of Silex, MO on Hwy E
Timber Ridge Drive in Lincoln County collapsed due to heavy rain and flooding.
Old Monroe, MO. I've driven across this bridge many times.
Sonic Drive-In, Troy, MO
Not a tornado, just a thunderstorm. This is what is causing all the flooding. It's coming from rain, not snow melt. It's not even the big rivers such as the Mississippi or the Missouri as much as it is the smaller ones that are really effected by flash flooding.
Just before the highway closed.
Hwy 61 and Hwy KK near Troy, MO
As you can see, it's pretty wet around here. Once the water recedes (and it will, it always does), the hard work of cleaning up begins.
It's been an unusually wet spring and summer in these parts. Normally, Missouri is really a great place to visit. Lush and green and filled with kind, hard-working people. Don't let these photos discourage you from visiting.
While we wait for things to dry up a bit, I'm going to get a little more writing done. Maybe, a story about an ark . . . ?
Before entering the contest, I watched
the video on the Manuscript Evaluations page on her website. After all, who wants to win a contest from someone who doesn’t have credentials
or doesn’t gain your respect? Not me. My time is valuable.
Fortunately, I truly
appreciated her presentation. I learned from her. I enjoyed her straight forward
approach. She didn’t sugar-coat the writing process, but at the same time,
she wasn’t derogatory. She understood that each manuscript was someone’s baby.
A baby that had consumed large portions of the writer’s life. I got the
impression that even if the plot had holes large enough to drive a Hummer through,
Hummer Plot Hole
she possessed the ability to let the author know what needed to be done without wrecking
their self-esteem or desire to write another word. That’s a pretty fine line. Somehow, she managed to convey that in seven minutes. Can you imagine what she
could do in an hour? If I'm wrong, then someone needs to let me know.
Grand Prize: A Full Manuscript Evaluation
NANCY RAVEN SMITH for Land Sharks
2nd Prize: A 50-page Evaluation
MATTHEW PHILLIPS for Warrior Son
3rd Prize: A 25-page Evaluation
MAUREEN L. BONATCH for See No Evil
Unfortunately none of these three was me. While I didn’t win,
I still feel that it was worth the effort of entering (she made it very easy). I also feel as if I’ve made another valuable and accessible contact in the writing
I can't wait to see the final product of these manuscript evaluations. Can you say Best Seller?
The Best Part of This Week?
Roasting marshmallows at the park with my family.
One of my short stories. "Kingdom of One" will be published in the October issue (#28) of The Caribbean Writer.
The Caribbean Writer (TCW)--The Literary Gem of the Caribbean--
is an international, refereed, literary journal with a Caribbean focus,
founded in 1986 and published annually by the University of the Virgin
The 2014 edition of The Caribbean Writer, Volume 28, highlights Time, Place, and Memories, so "Kingdom of One" was a good fit.
I hope everyone who reads it will enjoy or at least, appreciate the story. Like most of my work, it's dark and leaves the reader questioning the distinction between right and wrong.
I can't wait to see what it look like in print! You can order a copy of Issue #28 here. I hope that any and every one who reads it will send me some feedback. I would really like to hear your thoughts on it.
As an unexpected bonus, its publication in the journal puts me in the running for a literary award. It will be a year before the 2014 award winners are announced, but wouldn't it be great to get an award from a university located on one of my favorite islands?
Who wouldn't want to be here? I have fond memories of vacationing in St. Croix with my son when he was a child. We had such adventures there!
My next topic has to do with critiques. I take part in several critique groups and at times, I've walked away from them feeling as if I'm not getting serious feedback. Other times, I've come away feeling guilty that I've perhaps been too harsh with my comments.
Without construction, honest criticism, I don't see how my writing can get any better. How will I improve? Maybe, others aren't at the critiques to improve, but rather to have their works lauded. If that's the case, it's a game I don't play well. I'm honest. Brutally honest. If that means saying, this piece needs a lot of work and here are some examples of what is wrong and some suggestions on how to make it better, then that's what I say.
Fortunately, I'm not the only one who believes this kind of honesty is the best policy. A writer whose work I admire and whose critiques I take to heart,Harvey Stanbrough, has generously allowed me to lift a paragraph from one of his blog posts. Here goes:
Social Graces — Yeah, well, okay, I just don’t have ‘em, I guess. I
keep getting emails telling me I should be more gentle with my
criticism when other writers ask me to critique their work. Sorry, but
I’m just not that guy. When someone tells you only what you want to
hear, maybe on the surface it makes you feel good but you learn NOTHING.
What’s worse, you never know whether that person is telling you the
truth about anything. What you get from me — but only if you ask — is
the plain, unvarnished truth, good or bad. When I tell you something
could be better, I’ll try to explain how to fix it. Maybe best of all,
when I pay your work a compliment, you’ll know I mean it. The
professional (or the aspirant who will become a professional) gladly
suffers criticism in order to grow in the craft. The aspirant who would
rather hear unearned praise than be afforded an opportunity to grow will
never be a professional. It really is as simple as that.
On a personal note, I got to spend some time in Mexico this summer. I always have a great time when I'm there and this time was no exception. I got to experience my first deep sea fishing trip and came home a winner as you can see below.
My catch-of-the-day was a 25 pound black fin tuna! Not bad for my first time.
Mundo cut it into steaks. The Chef cooked it for me!
I also got the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. It's something that's been on my bucket list for several years, but just couldn't seem to make it work until now.
Me and Nautica.
I strongly encourage you to swim with a dolphin if you ever get the chance. It was AMAZING!
On a final note, I'm off to see Gone Girl with my daughter. We've both read the book and are curious as to how well the movie is done.
This is my reading list from 2013. I didn't count short stories unless I read the entire anthology. I also did not include WIPs from my writer's groups nor the manuscripts that I read for a small publishing company. Last of all, I didn't include a great many e-books because I lost track of them.
You'll notice that if I like an author I tended to read several works by that author. I also discovered three new authors (new to me) in 2013. One is Lesann Berry
. Another is Danny King
. The last author which I discovered just before Christmas is Robin Sloan
. I recommend all three for very different reasons.
I also revisited some classics such as The Great Gatsby and Fahrenheit 451.
What did you read in 2013?
1. A Cure
for Dreams by Kaye Gibbons
Women by Kaye Gibbons
Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey
Unseen by Kaye Gibbons
5. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the
Future… by Michael J. Fox
6. Flight to Avoid by Larry Long
7. Minority Report by Philip K. Dick
8. The Stranger and Other Stories by Glen
9. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Child by T.C. Boyle
11. Eden by Olympia Vernon
12. The Creator’s Map by Emilio Calderón
13. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
14. Green Lake by S.K. Epperson
15. Toy Cemetery by William W. Johnstone
16. German for Travelers: A Novel in 95 Lessons by
17. Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young
Holocaust Survivors by Milton J. Nieuwsma
18. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
Realities by Lesann Berry
Judgment by Lesann Berry
Vitae by Lesann Berry
Henchman’s Book Club by Danny King
24. On The
Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou
Ruth by Christina Schwarz
Everafter by Amy Huntley
27. The Map
of True Places by Brunonia Barry
Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates
29. The Box
by Gunter Grass
30. The Book
of Lies by Brad Meltzer
Heroines by Eileen Favorite
Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert
Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
34. And the
Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
35. The Man
in the Picture by Susan Hill
36. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by
37. Ernest Hemingway on Writing Edited by
Larry W. Phillips
38. Dangerous Alterations by Elizabeth Lynn
|Below you'll find the review I posted on both Goodreads and Amazonfor Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.
Love, love, LOVE this book! I've tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, blogged, and reviewed this book. If I do anything more, author Robin Sloan is going to have to put me on the payroll!
I rarely get this excited about a book, but Mr. Penumbra's really resonated with the bibliophile in me. This debut novel abounds with quirky, intelligent characters on a quest. I truly adored Ms. Lapin! How could I not? She is me and I am her.
Rarely do technology and literature met and mesh. Just think about the ongoing debate over e-books. However, if technology and literature had a love child, this would be it. Even the cover glows in the dark!
From first to final page, the reader becomes part of a journey that he/she may not always understand (I'm not that technologically advanced.), but is always willing to follow. There are parts that are more bookish and in those sections, I felt like I was leading, guiding the others along the way. From Google headquarters to age-old libraries, Sloan blends the old with the new, and makes it work.
The truth he reveals/exposes is one you may have heard and forgotten. If it's your first time to see it, then enjoy and drink deeply of it.
I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who loves books, reading, technology, architecture, mystery, secret societies, libraries, independent book stores, gaming, and magic realism. Did I leave anyone out? In other words, this book is for everyone.
Buy it, read it, enjoy it, sleep with it under your pillow to inspire good dreams.