Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Quarter Faves for 2008

It's been a while since I posted a 'what I'm reading' post, so I thought I'd do that today. I've been a bit more sporadic in my reading habits this year--probably due to several time consuming reasons, but I'm going to pretend I'm writing during what used to be some of my reading time. ^_^ I've also been pickier this year, and more of the books I read didn't make it to my 'great reads' list. I find the more I write, the more I pick apart books while I'm reading them, which annoyingly makes them less enjoyable.

So, I'm going to highlight three books I enjoyed immensely (not to belittle other books on my great reads books for this year, but I had to narrow it down to a reasonable number, so these are the three that stand out the most in my mind.) Without further ado --and in no particular order--my top picks out of winter 2008 books.

I think I mentioned Halfway to the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost, once before when writing on hooklines because this writer nailed it. She nailed the rest of the book too. It's a fast paced debut novel, and though it's heavy on the romance, there is plenty of action and outside tension to please fans who might not typically go for the romance genre.
I throughly enjoyed this book, was surprised by the ending, and am anxiously awaiting the next novel in the series, One Foot in the Grave.

The next book on my top pick list probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows my reading tastes well, but I'm listing it anyway. It is, of course, The Outlaw Demon Wails, by Kim Harrison. I won't say too much about this book because it is the latest in a growing series. What I will say is if you've read the previous books, but haven't picked this one up, stop dwadling. If you haven't started the Rachel Morgan series, the first book is Dead Witch Walking. Go, get it, read it.

The last book on my list comes with a disclaimer: this is a book that will have few wishy-washy opinions, people will love or hate it (as cliche as the statement is, it is still true.)
Happy Hour of the Damned, by Mark Henry, is like nothing else on the shelves. The writer, very intentionally, breaks every rule you've ever heard about writing: there is a several chapter long flashback; the reader is addressed directly, breaking the 'fourth wall'; and the main character is the ultimate anti-heroine. Oh yeah, and then there are the footnotes (I kid you not) and the directions to note side-boxes with information like drink mixes and music playlists.
The book is a reading experience to say the least, and I'll admit I got totally thrown out of the story dozens of times (footnotes will do that) but I highly enjoyed it. I'll admit, had I picked it up on a casual brows, I probably wouldn't have purchased it. But, I happen to like the author's web presence (yes, web presence sales books--I have proven that, lol) and it came recommended. I'm glad it did, and very glad I read it. I can't wait to see what Mark comes out with next.

Well, that wraps up my top picks for Winter 2008. As a side note, I'd also like to spotlight two books that will be coming out on April 1st. I can't say I'm recommending these books, as I have not read either yet, but both are sequels to books I read last year that were definitely in my top five books of 2007, so I have high hopes.

Rogue, by Rachel Vincent, is the second book in her Werecat series. You can find where I blogged about Rachel's debut novel, Stray, here.

The other book I'm anxiously awaiting which releases on April 1st is the third book in the Cassandra Palmer series called, Embrace the Night, by Karen Chance. After the first two books, I would really love to sit down with Karen and pick her brain on how she plots, and more importantly, how far ahead she plots. These books have a time traveling element, and during the second book, the reader (or at least I) picked up on subtle things that happened in the first book that were affected by events in the second, which is an awesome trick!

What books have you been reading recently? What books are you drooling over and wishing for longer excerpts while you wait for them to release?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Squirrel 3, Building 0

My work has a squirrel. Actually at first they thought it was a rat, then a squirrel, then a rat AND a squirrel, then they decided it was just a rat, and now it's a squirrel again. Confused yet? I'll back up.

Several weeks ago, one of the bigwig guys in my office discovered he'd had a nighttime visitor who hit his secret stash of junk food and left little droppings behind. The assumption was that a rat crawled under the door and squeezed into the drawer full of food. The pest control people were called. Traps were baited and set.

No rat.

In fact, not only did the traps not catch a rat, but there was evidence that something had been sitting ON TOP of the traps (they were enclosed). Also, foot prints were found on pipes in the room, indicating the perpetrator was coming from the ceiling.

Okay, not a rat, a squirrel.

More traps were brought in--bigger, 'live' traps. Still nothing. At this point, the guy was getting pretty upset with the lack of results, and the fact his NEW stash had been hit. (No comments about the fact the smartest thing to do would have been removing ALL food from the room. No food, no reason for the visitor to return.) Anyway, pressure was put on pest control to fix the problem.

The exterminator, a very nice lady who also works in wildlife rescue, went up into the ceiling to further investigate. She found evidence that a rat had been around recently, but the squirrel droppings were old, dried.

Okay, no more squirrel, back to the rat.

She put glue traps in the obvious path the rodent had been taking, and left for the night. The next morning, she discovered the traps scattered around the room. Our squirrel was back, but he only got one foot stuck, and apparently dragged the trap around the room until he got free. He lost a couple tuffs of grey fur, and a whisker, but he escaped.

No sign of the rat.

I feel rather bad for the squirrel. We are guessing he came in an open window one night, and now he's stuck in the building. So far he is winning, but for his sake, I hope he walks into one of the 'live' traps soon so he can be released back outside. We will see what happens--or maybe it will be a rat again. ^_^

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Writing Short

Last week, one of my fellow Tri Ms (Modern Myth Makers, the writing group that formed following NaNo last year) challenged me to write a short story targeted at a very specific line. I knew this would be something totally new for me, but as I had just finished my latest WIP, decided it would be a fun change of pace.

I think that was Wednesday. At that point, I had no idea what I would write about in specifics, but I had lots of ideas that had been on the back burner. Some were obviously not a good fit for the paramaters of what I was trying to write, but over the last part of the week, I knocked enough ideas together to start a spark, worldbuild a little, and get some idea who my characters were. I did not write a full outline, but I did jot down some very basic notes of what had to happen in the story for it to be, well, a story. With that, Saturday I began writing.

The word count goal of this story is 10-15k words. Now, as far as short stories go, 10k isn't that short. But, for me, to tell what I feel is a complete story, that is pretty short.

This story is written from two POVs and judging by the notes I made before I started, I'm guessing I will need ten or elven scenes to create a full story. Knowing that from the get go, I planned for each scene to be around 1k, give or take a few hundred words.

I've yet to write a scene under 2k. *sigh*

I get the feeling this story will end up under a very fine knife later. The good news is, this should teach me a lot about tightening and refining down to the essential story. It might be a bit of a painful lesson, but maybe a quick challenge is the perfect place for it. My plan is to finish the story, completely, by April 5th. Wish me luck!

If you read short stories, can you recommend a couple of your favorites? If you write short stories, what tips can you share about writing short?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fun with Comments

I'm neck deep in plotting a short story, but I'm not ready to say much about it, so I thought I'd share some of the Comments from the MS I just finished. Rachel posts her comments to her blog once in a while, and they always fascinate/amuse me, so I hope you find mine just as interesting.

The MS, which ended just under 80k, had a total of 158 comments. (For those unfamiliar with comments, they are a feature in word that highlights a section of text and puts a little bubble on the side of the page where additional text/notes can be written.)

Some random comments from the first couple chapters:
-"Find out the legal term for (place)"
-"When talking about (deleted) is (deleted) capitalized?"
-"Clunky" (referring to a paragraph I didn't like)
-"Look up shoes"
-"Did I give him a name earlier?"
-"This is the idea. Now rewrite it to make it work."
-"Long meandering description. Figure out what you want to say."
-"Where did the (object) go?"
-"How can I up the tension?"
-"What time was it when (deleted)?"
-"Make sure (character) didn't have a watch on earlier."

So...yeah. That's how I talk to myself inside my head too. A combination of reminders to look stuff up, either within the MS or actual research, and a little yelling at myself because I don't like the way words are landing on the page.

Who else leaves comments in their work? (Doesn't have to be writing related) What types of notes do you leave yourself?

That's it for me today. Back to plotting--I mean work. ^_~
Happy hump day everyone!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Well, after a very busy week and weekend, I finally got out those last few words and wrote, you guessed it THE END on my WIP. Granted, the word count came out a little lower than I expected for a first draft, (though only about 700 words less than I was projecting) but I know with the way I write, the second draft will flesh out what I wrote in this one. I also realized during the middle of the climax that I sort of forgot to kill someone (I know...how could I have forgotten something like that? But I did) so there are two scenes or so I didn't write, but I'll catch them in the second draft.

Final wordcount:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
79,287 / 79,287

Now, I will commence in a little happy dancing, and then put this MS in the drawer a couple weeks while I work on something else. There are a lot of projects I've been thinking about, so I'm not sparse on ideas. The question is what to work on next? Isn't that a great dilemma? ^_^

Happy Monday everyone!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Those elusive words are around the bend

Let me start this by going ahead and splashing the progress meter up:

Current Progress: GW
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
74,824 / 80,000

As you can see, I'm just an inch above 5k from hitting the goal. Now I'll be honest, at this point I'm not sure if the first draft will end up a little over or a little under that 80k goal, but I'm thrilled to see such a tiny sliver left. I'm even more thrilled that I reached the climax scene while writing at lunch today. I was neck deep in the final confrontation between the MC and the 'bad guy' when the little 'ding' sounded reminding me to run (no time left for a casual stroll) back to work.

So, I know it won't be long now until I'll be writing those two little, elusive words at the bottom of the MS. I can't wait!

Have a great day everyone!