Monday, June 30, 2008

888 Challenge Update

What I’m reading: The Charm School by Nelson DeMille

What I’m working on: Subplots and a few turning points in Slayer. (And just getting back to that writing habit.)

You may remember that back in early January of this year, I blogged about the 8 books in 8 categories challenge I under took. Well, today is 6 months in and 6 months to go, so I thought I’d post a half-way point update on my progress. I’m actually just a touch ahead of schedule since I’m allowed 8 overlaps. I’m aiming for 56 books by the end of 2008.

If you’ll notice, I’ve modified my categories a bit since I started. I also listed titles I planned to read at that point, but I should know better than to stick to such a strict plan. I tend to gravitate to lots of different kinds of books, and my mood is likely to change frequently, so I'm reading what I like as long as it can loosely fit one of my categories. As you can see from my modifications, that's not too hard.

Did you take the challenge? How are you doing? Look back at the last 6 months --- whether you took the challenge or not --- what great books have you read?

888 Challenge*8 books/8 categories*
(Allowed 8 overlaps) for a total of 56 books (not 64)

I. Romance novels:
1. The CEO’s Scandalous Affair (The Garrison’s) by Roxanne St. Claire (Silhouette Desire)
2. Seduced by the Wealthy Playboy (The Garrison’s) by Sara Orwig (Silhouette Desire)
3. Burning Up by Sarah Mayberry (Harlequin Blaze)

II. Continue 8 series I’ve already started
1. The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann (starts the Trouble Shooters series – which I read out of order)
2. Blood Fever by Karen Marie Moning (2nd in Moning’s Fever series)
3. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyers (3rd in the Twilight series)
4. Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas (sequel to Sugar Daddy)

III. Young Adult/Youth
1. Raven’s Gate by Anthony Horowitz
2. Over Sea, Under Stone: Book 1 of the Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper (audio)
3. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
4. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
5. London Calling by Edward Bloor

IV. Book Club books (TBA – of course – as we select them).
1. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas (Discussion on January 14th)
2. Poison Study by Maria Snyder (Discussion February 10th)
3. Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockmann (Discussion March 9th)
4. Can You Keep a Secret by Sophia Kinsella (April discussion)
5. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (May discussion)
6. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (June discussion)

Published Novellas/Short Stories by CFRWA Friends
1. Poor Me by Dara Edmondson & Raina Edmondson (Wild Rose Press)
2. The Fortune Teller’s Lay (Wilder Rose Press) by Lara Dien
3. In Time for Christmas by Cheryl Alldredge (from Coffee Time Romance)
4. Christmas at Home by Leanne L. Burroughs (in the Christmas Wishes Anthology)

VI. Books by Authors I Haven’t Yet Read
1. Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy
2. Madapple by Christina Meldrum
3. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
4. Runemarks by Joanne Harris
5. How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn

VII. Audio Books
1. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
2. The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis
3. Great Expecations by Charles Dickens
4. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
5. The Charm School by Nelson DeMille

VIII. Other books I want to read that don’t fit elsewhere
1. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
2. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
3. Writing the Break-Out Novel by Donald Maass

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How many pages will you give a new book?

What I’m reading now: The Charm School by Nelson DeMille

What I’m working on: Beefing up my Slayer character grids and starting character grids for the next book in the series. I’m also rewriting an important scene from a different POV.

How many pages will you give a book before you just say no? How many will you give it before you’re truly committed to finishing it no matter what? The answer to these questions might not be the same.

Generally, I’ll give the book at least 2 or 3 chapters – unless the chapters are unbearably long or have no redeeming interest for me. I am seldom hooked on the first page or even in the first chapter for that matter. I still question whether I like the characters and can buy into the plot in the first chapter of most books.

Even after chapter 3, there is still the possibility that I’ll put the book down and not come back to it. I’ve been know to be about half way through and flip to the back to see if it’s predictable (a big reason I put books down). If it is, I shelve it.

How far are you willing to read before you just say “no”? Will you get to a point and then commit to finish no matter what or is there always that chance you’ll drop a bad read?


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Kind of Thinker Are You?

What I'm Reading: The Charm School by Nelson DeMille

What I'm Working On: Revisiting the character grid for Slayer.

A fun quiz for today:

Your Thinking is Concrete and Random
You are naturally inquisitive and curious.
You're excited by new ideas, and you are a true independent thinker.

You are interested in what is possible. You like the process of discovery.
You are often experimenting, challenging old ideas, and inventing new concepts.

Rules, restrictions, and limit don't really work for you.
You have to do things your own way, and you can't be bothered to explain yourself.

Monday, June 23, 2008


What I’m Reading: The Charm School by Nelson DeMille

What I’m Working On: I finally hammered out some big plot things. Maybe I’m on a roll.

I saw the moving The Incredible Hulk Sunday night. I probably don’t have to say it, but I will. I LOVE SUPER-HERO MOVIES.

I’ve seen two super-hero movies this summer – Ironman and The Incredible Hulk. I really liked them both. I can’t say which one I liked best.

I have, however, compared them – from a character arc standpoint.

(Warning: Spoilers.)

Let’s start with Ironman. Tony Stark is the super wealthy arms industrialist. He naively believes he’s protecting the world by making bigger, more deadly weapons. When he’s kidnapped in a third world country by a terrorist, he realizes his weapons have fallen into the wrong hands and are responsible for the deaths of thousands. His wounds in that country would have been fatal if not for the compassionate physician he meets -- that and Tony’s own genius. Tony’s transformation occurs when he returns to the United States. He’s determined to make sure his second chance is wisely used. He devotes himself to making up for the destruction for which he’s been responsible.

In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner is another genius. This hero is a gamma-poisoned scientist who can’t control the monster within. The government wants to dissect him and use what they learn to create the ultimate army. Bruce isolates himself in a remote area of the world in order to learn enough control to prevent the monster from emerging and also to find a cure for himself. When the government discovers his location, he has no choice but to run again – this time toward the one person he knows can help. Just when he thinks he’s cured, a monster far more evil than Bruce's Hulk is created. Bruce realizes he has a responsibility: not to suppress the Hulk, but to learn him intimately (and thereby learn himself, too) so that he can be used as a force for good.

Tony Stark wakes up in his story as does Bruce Banner, but Tony learns he must grow up from irresponsible, blind playboy to a man responsible for his own gifts. Bruce learns he can’t run from who he is, but that he must embrace that man (and monster) and become master of both.

Maybe the reason I love super-hero movies so much is the character arc of the hero. I can’t wait for the Batman sequel. I don’t think Bruce Wayne is finished with his changes and it will be interesting to see how well the movie-makers pull off The Dark Knight. (Sequels rarely seem as good as the original to me because frequently there is less character arc in lieu of more special effects and violence.)

Ah, well, I have less than a month to wait for the next super-hero summer movie. In the meantime, maybe I'll rewatch my DVD of The X-Men. I do love Wolverine.....


Thursday, June 19, 2008


What I'm Reading: Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

What I'm Working on: Brainstorming story ideas for Slayer and recovering from being in the Keys on a research trip with 23 high school students

Word count: (Did you read the recovery comment above?)

I've just returned from a great trip to the Keys (Pigeon Key, to be exact) with a group of high school kids -- each doing independent marine research. I'm exhausted.

It was a great trip -- well, except for the mangrove crab incident, but I'll blog that later.

I wanted to share what I got to see every night. I already miss it.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Plot twists that getcha!

What I’m Reading: Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas and How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn

What I’m Working on: The prologue of Slayer and beefing up the tension and plot throughout.

Words today: TBA

As a reader, I love when an author catches me off-guard, when a plot twist really sneaks up on me and surprises me. This doesn’t happen very often. Frequently I can predict a story or, at least, I’m not surprised by the turn of events an author uses.

However, I love those rare stories where I gasp with awe at a unexpected twist.

J.K. Rowling got me with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I never expected what happened to Cedric in that cemetery with Harry and Voldemort. J.R. Ward got me with what happened to Wellsie in Lover Awakened.

Movies rarely surprise me either, but M. Night Shyamalan did in The Sixth Sense.

I want to be full of surprises as an author. How cool!!

Since we’re on the topic, the link below contains a list of mind-blowing movie twists. Did you have any of these figured out or did they surprise you?

Films with the best twists


Monday, June 9, 2008

Write daily. Be patient.

What I'm reading: How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

What I'm working on: A prologue -- essentially a new beginning to Slayer.

Word count today: 875 (I'm back!!!!)

Tonight I sat down and pounded out 875 very non-painful words. That's a first for several months now.

(Thank goodness! And finally!)

I think part of my process for writing is to write a first draft that has a great premise, a sucky middle, and an ending I love. Then I have to let it stew or ferment and while the real gems come to me and then I have to rewrite it. Bleh!

I tend to rush this process. I'm not good at being patient while it ferments.

But this time, I let it sit and ferment despite being angsty and impatient and it paid off. Now I FEEL the story so much better. I'm letting it be as dark as it needs to be and I'm taking ALL of Donald Maass's advise. And while I'd like to finish ASAP, I know it may take awhile to write the book I want to write. (It took Elizabeth Kostova ten years to write The Historian.)

My goal considering all this: Write daily. Be patient with myself.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Super Hero fix

What I'm Reading: The Secret Life of Bees and How Far is the Ocean From Here by Amy Shearn

What I'm working on: Gleaning knowledge from Writing the Breakout Novel to add to Slayer

I just returned from seeing Ironman.

It was so good. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't perfect. There were some really predictable parts, but overall, I loved it.

It had lots to love....

A wounded hero
A lonely heroine
A greedy, well-motivated villian
Some nasty bad guys
Enormous character growth
A compelling need of the hero to make a difference and not waste his chances
A flawed protagonist


the possibility of a sequel.

Batman is still my favorite superhero -- super-wounded, just human, amazing character growth -- but Ironman is my new close second.

Who's your favorite superhero?
(Which superhero would you like to play love interest opposite of?)


Monday, June 2, 2008

What's Your Power Color

What I'm Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

What I'm Working On: The Donald Maass Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

Every once in a while I need to throw up an easy, fun blog. Today is one of those days.

Your Power Color Is Indigo
At Your Highest:

You are on a fast track to success - and others believe in you.

At Your Lowest:

You require a lot of attention and praise.

In Love:

You see people as how you want them to be, not as how they are.

How You're Attractive:

You're dramatic flair makes others see you as mysterious and romantic.

Your Eternal Question:

"Does This Work Into My Future Plans?"