Friday, December 21, 2007

Scholastics Next Big Thing?

Now that Harry Potter is officially over, Scholastic is looking for the next blockbuster. And they think they found it: Scholastic Plans to Put Its Branding Iron on a Successor to Harry Potter

Called “The 39 Clues,” this series will feature 10 books — the first of which is to go on sale next September — as well as related Web-based games, collectors’ cards and cash prizes. The project demonstrates Scholastic’s acknowledgment that as much as the publisher heralded the renewed interest in reading represented by the Harry Potter books, many children are now as transfixed by Internet and video games as they are by reading.

A part of me wishes them well. I really do. The rest of me, however, wants to smack them along side the head and say, "HP was awesome in part because of it's organic growth. You can't force it with another series. Just let it happen with good writing and captivating stories."

Ech, we'll see.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Meme of Months

Judy and PJ Gardner had a lovely meme that I wanted to copy.

Rules: Paste the first line of the first post for each month, starting with January 2007. That's it. I decided to link, also, in case anyone was feeling nostalgic.

January -- Summary: A young lady has been sent pearls. Sherlock and Watson investigate their origin, along with a cryptic letter that promises to explain all. (a bookreview for The Sign of the Four)

February -- Word of the Day calendars, emails, websites, etc. seem like a good idea to increase vocabulary, but are they?

March -- Even though we've been buried in snow, I haven't been curled up with good books.

April -- Lovely that Spring is peeking her head around the corners.

May -- I love waking up to thunder storms.

June -- My allergies have kicked into high gear.

July -- LA Weekly got the scoop on the most mis-understood novel of the last century.

August -- This was a banner month of reading for me.

September -- No posts

October -- No posts

November -- Time to catch-up and start posting again.

December -- It is so cold here, that I'll I want to do is hibernate.

Whew, that's a lotta first lines. But fun (for me, at least) to look back over it.

If you decide to do the same, leave me a comment and I'll link to yours, just like Average Jane did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Last Minute Gifts

Need a last-minute, inexpensive gift? Daily Lit has the answer.

- To celebrate the holiday season, we have just added the ability to give a DailyLit book as a gift and add a personalized message to be included in each installment. You can send a classic book as a gift, including such holiday favorites as LITTLE WOMEN, with a personalized message -- all for free (our gift to you). DailyLit gifts can be sent at the last minute and received seconds later.

Thanks, Susan Danziger, for the email and the nice idea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Love a Good Story

And so does Ira Glass. In fact, he has some great story telling tips at Redbook.

We live in a time when we're inundated with stories-- in ads, in songs, on the Internet-- and because they're all competing for our attention, they tend to have overbright characters and hyped-up plots; it's too much to take in, so it just sounds like noise. In the rare case when we do come across a story with human-scale characters that feel like you and me, and a way of unfolding that makes it possible to imagine what it would be like to be in that situation, we really notice it, and it speaks to our heart. In ways that news reports and debates can't, great stories help the world around us make sense to us.

You may recognize Ira from NPR's This American Life. Find out what else Ira has to say about good story telling at Redbook or hear it in practice at This American Life. Blog Icon

This, by-the-by, is one of my two favorite podcasts. There is alwasy an amazing story to listen to. It make me wishe I was starting over again as a broke college student. I'd persist until I was involved in some way.

Of course, I still could, I do realize. I just have more to consider now.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Generosity

I cannot get over Holly Lisle's generous pay-it-forward philosophy. If you are new to writing, you must run, immediately, over to her website. There's tons of content, all yours for the reading.

Then she does this:

396 Books & Other Resources Writers Recommend to Kickstart Your Writing, Stand Your Thinking On Its Head, and Vastly Increase Your Ability to WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

Available for you to download in zip format here:

http://www.hollylisle.com/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi/r/hollyupdates/h/20071208060303/hollylisle.com/pdf/396_books_writers_recommend.pdf/

Or in regular unzipped pdf format here:

http://www.hollylisle.com/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi/r/hollyupdates/h/20071208060303/hollylisle.com/pdf/396_books_writers_recommend.pdf.zip/

You can do more than use this yourself. You can give this enormous checklist away on your website, burn it on disks and pass it around at writers' meetings, or sell it, if you're so inclined, alone or with other e-books and resources that permit bundled use.

Don't alter it in any way. Other than that, have fun.

It's a nice 50-page list with explanations and what have you. It's also a great example of the quality you get if you order any of Holly's ebooks from her shop.

Have fun and pay it forward to your writing friends.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Editor Letter

Bob Mayer and Jennifer Crusie have an awesome online writing workshop that they have been contributing to all throughout 2007. They follow a "he said, she said" format that often, respectfully, disagrees with one another.

Jenny posted her rules for The Editoral Letter. While she means is THE EDITORIAL LETTER, I believe that they could apply to trusted Critique Partners as well.

  • Wait twenty-four hours after you read it.
  • Change everything that you don’t care about, that won’t impact the story as you need to tell it.
  • Know exactly why you can’t make the other changes and explain your reasoning clearly to your editor.

While your CPs might hot have the 1000s of titles under their belts like editors at publishing houses do, they still want you to write the best story possible.

If you don't view their suggestions this way, why bother having CPs?

What will you do when it is The Editorial Letter on the side of those corrections?

How do you reaction to critiques?

Cross-posted at Starting Write Now.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Favorite Day

When I was single, and had whole weekends to indulge in my own whims, instead of the whims of my family, I loved finding chocolate-covered cherries in the stores.

This Christmas favorite as signaled an afternoon of indulgence. BUy a box and a romance novel. Combine with some candles and whatever classic cd was my favorite. I'd lose myself in both the chocolates and the story.

Today, I couldn't imagine gonig more than 15, maybe 20, minutes without a problem to solve or a request to share the chocolates. And while I may miss the solitude, I won't miss the downside -- no bellies to tickle, no sticky hugs or kisses, no one to share with.

I find today, surrounded by memories and happenings, to be the best day.

***

Entered in Scribbit's Write-Away Contest for December 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fast and Light

I'm going to direct you to a series of hilarious covers today, over at SBAshton, instead of providing you with quality content of my own. She's making me laugh out loud, and I can't not share.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Q&A with LaConnie Taylor-Jones

LaConnie Taylor-Jones holds advanced degrees in community public health and business administration and has written several scientific research publications for the past fifteen years. When not writing, she’s involved with the Contra Costa Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the African American Community Health Advisory Committee, and Black Women Organized for Political. An active member of the San Francisco Area and Black Diamonds chapters of RWA since 2003, Ms. Taylor-Jones has combined her writing skills with a twenty-five-year passion for reading romance in the completion of two full-length multicultural romance novels, When I’m With You and When A Man Loves A Woman.

What led you to the idea of writing this book, and then to the actual writing of it? The thing that got me from reader to author was my husband. In the spring of ’03, I was in bed reading a novel that was horrible. It was pass midnight and I think my husband was tired of hearing me whine about the book because he said, “Honey, if you can write a better book, do it, but baby, turn out the lights.” I took him up on the challenged and I’ve never looked back. The inspiration for both When I’m With You and When A Man Loves A Woman came from my experience as a health educator. For the last fifteen years, I’ve taught health education primarily to African American women in community-based settings. Oftentimes, before I can lecture on the risk factors associated with chronic diseases disproportionally impacting African Americans, I have to deal with the soci-economic deterrents women face. Unfortunately, abusive relationships top the list.

What have you learned throughout the process of writing, pitching - and now, promoting your book? The one thing I’ve learned as an author is that two fundamental elements exist between all three entities - tenacity and perseverance. If an author loses sight of the interchangeable connection between writing, pitching, and promoting, they will not be successful.

When you write a story and subsequently pitch it, the target audiences are publishers and agents. However, once that story has sold, you’ve got to promote it, thus the focus shifts to readers. So, as an author, I must use the same diligence to convince readers that my story is worth buying, as I did to convince publishers it was worth printing.

Any exciting things happening before or during the time period while the book is releasing? Absolutely!! For me a couple of things occur. One, I begin outlining the next story bouncing around in my head. Secondly, I work hard to balance writing that new story while promoting the story that’s already sold.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most? I absolutely love sitting down in front of a blank computer screen and begin the process of bringing my characters and story plot to life. I’m very meticulous with this process because it’s important for me to give my readers a quality product. I want them to not only enjoy the story but understand the characters and their plight the way I do. Believe it or not, I also enjoy working on the revisions from my editor. She’s fantastic and so far, we’ve been able to work in total sync to take my writing to the next level.

Perhaps the one thing that I can live without is the tight turn-around deadlines I face once my book enters the production process. Sometimes, my revision deadlines come at a not-so-convenient time!!!

What do you feel is the key to writing convincing characters? An author must know every aspect of their characters. I don’t simply mean know their external characteristics (i.e. physical make-up), but an author must be intimately familiar with their internal characteristics - their thoughts, their likes, dislikes, and what they would and would not do in certain situations. Once this happens, it’s very easy to translate this on to paper to the point the characters become so vivid, readers momentarily have a hard time figuring out what’s real and what’s Memorex.

How did it feel to hold your first book? Holding that book in my hands for the first time was awesome!!! It was then that I realized how much had gone into turning a dream into reality.

What inspired you to become a romance writer? I’ve been an avid romance reader since I was a junior in college. In fact, I flunked an organic chemistry mid-term because I stayed up all night to finish reading my first romance novel. So, let it go on the record that the genre chose me!!

How do you feel about critique groups? I feel critique groups can be extremely beneficial to an author, but authors must be willing to accept the feedback that’s given — good, bad, or indifferent. All too often, an author only wants to hear the positive feedback relative to their stories and sometimes become testy when the group offers suggestions or recommendations for improvement. Conversely, critique groups should provided unbiased feedback, regardless to how well they know the author.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand? When an author says their characters are talking to them, they aren’t crazy nor or they ready to be hauled off to the nearest mental institution!!

What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it? The Hunted by L.A. Banks. It’s an awesome read and one I highly recommend!!!

What's your secret to balancing career and family? Learning to prioritize. Oftentimes, this means saying N-O to requests at the bottom of my meat chain and not feeling guilty for doing so.

What do you do to make time for yourself? Weekly visits to the beauty salon and monthly appointments to get the nails and toes pretty. Sometimes, I manage to treat myself to a ninety-minute deep tissue massage.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website) I always enjoy hearing from readers. My website address is: www.laconnietaylorjones.com. Also, readers can follow the link on my contact page and drop me a note via e-mail at: lovestories@comcast.net. Plus, there’s also my snail mail address, which is 3377 Deer Valley Road – Antioch, CA 94531

Book: When I’m With You

Publisher: Genesis Press

ISBN: ISBN-10: 1585712507; ISBN-13: 978-1585712502

When your life has been terrorized by violence, how do you manage to go forward, looking over your shoulder at every turn? This is the daily question that haunts Caitlyn Thompson. She has been in hiding from an ex-boyfriend for three years, always careful not to slip up and allow him to find her again. Working for a neighborhood youth center, she has found her niche. This is something she believes in, having grown up in inner-city New Jersey herself. Submitting a grant request to a wealthy philanthropist foundation, Caitlyn is soon to meet the man who will make her want to stop running, want to trust and love again; Marcel Baptiste. It will take a will of iron and a courage she didn’t know she possessed to battle her fears and open up to the wealthy entrepreneur. But when violence comes knocking again, will she have the courage to face her biggest nightmare?

http://www.laconnietaylorjones.com/

Check out the trailer: http://www.laconnietaylorjones.com/WIMW_trailer.php

DECEMBER 12
Chat With Connie
8-9 pm eastern
contact sormag@yahoo.com for telephone chat reservations

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Minute Book Review

As you may have noticed, I don't blog as much as I'd like to. Meaning that I seldom have time to write the detailed reviews that I used to. Instead, I'm going to try a two minute book review. I'll post the list of books I've read and one or two sentences about what I did or didn't like about them.

  • Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher -- Totally love this series and how Butcher has raised the stakes through the nine titles.
  • Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen -- Very clever. The protag is 10 years old. I love her innocence and pointed view on her life.
  • The Trail of the Jedi by Jude Watson -- For those who wondered how exactly that cute little boy becomes Darth Vadar, these novellas might fill in some of the blanks. Of course, they are geared to kids who are just starting to read chapter books. Great for for shared reading.
  • Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Bk. I) by Kelley Armstrong -- I won't be continuing this series. After reading three or four werewolf books, I've decided that they just are the sort of supernatural creature that I enjoy reading aobut.
  • The Pardon by James Grippando -- Decent. A bit over the top at times but not a bad first effort. Promising enough that I've added the author to my list of books to continue following.
  • White Night by Jim Butcher -- See above.
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyers -- Excellent writing, basic storyline. Word Nerd turned me on to this author and she really liked this one. It was good enough that I'll grab the next one, but not soon.
  • Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher -- the other series written by Butcher. Dresdyn files is better, but this is a completely different class. The POV jumped around too much for me. If I had read it in a couple of sittings, instead of over the course of the week, I would have followed it better.
  • Heartsick by Chelsea Cain -- Creepy. Women serial killers are much scarier than their male counterparts.
  • Drop Shot by Harlan Coben -- Again, decent for a first novel. I'll be grabbing the next one of these too.
  • Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult -- I love, love, love Jodi Picoult. Enough said.

Please, drop me a comment and let me know if the two minute book review format worked for you. Or if it didn't, what didn't work.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sticking with the Series

After much soul-searching, er, reading, I decided to stick with the next set of trilogies for Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. Basically, this interview series answered some of my objections and made me believe that the next book was worth the commitment.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Thanks, Writer Unboxed, for posting this.

By the way, if that series wasn't enough to convince you to read WU, they have Donald Maass there this week. What are you still doing reading this? Get over there.
(By the by, his Breakout Novel Workshop is simply amazing. He really pushed my writing to a new level.)

Cross posted at Starting Write Now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fly Fusion Pentop Computer

I was watching television the other day when somewhat dramatic commercial came on: A hip college student is writing on "air" (which is probably really a glass wall) with a pen that converts handwritten text to computer generated text. The Fly Pen also can do math calculations, play MP3 files and a plethora of other options.

It was fabulously cool and something that I wished had been available to me in college.

Then the lightening bolt struck: Word Nerd is probably wishing she had one of these when she was writing her current WIP in composition notebooks. She has three or four books worth of typing. Just think, with the Fly Pen, she'd be done.

It's probably on her Christmas list.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How Old Are You?

You Are 26 Years Old
20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When I'm with You by La Connie Taylor-Jones

Book: When I’m With You

Publisher: Genesis Press

ISBN: ISBN-10: 1585712507; ISBN-13: 978-1585712502

When your life has been terrorized by violence, how do you manage to go forward, looking over your shoulder at every turn? This is the daily question that haunts Caitlyn Thompson. She has been in hiding from an ex-boyfriend for three years, always careful not to slip up and allow him to find her again. Working for a neighborhood youth center, she has found her niche. This is something she believes in, having grown up in inner-city New Jersey herself. Submitting a grant request to a wealthy philanthropist foundation, Caitlyn is soon to meet the man who will make her want to stop running, want to trust and love again: Marcel Baptiste. It will take a will of iron and a courage she didn’t know she possessed to battle her fears and open up to the wealthy entrepreneur. But when violence comes knocking again, will she have the courage to face her biggest nightmare?

I haven't read this book yet, but it sounds fabulous. Next week, I plan to have more information about this author and her work posted. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bookworm Report, November 2007

It is so cold here, that I'll I want to do is hibernate.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 5,139 19
2002 4,076 13
2003 2,448 7
2004 2,747 8
2005 3,410 10
2006 2,168 7
2007 3,931 11

  • Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
  • Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen
  • The Trail of the Jedi by Jude Watson
  • Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Bk. I) by Kelley Armstrong
  • The Pardon by James Grippando
  • White Night by Jim Butcher
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
  • Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
  • Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
  • Drop Shot by Harlan Coben
  • Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

For the year, I've read 162 books, or 59,395 pages, which averages to 15 books a month, or 5,400 pages per month, and an average book length of 367 pages.

I'm in the middle of about a dozen or so series. Keep the recommendations coming!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Instead

Instead of posting, I've been writing and editing during the tiny bit of free time I have. As a result, I've noticed that instead of my postings affecting the number of visitors, my numbers remain consistent from week to week.

This is being a tiny bit discouraging, as I am not sure of how to increase my readership based on these findings. Instead of letting it get me down, I'm going to tell myself that it is promising that my archives are being accessed regularly and I'm not loosing any ground either.

Oh, and the biggest issue I'm finding with my writing? My favorite segue is "instead."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Picking a Series

My process probably isn't much different and thinking through it helped me realize what the issue is with the series I'm debating over. (Exactly the point :) )

The series is Jacqueline Carey's "Kushiel" series. I really liked the first book. The characters are what did it for me. They were funny, interesting, sneaky and complex. She killed two of them - effective for the plot, but by the third book I realized that what I liked about the first one was the two characters that were offed (I'm not spoiling a plot line here, I promise.)

The books are mammoth, weighing in at 700 pages each in hardcover. They are written in trilogies. If I decide to read book four, I'm really committing myself to three more books.

Here's the problem: While I liked them, I didn't love them, but I don't have any alternative series to read instead. I'm caught up with most of the series I'm reading or am waiting for the title to come in at the local library.

Since time is tight, I don't have the luxury of browsing shelves. I stick with series that while I enjoy them, I don't love them.

I still don't know if I'm going to get book four. After all, the latest installment of Jim Butcher's Dresdyn Files just came in. I'm dying to know what's going on in Chicago. But after that one, I'm waiting for either the author or the publisher and I'll have to decide what to do with the Kushiel Series.

Unless someone has some suggestions about a series that they are in love with.

Cross posted at Starting Write Now

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bookworm Report, October 2007

Woo-hoo! Caught up!

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 5,880 15
2002 3,073 9
2003 2,129 5
2004 2,862 8
2005 4,064 11
2006 3,777 9
2006 7,018 19

  • Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume by Jennifer O'Connell
  • Lover Unbound by J R Ward
  • Silver is for Secrets by Laurie Faria Stolarz
  • Left Behind and Loving It by Lynn Viehl
  • Death Masks by Jim Butcher
  • In The Cut by Susanna Moore
  • The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
  • 24 Hours by Greg Iles
  • Create a Character Clinic by Holly Lisle
  • If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend by Alison Pace
  • Sorcery and the Single Girl by Mindy L Klasky
  • Stealing Shadow by Kay Hooper
  • Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
  • Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
  • The Prestige by Christopher Priest
  • Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
  • Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey
  • Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine

For the year, I’ve read 151 books, or 55,464 pages, which averages to 16 books a month, or 5,546 pages per month, and an average book length of 366 pages.

Wow, that's a lot of reading. No wonder I haven't posted lately.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bookworm Report, September 2007

Yes, it's true - another gigantic reading list.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 1,507 4
2002 3,228 8
2003 0 0
2004 4,146 11
2005 3,408 8
2006 5,858 15
2007 6,427 22

  • Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
  • Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson
  • Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
  • Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
  • Something Blue by Emily Giffin
  • Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life by Various
  • Pale Immortal by Anne Frasier
  • Thin Air by Rachel Caine
  • Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
  • Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier
  • Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier
  • The Girl's Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch) : Valuable Lessons, Smart Suggestions, and True Stories for Succeeding as the Chick-in-Charge by Caitlin Friedman
  • The Spinster Sisters by Stacey Ballis
  • The Good, the Bad and the Undead by Kim Harrison
  • Garden of Darkness by Anne Frasier
  • How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin
  • Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die by Nancy Martin
  • The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
  • The Jedi Quest: The Way of the Apprentice by Jude Watson
  • The Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine
  • Have your cake and kill him too : a Blackbird Sisters mystery by Nancy Martin
  • A crazy little thing called death : a Blackbird Sisters mystery by Nancy Martin

Tomorrow looks promising for October's records. Maybe I'll even get some more reviews up.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bookworm Report, August 2007

Time to catch-up and start posting again. No promises, but I'll see how it goes.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 2,969 7
2002 3,440 9
2003 1,257 4
2004 3,619 9
2005 5,783 15
2006 4,301 11
2007 4,506 13

  • The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer
  • The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  • Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  • The Collectors by David Baldacci
  • Lover Revealed : a Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J R Ward
  • The Courier by Jay MacLarty
  • Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret by Obert Skye
  • Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan
  • His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
  • Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff
  • The 6th target by James Patterson
  • Throne of jade by Naomi Novik
  • Meets the Eye by Christopher Golden

More catch-up tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Title: Whale Song

Author: Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Genre: YA fiction

Summary: Eleven year old Sarah moves to Canada with her parents when her father accepts a post to study whales off the coastline. Even though she leaves everything behind, Sarah discovers that life can become complicated in a heartbeat. Or in the absence of one.

The Take-Away: One of the very charming aspects of Tardif's tale are the Eskimo stories that are woven naturally into the narrative. Sarah learns many of them from her new best friend's grandmother. Every one holds a lesson about life, but Sarah and Goldie love them for the adventure and strength of the characters. Sarah draws on this strength when her father is forced to decide whether or not to fulfill her mother's wishes: Don't let her live through the assistance of a machine.

While this aspect of the book is the focus of the marketing, really, it's not until the end that the reason for it becomes apparent. Many of the challenges Sarah developed as much of her character. Sarah is one of the only white children in her new hometown and is subjected to racism. One classmate has a father who physically and mentally abuses her.

The narrative does flow Sarah into adulthood. The story didn't give enough time to show her grow and change her voice, however. The same girl tells every aspect of the story, even though the initial narrative is told from the eleven-year-old's point of view. I also felt that more time could have been spent developing the historic setting. After all, assisted suicide is controversial today; in 1977 it would have been explosive. Sarah withdraws into herself, and little interaction between her and the rest of the town is relayed. Understandably, Sarah draws on the same artistic bent that was her mother's livelihood.

Recommendation: It's a tough topic that is handled well. Definitely read it with your child.

Technorati tag:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Assisted Suicide

Not the sort of thing you'd expect to see on my blog, huh? Tomorrow's book review covers this topic, however. Cheryl was gracious enough to provide a bio and I thought it would be a great to for my readers to get a sneak peek of tomorrow's controversial review.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is the author of the 2007 bestselling, controversial, assisted suicide novel Whale Song. Booklist calls Whale Song “moving…perennially crowd-pleasing…sweet and sad”. Booklist raves, “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border”.

She is also the author of the 2005 action-packed conspiracy thriller The River--a “mile-a-minute pot-boiler myster[y]”, says the Edmonton Sun. The River is both thought provoking and terrifying. It is based loosely on legends about the Nahanni River area of Canada’s Northwest Territories, legends of headless corpses washing up on its shores. This area has often been called the ‘Bermuda Triangle of Canada’.

Her 2004 “sizzling psychic suspense” novel Divine Intervention is a thriller about a group of psychic government agents and their search for a deadly serial arsonist who is leaving behind a burning trail of corpses. This novel has been compared to shows like ‘Medium’ and ‘CSI’, and novels by Kay Hooper and J.D. Robb.

Cheryl has also had numerous short stories, articles and poetry published over the years, although her main passion is fiction with a twist of mystery, suspense or horror. All of her novels to date―Whale Song, in particular―have received inquiries from the film industry, including Hollywood interest.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband and daughter, and is working on three new novels of suspense. When asked about her work, she enjoys telling people, “I’m busy killing people off. You could call me a serial killer. But remember…I write suspense fiction.’ 

Tomorrow...my thoughts on the book.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bookworm Report, July 2007

This was a banner month of reading for me. The best, in fact, that I've had since I've been married. I can explain this anomaly, though.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 2,795 7
2002 2,439 6
2003 1,222 3
2004 2,006 5
2005 4,216 11
2006 4,216 11
2007 8,601 17

  • Judge & Jury by James Patterson
  • The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner
  • Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson
  • Simple Genius by David Baldacci
  • Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye
  • The Bible by Various
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  • The Pact by Jodi Picoult
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
  • Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  • See No Evil by Allison Brennan
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

For the year, I've read 97 books, or 37,150 pages, which averages to 12 books a month, or 4,644 pages per month, and an average book length of 383 pages.

Just a note, this month was a wrap up month for me. I wrapped up reading the Bible, Mansfield Park, The Pact and Judge & Jury, while two of the three Harry Potter books were re-reads. In other words, the anomaly can be explained.

But I can't promise that it won't happen again. I'm not anticipating a paradigm shift, but one never knows.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

World Domination

Stacy at Welcome to the Confessional started her own meme:

The World Domination Meme:

You are offered one superhero power to help you take over the world (or the country of your choice). What would your superpower be and why?

The ability to see through things, both physical and non-physical. Of course, eventually, I would be driven nuts by my ability as I would constantly be walking into walls and doing damage to myself. But my ability to see through lies would be extremely helpful.

Where will you establish your capital and why?

Somewhere in California. I'm pretty sure that their economy could support itself once splintered from the US. They are considering it too, after all.

What would be your first official decree as a brand new dictator? Why?

All corporations would need to evaluate their salaried employees and stop chaining them to desks. Let their performance be based on outcome, not hours tied to a desk.

As a Great and Fearsome Leader, you will need to have the best people working for you. Who would work for you? (Feel free to use famous people, fictional characters, friends and family, or other people from the blogosphere in your answer.) What would their jobs be?

  • Thursday Next, Political Adviser
  • Word Nerd, Grammar Police
  • Albus Dumbledore, Rule Maker
  • Dooce, Director of Entertainment
  • Naturally, I reserve the right to add more when needed.
If you could make one annoying habit illegal in your empire, what would it be? Either bad grammar or private conversations in public areas on cell phones. It's a tough choice.

In all, I'm sure my country would collapse in no time, as I'm more interested in reading than ruling the country. But it's fun to imagine, just for a day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Not Completely Abandoned

Er, hello, there. I'm still around, but am not blogging as much.

I'd love to go into details, but I can't. As much as I love details, I also love having a job. Since one aspect has changed there, this one must also change here. (No, I wasn't doing anything naughty or illegal or against company policy. I find my job to be more mental work lately and my brain is too fuzzy to produce reasonable posts.)

If you are interested in keeping up with me, I do promise irregular posts at least once a month or so. I'd recommend subscribing with your favorite RSS feeder. The post will, in all likelihood, concern my reading habits and book reviews. Cheers! And have a lovely summer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Managing Smart

Best Buy has implemented some work principles that I could really get behind. Or make me want to work for them.

Smashing The Clock

At most companies, going AWOL during daylight hours would be grounds for a pink slip. Not at Best Buy. The nation's leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical--if risky--experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for "results-only work environment," seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

It makes sense on so many levels that it is scary. It would involve trust. It would involve meaningful measurements. The potential is enormous. I know of a few employees who would appreciate the flexibility of working after their kids are in bed and during their school hours.

I applaud Best Buy for realizing that not every job means that you need to have your butt in a chair for 40 or more hours a week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter Book 7 Predictions

Typically, I post a book review today. However, I re-read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in anticipation of this weekend's events. Instead of reviewing the books, I want to share my thoughts on the series finale.

At the end of Book 5, Sirius Black dies. I believe his death serves two purposes, both from a writer's point of view. One, it raises the stakes for Harry. When writing, an author constantly needs to think, "How can I make this worse? What other tragedy can I inflict on my characters?" Taking away a support system like Sirius is monumental to Harry. While the Weasleys are wonderful and love Harry to pieces, they aren't quite family. Sirius is both father and brother to Harry.

Two, it establishes that dead is dead. At the ending of Book 6, when Dumbledore is killed, no one wants to believe it: characters or readers. David Haber went as far as creating a website to document why he believed that Dumbledore lives. However, I believe that Sirius had to die in order for JK Rowling to establish that dead is dead. As a reader, I'm really hoping that Dumbledore finds a way to be in the book.

While the end of Book 6 established that Harry, Ron and Hermione won't be going back to Hogwarts, I predict that Ginny will try to find a way to join them. She's not the sort of girl to sit on the sidelines. If she does stay (or more likely is forced to stay) at Hogwarts, Harry will end up in some sort of adventure there at her request.

I also predict that the two characters that are going to die will be Ron and Hermione. Again, this is a raise the stakes, darkest hour before the dawn, etc. sort of thing. Those are the two most important people to Harry and have been throughout the series. I won't like it if it happens, but I predict it nonetheless.

Finally, I predict that Harry's defeat of Lord Voldemort will be the result of skill, not luck. In both Books Five and Six, much is made of Harry's luck by other characters. By Book Six, however, Harry's actions are deliberate, requiring advanced magic. I'm sure that this will be part of the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort's fatal error as they will underestimate Harry's skills.

I have some thoughts on other minor characters, like Neville Longbottom, Kreatcher, Luna Lovegood, but won't go into them here. Already, this post is longer than my typical offering.

What are your thoughts on the finale?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cocaine Prices Around the World

Cocaine Prices around the world

You just never know what bit of trivia you'll need for that next writing assignment.

via Kottke.org

Friday, July 13, 2007

Painting with the Kids

I like to paint with my kids. There's something great about making a picture of your house or family and sticking it on the fridge when you are done.

I have a few rules that must be followed or I'll take all of the painting gear.

  1. Painting is only done outside.
  2. Cleaning up is mandatory for all involved parties.
  3. You must mix your own colors.

To make that last rule a bit easier and more fun for all, I found an old cupcake pan at the local Salvation Army. It's not the sort that washes up easily any more for baked goods but makes great containers for mixing paint that won't tip easily.

At first my boys were annoyed that the green would run out and they'd need to make more. Inevitably it would be a slight different color. And they would moan and groan and ask me to help make it the same as before. Since I won't do it for them, we've learned how to adjust colors by adding a huge glob or just a few drops.

Instead of complaining, now they experiment with different shades of green or what happens when they don't mix it completely.

Painting is a favorite activity for all of us.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye

Title: Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo

Author: Obert Skye

Genre: Fantasy, First in a Series

Summary: The world of dreams -- Foo -- is in danger of collapsing if Leven Thumps does not trust Fate and stay awake.

The Take-Away: Leven has some requisite fantasy elements, like the lack of parents and a heritage that is bigger than he is. However, great writing makes this story rise to the crop. The opening line is just a taste of what is in store: “It was at least forty degrees above warm.” I didn't want this book to end and was thrilled that the second in the series is already out.

Leven has several side kicks that made the book. First is Winter, another child with unfortunate and ambivalent parents. She has a special gift that will aid Leven in his quest. Next is Clover, a sycophant with an bottomless pocket. Geth is the final character, a Lithin that trusts Fate to bring the four of them together.

While the book resides in the YA section, it is charming, the same way that the first Harry Potter is charming. This is definitely a series to watch for.

Recommendation: Get it.

Bonus Review: Writer Unboxed

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Wish He was Dead

Blog Icon

Everyone who suffered through childhood has probably thought the above sentiment, typically directing the murderous thoughts towards a sibling. On This American Life, with Ira Glass, listeners are given the choice.

Radio Lab, from New York Public Radio, poses two scenarios to their listeners, asking them to make a moral decision. Five workers are working on a railroad. A trolley is headed to them. You are unable to alert them, but can flip a lever that will re-direct the trolley to another line. Only one worker is on that line. Would you do it?

Take a minute and think how you would decide.

Next scenario -- same five workers, only this time you are standing on a foot bridge above the trolley. A very large man is next to you. If you push him in front of the trolley, it will save the workers. Would you push him?

Again, take a minute.

Did you save the workers in the first scenario, and the large man in the second? If so, you answered just as 9 out of ten people would answer. Yet, think of this, if you had pushed the large man, you would have saved the same number of people.

Disturbing, isn't it, that that majority of us could sacrifice the sole worker through a flip of a lever, but couldn't save the same four lives with a direct action.

The implications are vast. Government applications, thriller novels, rampaging psycho paths and good Samaritans are affected by this. The question is, where do they stand?

I might wish someone dead, but I couldn't directly kill them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra

Title: Graffiti Girl

Author: Kelly Parra

Publisher: MTV/Pocket Books
Address

9781416534617, $9.95, May 2007, 256

Genre: YA Fiction

Summary: Angel Rodriguez wants to take her art further and the school's competition for painting a mural seems to be the place. Angel isn't selected as one of the three finalists, but finds herself torn between the good boy who was and the bad boy who should have been.

The Take-Away: I loved how Angel was positioned between the good kids and the bad kids. When Nathan Ramos -- the good guy -- and Miguel Badalin -- the bad boy -- both try to lure her into their own worlds of art, Angel has to make tough decisions about who she is and what she stands for. Her feelings of alienation from her mother and best friend force her to decide without guidance from those she cares about. Angel, inspite of her name, is one tough kid. Reading about her decision will captive the teen in us all.

One unique aspect of the title was the introductory lines to each chapter. Angel's intimate thoughts about her growing graffiti career give the reader insight to the slang used by graf artist as well as providing the reader with a sneak peek of what's to come in the chapter. They were probably my favorite part of the book.

Recommendation: Get this one for the teenage girl in your life.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Bookworm Report, June 2006

This has been a banner month for me, both in page count and number of books read.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 3,375 7
2002 1,975 5
2003 2,560 7
2004 2,608 6
2005 4,435 13
2006 3,386 7
2007 5904 16

  • The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud
  • Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Floating Island by Elizabeth Haydon
  • For a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison
  • Open Season by C. J. Box
  • The Bitch Posse by Martha O'Connor
  • In a Country of Mothers by A. M. Homes
  • Hide by Lisa Garnder
  • Savage Run by C. J. Box
  • Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
  • He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot by Stephanie Rowe
  • Murder…Suicide…Whatever by Gwen Freeman
  • The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis
  • Grafitti Girl by Kelly Parra
  • Alone by Lisa Garnder

For the year, I've read 80 books, or 28,549 pages, which averages to 13 books a month, or 4,758 pages per month, and an average book length of 357 pages.

How is your summer going?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

I'll be back on Monday. Enjoy the celebrations, fireworks and the irony of the amount of taxes you pay today compared to what the founding fathers fought against.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

Title: Picture Perfect

Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Women's Fiction

Summary: A Hollywood marriage between movie star Alex Rivers and his anthropologist wife Cassie Barrett has a behind the scenes story that would shock Alex's fans.

The Take-Away: This book is incredibly fabulous. Picoult does a marvelous job of explaining how a woman could stay with a man that abuses, what he means to her, and what it took to get her to leave.

The book is broken into three parts. The first and third are told from third person point of view and with the input of the people who support Cassie. The middle section is told in first person, from Cassie. The switch in point of view makes the story very real.

As I read, I kept hoping that Cassie would leave her husband, but you never know what Picoult is really going to do. She's a writer who will take you on an emotional roller coaster. This book was no exception.

Recommendation: Check it out.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Fahrenheit 451 explained

LA Weekly got the scoop on the most mis-understood novel of the last century.

Bradbury still has a lot to say, especially about how people do not understand his most literary work, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. It is widely taught in junior high and high schools and is for many students the first time they learn the names Aristotle, Dickens and Tolstoy.

Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

Two thoughts come to mind about the mis-understanding, as it is labeled. First, I read this independent of any class or group. It took me a minute to catch-up to the fact that people did think it was about the government. My impression was closer to the explanation that Bradbury provides. However, I abhor most television and probably brought my own experience to the reading (thank goodness I didn't rely on experts in this case.)

Second, Rodney Dangerfield is in a movie where he goes back to college. The name escapes me (it's "Back to School" isn't it, o internet? That just seems too easy for my brain.) He pays Kurt Vonnegut to write a term paper for Rodney's character. Rodney gets a low grade and fires Vonnegut for not understanding himself.

Check out the article. It's pretty interesting.

Friday, June 29, 2007

22 Things to do with your Kids and No (Little) Planning

  1. Make paper airplanes
  2. Host a video game tournament with your favorite racing game
  3. Watch the clouds go by
  4. Have a movie night, complete with popcorn
  5. Have a picnic lunch in the living room
  6. Take a bike ride together
  7. Make cookies (yum!)
  8. Color a picture
  9. Write a story together
  10. Put puzzles together
  11. Make flash cards
  12. Sing songs and record the session
  13. Read a book
  14. Act out the story
  15. Then make a video of it
  16. Write a letter to a relative in a different city or state
  17. Build a city for your Hot Wheels cars
  18. Practice impressions of people or animals
  19. Blow bubbles
  20. Make a daisy chain with dandelions
  21. Play a board game
  22. Celebrate a half birthday

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Savage Run by C J Box

Title: Savage Run

Author: C J Box

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Joe Pickett is called to the scene of an explosion. The local sheriff wants the input of the game warden since several cows were damaged and their owners will need to be contacted. Neither expected to find a body in the rubble.

The Take-Away: Box makes the most of the Wyoming back drop in this title. I never understood how to use setting to the advantage of the story, but Box makes it seem simple. To a fellow writer, that translates into lots of hard work.

Box also places Pickett in danger this time, sparing his wife and daughters. I appreciated that distinction in this title, instead of relying on Pickett to be the hero that saves the day.

Recommendation: I'm really enjoying the slow, steady pace of this series. Off to get the next one.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Art of Seduction

Do women send signals that indicate their intent to have sex? Scott Adams had a boss who believed so.

I once had a boss who shared his theory for seducing a woman. I’m not sure if it was genius or insanity. His theory is so simple it has to be one or the other. His two step secret to seduction:

  1. Take her to your place.
  2. Get her to take off her shoes.

That’s it.

In Scott's post -- Footwear Theory of Motivation -- he explains that his boss came up with the theory after years of playboy behavior. In typical Scott-fashion, he expands the theory and refers to some interesting back-up.

I was reminded, however, of the "crucial" date with my now husband. You know, the date where you decide if he is going to get further than just kissing. The shirt that I wanted to wear was a button down. I had a safety pin securing a gap. I recalling standing in front of my bathroom mirror, debating about whether or not to leave that pin in.

So, dear reader, do you have a similar type story? Or is Scott's boss washed up?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hide by Lisa Gardner

Title: Hide

Author: Lisa Gardner

Genre: Thriller

Summary: Six murder victims are discovered during the demolition of the mental hospital in Massachusetts. Detective Bobby Dodge is haunted by the similarities to another case that almost ended his life and his career. The only lead is the necklace belonging to a woman who has been on the run her whole life.

The Take-Away: Wow. I stayed up way too late to finish this one. It was terrifying all the way to the end.

The related title,Alone, is handled well. The references are few, and left me wanting to read that title as well, but not so vague that I felt like I was missing part of the story.

The story is told from two points of view, Bobby Dodge in the third person, and the Annabelle, the woman who has been on the run, in first person. The balance of the two is fantastic. Jumping between the two points of view is very well done. The story was well-supported by the changes. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that having only one point of view would leave the story wanting.

Recommendation: Check out the back story in Alone then this title. If point of view jumps typically irritate you, try this one out for how it is done well.

Monday, June 25, 2007

This is cute

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

My offenses were "Bitch" x 2; "Ass" x 2; "Abortion" x 1

Super Foods for Allergies

The next time my allergies start acting up, I'm going to review this site -- Allergy Fighting Super Foods at MSN.com

It's a quick slide show reviewing seven foods and the studies that back them up. Most of the suggestions (apples, canola oil, spinach) coincide with other healthy eating advice.

Actually, instead of waiting for the next allergy attack, most of these could be wedged into my current diet with a few small adjustments. I need to think this over.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Story Writing for Kids

Last Friday, I shared my scavenger hunt with you and left a teaser of how I expand that activity into another one.

After a couple of scavenger hunts, I decided to take a picture of the child with the scavenger item as a way of recording the memory and getting some great candids of them. I started taking photos of them running after they spotted the items, and as they checked it off. Really, the photos were telling the whole story.

Why not make a book of them?

Digital prints are inexpensive either at home or at a local photo shop. Three of them in my city regularly have specials for $0.10 copies. If you wait for one of these to run, this project should come in under $4.00.

I have the kids select the photos that they like the best. Just because I took it, doesn't mean that they liked it. In fact, the seven-year-old has told me a time or two that I take bad pictures of him.

Once they have their story in order, and the pictures have been printed, I dig out a photo album purchased from the dollar store.

The first time we did this, I had a wordless book from our library. I wanted to make sure that our book was just like the professionals and coached the kids into realizing we needed a cover, a title page, credits for our author and illustrator, along with acknowledgments.

We inserted the photos on the right hand side only, leaving the left hand side for our text. Adjust as needed, depending on the layout of the photo album. Our happened to have space for one 4x6 photo per page.

For the first book, I wrote the story, but the seven-year-old chipped in on the second one. Even the three-year-old added his contributions.

The boys love to share their stories with family and friends who come to visit.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Bitch Posse by Martha O'Connor

Title: The Bitch Posse

Author: Martha O'Connor

Genre: Fiction

Summary: Three high school girls commit a single act that haunts them into their thirties. Each reacts in their own way. Each story is told.

The Take-Away: I have mixed feelings about this book. It's very "in your face," both in the writing, the actions and the personalities of Cherry, Amy and Rennie. The story is told by each, and setting flips from 2003 to 1988 continuously.

The three girls are best friends who do typical teenage girl things -- hang out, give advice about relationships, smoke, etc. But they also do the things that parents pray that they will never do: skipping school, drugs, sex and cutting. Each page reveals actions that lead into further destructive behavior. Each action pulls the three of them tighter.

Their parents' have just as many faults as the girls. Secrets are kept when they shouldn't be. Truths are told that shouldn't have been. Roles are reversed when daughter is forced to take care of parent.

O'Connor states on her website that she...

longed for a book about the girls I remembered from growing up, girls like the one I had been. Girls with multicolored hair and pierced noses, who would cut school and head to Chicago in combat boots and miniskirts, Pixies t-shirts and ripped fishnets. Girls who ditched P.E. to grab a smoke in the parking lot, who carried around poetry books and wrote about death and hate and high emotion, things that mattered.

The limits are pushed when 0'Connor shows what happens to these women grow-up. Do they become normal? How do the actions of one night of high school reach into the future?

The book stays with me, as to the characters. While their story was told, there wasn't a warm, fuzzy closure and I hope that things do turn out well for them.

Recommendation: I have mixed feelings on this one. I liked the writing, but it's probably one you'd need to check out for yourself and decide if the style works for you. Luckily O'Connor has an excerpt available on her website.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Math, the Business Way

I can't thank my ex-college roommate enough for forwarding this. I got it the day after a really bad meeting. It was twice as funny as it should have been, simply because of the timing.

The Real Truth About Math

From a strictly mathematical viewpoint it goes like this:

  • What makes 100%?
  • What does it mean to give MORE than 100%?
  • Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?

We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%.

How about achieving 103%?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:

If:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

then:

H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

and,

K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E

11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

But,

A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

And,

B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T

2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

and, look how far ass kissing will take you:

A-S-S--K-I-S-S-I-N-G

1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can then conclude with mathematical certainty that while Hardwork and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, Bullshit and Ass Kissing will put you over the top!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Open Season by C J Box

Title: Open Season

Author: C.J. Box

Genre: Mystery

Summary: Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is having a bad month. A dead body is found on his wood pile, his daughter is dreaming of monsters and his judgmental mother-in-law comes for a visit. If it wasn't enough having find a murderer, Joe is being warned off the case from several angles.

The Take-Away: This was a decent start to the series. Joe is a man of few words so most of the story is conveyed through his thoughts and actions, as well as his daughter Sheridan. The pace isn't break-neck fast, but a steady beat that has a variety of curveballs.

Joe's life is probably much like yours. Just when it seems like things are looking up, life knocks your foundation out from under you. Joe keeps a level head, and a gun in his truck (but only uses it when the situation calls for it.) While he explains his lack of words, I did get a bit frustrated. In one scene especially, I wanted him to stand up and take control. At the very least, to confront the guy that was firing him. Joe rolled with the punches, however, and bides his time.

Joe's daughter Sheridan almost stole the show. She is a charming character and well-written for her youth. The scenes with her kept my attention better than the scenes with Joe.

His mother-in-law is a woman that I'm going to enjoy hating, I think. She played a small role here, but if she returns, things could get really nasty between her and Joe.

Recommendation: There are several books in the series and this one has a promising start. I'm checking out the next one.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Frugal or Wrong?

Everyone bends the rules, right? Taking the cashier's pen from the grocery store or nicking a handful of candy from the receptionist's dish don't seem to bad. But are they?

Wisebread explores the topic further in the post "Frugal or Just Plain Wrong."

You know what I love? Getting something for nothing. Oh, it's rare. It's also sort of greedy and raises all kinds of ethical questions. How far would YOU go to save, or make, a dollar or two?

Here are some examples of 'something for nothing' that fall into a morally gray area. I'm not endorsing, advocating, recommending, encouraging, or promoting any of these, but I'm curious as to how our readers feel about them. Like taking an extra piece of candy from the porch bowl in Halloween, everyone probably has a different perception of what constitutes right or wrong.

Some of the scenarios include sneaking candy into a movie, keeping incorrect change, and taking office supplies for home use. There are 20 items total and loads of comments, confessions and condemnations.

The post made me pause. I've been very guilty of some of these crimes. And I've justified my way out of some of them. (Isn't a bigger crime that the movie theater forces you to buy the same Nerds rope for $3 that I can get at Festival Foods 3 for $1? I could have gotten nine of them at Festival.) Others I can't imagine doing. (Just set-up your own cable. It's less of a hassle.)

What about you? Do you have a line that you wouldn't cross?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Scavenger Hunt for Kids

I love taking walks in the summer. My oldest would rather ride his bike. My youngest would rather search for bugs in our backyard. I figured out a way to keep the three of us entertained, spend some quality time together, and let me get some much needed exercise.

We have scavenger hunts.

It's such a simple idea and requires 30 or 40 minute of prep work. I create two different lists, appropriate for each age level and interest of my boys.

The seven-year-old's list looks something like this:

  • A blue pick-up truck
  • Three skateboarders
  • A red slide
  • Two dogs
  • A maple leaf
  • Baseball players
  • Soccer players

Note: We live near several athletic fields and finding teams on a weekend is pretty easy.

The three-year-old's list looks something like this:

  • A ball
  • A yellow flower (dandelion)
  • A squirrel
  • Ants
  • A smooth rock
  • A jagged rock
  • Leaves

Once you've done this a few times, challenge them to write lists for each other. Helping each other out is easy as well. You'd be surprised what one will see without effort and will be challenging for the other.

Because the two lists are different, I can easily re-direct potential fights about who is done first or who has the most. Developing their sense of team work could be cut to a single word that is only used to remind them. Our is "peanuts" since each of them needs help from someone else to open the shells.

The next time we go scavenger hunting, I'm going to take along our digital camera. Tune in next Friday for that activity.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud

Title: Ptolemy's Gate

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Genre: Fantasy, third in a series

Summary: The war in American is going poorly, as is Nathaniel's ability to keep his promises to Bartimaeus. In fact, almost everything is going poorly in Nathaniel's life as he not only loosing his golden boy sheen, but is the scape goat of numerous failures.

The Take-Away: Totally stunned. After I finished the second book, I really hoped that Nathaniel wouldn't continue down the path of greed and political games. He did, but redeems himself by the end of the book. I don't want to say too much and give away the ending, but I was proud of the boy.

I haven't said much about the magic or world that Stroud weaves his story in. Being a newcomer to the field of fantasy, I don't always know what is truly new and what is new to me. The action takes place in England, with a nice balance of English mannerisms and culture. Magicians are capable of magic only through the strength of the demons that they call. To be a powerful magician, one must command a powerful demon. Herbs and other trappings often used in fantasy novels are useful, but do not have any magical properties of their own. Think of them like vitamins; helpful, but not the real thing.

Stroud's writing is crisp and clear. I was lost in the books and didn't notice much about his techniques. Always a good thing for the reader and speaks volumes for the author's ability.

Stroud did leave the possibility of more books about Bartimaeus. He isn't vanquished and Kitty knows how to call him from The Other World. I hope that another trilogy is in the works.

Recommendation: Savor the finale of this series.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ranting about Sprint PCS

My husband got a new, better cell phone and plan when his contract expired. I weighed my options and discovered that if I canceled my Sprint PCS phone, I would save money by joining his plan with Alltel, even after the early termination fee was applied to my account.

So I found an excellent phone at Alltel that I really liked and switched to his plan. The next day I called Sprint, disconnect my phone, and confirmed my final bill amount.

The next month I received my email notice, like always. I attempted to logon, mainly to make sure that what they told me the final amount would be matched what the statement said. No dice. My log-in had been disabled.

I deleted the message, and figured that I would receive a paper statement.

I didn't. Earlier this month, I received a call from Sprint, asking when I was going to pay the final billing. My bill is outstanding by three months. I explained that I would be happy to make a payment if they could get me a bill.

So now I wait.

Really, should it be this difficult to get your bill?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Golem's Eye

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Genre: Fantasy, second in a series

Summary: Nathaniel reneges on his promise to never summon Bartimeaus again when political pressures mount from the Resistance. Nathaniel is two years old, and has been appointed as the assistant to Internal Affairs. When he doesn't produce results fast enough, he summons Bartimeaus to bail him out again.

The Take-Away: Nathaniel turned from a likeable little kid to an obnoxious teenager. His political development is astounding; he plays office politics like a fiddle. Nathaniel even manages to annoy Bartimeaus. Given the number of masters he has known, annoying Bartimeaus is not an easy task.

My alliance shifted to Bartimeaus in this title. Nathaniel was sympathetic in the last book, but any redeeming quality he had then has vanished now. Three characters return, members of the Resistance with whom Nathaniel had brief run in last time. The story is also told from their point of view, and gives the reader a complete picture, along with the ability to put clues together faster than Nathaniel.

Recommendation: Start with Book One, The Amulet of Samarkand, and have Book Three, Ptolemy’s Gate, on hand.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Wishing I was Teaching Still

Wisdom of Harry Potter author to offer fall college course

Students at Lawrence University in Wisconsin will be able to enroll in a course titled "Thinking about Harry Potter" next year. Edmund Kern, author of "Harry Potter: What Our Favorite Hero Teaches Us About Moral Choices," will teach the class.

Or maybe I should audit the class. I am just down the road from there.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Building with Kids

Summer days are great for playing in the park, walks and bicycle rides. But for those occasional rainy days, a new activity is needed.

I love open-ended play that building blocks bring. But when that's all the kids have been playing with, they need something new.

One of my favorite alternatives to building blocks is building with gum drops and toothpicks. No matter what the age range, everyone can jump in. Mom's and Dad's contributions are welcome too.

I got my supplies at a dollar store. A box of 1,500 toothpicks (enough for the kids and for the kitchen) and a bag of gum drops or spice drops were $1.00 each and supplied plenty of materials.

I start the session with a challenge. I make it easy enough for the youngest in the group. Some suggestions are

  • Can you make a square?
  • Can you make a triangle?
  • etc.

The next step is to expand and challenge the kids. Can you turn a square into a house? Or a cat? What about a horse? Mom and Dad can really be creative here. I recently built a soccer ball when my seven year old challenged me.

What are you waiting for? Get out the toothpicks and gum drops! Have fun.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Amulet of Samarkand

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Genre: Fantasy, first in a series

Summary: Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, seeks not only revenge but also power beyond his assignment. To meet these ends, he summons Bartimaeus, a smart-mouthed djinni. (See his journal for a flavor.)

The Take-Away: Nathaniel immediately is over his head with Bartimaeus. It was great way to raise the stakes. Bartimaeus tells the story initial, in first person. My initial reaction was confused. I liked Bartimaeus, but he was the demon, and therefore the bad guy. I didn't want to like him.

And I was also wrong.

The rest of the story was told in the third person. The switches are entertaining and well done. The whole story couldn't be told from Bartimaeus' POV, and you'd miss his colorful language if it was all told in third.

By the end of the book, Nathaniel's character is starting to develop. He is sympathetic, but easily influenced by others. When he is assigned to a new master magician, you know he's going to take a turn, but you aren't quite sure what direction. Stroud effectively leaves you hanging for the next adventure while and more of the characters.

Recommendation: Get all three and read them back to back. You'll love the changes in Nathaniel.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Next House Will Be a Tree House

But I can't decide which one. TreeHouse Workshops has some really great ones. I'm leaning to this one, because of the staircase.

It would make a great writer's retreat. Now I just need a tree...

via J-Walk

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Thief Queen's Daughter by Elizabeth Haydon

Title: The Thief Queen's Daughter

Author: Elizabeth Haydon

Genre: Fantasy, second in series

Summary: A young Nain explorer, Ven Polypheme, begins his second quest at the king's request -- What is the history of an artifact inherited from the previous king? Ven's search starts in the Gated City, on Market Day. Will the mystery be solved before the day ends and Ven is trapped inside?

The Take-Away: As stated, this is a second in the series, but Haydon doesn't spend unnecessary time with the previous story. I didn't feel like I was missing out by not starting at the beginning. Ven's circle of friends must have been established in the first book, however, and it's a vast circle. The variety leads me to believe that this will be a longer series with good adventures.

The target audience is young adult, however, it has the feel to the book as the first Harry Potter titles did. Fun, adventurous, but easily developed into something more. This is a series I would keep my eye on, depending on how the stakes are raised in the next book.

One of my favorite characters was McLean, a StorySinger who knows the histories, songs and stories of various people of the land. His role is minor, but he is interesting. McLean is completely trustworthy; StorySinger take an oath to never lie. I'm hoping that this is a set-up for a future book.

Recommendation: Keep an eye out. This could have the same cross over effect that Harry Potter did, depending on how the series continues.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Goals

A couple of writing friends and I have an informal group called "The Chocolate Cake Club." We are mostly a goal setting group with critiques upon request, discussion at random meetings, and cheerleaders at all times.

My goal last month was three hand written pages per day, or a total of 93 pages. As you can see by the progress bar below, I didn't meet that goal.

But those 93 pages weren't just to fill pages with words that would need to be edited out. No, those 93 pages were meant develop enough scenes that I would have a basic outline and direction of my book.

Typically, I write in a linear fashion; start at the beginning and continue to the end. But this time, the story was coming to me in scenes. I knew the chunks would work, and I could fill-in the missing bits after the scenes I knew about were complete.

It was a refreshing change. I enjoyed it. But I didn't accomplish my quantitative goal, but the story goal. Depending on how you count it, I either failed miserably or passed with flying colors.

Setting goals is good. I probably could have pounded out the other pages, and (most likely) tossed them out later. I achieved my goal, I believe, by using the three pages a day to motivate me to get my butt in the chair.

The good news is, The Chocolate Cake club agrees with me. Adjusting goals as you go is fine. The story goal should always take precedence over the quantitative goal. It's that quantitative goal that keeps your butt in the chair.

And when your butt is in the chair, your writing gets done.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bookworm Report, May 2007

My allergies have kicked into high gear. I'm stuffy and sound like a frog. But I've been baking alot lately, and found some great new recipes. It's been nice to have a break from reviews, but I'll probably start again next month. I kinda miss it.

And I'm posting at Starting Write Now. Today's post -- My love of Series Characters.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 4,659 20
2002 1,517 5
2003 3,803 8
2004 3,977 11
2005 3,417 7
2006 3,340 10
2007 5,304 13

  • Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Witches' Hammer by Jane Stanton Hitchcock
  • Specials by Scott Westerfeld
  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
  • Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
  • The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison
  • A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison
  • Send : the Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shippley and Will Schwalbe
  • Prep by Jake Coburn
  • The Thief Queen's Daughter by Elizabeth Haydon
  • It's Not You It's Me by Allison Rushby

For the year, I've read 64 books, or 22,645 pages, which averages to 13 books a month, or 4,529 pages per month, and an average book length of 354 pages.

What do you have planned for your summer?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I want to Write about Oxygen and Nike Shoes

I have two posts of Clive Thompson's bookmarked that I desperately want to use in a story but haven't been able to work them in.

They are "These shoes were made for stalking" and "Resuscitation science." First, the shoes:

"Your shoes talk," as Apple boasts. "Your iPod nano listens."

And apparently, so does your creepy ex. A group of computer scientists at the University of Washington wondered if they could build a simple device to secretly track somebody by the signal emitted from their shoes. So they set up a laptop, and whaddya know: It turns out that each shoe broadcasts a unique identifier, and it took the scientists only a few hours to write computer code that would sniff it out and track it. They wrote a report summarizing the stalkertastic possibilities raised by the shoes, as their press release reports...

Clive's article goes on to describe this phenomenon and provide links to some really scary cool information.

Now, the science:

According a piece in Newsweek, Lance Becker -- another emergency-medicine expert -- has recently made headway in grappling with one of the biggest mysteries: Why do we die when our oxygen flow is cut off? Traditionally, doctors have assumed it's because our cells need oxygen to live, so they die when they're deprived. But that theory was dealt a big blow when scientists finally started looking at oxygen-starved cells under a microscope, only to find that they survived just fine for up to several hours when cut off from blood flow (and thus oxygen).

Becker, in contrast, discovered something really nuts: That when you deprive cells of oxygen for more than five minutes, they die not because of an immediate lack of oxygen. They die when the oxygen supply is resumed.

Wild, huh? Clive's posts are long, but interesting. Totally worth the time to read.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rate Yourself

One of the really difficult things in a work place is rating yourself. I'm good at Excel. I'd consider myself an intermediate to advanced user, but honestly, what does that mean?

This device -- Aaron's User Scale found at XL-Logic.com -- defines intermediate, advanced, expert, novice, etc. for the HR set. Or anyone who needs to answer the question, "If someone says they know MS Excel on their resume, what questions can I ask them to determine their level of expertise?"

Intermediate is defined as follows:

  • Knows what a Pivot Table is and how to build one.
  • Knows what an addin is and how to install one. (Hopefully they've installed the Analysis Toolpack!)
  • Understands and can use the AutoFilter feature.
  • Can record a macro and use it later.
  • Can successfully edit/modify simple recorded macros.
  • Most users who claim to know Excel very well fall into this category.

My co-workers would call me an expert, but I don't fit Aaron's definition (nor do I think I should):

  • Can build addins for distribution and widespread use.
  • If you can think it, they can build it with Excel.
  • Most likely, a disturbed individual who spends too much time thinking about spreadsheets. :-)
  • A true expert knows the strengths & weaknesses of every single one and has probably had to build some new ones that were not available.

I won't even go into the Guru category. I don't want to be that kind of person.