Just Do It

No, this is not an athletic shoes commercial. This is what I had to tell myself yesterday to get the job done, the “job” being the scene that’s hung over me for the past three¬†weeks.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting the writing done is just getting started, going to the computer, and overcoming inertia. But lately, my main problem has been staying focused once I’m there. I did some more experimenting with mynoise.net, having decided that Brain.fm was not working well enough to be worth spending $6.99 for a one-month subscription.

My conclusion? Sometimes/it depends. Which soundscape I chose definitely made a difference; some were too bland to aid in focus, as they were mostly intended to be noise-masking. Others sounded great, but made me sleepy (one use for these sounds is in hypnotherapy practice). I might try listening as I’m reading before bed to help me go to sleep. But that’s not what I want to do at the writing computer. I really like the Ice World sound, but this is one of those. However, My Noise lets you combine sounds, and combining it with Ethereal Choir is great, and did seem to help with focus.

I met with three of my writer friends yesterday, and one of them was having focus trouble, too. We talked about what we do when we come to a scene we don’t want to write yet, whether because of mood or something else. “Toss it out” wasn’t discussed, although that’s a perfectly viable option when the scene isn’t really needed for the book. We were talking about those that were definitely needed.

I just skip the scene and move on to the next, as I mentioned in last week’s ROW80 update. One of my friends writes out of order, so that’s a no-brainer for her. It’s easy enough for me to do, as my sketch/outline tells me what happens in the next scene. But one of my other friends does the same thing, and she uses absolutely no outline. She and I both write our scenes in order otherwise. But my third friend said he absolutely can’t write out of order. Lucky for him, he doesn’t come upon this situation very often.

Yesterday, I still had not finished either of the two scenes I’d wanted to for today’s ROW80 update. But meeting with my writing friends is always fun and energizing (at least creatively), and I came home ready to tackle those scenes. I hit the later one first, and finished it without a problem. Then I played computer games for about an hour, procrastinating on that scene I didn’t want to write, until I finally realized I was not going to hit that goal for the third week in a row if I didn’t Just Do It.

So I went back to the writing room, fed the critters, and fired up mynoise.net with a combo of Ice World, Ethereal Choir, and Coastline. I don’t know whether it was the music/sounds, or my determination to just get it written, but it worked. Took about three hours, and 2500 words, but it’s done! ūüôā

GodsSwindlersWhat I’ve been reading: I finished Gods and Swindlers by Laura Kirwan last Sunday or Monday. I love, love, love this series, about a fifty-something, non-magical lawyer who lives in a magical town and is the only thing standing between it and magical baddies. This one was a little slow at first, but still kept my interest, and only got better and better as it went (much like the previous two books in the series). I hope the next one is out soon, though I’m willing to wait.

One thing I’ve noticed as a reader is that I can’t tell if something was written fast or slow, in order or not, outlined or written into the dark. Nor can I tell whether the author revised and fixed as s/he went, or did a big revision (or multiple) afterward. A lot of people have strong opinions on these, particularly the speed and revisions, but IMO none of them matter. What’s important is that we do what works for us for that book, at that point in our knowledge of craft. And it can change. (FWIW, I am a nominal outliner, I mostly write in order, my speed varies greatly even within one book, and I am working toward fixing more as I write, and revising less because I don’t enjoy it.)

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I made my goal to finish both the scenes I was working on (barely)! So this week’s goal is to write the last scene (yes!), and then go back and fix the things I know are missing. As a bonus, I’d like to do the read-through and proofread, to get it ready for the beta readers.

What about you–when you read, can you tell anything about how the book was written? What do you do to get yourself to Just Do It when “it” is something you keep stalling on? If you’re a writer, do you ever write out of order, and how do you handle scenes you don’t feel like writing? How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether or not you’re a writer? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.


Moving Forward

Skipped blogging last week, because when I went to post, found that an update had hosed my newsletter signup. So I spent the¬†time I’d set for blogging, fixing that instead.

I did make progress on the WIP, however. It helped that not much else has been going on. And yesterday, ¬†I met with my writers group–actually, there were just two of us–but that’s always fun and invigorating for the writing. I came home and finished a scene and fixed some inconsistencies in another. More on that in a few.

What happened to My Town Monday? On another note, Karen McFarland, one of my online writing friends, left a comment on my last blog asking about My Town Monday, a feature I used to do where I shared cool bits of Dayton history. She said she always enjoyed these posts (thank you, Karen!) and was I going to do any more?

The main reason haven’t done one in a long time¬†is they take a lot of time and energy I no longer have. Time to research, find photos I can legally use, and a lot more time to write. Also, they were part of a blog hop, where several writers blogged about something cool–whether historical or contemporary–about their hometown. It was fun to go visit other participating bloggers, but that died out a couple years ago. I still love local history, so who knows, I may post another some time. Just no specific plans right now.

crushedWhat I read last week: Crushed, by Laura Kirwan. Normally, I space series books out more, partly because I like variety, and partly because I want to draw out the enjoyment when it’s one I really like. I read the first book of this series, City of Eldrich, a few weeks ago, and it was awesome. I couldn’t wait that long to dig into this one, and it lived up to the first! The bad thing now is that I have to wait for the third, and she doesn’t have a newsletter, nor does her blog have an RSS feed or email signup. So I followed her on Amazon, hoping they’ll send me an update when she releases the next book. Can’t wait!

Smiths-Monthly-Cover-12-webThis past week, I read the short stories and serial episodes in Smith’s Monthly #12, by Dean Wesley Smith. There is sometimes one short in these that just isn’t my thing, and yes, there was one I skipped here, but the rest were entertaining as always.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I’m finally moving forward on my novella. But it took some more analysis, and last week I found the real problem: there wasn’t enough conflict. Oh, the process I was trying didn’t help either, but this was the main issue. The couple were both into each other, and there wasn’t enough keeping them apart, which made for a boring book. And if it’s boring me, it’ll certainly bore my readers. So I started over, with some conflicts hinted at in one of the related novels, that I’d pretty much glossed over in my initial version of this one. A couple scenes from the original were still applicable with minor changes, so I kept those, and wrote three new scenes. Moving along much better now! My goal for this week is to keep up that level of progress.

What about you–have you ever thought one thing was stopping you from moving ahead on a project, only to find it was really something else? Have you read any good books lately? And whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how are you doing on whatever goals you may have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Why I Need Routines

Some people can live life spontaneously, sticking to a schedule only when it’s absolutely required: a job with regular hours, or kids who need to go to school.

I am not one of those people.

I’m one who needs a plan. (And yes, when I write, I’m a plotter.) That doesn’t mean the plan is inflexible; just that it exists and is mostly workable. But too much deviance in routine typically means I get nothing done. Case in point: no blog last week.

It is tough being the traveling dog!

It is tough being the traveling dog!

The main reason there is that Sunday is my blog writing day, and my past two Sundays have been spent at DD’s house near her university. Two weeks ago, we moved her in. Last week, her¬†roommates were all there, so¬†we went back. DH wanted to do a brief teaching session on “house stuff,” i.e., breakers, water shutoffs, furnace filters, etc. Then there were a number of little things to fix–things that were our responsibility, since we’re the landlords. Isis went along too–her job was to keep the seat warm in the truck on the way to and from, and to look cute while there.

All things worthwhile to do, just meant that my writing has taken a back seat.

My other challenge in the writing is dividing time between creating new material, and marketing what’s already out there. Until this summer, I’ve pretty much given no attention to the latter, and since then, it’s been almost all marketing (mostly learning), making me grumpy because I haven’t written.

Both are necessary, but I have trouble shifting from one to the other. So this week, I decided it’s time to put into practice a good idea I’d read a while back: spend one day a week on the marketing, the rest on writing new fiction. Today is the beginning of that, so we’ll see how that goes.

demonicdoraWhat I read last week: Demonic Dora by Claire Chilton. This YA fantasy is categorized under “dark comedy,” and that’s a very appropriate description. The main character, Dora, is constantly annoyed by her religious fanatic parents and finally succeeds in summoning a demon–a bumbling, and very cute teen boy demon. She ends up going to stay with him and his even nuttier family in hell, and it’s one absurd situation after another (and I mean absurd in the very best way). As the stakes got higher, I turned the pages faster, and will definitely pick up the next in the series. As a side note, my favorite character was Dora’s fuzzy, brown pet demon named Pooey. The prequel is free on all the major retailers, and you can get Demonic Dora¬†for free by signing up for the author’s reader’s group newsletter (I actually bought my copy before that offer was available, and it was totally worth it).

What I read this week: Short stories!

oncecoffeeOnce Upon a Coffee” by Kait Nolan is a cute, contemporary romance. I generally prefer some suspense or speculative elements in my romance, but once in a while, this sort of light, fun read is just what I’m in the mood for. Next time I’m in that mood, I’ll definitely consider buying another in this series.

unintendedguardianUnintended Guardian” by Jami Gold is a paranormal romance series starter. It’s a shapeshifter book, but the worldbuilding and limitations on the character were very well done, as was the characterization. I really enjoyed it, and plan on buying the next one.

alien-brideAlien Mail Order Bride: Allyssa” by Meg Cooper was also a light, fun read. The sci-fi worldbuilding was on the sparse side, but that’s appropriate for this short a story. Also, the¬†alien guy was pretty human–just taller (and hunkier)¬†than most Earth men.¬†The other side of that is this story came across to me more as a contemporary romance in sci-fi clothing, but it was still enjoyable.

All of these are free, so if they sound like something you’d enjoy, click the cover or title to get them on Amazon. “Coffee” and “Guardian” are also available at other retailers, for those who prefer to shop elsewhere.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Two weeks ago, my goal was to go over my front and back matter for my upcoming Saturn Society novel. I actually did get that done, but not much else since then. I did, however, start writing my next book, a novella tie-in to the upcoming novel. And I made a list of all the marketing tasks I have yet to do. So this week, the goal is to get through three to five things on the list (they are relatively small things), and write 5,000 words on the novella.

What about you–are you a spontaneous person, or do you do better with a plan? Have you had any disruptions to routine recently? And have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Reporting Late for Round 3

Once again, I’m a day late and… never mind. Let’s just say last weekend was a busy one with the holiday and all, and I didn’t realize until almost midnight that I hadn’t yet put up my blog. And it was the start of Row80 Round 3! But now that the round has begun, I should be good with my usual routine.

I took the week before off, since there was no ROW80 to report to, and also because there wasn’t much to report.

It is exhausting to be so beautiful!

It is exhausting to be so beautiful!

But the following week–at least the weekend–plenty was going on. For starters, Isis got another¬†Goddess Treatment on Wednesday. When I got home from work, she was crashed on the couch! Such an ordeal, LOL!

We went to some friends’ house for a party on Friday night. These friends really go all out, with fantastic, catered food and major fireworks. We took Isis last year, and the fireworks didn’t bother her, so we figured she’d be fine this year, too.

WRONG. Of course, the fireworks started while DH was off talking to someone on the other side of the house, and Isis freaked! And of course, I was holding her leash, trying to keep her from running.

That wasn’t happening, and I ended up playing George Jetson until one of our friends joined me, right as Isis dragged me through a flowerbed.

I felt like Isis in the photo above by the time my husband got there to calm her and take over.

But otherwise, the party was fun.

We went to my brother’s on the actual holiday, where we had our typical (with him) very late cookout, then more fireworks. This time, we left Isis in the house. When we went to look for her, she was on my brother’s bed, in the farthest corner from where we were setting off fireworks! DH brought her outside, and she actually started to get acclimated to them by the time we left. Then again, our fireworks were nowhere near as big or loud as our friends’ the night before.

The main thing I’ve been working on lately is to get my newsletter signup system in place. Yes, I have one! A few of you may have even signed up for it, eons ago, and have yet to receive a newsletter. That will soon change. If you’re not already on the list, sign up and get a free ebook of “Time’s Holiday,” my Saturn Society short story prequel. If you’re already on the list and haven’t read “Holiday,” just let me know and I’ll be glad to send it to you.

Son Of the Moonless NightWhat I read this week: Son of the Moonless Night by C.D. Hersh. This is the third book in their Turning Stone series, which  features a very different take on shapeshifters. Also an excellent follow-up to the first two, as well as a great lead-in for a fourth book, which I am looking very forward to!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: It’s time to set goals for Round 3! Most of mine are stuff that didn’t get done last round. But even so, I still accomplished a decent bit. So let’s hope for more of that here. This is what I plan to do:

  • Work with my publisher to get Time’s Enemy made free for promotional purposes.
  • Make changes suggested by my beta readers that I agree with on my upcoming release, and submit it to my publisher (it’s already contracted, so no worries about acceptance).
  • Make changes suggested by my editor, and approve for publication!
  • Dig back in to my next Saturn Society novel that’s about half finished, revise the outline, and complete the first draft.
  • Send out newsletter once a month (maybe twice if I have major news).

Not ambitious at all, huh? ūüôā ¬†Actually, this stuff should be quite doable if I don’t get sick, have a family member injured, or anything like that.

This week, I am helping my publisher get my existing Saturn Society books reformatted (so they’re prettier and work¬†better on a variety of devices), and re-published at the various retailers. I also want to review my beta readers’ comments on my upcoming work, and start revisions on that.

What about you–if you’re in the U.S., did you have a fun Fourth of July (Or July First, if you’re in Canada)? If you’re participating in ROW80, what are some of your goals for this round? And even if you don’t do ROW80, how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Does School Kill the Love of Reading?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple coworkers the other day. One woman is about my age, and has a daughter in college, and one in high school. The younger daughter is supposed to read Catcher in the Rye over the summer, and is struggling to get into it, to the point she’s just about decided to just read the Spark notes. My coworker says this is unusual; her daughter is an honors student and usually doesn’t have trouble with assignments, but just doesn’t enjoy reading any more. She wonders if the material they read in school is part of the reason.

Our other coworker is 26, so remembers her own experiences pretty clearly. “So much of it just isn’t relevant,” she concluded. “We had to read a Jane Austen book–I can’t remember which one, not Sense and Sensibility, the one with Mr. Darcy…”

Pride and Prejudice?” I asked.

“That’s it!” She went on. “I mean, it’s all stuff no one can relate to today. Arranged marriages… and the language.”

Now, I need to point out that this coworker is a highly intelligent woman, with a master’s degree, and one who isn’t afraid of doing hard work. My other coworker and I agreed that the archaic-sounding English also put up a barrier to relating to the story and characters.

So we went on discussing books we had to read in school and didn’t like–Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea, anything else by Hemingway. One of them didn’t care for Shakespeare, either. (Interestingly enough, my college-student daughter loooooooves Shakespeare, but somehow does not enjoy reading a lot of fiction). Yet both of my coworkers like to read. The one just couldn’t figure out where her daughter, who used to like it when younger, lost that joy. My daughter also used to enjoy more fiction when she was in elementary and middle school, but has moved on more toward nonfiction.

However, one thing that somehow never gets old in my family is bodily functions jokes. Yesterday, my dad emailed me a link to this video. Only the Brits could’ve come up with the fart noise heard across the English channel!

Smiths-Monthly-5-testWhat I read this week: I started Smith’s Monthly #5. I’ve ¬†followed Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog for a long time, and especially enjoyed his “Writing in Public” blog series that he started almost a year ago. It was fun reading about a long-time pro’s writing process in putting together his own magazine, and the stories sounded good, so I subscribed. It’s been especially neat to see the end product after reading about his creation of the works. Dean writes in the tradition of the old pulps from the mid-20th century, so this isn’t deep, thought-provoking literature, but they are fun, entertaining stories. I’m about 1/4 of the way through the novel in this one–a science-fiction romance. The hero in it is totally yummy, not creepy-looking like the guy on the cover! (And has only two arms. :))

Sorry, no puppy picture today. I didn’t take any new ones this week. Puppy pics will be back, though!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I finished the scene I wanted to finish last week, and started sketching out this week’s scene. That went okay, until a character tossed a plot bunny (aka, new scene) at me. So I will be working on that this week, with the goal, once again, to complete a scene, whichever one it may be. My accountability buddy returned home from vacation, but did not lash me with a wet noddle because she didn’t get her scene done, either (vacation + kids = I could’ve predicted that). So back to work for both of us this week.

What do¬†you think–does reading too many books we don’t enjoy in school kill the joy of reading? Which books did you have to read in school that you didn’t like–or what are some you did? Is the video something your family would laugh at? If you’re a writer, do you follow Dean Wesley Smith’s blog? (If not, you should! Great info there, both on the writing and publishing business). Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

What is the best book you read all last year?

I haven’t seen any new releases from my writer friends this week–yes, that’s unusual! So I thought I’d talk about another favorite of mine – actually two.

Many years, I’d be hard-pressed to answer the question, “What’s the best book you’ve read all year?” Sometimes, there are too many good ones to make a choice. Other years, nothing has stood out. 2012 was one of those where I read tons of good stuff, but one book–actually, two– stood out:¬†Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood¬†by Holly Lisle, and its sequel, Warpaint.

HTCB-Ebook-387x600How can I sum up what made these books so great? All I can think of is, they were just more… everything. In one of her blogs, writing workshops, or maybe her email newsletter, Holly stated that one of her goals with this series was to create scarier vampires. And boy did she! Yes, these are vampire books, but not your typical horror fare. Oh yes, they’re that too, but they’re also science fiction – in fact, that’s the primary genre they’re shelved under. But they’re also mystery, thriller, suspense, and there’s even a little romance in¬†Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood,¬†the first of what’s planned to be a ten-book series, I believe.

They are about a kick-ass, independent starship captain, Cadence Drake. And if you think she looks rather comic book-ish with her curvy figure and exotic features, well, there’s a reason for that – she’s genetically engineered to look that way, and she uses it to advantage (and not in the way you’d expect). She has a special talent for locating missing things, and when she’s hired to find a missing starship, how hard could that be? Especially when said starship is one of only 27 made of a new model that would be very conspicuous in any spaceport?

Of course, it turns out not to be so easy, and on the way, Cady and her friend Badger run into all sorts of nasties, as well as unexpected allies. Which is where the more horrific vampires come in. If you want vampires that are sparkly, hot romantic leads then this is not the book for you – they’re definitely the bad guys here.

WARPAINT-FLAT-387x600But again, there’s more. More worlds to explore, each with unique cultures derived from recognizable, Earth subcultures. (I totally want to live on the planet called Up Yours!). And yes, there’s a bit of humor – just enough! And while these books are classified as space opera, they’re not buried in tech, and what’s there is believable and understandable. We see it through Cady’s eyes and learn more about her in the process. There were some epic space battles, again, just enough to satisfy the expectations of space opera while not boring other readers along for the ride.

And these aren’t mere entertainment either, although they can certainly be read and enjoyed solely on that level. There’s plenty of thought, theme, and ideas that make the reader think, and this is, I think, what makes these books so special. They are not pedantic or a soap box for the author, although for those of us who’ve taken writing workshops from Holly, they’re probably more visible.

So it’s probably all these things combined that made¬†Hunting and¬†Warpaint¬†a couple of those books that you read until the e-reader conks you on the head because you’ve fallen asleep, and then you think about it the whole next day while at work, and can’t wait to get on the treadmill so you can read again (or maybe that last part is just me LOL). According to her blog, Holly plans to release the third installment in the series later this year, and I for one can’t wait.

This is the bar I reach for in writing my own books. I’m getting closer, but I’ve still a long way to go.

Both of these books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, Apple’s iTunes, and on Holly’s site, along with a bunch of other good stuff.

ROW80Logo175Quick ROW80 update: I’ve pretty much finished the print formatting for Hangar 18: Legacy, which is the form I do my final proofread in. I’m also about 1/3 of the way through on the proofread, so on track so far this week! I have also done 2 workouts, so that is also on track.

What about you –¬†what was the best book you read all last year?¬†(Or books, if you can’t narrow it down to one?) Or maybe you’d like to share one you read years ago, that still sticks with you? If you’re doing ROW80, how is your week going so far?¬†Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Misfit Monday: Why I Stopped Reading

As an author, every time I put a book down, I try to learn from the experience. By analyzing why didn’t that book work for me, I can hopefully pick up some tips on what not to do in my own books in the future.

It’s also something fun to discuss with readers (again, to learn) and useful to discuss with authors. Not the author who wrote the book in question, although that’s exactly what ended up happening last time I wrote a post like this. No, it’s honestly just for my own learning. I don’t want to call anyone out – last time,¬†the author recognized her book, and she was a top-notch, class act, but the next one might not be. So with that in mind, I’m going to leave out the details, and focus on the problems.

I’d run across this book a few times and it looked like something I might enjoy, so I downloaded the sample. And boy am I glad I just got the sample, because I couldn’t even get through that. Actually, I caught myself starting to skim by page 2.

I can’t dig a book with too much dumping – of background information and baggage, that is

It wasn’t badly written. The author has a firm command of language, and I didn’t notice any problems with grammar, spelling, typos, or bad formatting (and note that some of the worst formatting problems come from the big publishers). S/he also had a good grasp on point-of-view, and evoking sympathy for the characters. But it just wasn’t enough to draw me in. It took a couple chapters for me to figure out why, but once I did, it was face-palmingly obvious: those two chapters were full¬†of backstory dumps, repetition, and cliche situations.

Quite a bit of information was repeated, sometimes twice, as if the author wasn’t confident enough in the reader and had to give us a nudge, nudge, get it? There were also repeated words and phrases to the point that I once saw the echo phrase three times on one page – and that’s on my Android phone. It was so bad it got a song stuck in my head. It had some other problems too, but the repetition and infodumps were the main reason I stopped reading.

Who knows, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just pickier, being a writer myself, and one who’s been at this thing for years (I’ve been writing seriously since 1999, and messing around with writing since I was a kid). Romance novels are especially prone to backstory dumps – big, long explanations or flashbacks into a character’s past – given that the main conflict in a romance novel is between the female and male lead, and it’s often this kind of emotional baggage that keeps the characters apart for most of the book. And since it’s such a common issue, it’s one that many romance-specific craft workshops and articles touch on. So maybe I’m more sensitive to it because of this.

In the author’s defense, my early efforts had these problems too, so maybe it’s just early work (it may or may not be – OTOH, some people never learn). Either way, eliminating repetition and the other issues are all skills that can be developed.

What do you think? Have you put any books down recently? Have you ever put a book down because it was too cliched, repetitious, or had too much backstory or worldbuilding infodumps that stop the forward action? If you’re a writer, did your early work have these problems?

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

The Booker Award!

A couple weeks ago, Jansen Schmidt tagged me in a fun and easy meme: the Booker Award.

Fun because it’s about books!

Easy because it’s about books… hmm, we have to pick favorites. And that’s not so easy.

But the “rules” are pretty simple: blog about your five favorite books, link back to the person who nominated you for the “award,” and choose three more people to blog about¬†their favorite books, who will then link back to you.

I can’t pick five favorite books of all time. Jansen couldn’t either, so she blogged about five favorite authors instead. Even that’s hard for me, so I’m going to pick five favorite books I’ve read in the past year,¬†not counting anyone I know. Another limit to make it easier to narrow down! So, in no particular order:

Save My Soul by Zoe Winters. This book showed me how much I love it when romance novels break the rules, and proves that any rule can be broken if it’s done well and for a purpose. One rule in romance is that the hero must never-never-never get busy with any female other than the heroine. Well, the guy in this book is an incubus, and if he doesn’t get it regularly, he’ll go crazy. And kill people, possibly the heroine. Which would break another romance rule – hero and heroine need to be together at the end of the book, which would be pretty tough if one of them’s dead. In Save My Soul, the heroine’s not ready to give it up to a demon, so she goes and finds him a bunch of hookers. Not only does it solve the immediate problem, it’s hilarious, and the prostitutes become endearing secondary characters who provide a good supply of comic relief throughout the book. Because romance is more about the emotions and relationship, Winters pulls this off fantastically. I have her next book and am looking so forward to reading it!

Kismet’s Kiss by Cate Rowan is another fantastic rule-breaking romance in that the hero is a sultan of an Arabian-nights-like kingdom in another world. As such, he already has six wives by the time the heroine comes along. This is another great example of rule-breaking done right, and Rowan pulls it off with aplomb, surprising me with how the heroine finally reconciled the sultan’s culture with her own, one-man-one-woman culture. The other thing that struck me about this book was the mix of fantasy and romance–the kind of book I was dying to read all through high school and college, but no one was publishing. I also loved Rowan’s second novel, The Source of Magic, and have her third on my to-be-read list.

Threshold by Sarah Douglass. This epic fantasy novel blew me away. It’s not marketed as a fantasy romance, but that’s exactly what it is. Except… for more of that rule-breaking stuff. First, the romance really doesn’t get started until halfway through the book (hmm, sound familiar, Time’s Enemy? :D) and before it does, the heroine’s had another boyfriend. But that isn’t the biggest rule broken. No, in this one, the hero is a noble, and the heroine a slave–common enough in some circles of romance, but in this case, he’s downright abusive, both magically and otherwise. Only later does the reader begin to understand why and how, and what drives him. This book has major, serious conflict, and it’s one where we wonder how the main characters will survive (due to external factors), and if they do, how in the world they’ll ever reconcile the tremendous differences between them. That alone made the book a major keeper for me.

Moving to a lighter side (because believe me, after Threshhold I needed it!) is Cattitude by Edie Ramer. This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in years! It’s about a cat who¬†switches bodies with a¬†woman–think Freaky Friday with claws. Seeing how Bella the cat deals with becoming human is a laugh a minute, especially when she starts feeling emotions brought on by her “inferior” human body. Beneath all the laughs is a really sweet subplot involving the¬†lonely, psychic woman who’s now in a cat’s body–and how this gets her everything she wants in the end as well.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the book I waited years to read: Out of the Ashes by Lori Dillon, which I blogged about earlier this year.

Oh, and I’m supposed to “nominate” three people for the award. Jim Winter and Stacy McKitrick have both been blogging about various favorite things recently, but not favorite books. So bring ’em on, you two! And Michele Stegman has had some good bookish posts lately too, so consider yourself nominated as well! Of course, limit it however you like (or not), or if you don’t have the time/inclination to play, no worries!

How about you? What awesome books have you read lately? Have you read any of my recent favorites?

Gotta Read ’em: Cozy Mystery

To follow up on last Monday’s post about my Rottweilers, today’s Gotta Read ’em is Rottweiler Rescue, a mystery for dog lovers by Ellen O’Connell. This book has been out for a couple years, and I can’t remember where I saw it–maybe on a Yahoo group I’m in that the author is also on. But where ever it was, she had me at the title. The book cover didn’t hurt either. ūüôā

In Rottweiler Rescue, Dianne Brennan is a computer trainer who volunteers with a dog rescue organization in her community. One day, she’s delivering a dog to his new owner, and finds the man dead–and the presumed killer escaping out the back. Dianne goes to the police, but someone else goes after Dianne. After a number of scares and suspicious mishaps, Dianne can only conclude that the dog trainer’s killer is after her. The police aren’t getting very far, so Dianne starts looking into things on her own. With her own Rottweiler and Robo, the dog she was in the process of rehoming, in tow, she finds and follows up on her own leads. But the closer she gets to finding answers, the more her quarry retaliates as he continues to elude her.

The book takes us into the fascinating world of dog shows and rescue operations, and of course acquaints us with the dogs themselves. My only criticism of the book is that there is sometimes a lot of detail given in getting Dianne from one place to another–street names, neighborhoods, and landmarks–which aren’t really of interest to someone not familiar with the area, and during which nothing really happens. I don’t read a ton of cozy mysteries, so maybe this is common. However, this is just a minor nitpick–I have read books where it was too much and put the book down. That wasn’t an issue here.

But the best part of the book was the dogs.They weren’t just window-dressing to draw in dog lovers, but were an integral part of the plot. Yet they also didn’t steal the show from Dianne, nor were they over-personified. ¬†They were wonderfully and accurately characterized, with Rottweilers’ typical, enthusiastic interactions with people they know, and guarded attitude toward strangers. Yes, there were acts of Rottweiler heroism in the book as well. ūüôā Another aspect I liked was Dianne’s growing relationship with Robo, the rescue dog who’s would-be owner was killed. Robo didn’t have a Rottweiler’s typical, ebullient personality, and instead gave little reaction to anything–a dog that had clearly been abused. ¬†Seeing Dianne slowly draw him out and the role he played in the book’s conclusion was particularly rewarding.

The mystery plot itself was satisfying, with a baffling puzzle and appropriate twists, turns, and red herrings. There was also a minor romantic subplot involving Dianne and one of the cops, which added to the enjoyment factor.

If you like dogs, and like reading mysteries, I highly recommend Rottweiler Rescue.

What about you? Do you like books featuring animal characters? And if so, do you prefer them portrayed realistically, or in more of a fantasy?

Gotta Read ‘Em – Erotic Romance

A couple months ago, I attended a fun, regional readers and writers’ conference, Lori Foster and Duffy Brown’s Readers and Authors Get Together. They had a great, well-attended book signing, where I met Allyson Young, who sat beside me. Allyson was ¬†gracious enough to give me a copy of Wishes, one of her erotic romances.

I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, erotic or otherwise, and have to be in the right mood for it. When I do dig into one, I expect characters to face real issues and have emotional baggage, and Wishes did not disappoint!

Wishes¬†is the story of Kennedy, a young office manager who has just moved to San Antonio to join her best girl friends who live there. When her friends celebrate with a night on the town, Kennedy’s thrown for a loop when she finds it’s not just for drinks and dancing: they take her to a BDSM sex club. When she witnesses some of the “performances” at the club and bursts out laughing, she attracts the attention of Graham, one of the owners.

Graham is not amused at Kennedy’s outburst, and when he confronts her, decides he wants to get to know her better – and teach her a few lessons while he’s at it. Kennedy’s immediately attracted to Graham, but can’t oblige his need for control – at least, not at first. But Graham whittles away at her objections, and in the process, discovers a few things he never knew about himself. Kennedy too, confronts her past, that she’d thought she’d made peace with, and there is the best part of the book: the emotions and conflict, not just between the characters, but within themselves. Kennedy has a good reason to be uncomfortable with the idea of being dominated, just as Graham’s background gives the reader a good insight into why it’s so important for him to be in control. Just as both are beginning to give in to each other and love, a rude awakening appears at the club, in the form of an old flame of Graham’s – complete with his toddler son.

Wishes is without question erotic, but it doesn’t shortchange the romance. If you like a steamy, explicit romance that’s all about the emotions and the development of the relationship between hero and heroine, pick up Wishes. You’ll be glad you did!

Do you read erotic romance? Got any good ones to recommend? Or if not, what else have you read lately that’s good? I read all kinds of stuff, so bring ’em on!