Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Goals Progress, January

Today was a really good day. It was sunny, and I wrote 59 pages in about 6 hours of work. A new record for me. I can maybe finish the book tomorrow. Definitely Friday, but if I finish tomorrow I can celebrate with Supernatural.

I know, I know, like I wouldn't watch it if I don't finish. But it won't be a celebration.

So let's see how I'm doing with my goals so far this year.

Write 350,000 words.
This goal requires 29,167 words per month. For January, I have 59,094, which is just shy of two months of work. Excellent start! I need some padding because February will be almost exclusively editing, and maybe March, too.

Read 115 books.
This one requires something like 9.5 books per month. In January I only read 7. But it was a month with lots of other reading commitments:

--Critiqued two full manuscripts and two proposals, plus a proof-only read-through of a third full manuscript.

--Read 9 Heat Wave entries for my publisher's contest

--Read 6 Golden Heart entries

--Read 3 Entertainment Weeklies and a Romance Writers Report

I thought the critiques would slow down, but I have a new one waiting and two more on their way in the next couple of weeks. My critique group has been extremely productive lately. But the contest stuff is done, so other months should contain more books.

Exercise 300 days.
If I skip 5 or fewer days per month, I can make it. So far I've exercised 26 days and skipped 5, and my longest streak is 18 days and running. I usually walk outside, but it's been really cold so some days it's DDRE and some days it's weights.

Lose an average of a pound a week (goal: 50 lbs.).
So far, no go. I lost 4.8 in the first two weeks, and gained back all but 1.4. I thought I'd changed my eating habits at least a little, but apparently not. And the exercise isn't doing enough, obviously. I will have to increase my duration and intensity once I've built a little stamina. I'm SERIOUSLY out of shape, yo.

Dining room work.
No activity yet.

So how are you doing with your annual goals?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Discount Tradeoffs

I just finished a class through a writer's group called "How to Disappear," taught by a big-name skip-tracer. It was a good class that was perfectly timed, as I'm writing a book about a woman who had to disappear. The class gave me a key to the story that will go a long way toward believability.

The instructor, though, had frequent and pointed comments about those of us who use discount cards, like for bookstores and grocery stores. He asked if the $2.99 savings is worth the information we're selling, and the privacy we're giving up (because pretexting bookstores and video stores is apparently a great way to get information to find someone).

So I'm finding myself a bit defensive about the whole thing. First, because I've been skeptical of the grocery cards since they started them. I didn't get one for a long time. It was nobody's business what the hell kind of tampons I use. I never give my phone number when the clerks at Toys R Us or anywhere else ask. They always look confused when I say, "No, thank you." :)

But I finally caved when the discounts got too big to ignore (I've saved $83 already this year with my grocery card, PLUS I get .10 off a gallon of gas for every $100 I spend, PLUS I registered my kids' schools and they've gotten over $2000 based on our purchases this year).

Also? I gave false information on the application. A house number on my street that doesn't exist, initials and a misspelled last name, etc. I don't have discount cards for any other stores because I don't shop there often enough to be worth it, and some of them will give you the discount off a general card, anyway, rather than gouge you for not having one.

I do confess that I have a Barnes and Noble discount card and a Borders card, which gives coupons and stuff. He gave an example of pretexting an account to learn what someone's most recent purchases had been, which helped determine where the guy had gone. But really, all someone's going to find out about me is that I read romance romance romance and I am obsessed with Firefly. And that's all out there already.

If I ever have to disappear, I'm screwed. I know that. But I can't imagine a scenario where it would have to happen. I live a more normal life than anyone I know! And then...it helps that the asshole utility companies put them all in my husband's name, even though I'm the one who made the calls to establish them.

I wonder, without using my writer's imagination for outlandish scenarios, what harm it is doing me for the grocery store to know what kind of tampons I use. A machine spits out coupons for competing products. If I'd given them an accurate address, I'd be getting coupons in the mail, too. I suppose they're selling my sales info to people but again, what harm does it do for them to know I'm a Pringles addict? I may be naive, but I don't think I care.

And in a way, it's comforting. Remember the Sandra Bullock movie The Net? The enemy erased all trace of her. She didn't exist anymore, and they replaced all her information with the info of a criminal to try to neutralize her. That's always been a really scary prospect for me. The opposite of trying and failing to disappear--being disappeared against your will. And it resonates with me, because I could easily be her character. If I didn't have my family, it wouldn't take much for me to become a recluse. But according to what I learned in this class, there are so many databases containing so much information about me, it would be darned near impossible to be deleted from the earth against my will.

Phew.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Wish I Could Write Like My Husband Dreams

My husband dreamed a Firefly episode this morning. I'm really jealous.

The dream contained Mal, Zoe, Inara, and Jayne. They'd been hired to retrieve a girl for a rich man (daughter, wife, girlfriend, he didn't specify). The girl was stripping in a club on some planet. (My husband IS a guy, you know.)

So they go to the club and discuss whether to go in guns blazing, or infiltrate. It's'a big place, lots of people, so they'll infiltrate. Inara procures some "uniforms" for them and they go in. As they enter, she takes off her top and says, "I forgot to tell you, it's topless."

Zoe freezes. Jayne shrugs, takes off his top, goes into the main room, and freezes. Bare breasts everywhere. Zoe finds a tray and manages to look like a waitress or whatever. Jayne's still frozen. Mal's just trying to get the job done.

They find the girl and start to leave, struggling with the still-frozen (and presumably slack-jawed) Jayne. But...

The way they select the next person to "dance" is by spotlight. Now, you'd think he'd dream that Inara or Zoe got selected, but no. The spotlight lands on Jayne. The others push him on stage and he goes up, manages to stiffly strip to his shorts and boots, does a little white-guy-no-rhythm dance. The audience cheers. Jayne does a "huh" kind of thing and gets into it more. They start giving him money. The song is over, the others motion for him to get off the stage, and he waves them off and keeps dancing!

They go back to the ship and play cards for hours. When Jayne finally shows up he's grinning and clutching fistfuls of money.

I would LOVE that episode!

Hell, I'd love any episode. But for a brief moment, the show came alive again, if only in my head.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Reading Meme

I got tagged! *sobs with happiness* Thank you, Mary!

Contemporary, Historical, or Paranormal?
Paranormal or contemporary. I only buy historical if it's a friend, and even then it may take me a year or five to read it. Don't know why, exactly. I used to love them.

Hardback or Trade Paperback or Mass Market Paperback?
MMP first, TP second, then hardback. MM is best for price, shelf space, and convenience. I am poor broke financially careful now, so hardbacks I get at the library.

Heyer or Austen?
Never read either one.

Amazon or Brick and Mortar?
Both. I am rediscovering Amazon, lately, and using the hell out of the wish list (which paid off handsomely at Christmas). But nothing beats browsing in an actual book store. I feel good just walking in the door.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
B&N. Our local Borders is cannibalizing itself (putting the little mall stores that used to be Waldenbooks out of business). I love the people at my former Waldenbooks and dread them having to close. That aside, B&N has books out early or on time, and Borders never does, and I can never find anything in Borders. It gets shelved weird. And the staff is never helpful. Many of the workers at B&N used to be with the B. Dalton in that mall-that-is-now-an-external-shopping-center, and they're great, too.

Woodiwiss or Lindsay?
Can't really recall ever reading either of these two, either. Maybe some Lindsey.

First romance novel you ever remember reading?
The volume of Little House on the Prairie when Laura fell in love. I never liked, in the next book, how she called him Manley, though. Or whatever.

Alphabetize by author Alphabetize by title or random?
Alphabetize? AHahahahahahahahahahahaha

Keep, Throw Away or Sell?
Keep, give to my sister-in-law, or donate to library. Never sell or throw away.

Read with dustjacket or remove it?
The dustjacket eliminates the need for a bookmark!

Sookie Stackhouse or Anita Blake?
Nope.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
Chapter breaks unless I actually fall asleep and start making up what I'm reading. Sometimes I have to turn out the light mid-chapter 'cause Jim wants to go to sleep.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Either, depending on my mood.

Crusie or SEP?
God, haven't you ever seen those two together? It's like making a peanut butter cup. They're hilarious. And I love reading them both, too.

Buy or Borrow?
Since I became an author, it's been buy all the way. Now that I'm poor broke financially careful, I went back to borrowing books that come out in hardcover from my favorite authors, but am still buying the paperbacks.

Buying choice: Book Reviews, Recommendation or Browse?
I rarely read reviews. I'll buy on recommendation but usually only because the book itself also appeals to me. So I guess browse rules.

Tidy ending or Cliffhanger?
A cliffhanger is great only if I'm late to the series and I already have the new book. :)

Morning reading, Afternoon reading or Nighttime reading?
Yes.

I read constantly. While I'm brushing my teeth, cooking, waiting for the kids to do their homework or come out of dance class...and I always always always read before I go to sleep.

Series or standalone?
I like both. Don't really have a preference.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Prime Time by Vicky Burkholder, but they haven't heard of it only because it's not out yet. :)

I tag Smith, Bicky, and Megan!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brief (yeah, right) TV Thoughts

I'm all caught up on this week's new shows and, as always, had some thoughts on them.

Dresden Files
Eh. Not enough magic, but that's okay. I liked Murphy. Kind of weird having Bob be human-ish. The story was very reminiscent of Supernatural, except not as well written, not as kick-ass, and with a main character who's a negative 20 when compared to the Winchesters' 10.

I mean, Book!Harry's not smarmy, he's not a player, he's not a patronizing asshole. I really hope he improves. If not, I give it three eps total before I drop it. Which makes me sad, but on the plus side, it wants me to bump the rest of the books up my TBR pile. ETA: I forgot to mention--Harry drives a BEETLE, not a Jeep! Cheesh!

The Class
Not high-class entertainment, but it makes me LAUGH. Finally, someone got it right, a la Friends magic--give them real, unique, sympathetic quirks and make it about the people and their relationships, not the "hook."

Prison Break
I don't like Michael broken. I kinda feel like they jumped the shark with Stedman's death, which renders all hope impossible. Unless this wasn't the real Stedman, which seems unlikely. Though they were talking about all the reasons they'd think he was look-alike, so...

I don't care anymore about what they do to Bellick--it's enough to know he's getting his, I don't need to see it, and I DON'T want to root for him. I also don't want any more of the T-Bag storyline. Susan had better do him in. I hate kids in jeopardy.

Though the Mahone storyline is rocking my socks. I'm glad to see him getting some balls because he's quite a formidable opponent.

And I live for the upcoming Michael-Sara moment. That's the heart of the story for me. I can't help it. I'm a romantic sap.

Studio 60
Speaking of romance. It's so wrong of me, but I love that Danny won't give up on Jordan. She seems totally uninterested, but she can't be. She's just protecting herself and probably him. At the end, when she said "you have to stop," I yelled, "Say no!" and he did.

*sigh*

I just adore this show. When it's over, I feel a loss that I don't feel with anything else except Supernatural, and it's for a different reason. I get fully immersed in the world and want to stay indefinitely. Things move on from event to event, day to day, like it's real life and there's no real "end," like there is to most shows.

Heroes
I'm liking this show more as it goes on. Most of the characters are becoming a bit more likable, like Nathan because he seems less involved in his campaign now than his brother's safety. Claire is still whining, but it's a bit more mature of a whine. She is coming to terms with things now that she sees it's much bigger than she is. And Hiro is just continuously adorable.

So that's Monday. :)

Veronica Mars
I know not everyone likes Piz, or may like him but not as a partner for Veronica, But I think he's great, a nice change from all the destructive personalities Veronica has been surrounded by. Even if Veronica doesn't ever develop feelings for him, I think he's good for her, and doesn't deserve her total obliviousness. That just added to her TSTL tendencies this season. Can't say I liked Daddy Mars being so clumsy about the professor, either, but I guess he can't be perfect.

Smallville
Kill Lana. That's all I have to say.

Supernatural
Not going to repeat all I had to say before, but I forgot to ask one thing. Maybe I'll figure it out on second viewing, but...after Ronald gets shot, Sam pulls something off his wrist and hands it to Dean, tells him to take care of the guard. Dean holds it for a minute, then tucks it in his back pocket.

What the heck was it? ETA: It was the key to Ronald's lock on the door--I saw it more clearly this time.

Okay, I can't stop. One of these days I'm not going to post until I've watched a second time, Neo on my lap, remote in hand, taking notes about all my favorite moments so I don't continuously flood my blog with this stuff.

Everyone's favorite line this week is hilarious because these are all women (the fans I read on blogs) and yet the line is so geek-boy:

Sam: "We're not working for the Mandroid!"

Monkie, Dude! posted screencaps on her LJ, and I had to grab some:





Anything in unison rocks. Concurrent bitchfaces, badge lifts, and badge smacks on the door rock hard. :)

Ugly Betty
The least interesting thing about this show is the unmasked shadow woman. The most interesting is the dynamic between Betty and Daniel. If the focus is about to switch, I might stop watching.

Scrubs
I missed a few episodes at the end of last season, so starting this one I felt completely lost. It's still got the elements that always made it one of our favorites, but I never miss it when it's gone. And not just because my husband is watching it non-stop on DVD.

Numb3rs
One of those steady cop shows that never changes, even when it does. Didn't like Millie much at first, though I love Kathy Najimy. She's done a good job of taking over Fleinhart's role on the show. She's quirky and funny and I like Alan having a love interest.

So the only show that's not back yet is Lost. I keep defending it to people who are really snotty about how much they hate it now, and I'm not sure why (except for the "snotty" and the "hate" parts). The first six eps weren't as compelling to me as the last two seasons were. I still enjoyed watching it, but I haven't missed it like I did the first summer. I'm looking forward to getting back to the beach and my favorite characters, few of whom are named "Jack" or "Kate."

Finally, there's DayBreak. I am so grateful ABC is putting the rest of the episodes online starting Monday. I suspect the show "failed" because it was too smart--required viewers to keep track of too many details and threads. I, of course, had no trouble, though that probably had to do with the fact that I watched them all in two nights. :) The best thing about it is, again, the characters. Adam Baldwin's IA cop is such an ass and yet he's not. Good, subtle acting showing us the difference, and it applies to multiple characters. The second best thing is the writing, which takes a lot of talent to keep it cohesive and not dropping things or contradicting themselves.

So...yes, I watch too much TV, and I don't apologize for it. I would apologize for posting here too much about it, but that's what my blog is for, and no one has to read it. :)

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Where Did My Sammy Go?

I am NOT complaining. I have no problems with the New Sam. But I'm noticing some definite differences.

SPOILERS

I noticed it last week when he was not patient and compassionate with Susan. He just sat her down, did a "look, we don't have time for comfort" kind of thing, and moved on. And it was bigtime present in his dealings with Ronald tonight. Sam is Anger and Resentment and if he was a linebacker, the quarterback would be looking for his cup every down.

No longer amusedly annoyed at girls fawning over Dean, he's simmeringly annoyed. He won't cajole or coax or soothe.

And he looks megahot in a trench coat.

There was one classic Dean/Sammy moment. First Sam stopped Dean when he was about to kill the wrong woman (though he didn't do it in the usual exasperated, protective, angsty way--he was cold and analytical about it). Then when Dean was getting his ass kicked and Sam just curled himself around the woman, holding her like she was going to put herself in harm's way (ha!). Then Dean told him to get her out of there. That's the classic--Sammy saves the innocents, Dean kicks ass (though he got his own pretty well kicked first).

Then Sam clocks a couple of SWAT members, the elite of fighting forces. Whoa, Sammy.

So, overall, I liked the episode. I was totally expecting the shapeshifter to be Sam or Dean, calling it every two minutes: "That's not Dean! Oh, wait." There was a lot of pain in this one, with Ronald dying, the agent upping the stakes to Dean on the phone, and the "we are so screwed" as they left in the nondescript, common, blends-in-on-any-street Impala (that's sarcasm, in case you can't tell *g*). It makes me look forward very strongly to the upcoming "funny" episode the boys have been talking about.

Also, the one where Sam has sex.

Cast Questions Answered!

Well, this explains a lot. Big dooby boy. *sigh*

WARNING! LINK CONTAINS HUGE SPOILERS!


SINGER: He had a real injury. He broke his wrist over hiatus and didn’t take care of it as well as he might and then on the vampire episode when they attack him in the motel room and the guy hits him over the head and he falls, he fell on it and that was that. Two days later he was in a cast.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Talent

I come by new favorites in sometimes strange ways.

Well, maybe not so strange. Lately, Jensen Ackles can be blamed for most of them.

(I'm already a "fan" of Betsy Morris, screenwriter, though I haven't seen her movie yet. Check it out here.) Ten Inch Hero is a romantic comedy that stars, among other talented actors, Jensen Ackles.

Anyway. Someone found a video on a blog that contained Jensen Ackles singing at a wedding and sent me a link. One of the commenters mentioned that the other singer was Jason Manns, and that the video originally came from his MySpace. So this friend who sent me the link went there and sent me THAT link, and I listened to some of his music without Jensen.

And he is amazing.

He has a wonderfully smooth voice, the kind I'd listen to in a hot bubble bath with candles flickering. His music is available on iTunes (yay!) so I bought the whole album. It's also available on CD from CDBaby.com or via his web site, and individual tracks can be purchased on his MySpace, too. Check it out. He's swoony. :)

Depressing Days

In 2006 Cardiff University's Cliff Arnall deduced a mathematical equation showing that a series of "depressive effects" combined to make the first Monday of the final week of January the most demoralising in the entire calendar.

I linked to the original article because there are some seriously stupid things in there.

Like, in a very confusingly worded section, a particular charity I can only assume is a suicide hotline got tons of calls on Boxing Day.

Because everyone knows Boxing Day is at the end of January. Note: Boxing Day in Canada and the UK is the day after Christmas.

But that particular paragraph up above just cracks me up. How many Mondays are there in your week?

And how can January 22nd be the Monday of the final week when January 29th is?

Monday, January 22, 2007

I'm A Terrible Mother

Apparently, my husband was wrong. Despite the router's reaction when he disconnected his computer, we still have the network and Internet access. Yay!

I am not the best mother in the world, by far. I try to be very aware of my strengths and weaknesses and to compensate for them, but overall, since my kids are smart, safe, well-behaved, etc., I figured I do a pretty decent job.

Until this morning.

I went in to see what my 7-year-old wanted for breakfast. The first thing I noticed about her was her bangs. The bangs that hadn't existed yesterday. She confessed that she got tired of her hair being in her face and cut it.

During quiet time.

Which was at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Yesterday.

Six hours before she went to bed.

And NONE of us noticed.

It doesn't look too horrible, but they are very short, with some sections being clipped all the way at her scalp. I couldn't do much to fix them because I didn't want to make them any shorter. I did cut off another clump to make them all the way across her forehead, but it's pretty obvious what she's done.

She's happy with it, so that's okay, but I hope the kids at school don't make fun of her.

I feel like such an idiot.

*Sob*

That sound you all heard earlier this evening? Like all the glass in a 82-story high rise bursting at once?

It was the sound of 3.46 million New England Patriots fans' hearts shattering simultaneously.

I can't talk about it.

It almost makes me glad I'll be without Internet tomorrow.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More Thoughts on Supernatural

I've have mini-discussion on- and off-blog with several people who all felt differently about this week's Supernatural, and felt a need to expound on many points we discussed.

Mainly, I want to share my husband's viewpoint, which I mostly share. I'm not trying to convince anyone who didn't care for it, of course. You like what you like, and don't like what you don't like. This is just how I see things.

Complaint: Background "supernatural" story not as meaty as usual.

It kind of felt that way, but when I think about it, it's not really true. I won't list all the elements of the mystery, but there's as much there as there is in any episode. The difference was that there was no exposition like we're used to, with College!Sam explaining the origin of whatever legend and back-and-forth between the brothers to figure out the story. It was more spread out as they learned from the old man and the daughter.

Complaint: Not enough with the old man and the dollhouse.

I agree about the old man. Like always, casting was very good and the old man was great. I had enough of the dollhouse, though. Three episodes (delivery guy on the stairs, purchaser rep in the room, mom outside) fits the "rule of three" of storytelling, that any motif with an arc must appear three times for maximum effect without overdoing it.

Complaint: The boys weren't involved enough in the resolution, which wasn't as "closed" as usual.

This was my biggest complaint, as evidenced by my last post. But I argue with myself every time I think it, and my husband surprised me by agreeing with those arguments.

Now, Jim is very much into the spooky, ass-kicking aspects of this show. He probably couldn't care less about the boys' relationship. But he says it's not realistic to expect them to succeed every single time. They saved the mom, saved the daughter, and there was a closure, even if they didn't precipitate it (he didn't say precipitate, though *g*). He also felt it wasn't realistic to expect everything to go down the same way in every episode. I agree with that, too--as I said, it becomes formulaic, and then we get bored.

Complaint: The episode was dull.

I say "quiet" rather than "dull." There was no fighting, no spookiness, little tension until Tyler was in the pool. The overall mood was more poignancy than fear and threat. In fact, it was very much cozy mystery rather than horror flick, which suited the setting. I think those things might make it a good episode to grab a new viewer who might have stayed away because they're afraid it's too scary.

Do I think it was one of the best episodes this season? No. But it was still very good. I liked the very new atmosphere for the boys, and next week's episode--very neon-urban rather than gritty-noir--looks great, too:


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
On a side note...

Another thing that has come up is Sam's freakin' cast. My understanding is that Jared broke his hand early in filming, so that they went back and added him saying the zombie broke his hand back in "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things," which was episode 3 or 4, I think, and that means he broke it somewhere in August or early September at the latest.

I'm not sure when the last episode would have been filmed--maybe November? So we're talking as few as 8 weeks, as many as 13. That's a long time. As much as Sam uses his hand (even busting down brick walls!) it doesn't seem like that bad a break for Jared. So why isn't the cast off?

I thought at first that they'd been putting it on as a prop because not enough time had passed on the show for it to be off, but of course a month went by between Hunted and Playthings. Megan pointed out that it's a very clean cast, too. Which means he either had to be recasted or it's a prop.

So again, bottom line: Why is he still wearing the thing?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Randomness

I colored my hair on Monday. It looks exactly the same.

Actually, I think it's a little more golden than the non-color it was before, but no one else can tell a difference. I guess that's okay. It's what I get for using a wash-out color instead of a permanent one. I'm scared I'll screw it up and be stuck with it for months.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I loved Supernatural last night. Okay, this makes three shows in a row where the guys didn't actually solve anything. (Demon virus: everyone disappeared. Ava: Gone [though they did get Gordon, which was the main plot of that episode]. Haunted hotel: Spirit remains and everyone runs away.) I am trying not to be dissatisfied by that. It's different, changes the usual "formula" of the show, and makes the boys not only human, but vulnerable: they can't save everyone, they don't know everything. And it's probably leading up to something really big.

But the episode plots have never been the reason the show's so good, anyway. There were plenty of funny lines last night:

"Antiquers?"

"You're pretty butch, maybe they think you're overcompensating."

"You're bossy. And short." *sniggers*

Sam's an adorable drunk, even if getting him there was a bit of an abrupt transition. I kind of hate him for making Dean promise what he did, but I can see his side of it, too. He can't stand the idea of what he might (but never will) become. And it makes sense that he's completely driven to save people.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
There is too much hotness on TV now. I watched Smallville, which was loaded with meat (Oliver, Victor, AC, and Clark all side by side? *thud* Even Bart, overly slim and kinda short, isn't bad to look at). They had an unusual angle shot of Oliver getting his cell phone out of his rear pocket, and the camera was close up on his side with just a chunk of ab visible, and the waistband of his jeans and boxers. I grunted. I couldn't help it. I don't think Jim heard me, luckily. I couldn't help commenting later, though, on all the buff bods.

And then Supernatural came on. I've always been on the fence between the two guys but leaning heavily toward Dean. But I swear, Sam gets bigger and hunkier every week. He's got to stop that. My heart can't take it. Then it leads to my husband asking me which one I'd do, and instead of saying "both" like I want to, I say, "You're the only guy for me, honey" and he calls me a sweet liar.

This stuff is not good for my marriage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My sister-in-law loves me. She works for an apparently very cool store called Secret Sneaker. She and my father-in-law have been trying to get us there for a while, but she works hours that haven't always been convenient, at a distance that is almost never convenient. For Christmas she gave us NFL face paint in our respective team colors and football hot chocolate that they sold in the store.

But I digress. For Christmas she also gave my mother-in-law spa socks. I raved about them so much she sent me my own pair yesterday. They are the softest socks I have ever felt, and they're infused with aloe. I never want to take them off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This weekend is the AFC Championship game, and the New England Patriots are once again battling the Indianapolis Colts. This rivalry goes all the way back to our first SuperBowl trip in 2001-2002. Since then the Colts have beaten us twice in the regular season. But they can't beat us in the post-season. So it makes for a great media story.

Not that there isn't other fodder for the media to chew over all week. Adam Vinatieri, the kicker for the Colts, spent the previous 10 seasons winning playoff and SuperBowl games for the Patriots. This year we have a rookie kicker who last week kicked the Pats' longest post-season field goal--longer than any Vinatieri ever kicked.

Adam who?

In addition to that matchup the media is no doubt flogging ad nauseum, there is the whole celebration kerfuffle from last week. When we went up in score with three seconds left, the team ran onto the field in joy. That's fine. Some players apparently (I have found no video footage of the alleged actions) stomped on the Chargers logo, made a choke sign toward the Chargers sidelines, and mocked the dance Shawne Merriman does whenever he makes a sack.

Some call that behavior classless. I doubt it would have been discussed much, if at all, if it hadn't been the Patriots, who have epitomized "class" since that first SuperBowl run. The part that bothers me is stomping on the logo. The choke sign--well, they did choke. And if Merriman is going to be an ass every time he does his job properly, he deserves to be mocked. But I can't help but feel there was something that precipitated the behavior. These aren't guys who do stuff like that without being provoked. They shouldn't do it anyway, but sometimes it's hard to be the bigger person.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I hurt my back yesterday, and the only thing I was doing that might have caused it was DDRE. For those who don't have a Playstation and two kids, that is Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, where you have a mat on the floor and have to step on arrows in the pattern shown on the screen, while dance music plays.

It's really good exercise, especially when you do poorly and are determined to not get "boos" (for missing the timing on the steps) or to get an "A" (grade at the end of the song), and redo the song over and over until you succeed.

Some might think it's cool that I hurt my back doing something so un-36-year-old-like, but it was in Training Mode. So that's kind of pathetic.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I spent several minutes this morning uploading new text for my WIP from my Neo, processing my word count for two tracker spreadsheets and the word meter on my Blogger blog, and marking my calendar with yesterday's productivity.

It occurred to me that all of that takes so much time and effort, wouldn't I be better served not doing it, and just focusing on the writing itself? By the same token, shouldn't I stop working on this blog post, delete my LJ friends list and all the other blogs I read from my favorites folder, unsubscribe from writer e-mail loops, and stop volunteering to judge contests?

My immediate answer was no. The first stuff may take a few minutes of my time, but it helps keep me focused. Knowing how much I've done and how much I have left to do, watching that word meter grow every day--that stuff is like the rails that go under the train. It's important.

So is the rest of it. Being a writer isn't just about putting words on the page or screen. It's about observing and participating in life. The most important part of any story is the relationships, and how can someone write about them without having any? I'm a commercial writer, so knowing what is going on out there is vital. So is improving my skill, which critiquing and judging are great for.

The writing isn't really suffering from lack of time at the moment, so I'm going to stop worrying about trimming it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Speaking of writing...

I was notified the other day that my anthology, Indulgence, is paired with Megan Hart's newest book, Dirty. That is so cool! I'm not sure how it happened, but I assume because someone bought both books (and I thank you!), Amazon thought it might be a good pairing. So if you go here, you can get both books with one-click convenience.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I may be without Internet next week.

I'll give you a moment to recover from your shocked dismay on my behalf.

Jim's computer crashed Wednesday night and he is going to take it for repair, but since the Internet access is via the wireless network, which is on his computer, disconnecting it makes the whole network go dead.

I can't...I can't even contemplate the horror of being without my connection.

So that's where I'll stop. Everyone have a good weekend, and root for the Patriots!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Self-Amusement

Dean: So, Sammy here thinks we might be able to help with your little problem. What is it?

Me: It's...uh...dragons.

Dean (eyebrows raised): Dragons.

Sam: Every culture in the world has lore about dragons. Fire lizards. Wyrms--

Dean double-takes to Sam, frowns: Worms?

Sam: Yeah. It's W-Y--look, the point is--

Dean: All right. I get it. *To me.* Dragons.

Me: Dragons.

Dean: Ah, man. Fine. Let's go. *mutters* Dragons.

Sam: It gets funnier every time he says it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dear Television Networks

Dear Television Networks (yes, that means you, too, SciFi--I'm not just talking to the big kids here):

The return of the season is approaching after an exceptionally long hiatus (and what's up with that, anyway? I'm almost cured of my TV habit), and I have a few things to say.

First, thank you for bringing back quality television. This season, you've even given a few of those shows a chance. I'd like to see a little more patience overall, even for shows I think are horrible, because you never know when something just needs a little tweaking or that one excellent episode to grab an audience. But you're showing signs of maturity in that regard.

Kudos, too, for your unending quest to find alternative means of delivery. Do you know how awesome it is to find my TiVo didn't record my favorite show and know I can get it from iTunes or your web site? Or that you'll show it again on Saturday? *winks at SciFi* That's vital for growing and keeping your audience, and we appreciate it.

Now, a few requests:

Please, please, PLEASE stop pasting promotional banners that take up a third of the screen during the most gripping moments of the show. No, really--don't put them up at all. It was infuriating to miss Sun and Jin's conversation because the subtitles were obscured and I don't speak Korean. It's equally annoying to not be able to see Dean's hands or Sam's legs. Your production companies do a great job filming their shows. Stop covering them up.

In the same vein, don't put moving vehicles and waving characters on the screen, either. If I want to watch those shows, I will. Keep your promos to the commercial breaks. Yes, I know I use TiVo and fast forward through those, but here's a tip--if the commercials are good, I'll watch them.

One final thing--SciFi, you can go, this doesn't apply to you. Football season is almost over *sob* but we do have three games left. Will you networks please stop flogging us with promos for your violent, mix-and-match cop shows? My kids, one of whom is only seven, watch football with me. I don't want them being forced to watch dead people, gunshots, explosions, and melodramatic non-funny quips about rape and murder. Them aside, *I* don't want to be forced to watch them, and rerunning the same promos 834 times in three and a half hours is enough to make me insane.

I know I'm one voice in millions, and mine doesn't always hail to the majority opinion. But I think these considerations will be well received by the majority of your viewers, and I thank you in advance for making the changes.

Yours,
A Big Fan

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Character Names

I've written a lot of stories. Thirty-eight plus, actually, including three partials that I won't sell and eight titles I still hope to. That's a lot of characters, and I was getting concerned that I was using certain names for secondary characters too often and, worse, that I'd duplicate main character names. So what did I do?

I made a spreadsheet, of course!

I already started keeping track of my books a while ago, so I didn't have to recount every time someone asked how many I'd written. I added a worksheet to that file to list characters.

Oy, what a chore! For the last several novels, I've kept information charts pertinent to the book, including lists of characters. But it was far fewer books than I'd thought, and I didn't do it for any of the novellas or short stories. So I had to go in and sift through every book and manuscript looking for all the character names. Needless to say, I'm sure there are some unimportant characters I didn't catch. But I do have all the main ones.

I listed each title, the hero and heroine, and every secondary character. Then I copied all the names to a new sheet and sorted it to see how they fell out. I found the results really interesting.

Sheer Numbers
First, I was shocked at the number. After I weeded out duplicate names of people who appear in more than one book, I ended up with 390 names.

Behind the Scenes has the most characters: 45! The heroine owns a protection service so all her agents are named. The job in the book is on a movie set, so there are cast and crew there. They stay in a bed-and-breakfast, which means staff. Then there are former agents and clients who could be the perpetrators. That is one hefty cast.

The next biggest book is the one I finished in October, The Color of Courage, a superhero book. It has 28. My first novel I can only remember five of the characters, but I know it had more. I can't find an electronic copy of the book, which dates back to my first computer with Windows 3.1.

Other than that, though, my "shortest" novel in terms of characters is Hunter's Song, with 5. On average, my novels have 19 characters (counting two unfinished novels that will likely have more in the end, and not counting the three partials, which average 13).

My novellas average 9, and my short stories, logically enough, average 4 to 5.

Favorites
I knew I used Mark in more than one book (more than two) and it turns out I used it FIVE times (six books, since one character appears in two books).

What surprised me more was that I used:

Andrew three times
Bob(by) three times
Fran three times and Frances once
Frank four times
George FIVE times
Jason SIX times
Joey three times
Kelly three times
Pete(r) FIVE times
Sarah four times
Tom(my) SIX times

I also used Brad, Chad, Charles/Charlie, Dave/David, Diana, Ella, Eric, Ethel, Jennifer, Jess(i)e, John, Jordan, Josh, Justin, Karl, Kelsey, Ken, Max, Mike, Morgan, Nicholas, Paul, Rachel, Regan, Rick, Robert, Tim, Timmy, twice each.

Alphabet
I have my favorite letters, too. Without checking, I believed I used M, K, S, T, and R more than any other letters. Sure enough...

M = 39, the top usage

K = 25

S = 31

T = 29

R = 26

But what shocked me was:

B = 26

C = 27

D = 22

J = 36

I don't even LIKE those letters!

The only ones I didn't use at all are U, X, and Y. I used Q once, I twice, and Z twice.

Importance
Finally, I looked at how many characters were important enough to have both first AND last names.

156 only had a first name. One was an animal (only one!). 21 were in fantasy stories where there were no last names. Also, there were 10 people known only by their last name (usually with a title). So, amazingly, 224 of my characters were important enough to rate last names.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And thus ends today's boring dissection of Natalie's Writing. You may wake up from your nap now. :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

TV Trailers

Is it me, or are TV promo spots--at least, Supernatural promo spots--becoming more innovative? Even more innovative than

I submit the following as evidence:

Article A:



I bought the Johnny Cash song played over the images. The black and white rocks. The images themselves are taken from the show--past and future episodes--and other places that I can't identify. The overall effect is so engrossing, I couldn't stop staring at them.

Article B:



I almost fast-forwarded through this, thinking it was a commercial. The voiceover caught me, and then I thought it was a movie trailer. I LOVE the continuing ding of the bell over the images from next week's show.

I don't like the flickers in the first one, because though I'm not an epileptic and don't know any, those flickers always make me afraid for them. They're disorienting, too. And in both they cut too fast between shots for us to assimilate anything. But that's true of all trailers nowadays.

So ignoring that, I hope the innovation continues, and I'd love to see other networks and other shows branching out like this. ESPECIALLY during football games. You can't tell the difference between one cop show and another, because they present them all in exactly the same way.

And I care about promos during football games, as my New England Patriots are going to the AFC Championship Game! Woo hoo!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Birthdays

As of today, I've taken care of all of January's birthdays. I've sent cards, prepared cards, and tagged what day to mail them. I've shopped for presents, wrapped them, and packaged them up to be shipped. All that's left is to take them to the post office.

I would like to be proud of myself, but I have to take history into account. Every year I begin with good intentions. I have a spreadsheet, and every month I check to see who is coming up that we need to recognize. Sometimes we do cards, sometimes presents, sometimes cash or a phone call. But I try hard at the beginning of the year to be good about recognition and celebration.

Then comes May.

May ruins me every year. There is only one family birthday in May, which means I always forget to check my spreadsheet. And just like that, the habit is lost. From then on, it's haphazard. People are lucky if I remember they exist, never mind that it's their birthday. By October, all bets are off. I write off the year and resolve to do better the following year.

One Christmas, my sister-in-law made calendars for me and my other two sisters-in-law. She not only marked everyone's birthdays on them, she marked anniversaries, too. Man, she raised expectations that year. And guess what? It was my worst year ever.

She never bothered again.

My husband has tainted me. He says, "It's not *my* anniversary. Why should I celebrate it?" So that gives me permission to ignore them. Which I think is fine. Most people don't expect others to remember their anniversaries until they hit, like, 40 years. And I certainly have no expectations of others when my anniversary comes around on October 3rd. Like this year is my 15th anniversary. On October 3. I like that date. It's the same day the old Cleveland Stadium closed and the day the Berlin Wall fell. October 3.

But I don't expect anyone to celebrate it but us. Really. :)

Anyway. Do you have any tricks for remembering people's birthdays?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Love Rekindled

WARNING: Spoilers abound. Seriously. Big ones. Don't read further if you watch the show and haven't seen it yet.

I love this show so much and have been without it for so long (5 friggin' weeks--it's worse than going without sex) that I was afraid my expectations would be way too high.

They weren't.

I adore Ava (Eva?). She so did not murder her fiancé,and I hope Sam's whispered, "Ava" when he found her ring was despair because she must have been taken, and not because he believes she murdered him.

Seriously, is she not the best female cast on the show since Ellen? (And what's up with HER, anyway? She totally told Gordon, or knows something about how he found out, or something. There's something really wrong there.) Anyway, Ava is cute but not gorgeous, she's spunky and brave despite being freaked out, and she made me laugh constantly.

Funkytown. FUNKYTOWN! *laughs and laughs*

Speaking of which, it's awesome that Gordon is such a smart villain, and complex. It's not impressive to defeat someone stupid (though it can be hilarious) and the tension is much stronger when the villain anticipates every move. When the only thing that kept Sam from dying was Ava's vision.

The hallmark of a good show is when you know damned well one of the only two main characters is not going to get blown up, but you're afraid of what's about to happen anyway. They did a decent job of hiding Sam's knowledge of the second tripwire, but we knew he knew. Totally saw Gordon beating up Sam. But did *not* see the cops coming, which was excellent. Very Sammy...

"It's Sam." CLASSIC!

...ahem. Anyway, calling the cops is very Sammy. These writers (and I count every one of Raelle Tucker's episodes among my favorites) know their characters very well (we'll let that character slip of convenience at the beginning of "Croatoan" go).

I expect tons of disappointment coming from the fandom regarding the Big Revelation. "He said to save you, or kill you." I knew we were building it up too big, and that we were setting ourselves up for a letdown. Consequently, I lowered my expectations and was therefore not disappointed. It wasn't huge, but it made sense that such an order—"save your brother or kill him"—would have weighed so strongly on Dean. Go back and watch the first nine episodes of this season now, with this knowledge, and see all the things that made such Dean's burden worse. Easy to dismiss "save or kill" when everything seems normal. But find out someone connected to Sam is killing...that his abilities are getting stronger...then see how the fear grows. Dean's greatest vulnerability has always been his fear of being left alone. Much, much worse than that is being the cause of it. Twice.

Anyway, I'm very happy tonight. I can't wait to watch it again. And the PROMOS! Who at The CW is writing THOSE? They're EXCELLENT. The one tonight at the end of Smallville, all black and white with a gospel song over it...and the one for next week, with the old woman's voiceover, very old-school horror movie. I can't WAIT.

Is it Thursday yet?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Last Night's Dream

Talk about weird dreams.

First, I was at a conference with two of my closest friends, Lisa and Cathy. I only ever see them at conferences, so that wasn't weird. Except our hotel was in a mall. I understand some famous, giant malls have hotels in them, so that's not too weird, either. But the hotel room opened right on the mall, like a retail store does. It had, like, a fabric wall on the mall side, with a weird door.

So we--the three of us--were going to go to a movie. Cathy wasn't in the room, and I'm not sure if she was supposed to meet us there or what. Lisa was farting around and we were running late. I told her, rather pointedly, that the movie started in TWO MINUTES, hinting that she's better move her ass, and that I'd go get the tickets. That's the last I saw of Lisa.

I rushed through the mall--I think I saw some people I knew that weren't real people--and got to the movie theater. I bought tickets and was drawn in by some friends.

Except my "new friends" were the gang from Veronica Mars, and the most prominent person was Dick. Yeah, the least likable character on the show. And the "movie theater" was a tiki bar, with the furniture and walls made of rattan and bamboo and the beach right outside.

Then it got weird. There was something about changing into a bikini or something, and anyone who's seen me in person knows I do NOT have a bikini body. I think I kept a shirt on. And I was aware I was supposed to be meeting Lisa and Cathy, but never saw them, and instead it was all about the machinations of hooking up. I'm not sure who I was hooking up with. It was either Dick from Veronica Mars, Jack from Lost, or some random guy who was probably supposed to be a character in one of my books.

My dreams tend to get vivid and strange and leave me feeling unrested when I haven't written in a while. All week I've been focusing my time on reading what other people have written (critiques and contest entries) and have therefore not been working on my own book.

Today I made sure to write. 16 pages. Not enough to forestall dreams, but it's also a new Supernatural episode tonight, so maybe I'll get lucky and have vivid, action-packed dreams about Dean and Sam.

Mmmmm. DeanandSamDeanandSamDeanandSamDeanandSamDeanandSam.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In the Category of Totally Awesome

This.

Is.

So Cool.

It's an old aspiration of mine, to publish a film-worthy book, get it optioned, have those who option it actually follow through and make a movie, and invite me to the set. I have additional dreams about who might be cast that I could meet and squee over, but it doesn't really matter. I just want to be there.

I find myself glad for a man I don't know, whose work I enjoy and admire, who gets to do this really cool thing. I have no idea if it's a highlight of his life, but if it is, I applaud the success that got him here.

Other Totally Awesome things about this:

They made a series. Out of one of my favorite series of books. And it's going to be on TV. Soon.

There goes another night of my week. :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Autobiographical

I'm working on a new book now, one I'd started--geez, nearly two years ago. It's a romantic adventure with a mother-daughter team of protagonists. They're on the run from unknown bad guys, and it occurred to me today that I was writing my dreams.

Not the "sign a big contract and have a successful career while being represented by a top agent" kind of dream. The kind you have while you're sleeping and your mind rids itself of anxieties. Not a nightmare, quite, but a venting of fears and pressures.

At this point in the book, the heroine and her daughter are on the run from unknown evil. So far, in this first quarter, it's been about pursuit and evasion. They got away from the first wave of bad guys and have been staying inches ahead of the second wave while trying to get back to each other. They find a semi-safe spot, only to find that it's not so safe, and off they are again. Right now the daughter and her roommate are scrambling to hide, and are getting into a shed. It's not locked, and she thinks that eventually something's not going to go her way.

At that point I was forcibly reminded of my recurring chase dreams. I haven't had any in a while, so I was not consciously emulating them. But I have, in my lifetime, dreamed dozens of times of being on the run from someone or something. I hide, and they don't see me. Or I try to hide, and can't, and they are about to get me, but somehow I get away. In these dreams, it's constant run, constant chase, without ending. But no matter how dead the end, how close they get, how easy I am to see, something always shifts so that I get away. They never, ever get me.

I'm no expert, but I think those dreams are simple stress. Whatever I'm struggling with at the time I always know--I worry, but still always know--that it will work out somehow.

I can't do that in this book. Just as Kelsey has recognized that not all the sheds will be unlocked when she needs them to be, I recognize that they can't always get away. At some point the danger will be inescapable, and the heroine will face her darkest fear--that after eighteen years of precaution, she will be unable to protect her daughter. I'm not sure how that will come to be yet, or how they will win in the end, but I find the connection to my own life, my safe, unexciting, stable life, very interesting.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Neo!

I love my Neo.

Just thought you might like to know that. The keyboard is sooooo soft and nice to touch. I can write faster, wih fewier typos (I left those two because they were very funny with the timing) than I could on my Alphasmart. I also love the bigger screen and six lines of type, though the shape of the unit blocks part of the bottom line. That's probably just because I'm short, though. And it's not like I can't tell what the words say.

I do have to get used to the navigation, though. I had Writer Tools on my old Alphie, so it had the original navigation (cmd+arrow moved to the beginning or end of the line) and WT navigation (ctrl+arrow moved to the beginning or end of the next word). Now this has sentence navigation, so ctrl+arrow moves a whole sentence, while option+arrow moves a word. I keep jumping sentences instead of words, and then trying to switch and jumping lines instead.

Otherwise, it's just the same. Little, light, fast on, fast off, no distraction. When I wrote this last week at the coffee shop, I'd written 2879 words in about two hours. That's a decent amount.

Of course, then I distracted myself writing two blog posts.

But I love my Neo. :)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Book List 2006—The Tens

The difference between a 9 and a 10 is not always definable. I can finish a book, love it, think about the score—and just not be able to give it the top. There’s an element that’s ephemeral, and very personal, but somehow, a 10 transcends even excellence and touches me somehow. I’m sorry the book is over.

That was the case with all of these:


The Comeback Kiss
Lani Diane Rich

I got several of her books at signings at RWA National in July. Two were okay. Her book previous to this one, Maybe Baby, got a 9. This one went over the top because of the hero. I love good men who try to convince everyone else they’re not. I have to wait until next FALL for the next one, according to the excerpt at the back. Luckily, she has another from another publisher sooner. But you’d never know it from her web site, which hasn’t been updated since April. Very annoying. She didn’t e-mail me back when I e-mailed her to “complain” (i.e. gush all over her about how wonderful this book is). Maybe because I’d also seen some things on her group author blog that made me gush about “how much we’re alike, like, ohmigod!” I probably scared her.


Storm Force
Meredith Fletcher

This was a near-flawless book. The hero revealed his secret too soon, I thought, and some backstory got dumped in the beginning, but the action and tension were so taught, from page one, I never wanted to put it down. I guess sometimes a book can totally transcend its flaws.




Missing Incorporated
Tess Pendergrass

This one kept me guessing with questions about the murderer, the hirer of the assassin, where the son went, and who the hero would be. I would love to read more by this author, but more like THIS. She has cozy mysteries (too tame for me most of the time) and Five Star books (wayyyy too expensive for me) so I’ll be on the lookout for her future stuff.





Born in Death
JD Robb

What I love about these books is that the author is so true to the characters’ voices and personalities, and that she incrementally grows them so they are never stagnant, never stale. I don’t read her Nora Roberts books anymore, but I can’t get enough of these.






Haunted in Death
JD Robb

A lead novella in the anthology “Bump in the Night,” this is the weakest of JD Robb’s offerings only because it’s very difficult to accept Eve Dallas going along with the whole haunting thing. If you love paranormal (and I do), it’s easy to get over. (Okay, it's also "weakest" because it's short.)





Summer Knight
Jim Butcher

I don’t know why I liked this one best of the first four. I don’t know why I like these books at all, actually. I find that urban fantasy really appeals to me, and I love Harry Dresden, but I don’t generally like “dark” worlds, and this is the darkest of the ones I've read. Somehow, though, it gripped me and wouldn’t let me go. It will be interesting to see how he ups the stakes from “end of the world” in the next books.



California Demon
Julie Kenner

This book and the next one are why authors MUST keep their web sites up to date. I couldn’t put this down. The subtitle (the secret life of a demon-hunting soccer mom) says it all. This is what they mean by “chick lit.” It’s funny, exciting, adventurous, and we can identify with the heroine despite the paranormal world she lives in. I wasn’t entirely happy with the choice she made at the end, but it was the only one she COULD make and it made me ravenous for the next book. Of which there was no mention on JK’s web site. Drove me insane. Luckily, she e-mailed me back when I wrote to her. I only have to wait until July. :)



Don't Look Down
Crusie/Mayer

First book of a collaboration. I always loved Jennie Crusie’s writing, if not her writing philosophies (I scoff at “never ever ever ever on pain of being labeled A Bad Writer change point of view in a scene!” for example.) I started reading their joint blog about how they came to collaborate on this book because they are both very funny. And so is this book. More than that, it is a PERFECT example of my ideal genre: romantic adventure, as their publisher labels it.


Lost Calling
Evelyn Vaughn

Something Wicked
Evelyn Vaughn






The above two books are going to be difficult to get. These are stellar examples of what Bombshell was supposed to be, and usually was. Strong women, strong men, exciting stories, compelling worlds. It kills me that the line is gone, especially when I remember books like these, and all the ones that won’t get published.


Firefly Official Companion
Various

This is all about the first half of the series, with scripts and behind-the-scenes stuff. Awesome and necessary for any Browncoat.









Twelve Sharp
Janet Evanovich

I have enjoyed Evanovich’s new NASCAR series, but not nearly as much as her Plum books. No one tops Grandma Mazur, and Ranger is to die for. Yes, I said it. TO. DIE. FOR.







I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
Ally Carter

This book is the first of a series about a high school student in a private school that raises girls to be spies. They are exactly what I wish I could have been.








City of Cries
Catherine Asaro

I don’t have a link for this one. It turns out it was a Science Fiction Book Club original. It takes place in her Skolian Empire world, I think. I haven’t read her other books that weren’t Lunas.











The Gate to Eden
Cathy McDavid

I don’t usually read historicals, and because they’re not my first choice, it took me a little while to pick this up and read it. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit (not like you don’t already know) she’s one of my fellow authors in The Gab Wagon. I’ve known her for many years, at least since we were both newly published by Avid Press in 2000. But I have not always rated her other books a 10. :) This book had the kind of spunky-yet-not-anachronistic heroine I love, and a hero worthy of her.


Thunderbird Falls
C.E. Murphy

This is second in a series that also has a novella in an anthology. The worldbuilding in this is awesome, urban fantasy with talented heroine and intriguing potential hero. I would like more romance, but it’s the rare story that (to me)didn’t need it.







The Phoenix Law
Cate Dermody

Cate Dermody is CE Murphy. I e-mailed her to complain. if I’m about to read a CE Murphy book I know that I’m not going to do much else, and I plan accordingly. The first two books of this trilogy were good, but not as good as the CE Murphy books. This one sucked me in from the first page. I say get the whole series, but this does stand alone, and has a very satisfying resolution. Totally spy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Book List 2006, Publisher Analysis

Some of these are listed as imprints or lines rather than straight publishers, and many of the "publishers" belong to the same conglomerates. I went by what was on the spine of the book.

Ace—4
Same author
Completed all of them
Two 7s, two 8s


Amber Quill Press—3 plus the 4 Blue Silver stories that weren’t mine. I bought others but don’t like reading e-books that much
Completed all of them
One 7, two 8s

Atria—2
Same author
Finished one (8), not the other (6)

Avon—1
Completed, rated 8

Ballantine—6
4 authors
Completed all
Four 7s, two 9s

Bantam—1
Completed, rated 7
(Plus the one I neglected to track)

Berkley—11
One anthology, not completed because the stories were the same as published elsewhere, rated 7
9 other authors
2 not completed (a 4 and a 6)
One 7, three 8s, four 9s, and a 10

Bombshell (Silhouette)—54
13 not completed; of those, one 1, three 5s, four 6s, five 7s
41 completed; one 6, ten 7s, nine 8s, fifteen 9s, five 10s
40 different authors


Dell—1
Did not complete, rated 6

Dorchester—1
Completed, rated 8

Downtown Press—5
3 authors
Two not completed (a 6 and a 7)
One 8 and two 9s

Draumr—1
I hesitate to put this rating because she’ll know. But she won’t hold it against me. I hope. 7

Ellora’s Cave—1
Novella for contest, 8

Forge—1
Completed, 7

Harlequin—1
Did not complete, 5

HarperTorch—1
Did not complete, 7

HQN—2
Two authors, both completed, one 8 and one 9

Hyperion—1
10

Jove—4
All novellas, part of an anthology
Two not completed, both 6s
Two complete, an 8 and a 10

Kensington—1
Did not complete, 6

Leisure Historical—1
Gave that one a 10

Luna—4
3 authors
Completed all
7, 8, 9, 10

Meisha Merlin—1
Completed, 8

NAL—1
Completed, 7

Next—1
Did not complete, 6

Pocket—2
2 authors
Completed, 8 and 9

Putnam—2
Same author, 9 and 10

Red Dress Ink—1
Not completed, 5

Roc—2
Same author, completed, 8 and 10

Secrets—1
novella
Completed, 9

Science Fiction Book Club—1
One novella I read for a contest. That one got a 10.

Signet—1
Completed, 8

Simon and Schuster—1
Not completed, 6

St. Martin’s—5
3 authors
All completed
Two 7s, a 9 and two 10s

Titan Books—1
My only non-fiction book, 10

Warner—7
4 authors
Two incomplete, a 3 and a 6
A 7, an 8, two 9s and a 10

Whiskey Creek Press—1
Five, completed under duress (self-imposed)

William Morrow—1
Completed, 8<

Zebra—3
One not completed, 4
Two completed, 6s

How will I ever make my goal of 115 books this year without Bombshell? It will be very interesting to see my breakdown next year. Will I branch out more?

It shocks me that I have so many publishers/imprints out of which I only read one book. Ballantine and Warner aren’t surprising, as I’ve always known I liked their books, but I expected more from St. Martin’s, and a lot more from Bantam. That I read so many from Berkley surprises me, too.

Tomorrow I’ll post the 10s, with covers and links!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Book List 2006, Author Analysis

I read only one book by 71 authors, many because that’s all they had out last year.

I read two books by 22 authors

I read three books by 4 authors

I read four books by 2 authors

I read five books by Robert Aspirin, almost all of which I’d read before, in preparation for a slew of new ones I hadn’t realized were out.

Regarding ratings of books by the same author:

13 times the author got the same rating for all books

12 times they differed by one point

6 times they differed by two points

3 times they differed by three or more points

Of the authors I read, 49 I will read again. Some of those are only because I have books by them on my TBR pile already, but most are authors I really would like to read again, and some I would probably have let pass by without this list. I am going to go through it again and sign up for a bunch of author newsletters or Amazon alerts or whatever I can do.

22 of those authors I don’t plan to read again. Some I might if they write a book with a story that really interests me, but I don’t expect to.

27 of them I might read again, depending. I liked them enough to, but not enough to keep track of their releases.

Next year I’m going to track how I know the author, if I do: Do I read their blog? Did I meet them at a booksigning or workshop? See them speak but they don’t know me from Adam? Do they read my blog, maybe?

I also want to track genre and why I selected a book. Again, did I see them speak? Did I get the book for free, or did a friend recommend it? Interesting things I wish I knew about this year’s books.

Tomorrow I’ll analyze the publishers/imprints from which my books came.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ETA: Well, edited before I posted, but still edited. I just realized there was a book I read that I got from the library and neglected to track. I wonder how many others there were, dammit. So I DID read 100 books! At least! Doh. It was a Bantam book, and I think I would have given it an 8 or a 9. I’ll also read that author again.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Book List 2006

In 2006, for the first time in my life, I kept track of the books I read. I started a few weeks late, so the beginning of the year was a little uncertain regarding which books I finished when, etc. I tracked title, author, publisher/line, date completed, IF I completed it, what it was about, and my comments on the story.

I read 99 books and 10 novellas.

I started but did not complete 31 books, plus a few that I knew on the first page I couldn’t read, but didn’t count them because one page is irrelevant.

In addition, I read Time magazine every week until August, People every week until mid-December, and Entertainment Weekly every week ongoing (until it runs out in April). I also critiqued three to five full-length novels for friends.

This year I will do more critiquing, but less magazine reading, so that should balance out a bit.

I was going for 100 books this year, but I thought I was on 99 and needed one more, so I cheated and read a really, really short book that counted as a whole book because it was sold for $13 even though it was only 121 pages long.

My last day at my day job was June 7, 2006. As of that date I had read 27 books and 6 novellas (some for a contest for published works) and attempted 13 other novels. Which means that after I quit the day job I read 72 books and 4 novellas and attempted 18 other novels.

The obvious deduction: I had more time to read after I quit my day job.

Ratings



I rated the books on a scale of 1-10. Of the books I did NOT finish, I rated them as follows:

1--one

3--one

4--two

5--six

6--thirteen

7--eight

Of the ones I completed, I rated them as follows:

5--one (this was my cheat book)

6--three

7--twenty-six

8--thirty

9--thirty-two

10--seventeen

Basically, if a book is middle-of-the-scale, it could easily go either way whether I finish it or not. If I set the book down to read a magazine, or for some other long period of time, if I am not compelled to get back to the story, I won’t. If it has one strong element that I want answers to, I will continue, even if it’s not completely floating my boat.

The number of 10s surprised me. Later in the week I’ll post a list of the books that scored a 10. If I feel enterprising enough I’ll put up the covers, too.

Tomorrow I'll analyze the authors I read, and Thursday the publishers/imprints.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Goals for 2007

I've been working on and thinking about my goals all day, and I liked the way one author I know laid hers out, so I'm emulating her. It's quantifiable and means I can do another spreadsheet. I like spreadsheets. :)

So here they are, my goals for 2007:

Write 350,000 words

Exercise 300 days

Lose 50 lbs (one pound per week, with a little leeway)

Read 115 books

Redo dining room

Oh, and before I forget again, here's my picture in my Patriots rasta hat:


Yes, yes, it is scary. :)