Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Club

I had great plans to post more regularly here. I still do. Hopefully, the second ½ of January will be more productive than the first.

I wanted to catch everyone up on our book club selections.

AotP began a book club so that we could all read the same books and discuss them from a writerly point of view. This, as Tess Gerritson points out, is quite different from a regular reader. Something about writing and learning to craft stories changes the way you read. It makes you a hard critic. It also hones an attraction for a particular voice in a story. It doesn’t make it any easier to explain what it is that attracts one person to a story where another doesn’t like it at all. But, it does make you aware that being drawn into a story is so much more than the way words are organized on a page.

Anyway, thus far we’ve read several great books.

A Piece of Heaven by Barbara Samuels (contemporary women’s fiction/romance)
A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole (paranormal romance)
Adios to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer (contemporary YA romance)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (YA paranormal) – an unofficial selection we discussed in great detail
Dreaming of You – Lisa Kleypas (historical)

We’ve selected the book for our February and March discussions, too.

Poison study by Maria V. Snyder (fantasy romance)
Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockmann (romantic suspense)

So far, I think we’ve all been pleased with our selections. We’ve each liked certain books more than others. We liked and disliked them for different reasons.

We’ve covered several sub-genres in the “romance” genre. What have we missed? Not that not having read in a particular genre will influence our next selection, but I would like to read a bit from all genres.

We haven’t selected an erotic romance, and while that’s not what any of us read regularly, I think that eventually we need to select one for education purposes. (Right, you say.)

We also haven’t read an inspirational. And again, I want to read one for learning.

We’ve been quiet in the Urban Fantasy area. Neither Hunger nor Poison qualify for urban fantasy romance, so we should probably select one of those, too.

We need to read a western romance – either contemporary or historical, or both.

I also think we should select a historical period other than regency (which we concluded was the time period for Dreaming). Perhaps, we should read a medieval.

And, maybe, we should read a romantic suspense about cop or murder investigation, in addition to the Brockmann military style stories.

I’m also wondering if we should pick another contemporary. Barbara Samuels’s style is different than a lot of other contemporary writers.

Then, will we need to read a futuristic, too. (Think Linnea Sinclair.)

What are we missing genre-wise? What do you recommend for us?


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Swept Away

These are the books that sweep us away, the books we couldn't pick down.



  • The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (especially loved the relationship between the man and his girlfriend's son)
  • Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer -- showed me how good romance could really be
  • Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale -- ditto
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone -- I loved the first book most because of the mystery -- why can Harry talk to snakes?, etc -- and his escape from the Dursleys (or whatever their name was). But after that I didn't love it so much until the next-to-the last one that started pulling things back together.
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, my favorite in the series being Voyager
  • The Rake by Mary Jo Putney
  • The Firm by John Grisham -- I read this, Grisham's first hit, for the first time just a few months ago and immediately saw why he became such a sensation. The only other by him that I've enjoyed as much is The Rainmaker.
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe -- I don't think I've ever been so swept away by a book as this one. I was visiting a friend, it was on the end table, I picked it up and read the first page, and that was it. I couldn't be social again until I'd finished it and then mainly only wanted to talk about the book.
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Breakfast of Champions and Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Hawaii by James Michener


  • I Thee Wed by Amanda Quick- I have kept this book through move after move!
  • The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella - very very funny
  • Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas - by far the best romance I have ever read.
  • Who Will Take this Man - Jacquie D'Alessandro - so Passionate and fun
  • The Perfect Rake -Anne Gracie - outstanding regency writer, very witty
  • Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband by Melissa Mayhue- you positively can not put this book down!
  • My Only Love by Katherine Sutcliffe - will reduce you to a puddle many times over
  • Highland Warrior (actually all her highland books) by Hanna Howell - verra verra steamy, with lots of family love
  • Miss Darby's Duenna by Sherri Cobb South - unparalleled regency - gives Heyer and Austin a steely run!
  • Stealing Heaven by Madeline Hunter - smart, historically accurate, and passionate
  • All seven Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling - I know it's not romance, but these are the greatest stories I have ever read.

I admit it kills me that I can't put on Gone With the Wind, Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest because we're sticking to contemporary-ish commercial fiction. Slays me!! (says Alyson).

The authors whose books I buy hard cover when they first come out because I can't wait a year for the paperback or months for the library. And I never buy those expensive hard cover books.
Except for certain authors.

Suzanne Brockman.
Thrillers for women. Lots of suspense, action, real relationships and

Maeve Binchy.
Takes me into another world (Ireland) with people I really care about. I
always want to know what's going on in their world, what will happen next.
Very low key compared to the excitement of Brockman but just as engaging.
It's about the people in her books, who are like real people, not the heroes
of Brockman, and who I really like.

Amy Tan
Always interesting stories, combining modern day USA and old and new China, and especially how those stories affect the people in her books and their relationships with each other.

Elizabeth George
Detective stories set in England, but they're about the people dealing with the crimes as much, or more than, the crimes themselves, or how they solve the crime. Not sure if "detective stories" is a good description, I'm not sure of the category for her. She gets right into the people's heads and that's what I like. And I like the people too.

Okay, so that's what sweeps us away. How about you? What books sweep you away, leave you breathless and wanting more?

(I'll be back to finish the links . .. that's a lot of links!!)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Back of the book blurb (aka lifetime goals)

I spent a few hours one day last week reviewing and evaluating my 2007 writing goals. I’d written them down last January and committed them to a goal notebook.

In February, I promptly experienced a slight set-back and never came back to look at my goal notebook again, which had become little more at that point than a reminder of my failure.

Had I really failed? Of course not. But with the way my brain works, I couldn’t get passed the idea that I was now behind on my master plan and wouldn’t achieve perfection.

Have I mentioned that I have a few issues with perfectionism?

Looking back at my failings was good for me. Looking back at my successes was, too. I spent some time trying to decide what the difference was. What had I done differently in the areas where I was successful vs. where I wasn’t?

A good writing buddy sent me an exercise she was asked to do as part of a writing workshop. It said to write what you wanted your back cover blurb to say about you in five or ten years. This is a great exercise, and one I admit I haven’t done. (But I will.) This is in line with what so many goal setting gurus say: The first thing you have to do is decide what you want to achieve in your lifetime (or the next 5 or 10 years). Since I’m a writer, a back cover blurb about me is a great start.

The next thing the exercise said to do was print it out and tape it to the wall above your computer. Read it daily so that your brain can start making it part of your psyche.

Then, take that big goal and pare it down to what you have to do this year, next year, etc. to accomplish the big back-of-the-book-blurb. Some experts suggest setting a 5 year plan, 1 year plan, 6 month plan, and 1 month plan of progressively smaller goals that you should reach to achieve your lifetime goals.

In addition goals should be positive, precise, and realistic. Finally, goals should be performance goals, not outcome goals. This might be a small part of last year’s goal problem for me. I have to focus on what I can do, not what others can do.

And finally, what no one ever says when you start making those goals: Life happens. This year, I’m building in flexibility. If I have a bad week or the stars line up incorrectly, I can’t assume I’m a failure. I have to make adjustments and move on. I have to keep tweaking.

Later this week, I’ll be posting my goals over at my personal blog. I was going to post today, but now that I’ve got this back cover blurb idea, I want to write that first. Where do I want to be realistically in five years? Where do I really want to be? Will answering that question change my goals? Maybe slightly. I’ll let you know. I’ll be posting my blurb and goals later (once the blurb is written).

If it’s out there for me to see – and you – I’m much more likely to accomplish it. After all, after my perfectionism tendencies, there is that little competitive issue I have.

Happy goal setting!


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy New Year!!

We've all been super busy and trying to decide whether to continue the group blog or, rather, retire it and carry on with our individual blogs. Or at least that is what I've been contemplating. I believe we've decided to continue. So, in that spirit, one of our group members suggested blogging on our goals for 2008, but I have to be honest-- many of mine are personal, political or otherwise not something I wish to post about here. One of them deals with fully living out my values, commitments, convictions and beliefs and being even more honest, open, ballsy and unapologetic in a manner that is productive rather than counterproductive. The problem is I'm afraid if I go that route at a group blog, I'll be tempted to apologize if I suspect someone thinks I'm being counterproductive. LOL. Talk about self sabotage! ( Sigh. I have guilt issues . . . which tends to screw with my edgy rock star persona). So, I'll save that type of thing for my own blog. However, all is not lost . . . there are a few reading challenges I'm thinking about, in addition to the 101 things to do in 1001 days challenge. I'll post the reading challenges below, and update the post with my book lists next week. I'll also bring you up to speed on our book club reads, and give you a peek at our Swept Away Lists. (Books that have swept us away!) My list of 101 things to do will be going up at my individual blog next week, and for easy blogging, I may copy it over. It depends on what I come up with!

If anyone feels compelled to join me in these challenges, cool!

Here are a few of the reading challenges:

The Cardathon Challenge-- This is one Macy might like. What books are eligible? To qualify for the Cardathon Challenge a book needs to meet one of the following criteria:

1) a book written by Orson Scott Card
2) a book edited/compiled by Orson Scott Card
3) a book with an introduction by Orson Scott Card
4) a book reviewed by Orson Scott Card on his official website.

How many books are we talking about? The challenger suggests choosing 6-12 books to read, and, just to up the ante, I'd say they should be books you intend to read this year:)

The Celebrate the Author challenge-- The challenger writes, "The challenge is designed to “celebrate” author birthdays. Choose one author for each month of the year. Read at least one book a month. 12 authors. 12 birthdays. If you like, you can read MORE than that. If you’re really obsessive, you might want to “celebrate” all 52 weeks of the year."

The Russian Reading challenge-- self explanatory if you go to the site. I'm going to pick four novels, I think. More on this next week:)

The 888 challenge-- 8 books in 8 different categories in 2008, with an allowance of 8 overlaps, so that you must read 56 books.

The TBR challenge-- Pick 12 books - one for each month of 2008 - that you've been wanting to read (that have been on your "To Be Read" list) for 6 months or longer, but haven't gotten around to.

The YA challenge-- Pick 12 YA novels to read in 2008.

The Romance Reading challenge-- this one will be a breeze: choose 5 Romance Novels and read them in 2008.

The Pub '08 challenge-- read eight books published in 2008, excluding children's and YA books, because we're at The Pub. ( wink), and finally . . .

The Chunkster challenge-- chunky isn't always bad :) You must READ four chunksters ( 450 pages plus) in 2008.

They all sound fun, right?

On the writing side of things, I'm looking at Script Frenzy in April and Na No Wri Mo in November. Again. As well as entering the GH contest if I haven't found an agent by November. Although I'd rather avoid the contest route, it's time to push some of my boundaries a bit more. You gotta stretch to increase your reach, and grow! Ultimately, I intend to complete and submit to agents two novels in 2008, with two in the drawer ready for rewrites in 2009. Better get cracking!!

My themes for this year-- Authenticity, Amore ( the e is supposed to have an accent thingy) and Adventure, in addition to writing and submitting, healthy cooking, and the themes I never got to last year, pictures and dance!! ( I talked about this a bit at my individual blog, to which I provide no link because I've been political over there lately, and that's unlikely to change any time soon. LOL. It's an election year, no? And I'm a political junkie.)

Actually, maybe I should combine those "A" themes and make it "authentic amorous adventure." What do you think? Hmmmm. (wicked grin.) My husband likes that one.

Busy, busy.

Cheers and Happy reading and writing,
C. Alyson

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Nano post

I found this cartoon at Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

(Ahem, I deny being diverted.)

This certainly applies to my Nano WIP? How about yours? (Click on the cartoon to see a bigger version.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A couple of things and a hiatus

At AotP, we are all doing Nano. At eight days in, we're having varying levels of progress, but all of us feel pretty good about our potential success.

That said, our blog, will be on a hiatus until December. If one of us is inspired with blog material, you might find a random post here now and then, but for the most part, we're turning all creative juices on Nano full force.

We're still reading, too. This month's book club selection is a young adult smash and a Rita Winner. We're reading Adios to my Old Life by Caridad Ferrer. I bought the book this weekend at a book signing. Caridad is super delightful. Go buy the book and read it with us!

See ya in December.

Macy and gang

Friday, November 2, 2007

Lights, Camera . . .

This week's question is which book would we love to see made into a movie. There's so many! In romance alone, by subgenre--

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
Lord of the Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
(Is this slotted for a movie already? Never mind. I just checked. It is.)

YA/Coming of Age Women's Fiction:
the Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty
(I'm not sure how they'd do this, because I'm not sure the four books would make four movies, but I'd love to see Jessica and Marcus on the big screen somehow-- or maybe in a mini-series for TV and DVD like the Anne of Green Gables & Avonlea series)

Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Okay, okay. Any book by SEP would work for me, but these two are my very favorite of my many faves by her.

Urban Fantasy:
something from early on in the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, probably the first book, Guilty Pleasures.

Or a fun, magical romp, a fairy tale for modern times, like those provided by Shanna Swendson in her Enchanted, Inc. series. I consider that urban fantasy, too.

Like a twist of mystery with your screwball comedy or vice versa?
Then All About Evie by Beth Ciotta would be a fantastic choice. Or, one of my new raves, Agnes & the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer. And, of course, there's always Stephanie Plum and company-- pick a book, any book, although I kinda (ahem) like the triangle. I like the heat Ranger projects. LOL.

I was going to mention my fave "chick lit" book, Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes, but lo and behold, it looks like it's going to be a movie.

Anyway . . . I could go on. But, I'm cheating on this question. I'm supposed to pick one, explain why it would make a great movie and pick a few actors to play the characters. So, I'm going to pick Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase. Why? Duh. Because it has everything! A super smart heroine, a hunky hero, an Egyptian adventure, mystery, humor, heat, love. It's very, very fun, feel-good, say awww. And Hollywood would go bananas with all the chases and scrapes and danger around every Egyptian corner.

If you haven't read the book, (why in the heck haven't you read the book??!!?) here's a description from Publisher's Weekly:

Set in Egypt in 1821, Chase's romp of a romance possesses a fine sense of time and place. Solving the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics has been Daphne Pembroke's lifelong passion, one she has kept secret from everyone except her brother, Miles, who fronts as the hieroglyphics expert of the family. (Daphne's disapproving late husband believed that "intellectual endeavors put too great a strain on the inferior female brain.") When robbers steal a papyrus from her Cairo home that may lead to a vast fortune and kidnap Miles as well, Daphne knows the crooks have taken her brother so he can decipher the hieroglyphics. To find Miles before his captors realize he's clueless, she needs muscle in the form of hunky Rupert Carsington (a secondary character from Miss Wonderful, the previous book in the series), whom she springs from a local jail. Tracking the kidnappers takes Daphne, Rupert and their entourage down the Nile, where they face sandstorms, snakes and other perils. Comic relief comes in the form of a mongoose named Marigold. Though the book offers a fascinating glimpse into the workings of ancient Egypt, Rupert and Daphne's relationship, and the trials and errors thereof, remain the heart of the story.

Rupert:Hmmm. I need someone, tall, hunky, athletic looking with a broad, broad chest, lots of muscles, dark hair, dark eyes, but still very English. Someone who could come across as the Brawn only in a Brawn & Brains situation, although he's not quite as dense as Daphne believes. A supersized Colin Farrell type? A darker, more English Jake Gyllenhaal? A younger, more English Goran Visnjic? Olivier Martinez? Brendan Fraser? The Rock? Oh dear, I'm really not that good at this . . . OH! Hugh Jackman, beefed up for the role, although I'm not sure he could come across as a lunkhead. Eric Bana?No, we'll stick with Hugh.

Daphne: Green,green eyes. Heart shaped face. Red, silky hair. Able to portray someone brilliant. The obvious choice is Nicole Kidman. Another interesting choice would be Kate Walsh from Grey's Anatomy and, now, Private Practice. She does romance well. Or, to make Hugh look really huge, maybe someone little like Reese Witherspoon with red hair? Just a thought. I'm actually thinking Nic or Kate.

Lord Noxley: Daniel Craig, or in a twist, Hugh Grant as a bad guy.
Monsier Duval:Vincent Cassell
Miles, Daphne's brother: a regular kind of guy, Toby Maguire?

Well, that's quite enough stream of consciousness on this topic. LOL. Thank goodness there are casting directors!

Cheers and happy Nanowrimo,
C. Alyson