How about some reviews?

So I wanted to do a clever and funny post today, but my brain went on vacation. (It should be back next week sometime.) So I thought I'd catch you up a bit on my new reads.

Well, my Donna Andrews phase has run its course. Not because I grew tired of her, but because I ran out of books. Since I've been running in efficient mode for the last two weeks, I'll just give you a quick breakdown.


Delete All Suspects (Turing Hopper, #4) by Donna Andrews Delete All Suspects (Turing Hopper, #4)


4 stars












Access Denied (Turing Hopper, #3) by Donna Andrews Access Denied (Turing Hopper, #3)



4 stars









No Nest for the Wicket (Meg Langslow Mysteries) by Donna Andrews No Nest for the Wicket


3 stars










Cockatiels at Seven (Meg Lanslow Mysteries, Book 9) by Donna Andrews Cockatiels at Seven (Meg Lanslow Mysteries, Book 9)

4 stars








Six Geese A-Slaying (Meg Langslow Mysteries, Book 10) by Donna Andrews Six Geese A-Slaying (Meg Langslow Mysteries, Book 10)


4 stars










The Penguin Who Knew Too Much: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langs... by Donna Andrews The Penguin Who Knew Too Much: A Meg Langslow Mystery 5 stars



After a strong start and a weaker second book, the Turing Hopper series is going well. I especially like the tensions created between the human team member's need for privacy and Turing's need for connection, a need most easily gratified by having video cameras up everywhere.

Because of these tensions, the books have a more serious tone than her first series, and are best savored one or two at a time. I will read more as they come out, but for the moment I'm content with moving on to other things.

I am not so content with having to give up the Meg Langslow mysteries. However, I suppose ten books is a fair amount, especially since the last one just came out. But they are still awesome. I especially liked The Penguin Who Knew Too Much.

A body is discovered in Meg's basement in the first sentence. Not only that, but Meg's farm is almost as immediately flooded with penguins, hyenas, llamas and wolves, all refugees from a nearby zoo. I'm a sucker for both funny animal stories and mysteries, and the combination here is amazing.

I'll give more detailed reviews on the other new books on Saturday. See you then!

No one ever told me I would get so picky.

I always thought of myself as a voracious reader. Someone who would read almost anything once. But this month, I've noticed some interesting trends.

1. I've started at least four books that I then set aside and never finished. And not bad books either, solid books with good reviews.

2. The new reads count on my Book Log was growing very slowly, both because of the reason above, but also because I only wanted to read things I'd read before.

3. Even with books I know and love, I found myself skimming to get to the parts I like.


All of this is a bit disturbing, but I'm pretty sure it's temporary. It's just that I'm in a specific reading mood this month.

This month I don't want depressing or uber-dramatic or heavy. I don't want to squirm or feel sorry for the character. I want upbeat, engaging fiction that makes me forget that my house is full of boxes and my book is still delayed and I'm moving in two months.

I was looking for something fun. And I finally found it.


This is what I've been reading all week:


Tiger (5 Ancestors) by Jeff Stone Tiger (5 Ancestors)

The Five Ancestors Book 2: Monkey (The Five Ancestors) by Jeff Stone The Five Ancestors Book 2: Monkey

Snake: The Five Ancestors: Book 3 (The Five Ancestors) by Jeff Stone Snake: The Five Ancestors: Book 3

Crane: The Five Ancestors Book 4 (The Five Ancestors) by Jeff Stone Crane: The Five Ancestors Book 4

Eagle (5 Ancestors) by Jeff Stone Eagle (5 Ancestors)


And this is what I'm now anxiously waiting to get my hands on:

Five Ancestors #6: Mouse Five Ancestors #6: Mouse (5 Ancestors)


The seventh (and final) book of the series can't come soon enough for me. If you like martial arts, or coming of age, or interesting twists, you should read this series. (And if you have a middle grade boy, you should definitely look into it.)

I don't know how Jeff Stone did it, because there are lots of serious things in these books: betrayal, loss, etc. But they are pure fun, and wonderful reads. 5 stars


And speaking of fun...

I'm on Twitter!!!

Yeah, I'm a sellout. But my husband was having so much fun on it, I thought "Why not?" So if you're on Twitter, you can follow me. And if you're not, you can laugh.

See you Monday!

No one ever told me I needed to tell, not show.

In case you're wondering, that IS the cardinal rule of writing that I just mangled. Show, Don't Tell has been pounded into us from the very first time we picked up a book on how to write.

Everyone knows "Telling" is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It's the open door through which the demons of terrible storytelling will escape, to mangle your manuscript and ruin your revisions.


Right?

Well, not always.

I had an epiphany the other day while re-reading The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede. To be specific, I was reading the first book, Dealing with Dragons.

Dealing with Dragons is a delightful book about an improper princess who runs away and volunteers to be the captive of a dragon. (primarily because she's bored, but also to keep from having to marry a rather stupid prince) After she volunteers, she's with the dragons for several weeks before anything happens, and with them even longer before the main crisis hits.

Obviously the talented Ms. Wrede can't show us everything that happens to the princess, or every conversation that she has. So she uses short paragraphs to condense the time frame. For example:

Therandil left, but he came back again the next day, and the day after that. It got so that Cimorene could not even step outside the cave without running into him. She might have been flattered if it hadn't been so obvious that Theradil was only worried about how foolish he'd look if he went home without fighting the dragon. On his fifth visit, Cimorene was very sharp with him, and when he had not returned by midafternoon of the next day, she began to hope that he had finally left for good.

This is a very functional and useful paragraph. It gives us a sense of Theradil's persistence and character and sets up the next scene, where Cimorene discusses her knight problem with a new friend. It's not the best part of the book, by any means. But it's necessary.

Here was my epiphany: I don't have one time-condensed paragraph in the book I'm currently revising. Not one. (except for the prologue, which doesn't really count)

My heroine does almost nothing with her time except run around and try to solve a mystery. In fact, when I needed to speed the book along, I simply knocked her unconscious.

Now there is good conflict in the book. But there aren't many breathing spaces, someone is always talking or fighting or flirting or discovering bodies. And what I realized, is that this doesn't give you much of a sense of who my main character is, what she does on a daily basis, how her life goes beyond the current problems.

I find myself wondering if that hinders our ability to identify with her. And maybe it's something that keeps readers from being as invested in the book as a whole.

What I'm talking about is basically exposition. We usually don't notice it, and we're taught to avoid it whenever possible. But there are times when exposition is both useful and necessary.

Here is a rough example of the sort of paragraph that (maybe) should be in my book, and isn't.

The afternoon was spent at the House of Music, having dance lessons with Yasmeen. Nisha loved to dance, loved the rhythm and the flow of it. But she couldn't lose herself in the music this time. Instead she watched Yasmeen's thin form sway in the elegant Willow steps and wondered. Who hated these girls enough to kill them?

See? Still reasonably engaging, (I think) with a much better sense of what Nisha does with her day.

Perhaps I'm wrong. I could just be spouting heresy of the rankest kind. But I'm beginning to appreciate the beauty of well-placed exposition.

What do you think?

A Quick Six...

1. Busy, busy day at work, there was an MS walk downtown, and our Robie Creek marathon was today as well. My brain has pretty much stopped functioning...

2. Met some awesome authors at the Children's Literature Festival this weekend. People are so nice. Especially writers. ;-) Also, being around such lovely enthusiastic professionals made me want to finish my WIP even more.

3. Blogger's spellchecker hates the word "children's" every time I type it, it wants to change it to "childcare's".

4. My husband is at his parents house drywalling like a fiend, so we can move into their basement for a month.

5. This week, I've sorted/packed two closets, one desk, the entirety of my book collection and the mess under the bathroom sink.

6. I have this really bad habit of driving myself too hard when I get stressed. And I was mondo stressed this week, so now... Let's just say I'm not packing this weekend. :-)

Hope you all have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Hey, all!

Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be posting late today. It's another long shift at the day job for me. :-) (Why do people come to coffee shops at five-thirty on a Saturday morning. WHY?)

See you later!

Miriam

People always told me not to judge by appearances...

And yet I still do.

So I was going to do a funny post about not being able to make Google Analytics work properly(It said I only got three visits over a month.) But this is much more full of awesome!

Please click here.

I could say a lot of things about believing in yourself and never giving up and not caring what people think. But all I really have to say is "Way to go, Susan Boyle. And thanks for making my day better."

(In case you were wondering, I did figure out what went wrong with my Analytics setup, and now it says I've gotten ninety-five visits since Thursday. Which isn't bad at all...)

Hmmm...

So I appear to have posted on a Friday instead of a Saturday. How silly of me. It must be the sleep deprivation...

See you Monday!

A Queryfail/Agentfail letter...

Dear fellow, frustrated writer...

I wasn't going to post an opinion on the queryfail/agentfail death match that's been going on lately. I try to stay out of such things if I don't have a strong opinion, and I didn't have one for Queryfail. I found it amusing and informative, though I can understand the point of view of those of you who thought that it crossed the line.

Nor did I have a strong opinion on the Agentfail blog, at first. But something did bother me, and it stayed with me, nagging and tugging at the back of my mind. So I finally decided to bring it up.

What struck me the most while reading the Agentfail blog was not the good points some of you were making. It wasn't even the amusing and unrealistic expectations I read.

What struck me the most was how much anger and frustration was being expended, how much emotional energy was being wasted.

This is a lesson it took me years to learn. If you were lucky, in high school or college someone taught you how to manage your money. If you were even luckier, someone taught you how to manage your time. However, most of us were never taught how to budget our emotional energy.

But emotional energy is limited. It's as finite as money, and as easy to waste as time. And nothing swallows up energy like anger that is horded and caressed and clutched tightly against the world.

That's what I read in a lot of those posts: long-standing anger and hurt, even some bitterness and resentment.

Now let me be very clear. I'm not saying there are no bad people/agents/editors in the world. I'm not saying you should never get angry. Nor am I saying that venting is a bad thing, if it helps you to resolve your hurt and frustration and move on. I've been frustrated as well, watching a book come back over and over again with no idea how to fix it.

And I've made mistakes. I once sent an editor some tea and packaged apple cider in a submission. When I learned better, I almost died of embarrassment. When you're just learning how things work, it's hard not to feel that the world is laughing at you, and to be hurt by it. It's hard not to make it personal.

But let me tell you what happens when you make it so personal that you become permanently angry.

~The rude agent who hurt your feelings isn't hurt-- he/she isn't affected at all.
~The good agent you misunderstood isn't hurt-- they might feel bad, but then they move on.
~You're not hurting the publishing house or the industry or that one person in your writer's group who gave you a harsh critique.

The thing that suffers is your book.

Do you remember your book? The one that needs all the emotional energy and passion and excitement that you can give? The story only you can tell?

The reason you're doing all of this is THE BOOK, right? And writing is hard. It needs work and commitment and perseverance and joy. So I have to ask...

How can you give emotional energy to the work, when you spend so much of it on people you may never meet?


How can you devote time and attention to the things that matter most when you're playing that imaginary conversation in your head? You know the one.

"If I ever saw her, I would say this, and then she would say this, and I would retort, and in the end I would be justified and everyone would see how badly I was treated!"

This applies to all areas of a writer's life. Because if you're playing that imaginary conversation in your head, for any reason, if you're constantly telling yourself the story of how you were ill-used by your agent/boyfriend/parents/boss, then you won't have room for other stories.

Including the one you want to write.

Best wishes,

Miriam

No one ever told me my apartment had a wormhole.

So, you know when you have a box of odds and ends that you don't know what to do with, and you just put it in the closet for later? Do you know what happens to that box?

Or do you know where the mate to your sock went?

Or that wrench you swore was in the toolkit, and now you can't find it?

I know what happens to those things. THEY WIND UP IN MY HOUSE.

My house is the locus for a cosmic wormhole, a rift in time and space that dumps random matter into our living room. I'm serious! It's the only explanation for the sheer amount of STUFF we have.

Here's the deal. My husband and I are dancing on the edge of the poverty line. (Usually the conga, but every now and then we bust out some funny white-people hip-hop.)





Anyway.

In the year- and-a-half we've been married, I've gone clothes shopping once (Payless and Savers) and he's gone clothes shopping once. (JCPenny- with a gift certificate we got for Christmas.) We don't buy music, we don't buy movies, we don't buy anything but food and gas and Christmas/birthday presents. Yet our house overflows with stuff.

Now, theoretically, this should be explainable. He had a lot of stuff when we got married, I had a lot of stuff when we got married, and we just haven't finished sorting it yet.

Except for one thing. No matter how much stuff we get rid of, the overall stuff level hasen't changed. It's got to be a wormhole.



This wouldn't be a bad thing, except we are moving out of our apartment in a month. (Not out of Boise-that's in June.) And I have to collect all this stuff. And organize it. And pack it in boxes.

AAHHHH!!

Anyone know where I can get a black hole cheap?

Drumroll please....

Well, you all had some great answers to the "what is Miriam watching?" question, and I feel that they deserve notice.


#1. Shark Week- If this were a weekly show, I would totally be hooked. Unfortunately, it's not...

#2. Grey's Anatomy- LOTS of my friends watch this, but I've never gotten into it, oddly enough.

#3. Lost- If I had started watching at the beginning of the series, maybe. But I just saw an overview of the last four years, and it kinda scared me... :-)

#4. House- I have seen this show, and it is very funny. But I burned out on medical shows after my family's looong ER phase. (this may explain Grey's Anatomy as well)

#5. Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules- Yes, they're gone now. But they were great in our hearts! :-) I was especially fond of Xena.

#6. Chopped- Gosh, I've never seen it, but if it's that good I'll have to tell my husband to look it up. He's a big cooking show fan.

#7. NCIS- Wait, what's that about again? :-)

#8. Bones- This is a fun show. But I just can't get over David Boreanaz not being his usual tortured vampire self.


However awesome some of these shows may be, the shows that made me an addict again are...

(drumroll please..)

Castle and Lie to Me! Congrats to Amy and Stephanie for guessing the first one! You get a cookie!

(a cookie)

Honorable Mentions go to Joanne, who tells me I haven't missed much in four years, PJ, for managing to pull out two old series that I used to watch religiously and Nic for his good grace in not playing.


So what is it about these shows that has me hooked?

Castle: Oh, come on. What's not to love about a best-selling suspense writer who kills off his main character and bases his new one on a lady police detective? Of course this means he has to follow her around and help her solve cases. :-)

I think the thing that hooked me was in the first episode he has a poker game with James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell. Seriously cool. Plus it has fun dialogue and it stars Nathan Fillion from Firefly.


Lie to Me: Okay, I'm getting a bit concerned about my obsession with this show, actually. It's based on the real-life work of Dr. Paul Ekman, a man who has studied emotion and deception for decades. (I have his books on request at the library as we speak.)

The show is about a consulting firm that can find out if people are lying, and what they're lying about, through such things as eyebrows, gestures, or the way they smile. It's amazing, and I want to learn it. Badly.


Thanks everyone for playing!

What? A Friday Post?

Hey all, just a quick note to let you know I'll be posting late tomorrow. I'm a bit sick and I have to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am to be at work. This means my brain won't kick in until the afternoon.

But then I will post the answer to the TV quiz. I promise.




And to make it up to you, here is a uber-super-mega-hint.

I LOVE mysteries. And police procedurals. I watched Law and Order for years. Solving crimes and catching bad guys is how I roll.

Any last minute guesses?
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