Holiday book recommendations!

For those of you who still need to do some last minute gift shopping, here are some book ideas!

For Middle Grade:

The Iron Bodkin (The Sardonyx Trilogy)

Government Inquisitors, crazy old wizards and secret basements abound in this fun adventure. Good for anyone who's ever wanted to make their little sister disappear. *cough*

The Hunchback Assignments

A steampunk, spy book with elements of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and an excellent villain.

For Young Adult:

Matched (Matched #1)

 A wonderful dystopian love story, where the true nature of the society only gradually unfolds. Also quite possibly the most well-done love triangle I've ever read.

Raised by Wolves (Raised by Wolves, #1)

Three words: Kick. Ass. Werewolves. Seriously. If you're burned out on angsty, shape-shifting werewolves with no shirts on (*cough* Twilight *cough*), this is the book for you.

General Fiction:

The Surgeon The Surgeon (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #1)  by Tess Gerritsen

 Yeah, there's only one in this category because I didn't read that much general fiction this year. So just buy a LOT of Tess Gerritsen, because these books are amazing. Okay?

For Writers:

Writing the Breakout Novel

This is a very intensive book with a lot of great ideas. I'm going to have to read it again to catch them all. But overall it's an excellent challenge to dig deeper in your writing.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing Series)

This is still one of my go-to writing books. An excellent addressing of the specific problems of worldbuilding, character involvement and plot that are common to writers of speculative fiction.

Those are my gift recommendations for this holiday season. If anyone wants to add to my list in the comments section, feel free!

Adventures in French Food

Warning! This is an extended gush about food. If such things bore you, you should probably wander over to, and come back on Monday.  I should be back to talking about cute animals and writing by then.

As most of you know, I am not an adventurous person when it comes to food. My current daily diet consists mainly of canned tuna, green beans, apples, toast and soy lattes, with the occasional infusion of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. Eating out-wise, I prefer Italian restaurants, burger joints, Asian food and Mexican in that order.

I have never eaten French food.


Until Thursday night, when some good friends of ours asked us to go to the local French restaurant for dinner. And not just any dinner, but the full eight-course meal, including wine and dessert.

It sounded like fun, so my husband and I finagled the money, got dressed up and went. And it was beyond fun. It was astonishing.

I decided before we left that I would try unusual things, so when it came time to pick the hot and cold appetizers I went with duck-and-pork-pate and lobster bisque. (I MAY just have wanted to say the words 'pate' and 'bisque' in the same sentence.)

Hello! I am wrapped in bacon for your delicious delight!

My friends were nervous about the pate, but when it arrived, I thought it just looked like incredibly fancy meatloaf.  Not scary at all.

Mmmm... creamy sweet goodness. But watch out for the shell at the bottom!

I was nervous about the lobster bisque though. It's been a long time since I had lobster and since I love shrimp, but hate crab, I figured there was a 50/50 chance I wouldn't like it. But I was possibly the best soup I've ever had.

 I could have been happy with just the pate and the bisque for dinner, and we still hadn't had the entree yet!

Things I tell myself

Yesterday--in the process of explaining why she doesn't give herself the Awesome Stamp--Elana Johnson posted a question on her blog. 

What do you tell yourself--or don't tell yourself--to keep moving forward?

What makes this question so interesting is that I'm in the middle of reading The Screwtape Letters for the fifty-bajillionth time and I came across these lines.
A man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all, since he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame...

(The) ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity--if that is his vocation--washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him.
~ C.S. Lewis
I love this. And to answer Elena's question, this is what I tell myself all the time. I am not called upon to decide how my work shall be used and remembered. I am only called to do it, and do it as well as I can.

That's what I tell myself anyway...

Monday post, part 2...

How blog posts are born...

ME:  Bwahahaha!!  Look at this hilarious orangutan! I should do a short, cute post with it even though that's kind of cheating.

*posts short post*

BELOVED HUSBAND:  You know, you should write about the pressure to be profound that you feel every time you post on your blog.

ME:  But I feel NO pressure to be profound! Did you not see the crazy monkey I just posted? That is the OPPOSITE of profound!

BELOVED HUSBAND:  Then why do you feel like it's cheating?

ME:  ... 

ME:  ...

ME:  ...

ME:  I hate you.

Does anyone else feel like they're cheating when they're not trying to be profound? Or is it just me?

How was my Monday?

Um... great. I guess.


How was yours?

Introducing Huxley

As some of you may recall, at the beginning of November I tweeted that I'd found my muse for National Novel Writing Month.

Meet Huxley.

Huxley is not just any mouse, he's a writer mouse. And he's become my new blog/writing mascot.

In addition to nagging me about my writing, Huxley's been busy doing other things around the house as well

Making new friends

Watching CSI: New York

And of course, reading. He's become very fond of British authors.  I blame his adorable waistcoat.

Do you have a writing muse?

No one ever told me I should do this...

Recently an agent I follow on Twitter, the lovely Mandy Hubbard, made the comment that she likes to see brief summaries of what authors are working on when she wanders the blogosphere.

A week later, an author I admire came by here and said she wished she could read an excerpt of my book on the blog.

Doing a current projects page was something I'd thought about before, but I was never sure how it would come across.  The last thing I want to do is to make this blog read like an advertising billboard.

So I'm compromising. For anyone who want to see what I've been working on the last three years, you can go here, or click on the Current Projects tab.

Everyone else, you can just hang out on the main blog where I will continue to provide you with writing tips, random thoughts and kitten pictures.

What do you guys think about this? Do you like seeing what an author is working on? Or do current project lists rub you the wrong way?

Original Monday post called off...

... due to technical difficulties. (Specifically a camera that refuses to focus for some mysterious reason.)

Please enjoy these Pomeranians instead.

When life is out of control...

...what do you do?

It's been a heck of a week. Some friends of mine are going through a painful event, the kind of thing that makes you feel powerless to help. Members of my family are having health problems. At least three people I know have gotten in car accidents.

You do what you can in circumstances like these. You offer support, you offer prayers, you offer time.  But you can't really fix it. And then there are things like finances and distance that make it hard to be there in all the ways you want to be.

And then there's the fear to deal with. Having lots of big, uncontrollable awfulness come at you all at once makes you fully aware that life is not fair, that it's full of dangerous situations and people, that everything that matters to you is unbearably fragile. You realize all over again that there's a wound in every one of us that will never fully heal on this earth.

You want to do something, anything, to fight against the pain and sadness and despair of the world. Something to heal it. But you're only one person. One flawed, messy human being. You can't make cancer or depression vanish from another person's body. You can't turn back time or raise the dead or heal a broken heart.

What do you do?

I don't have a good answer. But the answer I do have is this: to go back to what I know I'm supposed to do. Sometimes, for me, fighting just means doing the little things, creating a little space of light in the darkness.

Hug my husband.

Call my mother.

Smile at people even when I don't feel like it.

Say "I love you".

Be honest.

And write.

Because that's what I'm doing in the face of this week. After I've done everything I can do for others, I go back to my keyboard and I fight against the despair in the only way I know how.

Words are my weapons. Words that describe the textures, both smooth and harsh, of being human.Words that create imperfect people who still manage to love and learn and ultimately have hope.

Words that make light.

"Every word written is a victory against death."
~Michel Butor

Some things that are awesome.

 1. National Novel Writing Month

Yes! That is in fact, a winner banner, and I did in fact write 50,000 words in thirty days. What is even more awesome, my dad also won, and on his first year out too! AND he beat me, which is slightly less awesome but still pretty cool. *grin*

2. Baby Animals

OMG KITTEN!!!!!  I dare you to watch this and not die of cute. (via


3. Coffee with whip cream. (Especially when it's snowing outside)

Come on,  you know you want some!

What's been awesome for you this week?
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.