Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Back

Yes, I'm blatantly copying Jenny.  But it's that time of year. 

How did 2010 measure up?

All in all, pretty well.  Not if I look at total words written.  That number is way down for the year.  I did get MMG one revision closer to being ready to submit, though. 

I think I accomplished something better than a lot of words.  Or at least as good as.  I finally realized what works and what doesn't for me when it comes to feedback on my writing.  And I managed to articulate that to my critique group.  The thing that still makes me smile is that they immediately got it.  A couple other members also spoke up at that point to say what is and isn't working for them. 

I read a lot of books this year.  Just look at the list on the right.  And I learned so much from having read them.  As I do with just about every book I read.  Not just about writing either, but that sure helps.

PPW asked me to do a regular blog post for them.  It's my What I Learned About Writing series.  I publish here first, then PPW picks it up.  Pretty shiny.

My first blog post on Red Room was picked up as a featured blog.  I supposed to get a bunch of books, but haven't seen any yet.  Not like I don't have enough to read.

I took a banjo class and am still practicing regularly.  Performed three dance numbers and a couple "specialties" with my dance class as the Pikes Peak Center--and loved it.  Took an additional tap class over the summer that really helped with technique. 

A pretty dang good year. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

6 Favorite Books of 2010

Disclaimer:  I realize that not all of these books debuted in 2010.  However, I read them all this year, so that is why they are my favorites of the year.  And there are 6 instead of 10, not because I didn't read 10 books I liked, but because I'm busy and don't have time to write about why I like 10 books.

In no particular order:

Room by Emma Donoghue

I used this book for What I Learned about Writing From this month.  But there is more that I like about it than what I learned from it as a writer.  The premise sounds depressing: a five-year-old boy has spent his entire life in an 11'x11' room; the same room his mother's been imprisoned in for seven years.  Yet, it's not depressing.  Jack has fun in Room.  He adores Ma and thinks life is pretty great.  I know that life in Room must be harder on Ma--how could it not be--but she makes it home for Jack, and I adored her for that.

They both have to face a lot in the second two thirds of the book, each in different ways.  Viewing everything through Jack's eyes makes it at once easier to read and more difficult.  Donoghue has a way of letting us see Ma's struggles filtered through her son's innocence without dampening what she's going through.

I've recommended this book to more than a few people, but always add that it might be a more difficult book to experience if you have children of your own.

Postcards From a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber

I knew about this book long before it was published.  Kirk is a member of Pikes Peak Writers, and I'd heard about his reading at one of their American Icon Contests.  The title already had be interested, then Jenny told me how much she liked his reading--even if they were in competition with each other.  So I knew I'd have to buy it as soon as it came out.

The book does not disappoint. Sid Higgins is the ultimate unreliable narrator, because Sid just may be losing his mind.  He's getting postcards from his ex-girlfriend Zoe, who disappeared on trip to Europe she started about a year before.  All of the postcards are dated from not long after she left, and Sid is trying to find out why they were delayed.  In addition to Sid's weird postcard dilemma, he's being haunted by his mother, whose ghost is stuck in a wine bottle in the cellar, he thinks he has a brain tumor, and his sister is pretty fed up with him.

At first I was nervous about the fact that the book has very short chapters, but it works.  A lot about this book works.  And while I sometimes found myself being frustrated with Sid, I believe it was the author's intent.  I'll ask him the next time I run into him.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. 

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about finally reading this one.  So many people have raved about it for so long that I just knew it couldn't live up to expectations.  Boy howdy, was I wrong.

From the description of the cast of characters, I was hooked.  How can you resist an angel who "didn't so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards?" 

Aziraphale and Crowley have been the earthly reps for Good and Evil for a very, very long time.  And they like it here.  There's one little problem: the Apocalypse is going to happen, on Saturday.  Which means they'll have to go back to their respective homes.  Can they stop it? 

There's an Anti-Christ, witch hunters, a witch, various demons, a handful of "horsemen," a bunch of kids and Dog.

Gaiman and Pratchett each have strong, funny voices.  The combination of the two could have been overwhelming.  But styles blended seamlessly.  They claim that they can't tell who wrote what.  I tend to believe them. 

It kept me laughing--sometimes until I had to set the book down and wipe my eyes--and turning pages right up to the end. 

Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey

I received this book from a friend.  "It's about a serial killer in Florida."  Ah, a Dexter knock off, I thought.  Wrong again.

Serge Storms and his buddy Coleman are traveling around the state, just ahead or just behind the hurricanes that are pounding it, wreaking almost as much havoc as the storms.  Especially once a rival killer starts taunting Serge.

There are some pretty graphic descriptions of what happens to the victims, which I probably could have done without.  But these are tempered by some of the funniest writing I've seen. 

After finishing Hurricane Punch, I went out and bought the first two books in the series.  I'm looking forward to spending some more time with Serge--just on paper of course.

The Spellman's Strike Back by Lisa Lutz

The Spellmans are back in all their wacky glory.  Izzy is prepping to take over the family's detective agency, still going to therapy and dating the hunky Irish owner of her favorite bar.  Mom's none too happy and finds a way to bribe Izzy to date other men.  David's still unemployed and dating Maggie, Henry's ex.  Rae's acting weird. 

All in all, life as usual for the family. 

This fourth installment is the best of the bunch, and that's saying a lot.  All the family intrigue, actual cases, romance and laughter are here.  Izzy may be evolving, slowly, but she's every bit as much fun as ever.

The Passage by Justin Cronen

A Government experiment goes wrong.  Not only that, it is set loose on the population.  The world as we know it ends and another one begins.

Sounds like King's The Stand.  And the set up to The Passage definitely reminded me of it.  But the disaster is different.  It may still be a kind of virus, but one that turns people into vampires.  With all the vampire hype recently, I was skeptical.  But Jenny recommended it, so I gave it a try.

Many reviewers have talked about the first third of the book being brilliant and the rest bogging down.  I didn't feel that.  The second second slowed it's pace, but it's the aftermath.  I thought there was plenty of excitement, and also how things can become mundane after ninety years--even fighting vampires.

My main disappointment was the abrupt end.  At least I had been warned that the book is the first in a trilogy.  While he did wrap up one part of the story line, Cronen left the reader hanging over a big old cliff.  I'll pick up the second one, for sure.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

This doesn't count in the 6, because I haven't finished it yet.  But it could be another one that I finish before the end of the year that would make the list--Juliet by Anne Fortier.  I'm about 3/4 of the way through, and I'm still loving it.