Book Challenges- September 2018

I didn’t read as much this month as I have in previous months, mostly because I’m working very hard on editing my book. But I did get a few good ones read…

Popsugar Challenge


A book set in a bookstore or library: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, by Matthew Sullivan (mystery): This was not what I expected, but it was still enjoyable. The story starts with an odd man who commits¬†suicide in the bookstore and leaves all his possessions to Lydia, who works in the store. He’s left her clues that connect his history to a traumatic event from her past. It was a lot of fun.


A book with two authors: The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (MG fantasy): This is the first in a series of five books, and I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing or not. There were a lot of things in it that reminded me of Harry Potter, so if you’re searching for something like it, maybe that’s a good thing…


A microhistory: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach (nonfiction): This book was disgusting and fascinating, chock full of information I never knew I wanted to know (but I kind of did). It’s got a trigger warning for everyone and is not for the squeamish. I struggled with the experimentation done on dogs, and had to remind myself that they would have been long dead anyway.

While I Was Reading Challenge

No progress this month. ūüė¶

The Unread Shelf


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman (genre: contemporary, mental health): Eleanor Oliphant is completely unlikable… at first. She’s also fascinating and vulnerable. By the middle of the book, I wanted to gather her in my arms and comfort her. I couldn’t stop reading. The “surprise” ending has been done many times, but it worked for me.

Running Total: 29

5 Classic Books

No progress this month.

Miscellaneous Reading


Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints, by Nancy Kress (genre: nonfiction, writing): My writing group has told me a million times that my characters are too gray and need more agency. I’ve understood the words, but that hadn’t helped me change. I got so frustrated by trial and error that I was ready to quit. And then this book was like a revelation. The information is presented in a concrete, straightforward fashion with lots of examples. It’s finally making sense!


The Girl Who Fell, by SM Parker (YA contemporary romance): This is a dark romance about a teenager with goals who gets enmeshed in a psychologically abusive relationship. It’s mesmerizing and terrifying.


Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard (YA contemporary): It was suspenseful and interesting, about the disappearance of a girl, and her friends who are all a little relieved, because the disappeared girl knew a secret about each one of them that she’d never want revealed. The first book doesn’t tie up any loose ends, and there are 16 books in the series, so be warned that if you try the first one, you’ll probably want to commit to the series. I’m not continuing.


Where She Went, by Gayle Forman (YA contemporary): This is the sequel to If I Stay, and while I loved the first book, I adore the second one. Adam loved Mia and stayed by her side while she recovered from the car accident that killed her entire family. Then, she stopped returning his phone calls. After a chance meeting, they have one evening to figure out what went wrong.


Story Fix: Transform Your Novel From Broken to Brilliant, by Larry Brooks (nonfiction, writing): I will read pretty much any writing book Larry Brooks writes. He presents concrete “rules,” which maybe wouldn’t work for some people, but I like structure. He presents information in a concrete manner with lots of examples. His books can get a bit repetitive at times, but I can live with that.


Leverage In Death, by JD Robb (mystery, romance): We know whodunit, but not why or who was pulling the strings. Another fantastic mystery in the series.


None this month.

2018 Running Total: 113

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

P is for Paths

Barton Creek, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Barton Creek, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I have a thing for paths.

I love them. ¬†I love paths that lead to things and away from things. ¬†I love stone paths, brick paths, dirt paths, paths through the woods, paths to someone’s front door. ¬†While everyone else is look around them, I’m looking down at the path, and forward, to where the path disappears.

I love paths that go straight ahead and just end up fading away, but my favorite ones are the ones that bend, making me wonder what’s around the next corner. ¬†If it’s just more path, never fear, because that’s awesome too!

I have tons of¬†pictures of paths on my computer. ¬†I don’t know when my obsession with paths started. ¬†I’m pretty sure I wasn’t always like this. ¬†I don’t remember always looking at paths like this. ¬†My ever-patient husband and friends are used to me stopping abruptly, pulling out my phone or camera, and waiting for other people (if there are any) to move out of camera range. ¬†Then click! another picture of a path.

Something about them inspires me. ¬†I wonder what’s ahead, even if I know what’s ahead. ¬†I wonder where they lead, even if I know that answer. ¬†Paths are possibility. ¬†One of these days, it might not go where I think it will, and I’ll end up in a strange land, populated by chronically late rabbits, by mythical creatures, or witches with crooked noses looking to bespell. ¬†The point isn’t whether or not it’s actually going to happen, but whether it tickles my imagination enough for me to wonder if it could.

So I’ll keep taking pictures of paths and wondering where they lead.

Evolution of a Story

Fremont St, NV; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Fremont St, NV; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

It always fascinates me how stories evolve over time. ¬†I got the idea for what would eventually be Lost Vegas around 2005, at the last writer’s conference I went to. ¬†It was long before I started this blog, but I had an idea to start a blog and put up a “serial” story. ¬†I’ve revisited the idea several times, but the fact is that I’m just too lazy to do it. ¬†That requires discipline, and time… two things I lack.

In any case, some elements of the story stayed the same over time. ¬†Rebecca hunts monsters, and Kevin is the computer geek who helps her. ¬†Rebecca is small, with brown eyes and brown hair. ¬†But that’s pretty much where the resemblance to the original story ends.

I had actually written around 20,000 words of a different version when I realized it wasn’t quite working for me and mostly scrapped it, starting over. ¬†In total, I have about 10 different versions of this story. ¬†When I finally started getting to know Rebecca and Kevin better, the story followed them. ¬†Scrapping the story wasn’t actually as hard as I would have thought, since I was really focused on making it the best version I possibly could. ¬†I never could have imagined when I started what this story would turn into.

Lost Vegas is the story that I’ve entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. ¬†I’ll know on March 18th if I’ve progressed to the next round of judging or not. ¬†Keep your fingers crossed for me or send positive vibes into the universe.

The Word “Genre” Gives Me a Headache

I can't figure out her genre either.

I can’t figure out her genre either.

Actually, not only does the word give me a headache, but it also kind of makes me want to cry. ¬†Normally, I just call my book “Young Adult” and move on, but it’s not quite YA. ¬†The main characters are 18 and 20, a little older than the typical YA characters. ¬†I supposed I could just chop two years off their ages, but it seems a little contrived.

My next pick for genre would be science fiction. ¬†Only, it’s not heavy into the science. ¬†The science is there. ¬†And it’s set in 2073. ¬†But science isn’t the main thing, and I wouldn’t want to mislead people who are looking for Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard or Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

There’s also some fantasy. ¬†Just a little, but it’s there. ¬†Oh yeah, and there’s romance.

So where does it fall? ¬†I’ve looked everywhere, and Google has tried hard to help, but it’s fallen short, and I’m not finding any real answers. ¬†Maybe because there aren’t any?

I get why books should be classified by genre. ¬†Readers need to know what they’re getting into so that they can assess if they’re going to like the thing or not. ¬†And since I read YA and like YA, I can honestly say it’s most similar to YA.

But… what if the people I’m submitting it to don’t agree. ¬†(I am in no way comparing myself to Dean Koontz with this next comment.) ¬†Dean Koontz said that when he was just starting off as an author, he drove editors crazy with his mixed genre books, because they were a little of everything. ¬†I get it. ¬†Life is a mixed genre, which is why I write that way.

During my search of 4,981 blogs and articles, I think what it boils down to is that genre should be the closest match to what readers of similar books will enjoy. ¬†People who read the The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare and Divergent by Veronica Roth would probably be the ones who’d like my book, so Young Adult it is. ¬†Did you see how I went in a giant circle just to get back where I started?

Why all the hubbub, you ask? ¬†Well, I’m entering Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award. ¬†Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted. ¬†Cross your fingers that I make it past the first round. ¬†Now that I’ve gotten my genre picked out, I need to write a pitch. ¬†How do I feel about pitches?

This isn't anyone I know... Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random man.

This isn’t anyone I know… Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random cranky man.

Fantasy vs. Sci-Fi

I read an interesting take on Fantasy vs. Sci-Fi the other day. ¬†I always just thought of Fantasy as things that couldn’t happen as explained by science, and science fiction as things that could be, even if we don’t have that technology currently.

It got me to thinking about how difficult it is to pin down genre. ¬†Years ago, books used to be expected to have one genre only, ie. romance, fantasy, or mystery. ¬†These days, multi-genre or cross-genre fiction is much more common. ¬†I’ve already been interested in entering contests or calls for submissions with a genre listing that I have to look up.

In any case, here’s the original article I read. ¬†Take a look; it’s interesting stuff.