in 2015 i read 47 books. what about 2016?

2015’s Reads, 2015’s Faves, and Projected Reads for 2016

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve starred the ones I enjoyed most, and following the list you’ll find brief notes on each of those faves. My goal for 2015 was to read at least 50 books. Missing that mark by 3 isn’t too bad. And I beat last year’s tally of 45, so BAM.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important how many books I read, just that I’m intaking story and enjoying myself. But having a number goal keeps me focused on reading during the times when the sheer pleasure of it isn’t quite enough. I don’t know if other people go through phases like that, but I’ve been dealing with more of them since the depression hit. My yearly competition with my past self helps me get through the rougher patches. It’s a useful coping mechanism, keeping that little extra bit of joy in my life when I need it most.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my 2015 list:

1. Plague of the Dead by Z.A. Recht
2. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon *
3. Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey (*)
4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt *
5. Stellar Science-Fiction Stories, #7 edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle *
7. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
8. From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
9. Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1) edited by Robert Silverberg (Robin Hobb’s “Homecoming” *)
10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss *
11. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) by C.S. Lewis
12. The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth *
13. The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #4) by C.S. Lewis
14. The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5) by C.S. Lewis *
15. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis *
16. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis *
17. Prophet by Frank E. Peretti
18. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King *
19. 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
20. The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz *
21. The Lurker at the Threshold by H.P. Lovecraft
22. Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel, #3) by Brent Weeks
23. Resist the Devil by Watchman Nee
24. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
25. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
26. The City by Dean Koontz
27. The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig *
28. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
29. Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin (*)
30. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
31. A Demon in the Desert (Grimluk, Demon Hunter Book 1) by Ashe Armstrong
32. Red Rain by R.L. Stine
33. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
34. Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber *
35. The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum
36. Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig *
37. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
38. Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score by Darwyn Cooke
39. The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King, #1) by S.A. Hunt
40. Protector by Becca J. Campbell
41. The Walking Dead: A Larger World (Vol. 16) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
42. The Walking Dead: Something to Fear (Vol. 17) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
43. Nightwalker (Dark Days, #1) by Jocelyn Drake
44. City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5) by Cassandra Clare
45. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
46. Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland *
47. Hounded by Kevin Hearne *

The Faves

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
–a great story with unexpected twists
–cramazing character development
–classic sci-fi
–a writing style that turns the reader’s imagination into a co-storyteller

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
–utterly engrossing and heart-breaking
–McCourt’s style is so vivid and immediate, I felt like I was right there living it with him through the whole story.
–made me keenly aware of my own privileged upbringing; expanded my world

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
–HOW did I never read this book as a kid?!?
–SO GOOD
–in the vein of C.S. Lewis, which means brilliance & excellence in imagination, theme, message, story

“Homecoming” by Robin Hobb in Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1)
–Hobb’s story gets my vote for best character-development of this year’s reads; I’m just a sucker for the redemption of the snobby, spoiled, rich-girl type 😉

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
–GAH THIS IS SO INCREDIBLE
–some of the best fantasy I’ve read in YEARS
–almost read this too fast; it’s truly UPDA
–can’t wait to read Book 2 this year!!!

The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth
I don’t talk a lot about my faith on social media. But I will say this: “high church” has done the world a disservice by painting women into a powerless, subservient, subjugated role for the past two millennia. Whether you’re a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic, Viola & DeMuth’s book challenges what you think you know about the Christian Bible’s treatment of women (especially in the New Testament). I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not finding something that surprises or even shocks them — in a good way.
This book about women is a wake-up call.

The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5), The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6), The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7) by C.S. Lewis
–simply a pleasure to re-read as an adult
–beauty, truth, challenge

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
–classic King, thrilling and excellent from start to finish
–HOW does the man manage such perfect character development?!
–loved the female characters in these stories — such powerful agency!

The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz
–classic boy-and-his-dog-in-creepy-world Koontz
–dark and gritty, captivating and ethereal

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig
–another UPDA
–sucked me in from page 1 & refused to let go
–excellent wrap-up to the trilogy
–really hope to read more stories set in this cornpunk world!

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
–another non-fic that all of my fellow Jesus-followers need to read
–insightful, heart-breaking, heart-warming
–this book will offend a lot of Christians
–I loved it. 🙂

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig
–loved getting another *slice* of Miriam from Wendig
–perfect intro to Dawson and Hearne, made me want to read more of both
–cheese?!?
–delightful

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
–thought I loved the first book in the series until I read this one
–rare that a sequel upstages its predecessor, but this one does
–fun, “fresh” (LOL) take on zombies
–MC Angel’s voice reminds me of Sookie Stackhouse
–will read more in series

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
–fun frolic of a druid story
–reminded me of Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt
–loved the characters’ voices
–at first distracting but then fun to puzzle out the Gaelic names as I read

Runners-up:

Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey
–rich, detailed world-building
–enjoyed seeing how the main character’s growth determined the intricacies of the plot

Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
–yummy to read some classic sci-fi with a strong, scrappy heroine!

Q: What’s in store for 2016?

A: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LADIES.

Right now, I’m reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a humdinger of a novel, penned in Jane Austen style (in A.D. 2004, mind you) and clocking in at 1006 pages. Uffda. I’m unused to reading this style of doorstop anymore, so it’s slow going and takes a lot of concentration. BUT it’s a fabulous challenge and a great read. I’m loving all the subtly sarcastic asides about early 1800s British culture. And reading these characters is like watching a movie. And it has magicians and fairies. Just fun.

Projected reads this year include: Jade Kerrion, Tana French, Susan Kaye Quinn, Marissa Meyer, Kiera Cass, most of the female authors listed here, Delilah S. Dawson, Cidney Swanson, Carrie Ryan, and Julie Hutchings. After these, I’ll turn some attention to Wendig, Gaiman, Hearne, King, Koontz, Yancey, and others.

Why all this focus on female authors? Because I realized some time back that I read mainly male authors, and I want to support my sisters of the written word. Plus, women’s voices simply aren’t heard enough, and I want to redouble my efforts to hear them. I’m exited to hear them, to discover the nuances of their words and imaginations, to let their sounds thread through my soul in new ways. The gentlemen will have their turn, but for now, it’s the ladies who get all my love. 😉

Happy reading in 2016!

#NaNoWriMo When You Have No Freaking Clue What Happens Next

Hile, wordslingers!

With neither ado nor adon’t, Ima splat you right in the face with a lemon meringue writing advice pie. It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo, and though I ain’t perticipatin’, I know there’re plenty of you crazy kids out there who might need a little scribbling inspiration as the end of Week One approacheth. So here y’all go:

This Hoopla We Call Writing

Writers are people with ideas. Or so the story goes. Most of us, when we sit down to start writing, don’t seem to have much trouble finding something to write about–after all, if we didn’t have the idea, we wouldn’t have sat down to write in the first place. (This might be what’s called circular logic, but I’m gonna go with it anyway.) (Also, this might not apply to the dreaded monster known as Undergraduate Thesis Paper; but in this case, if the list of ideas grows short, there’s always coffee and foolhardiness.)

Hitting The Wall

But I digress. (Shocking, innit?) We writers are people with ideas…except when we’re not. The initial sit-down-and-start-scribbling-like-mad ideas are not a problem. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve got that covered. But what happens after the first bout of hectic, joyous franticness fizzles out?

Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t you dare shy away. Make eye contact with me, kiddos! We’ve all been there: You’re slashing away with your pen at that bountiful pad of lined, yellow paper. You’re hammering away at those keys as if they’re tiny square culprits who drank the last of the milk and stuck the empty carton back in the fridge. Things are flowing, story’s moving, characters are sparkling–and BOOM. Dead end. You smash face-first into a wall, and you’re pummeled by that most horrid of questions: What happens next??? You don’t have a clue, because you. Are out. Of ideas.

Part of the solution to your difficulty is that most horrid of pre-writing exercises, The Outline. But that’s another story and shall be told another time. What we’re concerned with today is ideas, and we’re going to turn to a seasoned pro for advice on where to get them.

Elmore Leonard Gets Ideas…

In “Making It Up as I Go Along” (AARP Magazine [don’t ask], July/August 2009), Elmore Leonard describes some of the ways in which he generates ideas for his stories. Considering his novel-pub cred (Get Shorty, Three-Ten to Yuma, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch, among many others), I figure the man probably knows what he’s talking about. So take a look at some of these and see if any of them resonate with you:

…From Photos

Leonard describes how the main character of his novel Out of Sight started life as a photograph of a woman deputy marshal holding a pump-action shotgun.

eleonardAs some of you, my darling readers, already know, I am a very visual person. I can see myself picking up a magazine like National Geographic, thumbing through to an article about some 19th-century adventurer, and feasting my eyes and my creative brain on the sepia-fuzzy image of a hood-eyed man in a weather-beaten hat. Maybe he’s wearing a heel-length overcoat and carrying a pack. BOOM again–but in a good way, this time. Suddenly, I have a character named Mac Finchley, and he just stepped out of the magazine pages and into my dead-end chapter–to do what? Shoot my main character in the leg? Build a fire and cook supper? Juggle spoons? Release two badgers and a wombat? The possibilities are endless, which means the ideas start piling up and the story can roll on, dude.

…From Other Writers

When Leonard needs spare style, he reads Ernest Hemingway every day. When he wants to flavor his prose with humor, he picks up Richard Bissell.

Me, I turn to Stephen King when I have trouble with characterization, and to Tad Williams when I need a refresher on world-building. In my opinion, though, it’s best to use caution when reading other writers specifically for help with your own writing. Especially when you’re reading one of your favorites, it’s easy to adopt that person’s style instead of developing your own. It’s natural to imitate what you love. But if you focus on finding your own voice and remain aware of your literary surroundings, you should be able to glean what you need from other writers without transplanting their entire crop into your own creative field.

…From History

Moonshine and the library gave Leonard the seeds for his novel The Moonshine War.eleonard2 Speaking of war and not-so-shining historical moments, I have long thought that the epic battles described in the Bible’s Old Testament provide great framework for battle descriptions in fantasy stories. And in ancient Roman tradition, a slave whispered “you are only a man” to the great leader as he made his triumphal entry into the city; in my novel Rethana’s Trial, I turned this bit of real-world history into a character’s final test of manhood. Humanity’s past abounds with facts and people and scenes that will spark a fire of what-happens-next in your mind. Grab a history book, open it to a random page, and let what you read be the next challenge your characters face. How does the real-world snippet “translate” to the world of your story? How will your characters handle it? Let them tell you.

…From Real People

Leonard based a fictional judge on a real-life friend in the judicial system.

For my novel Shadows after Midnight, I needed someone to get my main character into a heavy metal concert without a ticket. On the day I wrote that scene, I happened to be texting with my friend Bryan, who listens to the kind of music my MC was hearing. Jokingly, I asked Bryan if I could put him in my book. He said sure–and suddenly, my MC had the knowledgeable insider he needed, complete with a T-shirt bearing the name of Bryan’s favorite heavy metal band. Later on, it turned out that Bryan had information my MC was desperate to get, which moved the MC and other characters halfway across the country.

So look around at your friends and family and see who possesses the traits your characters might need to move your story forward. You know these people–their habits, hang-ups, foibles, and faces. Once you start pondering, I promise you’ll find you know exactly who is going to help your characters take over the world. Of course, you should always ask permission before you assign a real person the role of Evil Overlord, lest you acquire too-intimate experience with a lawsuit for defamation of character.

______

So there you have it, sweetlings. A few ways to generate ideas that will poke, nudge, prod, or blast your story forward when you’re stuck. But plenty of other options exist, and I don’t doubt you’ve thought of some while reading this post. The mental block of what-happens-next can seem as intimidating as a 2001 monkey-hysteria space-monolith. But it need not lay you low. Use some of Leonard’s methods to generate some ideas, or follow some of the methods that have worked for you in the past. (Share them in the comments! We all need ’em!) You’ll be skipping gaily around that monolith in no time. Or at least hacking dementedly away at it with a hammer and chisel.

To wrap up, a few particularly enjoyable and helpful quotes from Leonard:

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

“Dialogue, in fact, is the element that keeps the story moving. Characters are judged as they appear. Anyone who can’t hold up his or her end of the conversation is liable to be shelved, or maybe shot.” (I, Courtney, heart this one with gusto.)

“A photo of a woman marshal with a shotgun, and a prison break, gave me what I needed to write a love story.”

“After 58 years you’d think writing would get easier. It doesn’t. If you’re lucky, you become harder to please. That’s all right, it’s still a pleasure.”

May we all be able to say that after 58 years. 🙂

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Recipe

First, I shall ramble for a while with thoughts on cooking. If you want to skip to the recipe, scroll down to “Cranberry Salsa Recipe.”

Rambling Thoughts on Cooking

Bursting with holiday flavor! BAM!

Bursting with holiday flavor! BAM!

If you know me in person at all, you’ve probably heard me express a certain level of dislike for cooking.

This is a strange paradox, because I love food, I love homecooked food, I consider myself a foodie. I took pictures of my food before it became uncool. Growing up in Europe and traveling a lot have given me ample opportunity to discover new-to-me foods, the recipes of which I’ve happily stockpiled in my kitchen.

I love them. I love having them. They warm the cockles of my gooey foodie heart. I just don’t seem to get around to using most of them.

Recently, I finally figured out that the main reason I don’t enjoy cooking is that it wears me out, and the main reason it wears me out is neurocardiogenic syncope. Even though standing in the kitchen for long periods of time doesn’t make me pass out, it does cause my blood pressure to drop, leaving me weak and sluggish and blah. A few weeks ago, I went through a phase where every evening after cooking, I’d have to skip most of supper and lie down for the rest of the evening. Meh.

(And yes, I would sit down while cooking, but we have a narrow kitchen and if I’m sitting, there’s no walking through it.)

On top of that, in the back of my mind is always the thought that the time I spend cooking, I could be spending playing with my daughter or writing or doing something else artsy. Yes, there is an artistry and creativity to food prep, but it’s not the primary means by which my creativity likes to burst or trickle or schlupp out of me. I do have fun cooking, but I don’t want to do it every day.

So. All of that to say this: I don’t always enjoy cooking, but I do have some favorite recipes. And one of them is the reason for this post.

The good news is, this one doesn’t require standing in the kitchen for a long time. BOOYA.

Lookit the yummies!!!

Lookit the yummies!!!

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Recipe

I’ve been using this recipe for years and have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it’s delicious. Like the tinkly laughter of small children. And the purrs of a hundred kittens. And like chocolate. Except that it’s salsa, not chocolate. Make of that what you will.

Mmmmm…chocolate….

*ahem*

This is really the only thing I ever “cook” that people actually ask me to make again.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here it is:

CRANBERRY SALSA RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. or 3 cups fresh cranberries, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tbsp minced jalapeños
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup minced cilantro
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
16 oz. cream cheese
crackers

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients except cream cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours so flavors develop.

Place cream cheese on a plate; form it into a ball-ish; cover with salsa.
Serve with crackers.
By all the gods of galvanized whisk lickers THAT’S GOOD.

VARIATIONS

I’ve experimented with this recipe and discovered the following:

Chop the cranberries by hand or use a food processor; food processor is easier.
You can use canned cranberries (gross), but the salsa won’t taste good.
You can use dried cranberries, but the salsa won’t taste as good.
Honey will work as a sugar substitute, but the salsa will be runny.
An additional 2 tbsp of lime juice adds yumminess, but more than that is too much.
If you have a cramazingly powerful blender or food processor, you can shove all the ingredients into it and process the blurglemamjufloobelschnitzen right out of that puppy.
Your best option is to come be my cook, and I will pay you in cranberry salsa. EVERYBODY WINS.

Three-sentence horror story: HONEYMOON

Hile, inklings!

If you recall, I recently wrote a three-sentence horror story for a flash fiction contest.

Sadly, I didn’t win. But that’s the breaks, right? Loss of hypothetical glory notwithstanding, the three-sentence fiction concept has continued percolating in my brain these several weeks and brought forth the richness of IDEA: Ima start posting three-sentence short stories here on a semi-regular basis, and y’all can let me know what you think of ’em. It should be great story-telling practice for me (and Grabthar knows I need it), and I hope it’ll be fun for you. Yay! Everybody wins!

Except for the cheetahs. They never prosper.

Of course, I might do this just the one time and then forget that I thought of it. (This might be what “semi-regular basis” really means.) Guess you’ll just have to hide and watch.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my newest three-sentence horror story. Enjoy. (They won’t all be horror, by the way. The first two just happen to be.)

____________

HONEYMOON

by Courtney Cantrell

When he came to, it was pitch black.

His shaking fingers soon discovered that she’d gouged out his eyes.

But worse, no matter how he screamed, the floor beneath him would not stop writhing.

THE END

Dragon Vs. Turkey, Death by Hamster, and Writing Advice

Um. Hi?

I feel like I should be tiptoeing in here, and it’s my own blog. I’m sorry for the extreme silence lately, y’all. Honestly, the only thing I can tell you is that I’ve been pureeing pears and prunes. Seriously. Since the Itty Bitty started her foray into solid foods, I’ve felt as though I’ve been living in the kitchen.

Fortunately, I shall soon acquire a brilliant gadget unfortunately named “Babycook,” which shall do the cooking and pureeing for me and is, fortunately, not made from real babies.

Furthermore

My grand and good intention is to get back into blogging regularly — at least once a week. There won’t be another month-long hiatus if I can possibly help it (and I do think I can, Pauly). In the meantime, I’m also planning an updateish post to let you know what’s been happening in my writing world.

But that’s for later. Right now, I’m in the mood for silly, so silly is what you’re gonna get. Specifically, silly related to keyword searches.

You people are weird, and I love you for it.

Without further ado or adon’t, here are some of the keyword searches that, according to Google Analytics, have recently led y’all to my blog. And also my reactions to said keyword searches. BANGERANG.

1. would you please do me a favor

I never take requests unless asked, so yes!

2. what can be the misuses of having banana
common misuses of a banana

I take it back. You don’t get any favors. Sicko.

3. upside down scrambled cat

I don’t really understand, but okay….

scrambledcat

I didn’t know how to do the scrambled part, but perhaps this will suffice anyway.

4. what to do when your novel gets too complicated

SIMPLIFY.

No, really. Cut a character, erase a subplot or two, delete some scenes. If the novel’s too complicated, it means you’ve got too many cats in your frying pan. Toss a few of them out. You’ll end up overcooking them anyway.

5. sometimes a lady

…will have her cat cake and eat it, too.

6. should a writer listen to suggestions

For the love of all that’s good and true and writerly in this world, YES. Don’t be a precious snowflake.

7. scary hamster
hamster kiss
hamster suicide
dumb hamster
death by hamster
cool hamster

Okay, I can see why the hamsters might be kissing. Even furfaces like a little lip once in a while. And if a dumb hamster and a cool hamster are kissing, it might have entertainment value. Locking braces, awkward positions, AND SO FORTH.

But…but…why hamster suicide? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? And by Grabthar’s Hammer, what is death by hamster? Diana from “V” swallows one and chokes on it?

And why did these searches lead to my blog?!?

#whatisthatidonteven

8. novels — how long is too long

If you keep writing after the story is finished, then your novel is too long.

9. i have a bachelors in writing now what

Yes. Quite.

(READ: When I find out, I’ll let you know.)

10. dragon vs. turkey

dragonvsturkey

I have a To-Read List. Let me show you it.

Once upon a time, in case you’d forgotten, I shared with you my To-Read Shelf.

Go on. Click through, look at the pic that goes with that post, and then come back here.

Now look at the pic that goes with this post. Please to be noticing the only slight difference.

This is many words.

Some of those books are even still the same ones that were on the shelf last December. *sigh*

And you know what’s worse? The Shelf isn’t the only place where I store books I want to read.

Since September 6, 2011, I’ve also kept a written list of book. And today, Ima share that with you, too.

Do note, my dear inklings, that the To-Read Shelf and the To-Read List contain mostly different titles. The Shelf holds books I’ve acquired to read. The List holds books I have yet to acquire.

Again… *sigh*

Such is the Writing Life: so many books to read / write, and so very little time.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here ya go. The List is heavy on the sci-fi and fantasy (surprise, surprise), but if you look closely, you’ll find some classics and some non-fic tucked away in there, too.

Courtney’s To-Read List

begun September 6, 2011

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card
Sisterhood of Dune by Brian Herbert
Sorceror by James Byron Huggins
With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
The Taker by Alma Katsu
Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott
Terroryaki by Jennifer K. Chung
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Beta Test by Eric Griffith
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
Devil’s Lair by David Wiseheart
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Starters by Lissa Price
The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Levy
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Above by Leah Bobet
Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
God Behaving Badly by David Lamb
Silence by Michell Sagara
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Kop Killer by Warren Hammond
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson
Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson
Skylark by Meagan Spooner
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring
Clockwork Angel by Kevin J. Anderson (story & lyrics by Neil Peart)
Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
Dracula, The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
World without End by Ken Follett
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
Zombie Notes: A Study Guide to the Best in Undead Literary Classics by Laurie Rozakis
Death: A Life with George Pendle
A Scanner Darkly: A Graphic Novel by Philip K. Dick
Prey by Michael Crichton

_______

So, there you have it. The list is subject to change from one day to the next — admittedly, change by increase in length. I don’t think I’ve decreased it at all since I started it, mainly because other good reads keep dropping into my lap. Oh, and speaking of good reads Goodreads, you can always visit my page there to see what I’ve read and what I’m currently reading.

Back to The List, though: Which of those books are you interested in? Which ones have you read? Which ones have you already read and found UPDA* and why? Which ones would you warn me away from and why? Let’s talk!

*UPDA = unputdownable

Courtney’s Most Official Rules for Living

Once upon a time, I started keeping a list of “rules” I wanted to remember. These were tidbits and insights I picked up from daily life and might need more than a mental record of. Writing them down would let me refer back to them at a moment’s notice.

So, I snagged a used notebook my mom had inherited from a student at the end of the school year, ripped out the used pages, and got to notating.

As of this writing, I’ve noted 220 Official Rules. I likely have a few more to go.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here are a few of my personal favorites:

From “Courtney’s Most Official Rules

7. Never apologize for your beliefs.

8. Never apologize for your opinions.

9. Never be condescending to small children — or to anyone else, for that matter.

10. Remember that the direction of the toilet paper is over the roll, never under.

11. Eat vegetables.

13. Always make sure there is cold milk in the fridge.

14. Remember that there are two sides to every story.

15. Don’t spread rumors.

20. Never pull the labels off a friend’s coke bottle.

25. Be nice to cats and dogs.

26. Be optimistic.

28. Don’t lay wet clothes on dry shoes.

29. Don’t lay dry clothes on wet shoes.

31. You can buy chocolate, but you can’t buy money.

32. Never forget to wear underwear.

33. Don’t sneeze on your roommate’s clean laundry.

34. Ask permission before doing disco housecleaning.

35. Never buy $25,000.00 trucks you can’t afford.

36. Never say goodbye.

37. Always say au revoir.

38. Never do today the projects you can put off until the night after they’re due.

39. Always tango in the kitchen.

43. Don’t let the room intimidate you.

44. You can never own too many pairs of underwear.

45. Grow science experiments in the bottom of your refrigerator. Cheese and veggies work best.

47. Don’t use your pillow to bludgeon your roommate in your sleep.

49. Burps are better than farts.

53. If you let someone dare you into eating a worm, you must get them to believe that you enjoy it.

56. Take money from your spouse — taking it from strangers could make them angry.

57. Wear clogs.

60. Sing along to elevator music.

62. Communicate.

That’ll do for now, I think.

But don’t worry.

There’ll be more sharing of Most Official Rules to come. ; )

Books I Read in 2011

My To-Read Shelf for 2012 -- not counting ebooks!

Well, my lovelies, ’tis the last day of the year! Thus, it’s time for me to share with you the list of books I read this year.

I’m slightly disappointed in myself, because this year’s count is lower than last year’s.

In 2010, I read 58.5 books.

In 2011, I read 42.

What made the difference? Well, becoming a published author, for one. By necessity, I had to spend more time working on my own books than reading others’. There were days when I was so worn out by the time I finished my writing and editing, I had no mental capacity left over for reading. Sleep and vegging in front of Netflix had to take precedence.

I know, I know. What kind of writer am I, choosing a movie over a book? Sheesh. Mea culpa.

But another thing that cut into my writing time was becoming an acquisitions editor. When it comes to my own novels, Consortium Books is my indie publisher. But when it comes to novels by our Consortium artists, my job as acquisitions editor requires me to read each of those novels and (a) approve it for line and copy editing if it’s ready or (b) work with the writer on getting it ready if it’s not.

This, too, takes time. Sometimes, it means I’m reading the same book two or three times. Always, it means I’m reading fewer already-published works.

However, I have no complaints about devoting time to my own writing or to the writing of my cohorts. I’m helping get new works out into the world and into readers’ hands. That’s at least as valuable as reading works that are already out there, if not more so.

So, when I look at it from that perspective, I guess I’m not so disappointed in myself, after all. : )

(Not to mention the fact that a books-read count of 42 [aka answer to life, the universe, and everything] is not something I can argue with.)

Thus, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my 2011 list of books!

Books I Read in 2011

An asterisk indicates a favorite read for the year.

  1. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
  2. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
  3. *Lilith: A Snake in the Grass by Jack L. Chalker
  4. *Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold by Jack L. Chalker
  5. *Charon: A Dragon at the Gate by Jack L. Chalker
  6. *Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail by Jack L. Chalker
  7. *Absolute All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Neal Adams
  8. *Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  9. Black: The Birth of Evil by Ted Dekker
  10. Relentless by Dean Koontz
  11. The Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card
  12. Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman
  13. The Cure by Anthony Marais (not finished)
  14. Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead
  15. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
  16. *The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  17. Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks
  18. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
  19. Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist
  20. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  21. Ghost Targets: Restraint by Aaron Pogue
  22. The Walking Dead, Vol. 11 by Robert Kirkman, et al
  23. The Walking Dead, Vol. 12 by Robert Kirkman, et al
  24. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  25. The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter by Sue Denim and Dav Pilkey
  26. Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad
  27. Serenity: Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad
  28. *Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub
  29. *Snow in August by Pete Hamill
  30. Conan, #1 by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter
  31. Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) by Jim Butcher
  32. A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (Fall Issue) by Consortium Books
  33. Death and the Dream by J. J. Brown
  34. Yesterday’s Gone, Episode 1 by Sean Platt and David Wright
  35. The Zombie Bible: Death Has Come Up into Our Windows by Stant Litore
  36. *Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
  37. Secret Life of a TEEN Agent by Joshua Unruh
  38. Taming Fire (Dragonprince Trilogy, #1) by Aaron Pogue
  39. *The Dragonswarm (Dragonprince Trilogy, #2) by Aaron Pogue
  40. Resistance Front by Kindle All-Stars
  41. *Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  42. *Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

_____________________
How ’bout y’all? How many books did you read this year? What was your favorite? Tell us in the comments!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And the Winners Are…

Greetings, my lovelies! A few weeks ago, I challenged you to tell me what kind of music demons listen to. If you click that link, you’ll see the whats and wherefores, but here’s a brief recap:

In my novel Colors of Deception, the demonic villain has a predilection for the music of rock group INXS. I challenged you to come up with other genres of music a demon might prefer.

In return, I promised two of you a free, signed copy of Colors of Deception, as well as publication of your entries here at courtcan.com.

 

And you, my dear inklings, came through for me. You sent me some really fun reading material — and you challenged me back, because picking the winners wasn’t all that easy!

But pick two winners I did. Read their entries below! In the meantime, thanks so much to all of you who took the time and the creative effort to enter my contest! Even if you didn’t win, I hope you enjoyed coming up with demonic music ideas as much as I enjoyed reading them.

So, without further ado or adon’t, allow me to present the winning entries for the Colors of Deception Give-Away Contest:

Patricia writes:

Isn’t it obvious? Demons listen to reggae! It’s all about “de mon” on “steal” drums, and there’s lots of “dread” locks! It’s reminds them of their tropical hideaway that can be as hot as you-know-where!

 

Ginger writes:

People realize that the life of a demon is a tortured life, one that offers no happiness, constant roaming and a desire to inflict pain and suffering on everyone and everything. Therefore, it is assumed that their music is loud and dark with lyrics that offend.

However what few people know is that the reason a demon always roam, seeking to torture people, is because each demon constantly hears a Pandora Radio Station that is limited to playing Kids Bop, Hannah Montana, Barney and the first 10 seconds of a KISS song after every twenty minutes.

 

Congratulations, Patricia and Ginger! 🙂

Remarkablogger and El Edwards Told Me To Write This

Universe? Is that you?

I talk a lot about synchronicity. That’s when a bunch of unrelated stuff happens, but it’s all pointing toward the same thing, and it happens and points over and over again until you turn your stubborn head and open your eyes to it and say, “Okay, I get it!”

And then you do something about it.

The Synchronized Universe Hits You in the Head (Ouch)

I guess this is what people used to call “serendipity.” But I prefer synchronicity, because I like the idea that a bunch of coolness in the universe gets synchronized in order to get a person’s attention. I think synchronicity affects every single one of us every single day — we just don’t pay enough attention to realize it.

I also believe that synchronicity is a conscious force that rejoices in our every breath and wants to permeate our every moment with beauty, truth, and goodness.

(At this time, I’d like to insert yet another plug for Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, the book that taught me to pay attention to synchronicity.)

I walk through life as half asleep as the next person, I guess…but sometimes, synchronicity slaps me upside the noggin and says, “Yo! Human! Get your heart and mind out of this befuddled daze you’re in and look! I’ve got all sorts of cramazingness waiting for you — all you have to do is reach out and embrace it!”

You get hit in the noggin often enough with love like that, you’ll eventually start looking for it.

I’ve been looking for it. And this week, I found it. Without further ado or adon’t, here’s what synchronicity plopped into my lap this week.

Remarkablogger

In comments on his post WARNING: Perfectionism will Kill You, Michael Martine and I had the following exchange:

Michael: Do what feels right to you but be aware of the edges of your comfort zone, your self-censoring and your perfectionism. …Being a little scared to hit Publish because you were raw or personal or opinionated is a good thing. : )

Courtney (that’s me): You really do hit the nail on its proverbial little head, don’t you? ; ) It’s true, I do censor myself too much. I’m still overcoming lifetime of training that says, “Don’t say that; you’ll offend someone. Don’t say that; you’ll hurt someone’s feelings.” Not that I want to hurt anyone’s feelings — but I do want to write truth, no matter how gritty it gets.
Oh crap. There’s another new blog post to write. *sigh* ; )

Impassionate

Every morning, I listen to El Edward’s Impassionate, audio posts designed to start your day with a little kick of joy and optimism. A few days ago, El talked about going big or going home. She encouraged her listeners to get out of our ruts and get out of our comfort zones. If there’s something we feel passionate about — or something we could become passionate about, if we’d only allow ourselves — then it’s time to stop dithering and worrying. It’s time to get out and do.

Go big.

Dream or Nightmare?

Sometime along in there, between impassioned audio posts and admonishing blog comments, I woke up one morning from a very disturbing dream. I’ll spare you the rather awful details, but here’s the gist of it:

I dreamed that I was marooned on an island with a large group of people. Most were strangers; some were acquaintances. But while I was on this island, the whole group — strangers and non-strangers alike — regularly attacked me. I endured the torment for weeks before I managed to escape. “Escape” consisted of submerging myself in a pond beneath a dock by day, then creeping around at night to find food.

Eventually, the dream switched to a later time at which I was accusing some of my attackers — the acquaintances. Through tears, I demanded to know why they had treated me so horribly. I never got an answer.

Unstressed Syllables and Twitter

You’d think that by this time, I would’ve been getting the message. But no, synchronicity had two more nudges for me…and they came in the form of my own unexpected self-expression.

In this week’s edition of What I Learned About Writing This Week on Unstressed Syllables, I wrote on Allen Ginsberg. He said something really stunning about following our inner moonlight. In WILAWriTWe, I respond by taking myself to task for not having the guts to speak truth in its bluntest, basest form.

Later, “out of nowhere” (ha ha), I tweeted this:

Sometimes, the loudest rejection you can hear is another’s silence. Ignore it! Listen instead to the supportive voices who rejoice with you!

Egad and zounds, Watson-by-George, I think she’s got it.

Let’s Recap

Remarkablogger Michael told me to stop self-censoring and start saying what I really need to say — but be respectful of the consequences.

El’s Impassionate reminded me to stop dithering around in my comfort zone, get out, and go big.

Less than a week after I published my first novel, my dream revealed that I’m feeling vulnerable to strangers and acquaintances. (Me, feel vulnerable after publishing a book? Shocker.)

Allen Ginsberg admonished me to revel in being different, in being a little crazy, in being a little dark.

My tweet knocked me on the noggin, saying, “Hello? Helloooo! Anybody home?”

“Okay, I get it!”

The creative, benevolent, loving force that rules my life is sending synchronicity my way.

I am determined to open my arms and receive it.

I will speak the truth.

I will speak the fears, the loneliness, the rejection. I will speak the joys, the all-encompassing wonder, the acceptance. I will not hide these things from others. I will not secret them away for fear of the consequences.

I will not hide my heart.

And that is why I wrote this blog post. : )

P.S. A shout-out to Judy Dunn of Catseyewriter for inspiring the title. ; )

Photo credit Julie V. Photography.