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!

Rogues and Parents and Robots, Oh My!

Greetings, all.

If you’ve been paying attention (and I know you have, because that’s just the sort of sweet, observant dears you are), you’ve noticed that I’ve been rather absent from the blogosphere of late. This is due neither to laziness nor to recalcitrance nor to sudden kidnappedness of my person. But yea verily, I’ve been dealing with some Major Upheaval of Real Life, and thus, the blog has had to slide over to the back burner and stew along without me for awhile.

This won’t last forever, I promise — but still, I will probably remain incommunicado for awhile. I’m sorry for that, but for now, it can’t be helped. I promise I’ll pop in here when I can and also let you know what’s going on with me when I’m ready to. (In the meantime, you’re welcome to peruse the archives; perhaps you’d like to start with the “Popular Posts” over in the sidebar.)

But. Tonight I’m coming out of self-imposed exile to let you know about A Thing. The thing in question is the publication of my friend Joshua Unruh‘s fabulous debut novel, TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol.

I’ll let Josh tell you about the novel in his own words below. As for me, all I’ve got to say that in on the dancefloor of YA spy-fi (that’s young adult spy fiction, if you didn’t know), TEEN Agents pops, locks, and does the electric boogaloo. The characters are fun and well-developed, the action is fast-paced, the dialogue is entertaining, and the story structure is solid. The whole package delivers just the kind of read YA readers are looking for. You’re gonna love it!

And now, here’s Josh to tell you more:

I love Young Adult fiction. Most of the time that looks like guys in capes fighting would-be world beaters instead of boy wizards or, God deliver us, sparkly vampires.

But I’m also a lover of a wide variety of genre fiction. One of my favorites is Spy Fi, the genre best exemplified in the past by The Avengers or The Man from UNCLE and, more recently, by shows like Alias and the Middle Man. These two things, YA fiction and Spy Fi, come together in my latest novel.

TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol is a novel about three girls, best friends, whose fathers are kidnapped by an evil genius…one who just happens to be ten years old. This is how Elly Mourning, Hea Jung Noone, and Saturday Knight discover the existence of the Teenage Extranormal Emergency Network and how they join its ranks as agents.

There’s plenty of weird gadgets, exciting espionage, and plots for world domination in TEEN Agents. But at its heart, it’s a story about three girls who want to save their dads but have to grow up quite a bit to do it.

Right now, I’m the father of just one kid, a little boy. He and I watch all kinds of adventure cartoons, read comic books, and I continue to take in all that genre fiction I’ve always loved. But now I have an eye as to when I can share it with him.

I’d also like to be the father of a little girl someday. I don’t want to climb a soapbox, but it’s pretty hard to find stuff to excite and empower my hypothetical little girl.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

I should have as much strange and exciting genre fiction with young heroines as I have with heroes. Since I don’t, I decided to do something about that.

So that brings me to Elly, Hea, and Saturday. Elly is sharp and together, a born leader. Hea is a free spirit and incredibly athletic. Saturday has a brilliant scientific mind.

I wrote them to be the kinds of girls I’d like my future little girl to look up to. They aren’t perfect, but they are as accomplished and secure in who they are as thirteen year old girls can be. And they’re learning and growing as they go.

But I didn’t want to write a “girl’s story.” I wanted to write a spy fi story that starred girls. One that would be exciting for girls…and for their brothers and dads. Which is why I can assure you that the genius is evil, the enemy agent is suave and debonair, the traps are deadly, the lairs are secret, and the plan is diabolical.

This book is for girls looking for exciting fiction that makes them feel good about being girls because it’s a book about heroic girls. Not to mention it’s a fun read.

I loved writing this novel for so many reasons. And my beta readers have absolutely loved reading it. I hope you can contribute something to the project. Trust me, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, you won’t be sorry you did.

Because I want everyone to give the book a look, Consortium Books has a very special offer for all you potential TEEN Agents. Today is the official “street day” and for the first 24 hours, this book will be absolutely FREE! You’re just one click away from an exciting spy adventure with three of the most fun girls you’ll ever meet. Give it a shot, will ya?

Courtney again. I can only second Josh’s request and add to it my high recommendation: Check out TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol — you won’t be disappointed!

Chicken. Headless. Editing. You’ll wanna see this.

People are starting to wonder about me, I know. Where’s Courtney? Why hasn’t she been around Twitter? Where are her cramazing blog posts? What’s she been up to?

Well, my dear inklings, I have been up to exactly one thing:

EDITING.

Specifically, I’ve been editing:

  • Joshua Unruh‘s first TEEN Agents novel,
  • Aaron Pogue‘s next fantasy novel, The Dragonswarm,
  • my own unfinished, low sci-fi NaNoWriMo novel Elevator People (working title)
  • and my own short story “Out of the Darkness” for next month’s short story collection A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1, Winter Issue.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am one of those really weird people who loves loves loves editing. I am one of those weird people who thinks editing is fun. But really…right now…after having done nothing writerly except edit for a week before I caught the Plague *and* since I recovered from the Plague last week….

I.
Am.
Spent.

And I feel like this:

If you need me, I’ll be cleaning my house and complaining that I’m not working on my unfinished, low sci-fi NaNoWriMo novel Elevator People (working title). ; )

P.S. Just for the record, I love the works I’ve been editing. : )
_________________________

What about you, love? What’s got you running around like decapitated barnyard fowl?

And There Was Much Rejoicing

Readers Dearests, I am so excited! Today, I started writing the climax to my eighth novel, the unfortunately untitled Demons 3!

If you’ve been paying attention (which I know you have, you sweet, observant things, you), you know that Demons 3 is the third in a YA paranormal trilogy. The first is Colors of Deception, which will be released by Consortium Books in April 2011; the second is Shadows After Midnight.

I’ve been working on Demons 3 since October 2010. It’s been a romp, a headache, and a blessing — just like the first draft of any other novel. Since I’ll need to start final edits on Colors soon, I’ll be breaking standard procedure after I finish Demons 3 Draft 1: Instead of letting this first draft sit and stew in the back of my mind for a month, I’ll start working on the second draft immediately. Maybe even moments after typing “The End.” That way, my beta readers can start reviewing Demons 3 Draft 2, and I can turn my full attention to Colors.

Exciting things happening in Courtney’s Writing Life! Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

I’m Writing About Demons

Greetings, my dears! For my next trick, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my current work-in-progress (WIP). Earlier this week, I mentioned that I’m writing a paranormal fantasy novel. It is, as yet, untitled, so I’m bringing my formidable, literary creative powers to bear upon the title challenge and calling this book Demons 3. Boo-yah.

“So, O Most Formidably Literary Creative One,” you might be thinking, “what does the numeral 3 denote in the title of your work-in-progress?”

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

Ahh, my dear Questioning Ones, I am so glad you asked. The “3” in Demons 3 denotes the fact that this WIP is the third in a trilogy I am, thus far, calling “Demons of Saltmarch.” This trilogy consists of:

  • Colors of Deception (projected publishing date: June/July 2011)
  • Shadows After Midnight

and, of course,

  • Demons 3.

The Saltmarch trilogy (hmm…maybe that should be Saltmarch Trilogy — and here you’re witnessing how a writer revises aspects of her work even as she discusses it) had its genesis in vacuuming and vivid dreaming. One night in early 2008, I dreamed that I was standing in the center of a grated bridge. Facing me at one end of the bridge was this human-shaped figure with its jaw unhinged like a snake’s. A ring of darkness came out of its mouth and spread out toward me. Terrified, I knew that the ring should not touch me. I ended up on my hands and knees, scrambling to get away.

But in dreams, we never can get away, can we?

The dark ring engulfed me, and the whole world turned the “color” of TV static. I blinked and was in a different place, surrounded by people who didn’t quite look like people. Somehow, I knew they were demons. They’d used their powers to make this place look like my childhood home. But even though it looked familiar, I knew there was something wrong with it. I knew it wasn’t real. And I knew that the demons called it “Saltmarch.” Then, the dream ended.

Now, some people would have awakened from that dream and felt residual fear and confusion the rest of the day. They would have called it a nightmare and shuddered whilst relating it to friends over mid-morning coffee. Me? I got all excited, wrote it down, and decided it would make a great fantasy novel. If only I could come up with characters for it.

Fast-forward a few months, and I’m vacuuming my hallway, lamenting to myself that I can’t hear my favorite INXS CD over the jarring noise from this behemoth of a dust-sucking apparatus I’m shoving around my home. And, out of nowhere, the thought pops into my head:

What if one of the demons is obsessed with the music of INXS?

I don’t know how these things work. I don’t know why INXS triggered the beginnings of a character description for a character in a story that consisted of nothing but a rather odd dream sequence. All I know is that two months later, during NaNoWriMo 2008, a whole story came pouring out of me, and that dream sequence turned into one of the last scenes leading up to the climax.

That story became Colors of Deception, and it revolves around a young lady named Holly Idaho. Holly’s a sophomore at a Christian university. She’s got her problems: boy issues, tension with her girlfriends, doubts about her faith, an intense crush on the new music teacher, too much homework. Pretty standard stuff for a college student, right?

Until the demon with the INXS obsession shows up. And, as far as Holly is concerned, all hell breaks loose.

Colors of Deception is Holly’s story: how she deals with doubt, terror, love, lust, betrayal, and forgiveness. Her story is filled with the bizarre and the ordinary — a tale I hope will both fascinate readers and connect with them on a basic, I-know-how-that-feels level.

Shadows After Midnight picks up a few months after Colors ends. This second book in the trilogy is the story of Peter Townsend, who is Holly’s somewhat antisocial friend and doesn’t know that he shares a name with several famous people (and wouldn’t care, even if he did know). I won’t tell you much about Peter, because it would give away too much of the first book. But suffice it to say that Peter has a lot of arrogance to get out of his system (oh my word the boy’s got an ego, but I love him!)…and the demon who shows up to plague him has just the tricks to get him to make a mess he can’t clean up on his own.

The unfortunately untitled Demons 3 tells the story of Anne Waylock, another of Holly’s close friends. I feel like a mother hen playing favorites among her baby chicks…but I almost want to say that Anne is my favorite of the three. She’s snarky, unapologetically obnoxious, borderline blasphemous, and deeply, heart-breakingly sensitive. Her external challenges seem more threatening than those Holly and Peter face in their stories — and her internal challenges are far more subtle. I think. I’m not even through Draft 1 of her story yet, so I’m still getting to know her. There are aspects of her that haven’t crystallized yet.

So, that’s my paranormal fantasy trilogy in a shelle du nut. When I talk to people about it, I refer to it as “young adult (YA) paranormal,” but in some ways, I feel this is misleading. No, it’s not “adult” fiction, but if I had kids, I’m not sure I’d want my kids under age 15 to read it. On the other hand, I’m hoping the books will appeal to the wide audience of adults out there who’ve been devouring so much YA fiction over the past decade or so. (Some of you are reading this. 😉 )

Either way, I am so excited to get these books into the hands of readers, I can hardly stand it!