Friday, February 26, 2010

Blogger Buddie Award!

Thank you, Kristin Rae for this sweet award! There are so many amazing blogs to read each day, and sometimes I have to pick and choose due to limited time and crazy schedules. But, I check out Kristin's religiously because she has such a fantastic voice and her personality shines through everything she writes. If you don't follow her yet, scoot over there and sign up today!

Usually these awards come with the task of revealing something about yourself, so in honor of a recent event in my life, here are five things about me/my past:

1. Thanks to Google and Blogger, a long-lost friend I haven't been in touch with for twenty years found me and dropped me an email. ~R~ is male and we were great friends -- platonic -- and hung out for two years in our early twenties. So glad to have ~R~ in my life again!!

2. I met ~R~ back in 1990, when we both worked in the Client Accounting department at what was then known as Chiat/Day/Mojo Advertising (today it's TBWA/Chiat/Day.) The agency, located in Venice Beach, CA, was perhaps best known for its Energizer Bunny campaign. While ~R~ and I worked there, we witnessed the building of, and move into, this crazy building by architect Frank Gehry:

Yes, the entryway is fashioned out of two gigantic binoculars. The right side of the building is made with copper that was shiny in the early years, but is now a wonderful greenish-brown patina.

3. The week before my first Christmas at Chiat/Day, a semi-truck showed up and delivered hundreds of large, identical, rectangular boxes. Turned out, agency owner Jay Chiat had purchased a beach cruiser bicycle for every employee, as a Christmas gift. At the time, the agency resided in an old drapery factory. The space was cavernous, with polished cement floors and exposed pipes across the ceilings. Workspaces were dictated by partitions and clusters of cubicles. That day, the guys in the mailroom assembled bike after bike, and for a week everyone opted to ride their cruiser inside the building, to the conference rooms, fax stations, or coffee room, in lieu of walking.

4. Since we were one block from the Pacific Ocean, I often had lunch on the beach. I used to see this guy all the time:

He always sang the same song to me. The lyrics began, "I wonder what a man would do on Mars?" He sang to people up and down The Strand all day, so he must have had other songs in his repertoire, but I never heard any others... He was there the day I got my nose pierced during my lunch hour, in a striped tent on the beach, before going back to work. Crazy times!

5. ~R~ and I used to take off on weekends and catch as many of the Grateful Dead's west coast tour as possible. When we didn't have camping reservations, which was often, we slept wherever we could. Once we woke up on the beach in Santa Cruz to the bark of noisy sea lions. Here's a pic of me one morning when we did have reservations:

~R~ and I lost track of each other after I moved east and later joined the Peace Corps. He went on to realize his dreams of being a copywriter. I'm so happy we've reconnected, and I've learned that he's doing great with his wife and two kids. I miss our crazy days, ~R~'s red VW Bug convertible, and sunny California days.

Thanks Kristin Rae, for the award that sparked this little California dreamin', and thanks to all of you for taking this mini-walk down memory lane with me!

I'm passing this award on to these awesome blogger peeps:

Lindsay Brooks @
Dangerous With a Pen

Dominique @ En Violet (Happy 1 YR Blog Anniversary!!)

Kristin Torres @
Write in the Way

Have a fab weekend!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Show Me! Don't Tell Me.

I was watching last night’s American Idol on TiVo as I drank my first cup of coffee this morning. Cutie sixteen-year-old Aaron Kelly sang a Rascal Flatts song I’d never heard before. (I like country music all right, but I rarely pay much attention to it.) I didn’t catch the title when Ryan Seacrest introduced him, but as Aaron sang the opening verse, my writer’s ears perked up.

It begins, "I can hear the truck tires coming up the gravel road / And it’s not like her to drive so slow, (must be) nothing on the radio / Footsteps on the porch, I hear my doorbell / She usually comes right in…"

These lines demonstrate perfectly the power of Show, Don’t Tell descriptions. There was no doubt in my mind that something was wrong, that “she” was the bearer of bad news. The anticipation I felt and the strong mood those opening words created made the chorus that much more poignant: "Here comes goodbye / Here comes the last time / Here comes the start of every sleepless night / The first of every tear I’m gonna cry."

Showing descriptions pull your readers into the story. By asking your audience to pick up on the important clues sprinkled across each sentence, to connect the dots and reach the correct conclusions, you invite readers to participate in the story. Reader interaction can’t be underestimated. Your readers will become emotionally involved on a deeper level with the characters and plot, which boosts the overall entertainment factor of your work.

When do you concentrate the most on writing showing descriptions? Does it come naturally to you and appear in your first drafts/word vomitting sessions? Or do you comb through your scenes during the revision process and incorporate showing descriptions where you just "told" in the first draft? Or both?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Suspension of (Dis)belief

I raised an eyebrow when I turned down the hallway at six a.m. this morning and spotted the light spilling out from underneath my daughter’s bedroom door. Usually, waking my kids for school is like rousing a couple cadavers, (corpses who, to my chagrin, effortlessly self-resurrect before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday mornings). Sidney had complained about a tummy ache yesterday, so I half-expected that a campaign to miss school was underway. When I pushed open her door though, I encountered a smiling little girl.

She stood in the middle of her room, her belly button peeking out beneath a too-short pajama top, and her long braided hair bent into a pair of boomerangs flanking her shoulders. In her hand she held her diary.

“You’re up early, sunshine,” I greeted her. “Is everything okay?”

Her eyes sparkled. “Mommy!” she began. “James-y woke me up.”

James was our sweet kitten who passed away from feline-leukemia a few weeks ago. As Sidney's declaration sunk into my pre-caffinated brain, a smile remained fixed on my lips but my eyebrows knitted a little closer together. “What?” I asked.

“James woke me up, but it was still dark. So I peeked out my window and you know what I saw?”

She didn’t wait for me to answer. Drawing in a deep breath that sent her belly button a little further into the room, she said, “Down by the tree, I saw three black cats! They were so cute, Mommy, and they came right up to my window.” She held up her diary. “I’m going to write about it!”

That’s my girl!

Our reality is dictated by our beliefs. Sidney believes James woke her up so she wouldn’t miss seeing those cats. Why not? (I hope it’s true!) One of the goals I embrace as a writer is drawing my readers into my brand of reality, suspending their disbelief. It comes down to the level of authenticity in the writing which can be achieved many ways: through the logical chain of events in the plot, believable dialogue, realistic characterizations, etc.

What’s your favorite device for creating authenticity in your writing, or for suspending your readers’ disbelief? Can you think of a time when you were the reader or viewer, that your disbelief wasn’t suspended? (Think Clark Kent hiding his Super Identity behind a pair of glasses!)

[Artwork at the top of this post by Joied6]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

In 2008 I took part in a creative writing workshop that explored the genre of memoir writing. At that time, I'd only written fiction, so stepping outside my comfort zone was exciting and nerve-wracking. Adding to the challenge was the fact that two of the writers taking part in the workshop were hilarious women well-known for their quick humor and funny storytelling styles. One assignment was to write a short comedic piece based on something that happened in our homes. I'm not a comedic writer! But luckily for me, (but not so much for my son), something had happened the night before and became the subject of my workshop homework:

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Uncontrollable laughter had broken out, the kind that is almost silent except for the occasional snort that perpetuates the hilarity. Still seated around the table, my husband and I, and our two kids had just come to the end of a meal when it happened.

Mealtimes are reverent moments in my household. My husband is French, so for him partaking in a meal involves careful attention to detail and certain protocol. It is insulting to his palette to eat fruit during the same course as the meat. And there is no going back to the meat course once the fruit has been served. I, thankfully, LOVE to cook, and was a willing student under the tutelage of my mother-in-law in the early years of my marriage when she worried that her son would suffer a life-sentence of American fare. What some consider gourmet dishes are mainstays of my daily menus. I am also an avid advocate of eating healthy and exercising, and many heavy sauces and butter-soaked recipes clash with my idea of sane nourishment. So, careful planning goes into each repast, from leisurely weekend meals to time-pressed weekday meals, to ensure a balance of nutrition and taste.

This particular evening, I had chosen a side dish of sliced zucchini, lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic. My daughter, who is always in a rush for dessert, complained about the vegetable throughout the entire meal.

"This broccoli doesn't look right," she whined.

"It's zucchini and it's delicious. Just eat it."

"It's BROWN," she said.

"It's a little seared. It has more flavor that way. Just eat it."

She pushed it around her plate with her fork. She sighed. "It's gross and mushy." Oh, for heaven's sake. I tried to ignore her.

My son was drinking from his water glass, when suddenly he started to cough. It was one of those coughs that comes from deep in the throat, and seems to have mixed along the way with a burp. His face turned red and his violent coughs would not allow him time to get a breath. My husband thought he was choking, but my mother instincts quickly ruled that possibility out. Just as I knew intuitively that he wasn't choking, I also knew the boy was going to throw up. I knew it, and I didn't want it to happen on my table.

I sprang from my chair and grabbed Cody by the back of the neck, pulling him to his feet with my other hand. I was racing the vomit's arrival, and in the panic lost track of the next installment of my plan. Where should I allow him to vomit? The trash can!... No, no good. He'll have to angle the vomit's trajectory and it'll wind up all over the place. I turned Cody with the back of his neck. The sink! Perfect! I half dragged the choking mess of a boy, a bit surprised that he hadn't heaved by now. Once he was safely held over the kitchen sink, what turned out to be a vomit-free coughing fit subsided. I kept him bent over for safe measure a few moments more, until he finally said, "God, Mom, let me go!" At this point I checked him out properly, making sure he was indeed ok, and gave him a loving escort back to the table.

Everyone asked him if he was alright, and my husband shared how frightened he had been that Cody might have been choking. Cody wiped his still teary eyes with his sleeve and reassured everyone that he was feeling better. My husband said, "You must have swallowed sideways, or something."

My daughter mumbled, "It was probably the broccoli."

She delivered the comic relief that diffused the whole drama, and we roared!

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's Like Riding a...Rollerblades

I had a fantastic time this weekend with friends from France, who spent Thursday through Sunday at my house. All five of them can speak some English, but we spoke French ninety-nine percent of the time. My husband was born and raised in France, but since he learned to speak English, it has become his preferred language for day-to-day conversation. This is unfortunate for me, who desperately needs to practice my French. More often than not, when I begin a conversation with him in French, he responds in English, even though it's generally considered bad manners among bilingual people to answer in "Language B" when someone initiates a conversation in "Language A" (provided, of course, that both speakers are fluent in both languages). As a result I am perpetually out of practice, and the first two and a half days of our friends' visit were torturous for me and my tongue.

It struck me, as I stumbled over pronunciation and searched for every third word, that there's actually a lot in common between being thrown back into using your second language and picking up rollerblading after a couple years off skates. How, you ask? I believe it comes down to muscle memory.

A few weeks back I took my daughter and her friends to the roller skating rink. In my twenties, I lived on the coast in Los Angeles (Hermosa Beach) and clocked more time on my rollerblades than I did in tennis shoes. However, tying a pair of skates on after all these years proved deceptively challenging. I could keep up with the girls, propel myself forward, glide, and come to a reasonably quick stop, but all my movements were jerky and barely in control.

After a few dozen laps, I felt the muscles in my shins relax. My inner thighs remembered to do most of the work. As I sat back more on softer knees, I noticed my weight transfer from over my toes to over my heels. I got my glide on. It was as if the clock had turned back a decade and the fluid, slolam sashay returned to my movements. With little effort, I sped down the straightaways and crossed my outside skate over the inside one on the curves. It was awesome, like flying.

This kind of muscle memory also comes into play when picking back up a second language. English speakers keep their tongues more or less in the center of their mouths when they speak. When speaking in French though, your tongue must perform crazy acrobatics in order to push the correct sounds out. Also, English is spoken from the front of the mouth, where French is throatier and more nasal. It took several days for my throat to relax and my lips to adopt the proper pouty purse. It wasn't something I could force, because the more I concentrated on how French I sounded, the more I lost track of the words I was trying to say. Either way, I stumbled. It was frustrating, but sure enough after a little time, my fluency came back.

Of course, as soon as that happened, it was time for our friends to leave. (*sigh*) Oh well, at least I won't have as much trouble getting back into the swing of French this summer when we spend three weeks at my husband's family's home...I hope :)

How was your weekend? Did you do something you haven't done in a long time, or did you try anything new?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A New Award!

Thank you so much, Kimberly Franklin, for this beautiful award! If you aren't following Kim yet, hop over to her place today. She's got a talented, cheerful voice and her new blog layout is fab!

This award asks me to tell seven things about myself. Here it goes:

1. I'm the oldest of five siblings...all female. As if that weren't complicating enough, our parents gave us all first names that start with the letter "N." By the time I was five, I thought my name was "Na--ni--no--nay...YOU!"

2. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

3. In college, I joined a local sorority because the national Greek organizations had to follow too many rules.

4. I started watching Guiding Light with my cousin and her mother when I was ten years old. I knew those characters (...and their children, and their children after them...) as well as I knew my own family. After thirty-three years of being a faithful viewer, I bawled like a baby when its final episode aired last September. With its record-holding 72 years of broadcasts, it is the longest running television series in history, debuting on radio in 1937 before moving to television until 2009.

5. Both my children were born in France and have dual nationality. According to French OBGYNs, "normal weight gain" for a pregnant woman is between 12 and 24 pounds. A woman with a normal delivery is welcome to stay five days in the maternity ward, in a private room with her newborn, to recover from delivery and rest up before bringing baby home. Women who experienced complications can stay longer. I neither received a bill from the hospital, nor paid any money. We were only required to file a couple social security papers before leaving the hospital.

6. And, on the subject of childbirth, I assisted in over thirty live births when I organized, and participated in, a midwifery training program in Central Africa. What an experience that was!

7. I found out yesterday that out of 104 entries, mine won first place in's official contest for January 2010. The prompt was: Write a motivational letter to yourself outlining your writing goals for the year. The prize was $100 worth of Gift Points (that's a cool million in cyber bucks) and bragging rights, of course (LOL). You can read my letter HERE.

I'd like to pass this award on to five of my new blogging buddies, and one dear friend who I know inside and outside the blogosphere:

SarahJayne at Writing in the Wilderness
Abby Annis
Anthony Duce
Megan Rebekah
Noelle Nolan

And to my dear friend and nextdoor neighbor, Tonya at Tonya Talk

I also want to thank Laurel at Laurel's Leaves for giving the Happy Award to me! I look forward to passing that along at a later time. In the meantime, pop over and visit Laurel's blog! She's always got something creative and fun to say :))

I have good friends coming from France this week. They'll be here Thursday through Sunday, so I won't be able to write or read blogs much during that time. (*breaks out in cold sweat at the thought*) If I don't get another chance, let me wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I didn't work on my WIP this week, taking advice from all you fab Followers who commented on my post Confused, and Hating It. You guys rock!! I felt uplifted by your words, more encouraged than I've felt in a while. Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart!

While I sort through the new leads I've come up with for my novel-in-progress, I thought I'd share a piece of flash fiction I wrote some time ago. I've always appreciated a good twist, a line or a moment near the end of a story that turns the plot on its head. For me, the most clever twists are those you never see coming, the ones that throw into a new light everything you've understood about the plot and/or character(s).

The prompt for the following story was, "Tell a story in 300 words or less about someone who can fly." There's a twist. Will you see it coming?

Flight of Freedom
By Nicole Ducleroir

“So, nervous?” the man asked, tightening the harness around my torso.

“Terrified,” I confided. “But she finally caved, I can’t back out now.” I nodded toward my mother, conspiring with the helmsman. “She treats me like a child. I just want a chance to test my wings."

“You’ll be fine, she’ll see.” He tugged on the line connected to the chest clip, pulling me off balance.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, embarrassed.

The boat's engine revved and we accelerated. The parachute above me rippled noisily just before obeying an insistent gust and snapping open. Suddenly, my feet lifted off the deck. I heard Mother nervously cheering me on, but I couldn’t concentrate on the sound. My mind went blank, as if my thoughts couldn’t keep up with the swift ascent of my body. Adrenalin-infused exhilaration issued from the depths of my soul, eradicating my fears. I unclamped my hands from the straps, and spread my arms open wide.

For precious fleeting moments I was a sylph soaring through the balmy air, freed from the heft of my oppression. Time was irrelevant; the past and the future ceased to exist. The heady perfume of thalassic air intoxicated me. I heard howls of carefree laughter, yet didn’t recognize my own voice. It was over too soon.

I was immediately aware of my descent. The world came back into focus for me. I heard the boat below, and Mother’s overprotective voice urging the crew to be cautious. Spray from the wake diffused a mist of sea water on my face as I was reeled in; I tasted salt on my lips. Assisting hands pulled me to the deck.

“How was it?!” gushed Mother.

“Amazing!” I beamed.

“Here,” she said, “I’m handing you your cane.”

My smile quavered as I reached out to accept it.


I'd love to hear your reactions to this flash fiction piece. Also, how important is a twist at the end of a story?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jungle Love

[This was my Valentine's Day post, that I didn't get a chance to post yesterday. It's the story of how my husband and I first met. I hope you enjoy it!]

The sound rumbled like sudden thunder, shattering the still African night. Vibrations coursed through my mud brick house with fingers that stripped me of sleep and forced me upright in the bed. I knew my searching eyes were open, but I was blinded by the inky air, devoid of light. In my confusion, I couldn’t get my bearings. Then I realized what I was hearing. The sound, coming in waves of intensity, was a car engine being revved on the dirt road in front of my house. Not a car, I thought, a truck. And then I heard a man’s voice call out.

“Pascal! Ouvres-moi toute suite!”

My heart, hammering in my chest from being shocked awake, skipped to a new tempo. Christian! Christian was here. I sprang into action just as I heard Pascal respond with a sleepy “Oui, Patron.” It would only take him a few seconds to open the wide bamboo gate and emit the Land Cruiser. I scrambled across the lumpy mattress to the edge of the bed and groped for the mosquito net. Clumsy, misjudging hands pushed hard against the coarse openwork, knocking a candle to the floor from its perch atop the three-legged stool outside the mesh, pushed up against the bed frame. No matter, I thought. I knew besides the candle and the book I was reading before I blew it out, there was a flashlight on that stool. At the edge of the mattress, I grasped two handfuls of the netting just as the engine cut outside, and silence rushed into the darkness around me.

I yanked up on the mosquito net and it came untucked from the mattress. I paused, heard Christian speaking in a muffled tone to Pascal, the Central African employed by the Peace Corps to guard my house each night. I wondered if Christian was scolding him for sleeping on the job. Christian was a Frenchman employed by an Italian construction company, working on a World Bank funded project to resurface the country’s dirt roads washed away each rainy season. Unlike me, he hadn’t been sent to the Central African Republic on a grass root mission. He was a boss man, un patron, a kota zo. Someone the Africans respected without question.

I pushed my legs out and let them dangle off the edge of the bed while I pulled the bottom of the mosquito net behind my head. I was naked. At just four degrees north of the equator, there were exactly twelve hours of daytime and twelve hours of night. At six in the evening, the sun slid below the horizon during a five-minute-long dusk that reminded me more of God simply hitting the wall switch. Darkness as black as midnight reigned for the entire twelve hours, but the intense heat absorbed by everything during the day radiated long into the night. Inside my stifling bedroom, pajamas weren’t an option.

There was a quick succession of raps on the door that I felt in my chest. Christian called my name through the rough wood. I shouted, “Just a minute.” My toes felt around for the flip flops on the floor, and my hands fumbled for the flash light on the stool. I was more awake now, and suddenly nervous as hell.

I’d met Christian the week before. I was riding my Peace Corps issued mountain bike back home, from the little town ten kilometers away where I’d chosen to launch my project. The day had been brutally hot, and no shade reached me as I rode along the wide, dirt road. Periodically, a bush taxi the size of a yellow school bus lumbered past. Each time I had to stop, straddle my bike, and cover my nose and mouth as a choking two-story-high cloud of red dust engulfed me. It clung to my sweaty skin, and I looked redder and redder as the day wore on. New rivulets of perspiration left tracks in each subsequent layer of dust. To add to my less-than-alluring appearance, my long hair was pulled into an unattractive ponytail, and I wore my glasses since the dust was certain torture for my contact lenses. I shudder imagining what I smelled like.

Christian pulled his Land Cruiser up alongside me. Through the open passenger side window, he introduced himself in French and commented on the heat. He asked where I was headed and I told him I lived in Bambari. I still had about seven kilometers to go, so when he offered me a lift I took it without hesitation. Plus, I thought he was pretty cute.

The conversation was surprisingly easy, considering my French was so bad. We laughed easily, and the ride was over too quickly. He lifted my bike from the back of his vehicle and propped it against the gate in front of my house. My smile stayed on my lips long after he drove away.

The next day, I saw him again on the road, and he asked me to lunch the following Sunday. I’d been in-country for almost a year at this point, and I hadn’t felt excitement like this since leaving the dating game behind in the States. I even pulled out my dusty make-up bag, vainly included when I packed but not taken out of my luggage since arriving. The mascara was clumped from the humidity, but I managed to coat my lashes just the same. We spent an amazing time together, and I didn’t make it home until Monday morning.

That was three days before, and I hadn't seen Christian since. In a world with no telephones, there was no way to talk to someone unless you were face to face. Those days following our date were torturous. I wondered if I’d ever see him again. I worried he’d lost respect for me, or that I’d lost respect for myself. As the days went by, I second-guessed every conversation, every look, and every touch. And now, in the dark of night, Christian was here, knocking on my door.

My heart pounded. Every nerve was alive. My hand closed over the flash light and I pressed the button. Nothing happened. In the dark, I jabbed the button over and over, but the flash light remained off. Shit.

“Nicole? Tu es lá?”

“J’arrive!” I called out. Goose bumps covered my body now. Reaching under the mosquito netting, I pulled the queen-size sheet off the bed. I stood, wrapping the cool, white cotton fabric around my suntanned back and under my arms. I held the whole thing about me like a giant bath towel; gathered fabric excess fell over my arm like a train. I could feel my long, bed-mussed hair drape across my bare shoulders and fall down my back. Shuffling across the gritty cement floor, feeling my way through the gloom, I made it to the front door.

When Christian tells this story today, he says that when I pulled open the door, I was the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid eyes on.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Confused, and Hating It

I can't get the story out. I wanted to say something, make a statement with my work. But now I don't know what it is I wanted to say. It's gone. Evaporated, making me doubt it was ever really there in the first place. What do I do? The idea well has dried up and I'm dying of creative thirst. Where are you, muse? Why have you foresaken me? The original premise was so promising, so full of suspense. But it's been weeks now that I've tried to craft the rest of the plot, fill up the arc and connect the dots. I've got Point A and Point Z, but the rest of the alphabet won't come out of the the shadows. Any storyline I think of is like a wisp of smoke rising from an extinguished candle, that fades the more I watch it, lost to the air. The frustration is terrible. Do I give up? Isn't there a time when writers just have to admit the project is over?

Maybe I waited too long. The story's energy consumed me at one point. But now, I feel unoriginal, uninspired, and confused. I read an article once in Writer's Digest that the author presented as an open letter to his unfinished manuscript. He told it he was breaking up with it. Leaving it for another. He said he was done with their inability to communicate, done with the dysfunction. Have I reached a similar impasse? Have I been hanging on to a dysfunctional relationship I have with my story?

Writing a novel is a long process. I don't want to waste my time, spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Or is this THE process? Am I going through something normal and necessary, some kind of first-time novelist's trial by fire? I'm so confused and so disheartened.

Does anyone remember a time they felt like me? Is this writer's block? It sucks. Whatever it is.

~Artwork above created by the talented Choiseul @ View the whole portfolio here~

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: The Giver

[Back cover blurb:] Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war of fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.

When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it's time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Giver is one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. Lois Lowry created a world where society has eradicated hunger, poverty, and war. There is no inequality, no conflict. And no choice.

The story is told through the eyes of young Jonas. It begins, "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened." By the end of chapter one, I'd assumed a truth about Jonas, one he'd soon learn about himself: He is special. This was made known to him at the annual Ceremony, when he and the other "Twelves" (the Community identified its children as groups based on their age) were to receive their life assignments. The Elders brought each Twelve to the stage one at a time, and Jonas watched with anticipation as his friends Asher and Fiona went before him to receive their occupations. But when it was his turn, Jonas learned he has been chosen for something rare, a unique vocation bestowed on only a few in the history of the Community. This honor put him under the tutelage of The Giver, an Elder who must pass the torch of knowledge and wisdom to Jonas.

In this provacative, John Newberry Award winning novel, Lowry asks her readers to contemplate the price of utopia. If, by collective concensus, humanity organizes itself in ways that only tolerate fairness and equality, then every citizen prospers. The risk of famine disappears when overpopulation is resolved. When children are observed from birth, and their natural talents and aptitudes are recognized, they can be placed in occupations which will render them the most content, productive, and successful. But at what cost?

In the course of his training, Jonas learned hard truths about freedom and choice. Justice and injustice became blurred, subjective, and confused to his new way of thinking. Rules didn't look the same to him anymore. As I followed Jonas in his journey of awareness, I began to see my own world through new eyes.

One of my favorite moments in this book (the following is not a spoiler) was when Jonas realizes there is color in the world. The Sameness his society had adapted, and which he had always known, relied, in part, on the absence of color. This concept made me think about what we classify as paranormal. There are documented cases of people who possess the ability to read minds, travel along astral plains, move objects without touching them. Yet the overwhelming majority of our society disbelieves these possibilities. Most grow up being told paranormal experiences aren't real. They don't exist. Perhaps, like Jonas, we only have to believe those things are possible to bring them into our sphere of reality. The first time Jonas glimpses color reminded me of the first time I saw an aura. I was overwhelmed with emotion, in part because I could finally confirm auras do exist, and partly because I realized I'd always been able to perceive auras, I just didn't know what it was I was seeing.

The ending of The Giver is as debatable as the questions raised throughout the book. In fact, I was inspired by the last chapter of this book to write yesterday's blog post about story endings. Lowry doesn't hand her readers the story's conclusion wrapped up with a pretty bow on top. Instead, she lets you interpret her words. My son, Cody is eleven and read The Giver before me. Yesterday, I asked him what he thought happened at the end. I won't share our conversation, except to say one of us sees the ending through the eyes of an idealist and the other through those of a realist. I don't think it matters who's right. Regardless of how you interpret the ending, Lowry uses The Giver to make a statement: Free will is synonymous with Freedom.

The Giver is book one of a triology. The other two book are:

Gathering Blue -- In this speculation on the nature of the future of human society, life in Kira's community is nasty, brutish, and, for all the ill and dis-abled, short.

Messenger -- In this novel that unites characters from "The Giver" and "Gathering Blue," Matty, a young member of a utopian community that values honesty, conceals an emerging healing power that he cannot explain or understand.

I highly recommend this book. Book clubs will love discussing it!

The Giver, Copyright 1993 by Lois Lowry
Published by Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books
ISBN: 0-440-23768-8

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Avoid Weak Story Endings

A story, like all “good things,” must come to an end. The ending, also known as Denouement, is as important to the story as the Beginning and the Middle . A good ending leaves the reader with a sense that the story has come to a logical, satisfying conclusion. For writers, it's important to remember what an ending shouldn’t do. By understanding what constitutes a weakly executed ending, we're more likely to avoid these pitfalls in our writing.

A story ending SHOULDN’T:

Leave Unanswered Questions – Regardless of the length of a story, be it flash fiction or a novel, the ending should tie up all the loose plot strings. All issues, minor or major, introduced in a story must serve a purpose and move the plot forward. By the end of the story, the reader should have answers to all questions posed in the narration and have learned how the character(s) cleared all their obstacles.

Make the Reader Decide What Happened – You want your reader to feel satisfied by the outcome of the story. This doesn’t mean you need to spoon-feed exactly what happens in a play-by-play commentary. Readers enjoy having enough information to imagine what happens next, beyond The End. What frustrates most readers is realizing the story has led them to a plot intersection, and the author has placed on their shoulders the burden of deciding how the story ends.

Be Too Abrupt – Have you ever read a story that was chugging along at an enjoyable pace, and suddenly it was over? This usually happens when the climactic scene is pushed up against the ending, and the writer skipped right over the falling action. Authors need to be mindful of the pacing of events and manipulate the emotional impact each moment has on the reader. The reader should be left with the impression the ending was the natural conclusion to the story, the terrain that leveled out at the bottom of the hill, rather than feel like the plot had been pushed off a cliff.

Be Too Long – Another pacing problem occurs when the time between the climactic scene and the story’s end is too long. The story seems to fizzle out. All the excitement of earlier scenes is forgotten. If your ending is too long-winded, you risk boring your reader.

Be Illogical – Your ending must make sense on two fronts, Plot and Character(s):

*Bullet* Plot: Resolution of the central problem has to be achieved by means of a logical chain of events. Suspension of belief is sacrificed when the ending promotes a breakdown of cause and effect. The reader simply won’t buy it.

*Bullet* Characters: If during the story’s ending, a character behaves in a way that is in direct contrast with his or her established personality, with no logical explanation for the shift in behavior, the reader is going to raise an eyebrow. The character, and the ending, will feel false and contrived.

Be Too Predictable – Readers love a story with a twist. It doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering. However, a creative ending that sheds new light on what the reader believed to be true will ‘up’ the entertainment factor of the whole story. On the other hand, if the reader has suspected a predictable ending since the rising action, s/he will feel let down, and the entire story will seem uninspired and weak.

Have a “Night in Shining Armor” Save the Day – Readers want to feel emotionally invested in the main character’s future. They embrace the hero or heroine, who is flawed with conflicts s/he must rise above in the course of the story. When readers have been rooting for the heroine, cheering her on through her struggles, they aren’t going to appreciate someone else swooping in at the end of the story and saving the day.

The ending you write is important to the overall success of your story. It will show how far your characters have come since the beginning and wrap up their story. A clever ending leaves your readers inspired, satisfied, and intrigued. And even the strongest writing will fall short on the reader’s entertainment yardstick if the ending is weak.

The following article is a must-read! Willie Meikle explains ten overdone, clichéd endings that he feels, (and I agree!), should be avoided at all costs:

10 Story Endings To Avoid

I just finished reading The Giver, by Lois Lowry. (Look for my review in tomorrow's post.) The ending is cryptic and could be interpreted in several different ways. Do you like endings that ask you to interpret their meanings? Or do you prefer an ending that gives you the sense that you know what has, or will, happen? Is a "good ending" a "happy ending," in your view?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

It's Tuesday, the day I share an excerpt from my WIP, Overcome. Below is from an early chapter. Enjoy!
Julie heard a metallic screech from below as she gained the landing, of another train pulling into the station. A steady stream of chill October wind blew down from the street above and whipped Julie’s straight blonde hair away from her face. With nowhere to go, the gale slammed into a cold concrete corner, trapping the dead leaves gathered there in its blustering eddy. Julie headed for the last stretch of escalators, checking her wrist watch, as had become her habit, to time the long ride up the mechanical staircase to the top. It was a silly little game, but it gave her sleep-deprived mind something else to concentrate on and forced her memories of last night’s horrors into temporary retreat.

Near the top of the escalator, she twisted to look down toward the fare card machines, shrunken now by distance. Her eyes fell on the man riding at the escalator’s halfway point. From his upturned face, piercing eyes peered from under the brim of his fedora, locked on her. Julie faced forward, and a sudden gust stole the air from under her nose. He was the man who’d been seated next to her, who’d spoken to her on the train. With a sharp inhalation of icy air, she thought back. She’d stood as the train pulled alongside the platform. The man had remained in his seat, as if he weren’t detraining. Julie had had to step over him. Unease was prickling the hairs on her neck. She was still new to the city, but she told herself she should trust her instincts. Something just felt wrong about seeing the man on the escalator when he clearly hadn’t intended to get off at her stop…or did he? Her weary mind sought to excuse her questions. Maybe he was unfamiliar with this part of the city and didn’t realize until the last minute that this was his stop? Perhaps his plans had suddenly changed? She glanced at her watch as she stepped off the escalator and onto the concrete sidewalk. Ten minutes, ten seconds. Not bad, by D.C. Metro standards, she thought. But the echo of another thought reverberated in her mind. Perhaps his plans had suddenly changed.

With a brisker pace than her fatigued legs preferred, Julie turned and headed north up Connecticut Avenue. Her apartment was four blocks from the Metro Station. Even if she could maintain this speed it’d take her seven or eight minutes to get there. And she wanted to get there as soon as possible.

Thirty feet from the escalator entrance the traffic light turned red, forcing Julie to halt at the intersection. She glanced over her shoulder and dread spread through her chest and squeezed her heart. The man in the fedora had arrived at street level. He scanned the south side of Connecticut Ave., and then turned his sweeping gaze north. His survey stopped cold when his eyes fell on Julie, and without looking away, he began to walk toward her. Julie’s head snapped forward, feeling a balloon of panic burst in her gut. Just across the intersection, her darting eyes spied the pastry shop with its glowing sign lit by wavy orange heat lines rising from a garish neon blue muffin. A shrill ringtone shattered the air next to Julie and a startled yelp escaped her lips. The woman to Julie’s right didn’t notice. She glanced at her phone, smiled, and flipped it open. “Stephanie! Great to hear from you…”

Julie stared at the woman’s smiling profile as a momentary sense of calm washed over her. Stephanie. A sign from Stephanie. I should go to the bakery; I’ll be safe there, thought Julie. Maybe it was silly to think her sister was sending her messages from beyond, but so what? The man had to be just feet from her now, only the crowd of pedestrians preventing him from reaching out and grabbing her. Her heart pounded at the thought as the light changed. She bounded off the curb and dashed across the street. Moments later, she slipped into the bakery to the welcoming chimes of little bells hung above the door.

“Good morning,” a robust woman behind the counter called out.

Blindly, Julie moved in the direction of the woman’s voice, watching the whole time over her shoulder and out the storefront windows. The man in the fedora appeared, walking slowly, peering inside. Julie reached the counter but didn’t turn when the woman addressed her again.

“Miss, is everything okay?”

The man with the fedora slowed his pace, looked in with the pinched expression of a game show contestant who's blurted the wrong answer. Or was that the strained look of someone tempted by the rich smell of coffee but running too late to stop? The moment was too fleeting to sort through. She thought she saw one side of his lip curl up into a smile, (or was it a sneer?) before he walked on and out of view. Only then did Julie release her held breath.

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Awards!

Thank you to Christine Danek for the Honest Scrap award! I just love her site, and I hope you visit it today!! For this award, I'm supposed to tell you all Ten Honest Facts about myself. (*gulp*) it goes:

1. I worry I'm delusional and my writing actually sucks. (All right! We're off to a great start, lol!)
2. I won't join FaceBook because (with the exception on one or two examples) I'm horribly un-photogenic.
3. I've lived on three continents with my husband.
4. Even though I push my kids to learn French, I quietly regret letting them in on what has always been my husband and my secret code.
5. I have, on more occassions than I care to admit, eaten an entire pound-bag of M&Ms.
6. Rap music is my guilty pleasure and I can sing most of Ludacris' lyrics.
7. I hate housework.
8. I was sad both times I saw my children's first sonogram images and learned they weren't twins.
9. If I could afford to buy all the clothes I wanted, I would dress everyday like Jennifer Aniston in "Along Came Polly."
10. I support my kids' desire to try new things, but at her request I signed my daughter up for softball today...and I'm so not looking forward to the upcoming season!

Yikes -- now you know a lot more about me (*blush*). I'd like to pass this award on to:

Terresa Wellborn
Sarah Ahiers
Emma Michaels

Thank you so much to Kimberly Conway for this awesome award! Visit her site, if you haven't met her already, it's a beautiful blog!

I'd like to pass this on to some of my new BlogSpot friends, each of which has inspired me this week:

Natalie Bahm
Julie Dao
Tiffany Neal
Natalie Murphy

Also, I want to thank my friend, Piedmont Writer for the Happiness Award! I had just gotten it the day before, but I will be sending it out to blog friends this week. In the meantime, visit Piedmont's blog -- she's got a wonderful, authentic voice and her documentation of the query process, where she is right now, will help writers of all stages in the game.

Thanks to all of you for these awesome blog awards!! I appreciate my new friends so much :))

Review: The Hunger Games

[Book cover blurb:]
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to
participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before -- and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Acclaimed writer SUZANNE COLLINS, author of The New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles, delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, advernture and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.

I couldn't put The Hunger Games down. Collins created a harsh, post-apocolyptic world where a cast of vivid characters captured my attention in the first chapter and clung to my fancy until the final sentence. Heroine Katniss Everdeen was smart and adept, fiercely loyal to her sister and best friend, and a true survivor. I rooted for her unwaveringly. Her allies became my friends: Gale, Prim, Cinna, Peeta and Rue. Her adversaries became my enemies: Cato, Clove, Glimmer, and the other tributes. I was drawn into Katniss' world where oppression and deceit were the norms, and the near-constant tension was excruciating. This was one exciting read!

Collins is an author who clearly understands the concept of high stakes in fiction. The premise for The Hunger Games could have been inspired by the realily television show "Survivor." It's plausible to imagine Collins thinking, I could write a book about a survival game where instead of voting players off the island, you eliminated them by actually killing them. The last player standing wins more than a million bucks, she wins her LIFE.

Like "Survivor," her version includes a television audience (viewing is mandatory) and all the pageantry that goes into an Olympic-level sporting event, including stylists whose job is to project through the player a certain character; costumes that portray the personality of that character; and constant surviellance by camera crews that capture every moment, real and construed, for the audience.

As if the concept of watching a fight-to-the-death game of survival on television weren't intense enought, Collins raised the stakes again: She made the players children. In her futuristic country of Panem, the totalitarian government requires that one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen be chosen from each district to participate. No child can refuse; no parent can protect his family. And everyone must watch or be cruelly punished.

This was one of those stories where I constantly found myself thinking, How the hell is Katniss going to get out of this situation? And each time her thought process worked through what I fathomed as hopeless, and she came up with a clever course of action that, with some luck along the way, got her through to the next crisis.

The only time I questioned the narration was in the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. It was hard for me to answer Collins' calling to accept whole-heartedly Katniss' naivity towards Peeta's feelings for her. Katniss misreads every look, every inkling that pointed to Peeta's true emotions. Although her whole life growing up in District Twelve was bleak and carnal as far as finding food and other means to survive, I couldn't help thinking these kids were nonetheless teenagers. Where were Katniss' raging hormones? How could she be so physically close to Peeta, kissing him, with his energy so tuned into hers, and not react to him? It was hard for me to buy into, even though I found myself believing all along (even if Katniss was, again, clueless) that her heart belonged to Gale. In fact, I can't wait to read Catching Fire to learn what happens next with Katniss and Gale.

I'd read many shout-outs around the blogosphere from YA writers, accolades for The Hunger Games. I officially lend my voice to their cause: Read this book! You won't be disappointed. But beware, don't start it if you can't devote time to reading that week. I devoured it in two days, and I'll bet you'll find yourself unable to put it down too.

The Hunger Games, Copyright 2008 by Suzanne Collins
Published by Scholastic Press
ISBN - 13:978-0-439-02348-1

Did you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you recommend it to others?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why Fact Is Important In Fiction

Yesterday, I learned a great deal about my WIP's protagonist, JK. More specifically, I realized her occupation -- which is important to her central conflicts -- won't work. I have to scrap most of her scenes and go back to revise her character arc outline.

You see, JK is deeply affected by a death that occurred in her early childhood, and her sub-conscious obsession leads her to ignore her true passions and pursue a career as an end-of-life caregiver.

At least, that was the plan until yesterday. I'd scheduled a meeting with a hospice nurse whose daughter and mine are in the same class. She in turn invited her collegue, and the three of us sat down at the private care facility they operate. I'd arrived prepared with fifteen or so questions to guide me through the interview.

I needed to understand how patients come to be under their personal care, and what exactly their jobs entailed. But those things weren't what I was most interested in learning. The questions I couldn't wait to ask were: What was it like the first time you witnessed a patient die? Do you become emotional when some patients pass? What's the worse death you've ever witnessed? Morbid, right? As I'd anticipated, the direct experiences they shared with me shed light on how I can craft JK into the character I envision her to be.

Unfortunately, I also realized that JK is too young to be a hospice nurse. I see her nearing her mid-twenties, at that confusing time in a person's life when she must face her childhood demons or resign herself to a lifetime under their oppression. The nurses told me it's unheard of for a nurse straight out of school to be hired by a hospice organization. There must be a minimum of clinical experience in a hospital setting, they said. I learned this when they responded to this question: What personality characteristics do you possess that helps you the most in your job as a hospice nurse? They both answered, "Self-confidence." During follow-up questions, they explained the patient's family members look to the hospice nurse as the expert, the one who garners their sense of security at a time when they feel helpless and frightened. A hospice nurse calls all the shots, relying on her ability to quickly assess a situation and prescribe a course of action. Unlike a hospital nurse, who isn't allowed to change a Band-aid without a physician's order. They both agreed that a nurse fresh out of school is simply unqualified to perform the tasks thrown at a hospice nurse.

So, I have some decisions to make. Either I have to alter JK's age so that she's worked in the field long enough to be a hospice nurse (which undermines most of what I already know about her), or I have to change her career path. Perhaps she's finished undergrad work and taking a year off before nursing school? During that time, maybe she's working as a Home Health Aide in a hospice environment. No matter what, I have a lot of rewriting to do.

One thing is for sure: Yesterday, I felt like a novelist. Conducting research was exciting and enlightening. I captured sights, smells, and sounds from the facility. I talked briefly to two of the hospice patients. I've been invited by the nurse to follow her on rounds one day next week, where I'll record as many descriptions and emotions as possible.

What kinds of research do you do for your novels? What tools do you bring along: notebook and pen, audio or video recorders, laptop computer, camera? Do you have any advice for me as I continue my research?

Friday, February 5, 2010


Thank you so much *Roni* for my first ever blog award!! I found so many awesome authors to follow on BlogSpot by stumbling onto Roni's site when I first arrived in January. She's a fantastic writer with an upbeat blog voice, full of information and inspiration, and if you don't know her yet, click HERE to visit her today!

For this award, I'm supposed to answer the following questions with just one word. Harder to do on some than others... Here we go:

Your cell phone: Envy-3
Your hair: Epic Battle of Blonde vs Gray
Your mother: Shy
Your father: Annoyingly Republican-Idealist
Your favorite food: Breakfast Fare
Your dream last night: Forgotten
Your favorite drink: Margarita (on the rocks, with salt please)
Your dream goal: See my book in Barnes and Noble
What room are you in: Office
Your hobby: Painting
Your fear: Cancer
Where do you see yourself in 6 years: Not living in GA
Where were you last night: Home
Something you aren't: Tattooed
Muffins: Chocolate Chip
Wish list item: iBook
Where did you grow up: Physically: upstate NY; emotionally: Centra Africa
Last thing you did: Made a cup of coffee
What are you wearing: Gym clothes
Your TV: Off
Your pets: Betta Fish named Mr. Odie
Friends: Meeting me at the gym in an hour
Your life: International
Your mood: Upbeat
Missing someone: My kitten James, passed away on Monday :(
Vehicle: SUV
Something you aren't wearing: Earrings
Your favorite store: Barnes and Noble
Your favorite color: Blue
When was the last time you laughed: 6:05 a.m.
Last time you cried: Monday (see “Missing Someone”)
Your best friend: Hubby
One place you go over and over:
Facebooking: Never
Favorite place to eat: France

I'd like to pass this award on to three of my new friends:

Erin Kuhns at Musings of a Writer Chick Living in Paradise

Piedmont Writer

Jenna at One Mystake at a Tyme

Thank you to *Natalie Bahm* for the Happy 101 Award! I was so surprised and, well, happy because I've just me Natalie. She is super sweet and I love her energy already. Her site is fab; if you don't already, sign up to follow her HERE today!

With this award, I'm asked to list ten things that make me happy:

1. Road trips with my hubby and kids
2. The creative writing process
3. Hiking in the mountains
4. Beach combing for spiral seashells
5. Rainy days [so I'm happy today :)]
6. Picnics
7. That first sip of piping hot coffee
8. Wearing a new outfit for the first time
9. Pushing myself in the gym
10. Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings

I'd like to pass this award on to more of my new friends:

Kimberly Conway

Michelle Reynoso

Lisa and Laura

This has been a blast! I'm enjoying this new blogging project more than I ever imagined I would. Thanks everyone, for welcoming this new kid to the block!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review: The Almost Moon

[Back cover blurb:]
For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally reaches her limit and crosses a terrible boundary, the world comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined. Unfolding over the course of a single day, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties within families, the wages of devotion, and the line between love and hate. It is an unsettling, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

I'm a huge fan of Alice Sebold's break-out, international best-seller The Lovely Bones, so when it was my turn to select my book club's next read, I chose her most recent novel, The Almost Moon. It was only when I visited to gather publishing information and the book's back cover blurb, to share with the club, that I first read the reader critiques. I was shocked to learn that the overwhelming feedback was negative. Scathing, in some cases. I worried I'd chosen a terrible book, and a quiet panic squeezed my heart.

I'm here to tell you: Don't let those reviews dissuade you from reading this book! Alice Sebold is brilliant. She's a writer's writer, so I can understand how a reader who isn't passionate about the craft of creative writing, who reads strictly for entertainment, would be frustrated by The Almost Moon.

The story opens with a shocking admission. "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." The first chapter is devoted to describing how it happened. Although the descriptions are horrific, blunt and violent, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. There are fifteen chapters in all, but the book covers only the twenty-four hour period following her mother's murder. All the while, Helen is introspective and grapples with her emotions as she tries to make sense of what she's done, and why. Many readers who commented on Amazon were frustrated by her and couldn't understand her motives and actions. Many even admitted being unable or unwilling to finish the book.

They missed out on a profound literary experience. Sebold masterfully weaves symbols and themes into her plot. There are layers of meaning to Helen's every thought and perception. At first, I couldn't understand her, and all my sympathies were with her mother, Claire. But as Helen's story is exposed and her lifetime spent with a mentally ill mother is revealed, I found myself choosing sides. In the end, I sided with Helen, who became a wholly sympathetic character in my eyes.

The Almost Moon will stay with you long after the final chapter. Its scrutiny of relationships, particularly the inseverable bonds between mother and daughter, resonates with honesty and complexity. And if you are a writer, you will be inspired to take your craft to the next level. For Sebold truly is a masterful writer.

The Almost Moon, Copyright 2007 by Alice Sebold
Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
ISBN 978-0-316-67746-2

Have you read this book? If so, did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to others? And if you haven't read it, are you interested now to pick it up?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My 2010 Reading Challenge

I'm not sure which I began doing first, reading or writing. My love for both extends beyond my earliest memories. Especially during my tween and teen years -- when life was hard enough for an average girl without the extra burden of abuse thrown into the cruel mix -- I retreated to the safe and magical worlds of books. Some were universes crafted by others, and some were existences of my own making, penned into journals and kept safe from oppressors' eyes. Both provided escape. Both were my salvation.

Today, I write the kinds of stories I'd enjoy reading, and when I read, I'm inspired to be a better writer. They are two sides of the same coin, really. And since I love a good challenge, I've decided to act on the inspiration drawn from other writers' blogs and give myself a reading challenge for 2010. Yes, I realize it's already February...but it's early February, and I've already completed two novels this year. So, here's what I propose:

The 100 Books in a Year challenge makes my head spin. That's two books a week! (*slowly shakes her head*) No, I don't think I should set the bar that high, not with my writing schedule and family to consider. The housework is neglected bad enough as it is! Instead, I'll shoot for half of that. 50 Books in 2010. Like the 100 Book Challenge, I'll include all genres as long as it's a book, including fiction, nonfiction, YA, how-to's, poetry collections, short story anthologies, and all the rest.

Below, I'll keep an updated list of my progress. Each time I finish a book, I'll write a review in a blog entry and link it here. And I love discussing books! I encourage any of you to let me know if you've read one of the books I did, and include in your comment whether you enjoyed it, would recommend it, and link a review, if you did one.

My List of Books Read in 2010

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - by Stieg Larsson (2005, Norstedts Forlag [Swedish] -- ISBN 978-1847242532) Read my discussion here.
2. The Almost Moon -- by Alice Sebold (2007, Little, Brown and Company -- ISBN 0316677469)Read my review here.
3. The Hunger Games - by Suzanne Collins (2008, Scholastic Press -- ISBN-13: 978-0-436-02348-1) Read my review here.
4. The Giver - by Lois Lowry (1993, Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books -- ISBN: 0-440-23768-8)
5. Among the Hidden - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2000, Aladdin Paperbacks -- ISBN-13: 9780689824753)
6. Hush Hush - by Becca Fitzpatrick (2009, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9781416989417)
7. Animal Farm - by George Orwell (copyright 1945, Current Pub. Date 1996, Penguin Group (USA) -- ISBN-13: 9780451526342)
8. The Shack - by William P. Young (2008, windblown Media -- ISBN-13: 9780964729230)
9. A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor - by Truman Capote (copyrights in order the short stories are listed here: 1956/1984 by Capote; 1982/1983, by Capote; 1967 by Capote, renewed 1995 by Alan U. Schwartz, Current Pub. Date 1996, Modern Library Edition, Random House, Inc. -- ISBN-0-679-60237-2)
10. Sula - by Toni Morrison (copyright 1973; Reprint Pub. Date 2004, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, ISBN-13: 9781400033430)
11. The Pearl - by John Steinbeck (copyright 1947, Reprint Pub. Date 2002, Penguin Group (USA), ISBN-13: 9780142000694)
12. Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Novel & Three Stories (Modern Library Series) - by Truman Capote (Original copyright 1958; Current Pub. Date January 1994, Random House Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780679600855)
13. Pickles to Pittsburgh - by Judy Barrett (1997; Simon & Schuster Children's --ISBN-13: 9780689801044)
14. Charming Billy - by Alice McDermott (2009; Picador USA -- ISBN-13: 9780312429423)
15. Catching Fire - by Suzanne Collins (2009; Scholastic, Inc. -- ISBN-13: 9780439023498)
16. And Murder for Dessert - by Kathleen Delaney (2009; Poisoned Pen Press -- ISBN-13: 9781615950416)
17. Among the Imposters - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2002; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839085)
18. Among the Betrayed - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2003; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839092)
19. Among the Barons - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2004, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839108)
20. Among the Brave - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2005, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689857959)
21. Among the Enemy - by Margaret Peterson Haddix
22. Among the Brave - by Margaret Peterson Haddix
23. The Town That Forgot How To Breathe - by Kenneth J. Harvey
24. The Mistress - by Philippe Tapon
25. Mockingjay - by Suzanne Collins
26. Paranormalcy - by Kiersten White
27. Devil Bones - by Kathy Reichs
28. Fallen Knight - by DL Hammon
29. Enzo's Mamma - by Wendy Ramer
30. On Writing - by Stephen King
31. Housekeeping - by Marilynne Robinson
32. Nightshade City - by Hilary Wagner