Category Archives: reading

TBR Challenge 2016 — Enter to win a free book!

TBR Challenge Invitation

TBR Challenge 2016 — Enter to win a free book!Ooh, the challenge of the TBR…

Everyone knows what that little acronym means, right? TBR=To Be Read.

Do you, dear readers, have a bunch of books on your shelf, your e-reader, or wish-list that you are just jonesing to read? I do. I always do!

I popped over to ReadItForward to calculate how long it would take me to read all the books on my list (not even counting those on my bookshelf that I haven’t read yet!).

TBR Challenge — Enter to win a free book!And that’s: a) if I don’t acquire any more books, and b) if I read about one book per week.

Clearly, I need to up my game.

A while ago, I posted about my own TBR List and issued a challenge, and I thought it was (past) time to wave that flag again.

I’d love for you to join me. We’ll do it together!

So Here’s the Big TBR Challenge:
  1. Join the Goodreads “2016 Reading Challenge
  2. Create a challenge of not less than one book per month (for a total of 12 which, technically, you could read in entirely in December if you want!)
  3. Link me up to your challenge page in the comments below OR on the original TBR Challenge page.
  4. Complete your challenge

At the end of the year, those who finish their challenges will be entered in a drawing for my upcoming book, The Sharpness of the Knife (Working title!). I’m also casting around for some other fun prizes. This may include Amazon gift cards, more books, bookmarks, and more…

Ready? Set! Go!

Please share this page with your reader friends! The more the merrier! And the more entries I get, the more prizes I can add!

P.S. Feel free to comment below with the book you’re reading and what you think of it!

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

My calendar says a book review is supposed to go in this spot. Oops?

I’m reading a book! Actually, I’m reading three. Chronologically, the first one I started is not holding my attention very well, which is why #2 happened. However, the offer a free ARC leaped into my lap (You might have seen it in my Teaser Tuesday posts here and here…). It came with a “read by” date, so it elbowed #1 and #2 aside.

Aaaand I haven’t finished it. It is hovering on the brink of landing in my DNF pile.

Stuff Happens

In the meantime, there’s been Spring. (Yay! Warmth! Buds! Birds! RAIN!)

There’s been a (feeble) attempt to organize some of the messes I’ve collected.

And there’s been writing.

Yes, it’s true. I know it’s hard to believe at this point, but I am plugging along like a veritable herd of turtles.

I finished the first draft of Book 1. I dove into Book 2.

What Do You Mean, “Epic”?

I’ve contemplating turning the whole thing into one book, and I swivel back and forth crazily on the final decision. In the meantime, since Book 2 is so intimately connected to Book 1, I’m writing it separately.

The entire story is long.

I like long books! My friends like long books! The names of a few epic fantasy authors immediately leap to mind—And if we each made a list we’d probably get at least one duplicate!

On her blog post in October 2012, E.M. Castellan makes this comment:

“So it seems that I’m far from being the only Epic Fantasy writer struggling with a high word count.”

Yeah, huh.

I want the “epic” part of my novel to be about its awesomeness, not its awesome size, so I still need to carve out the fat.

In that same article, Ms. Castellan gives a great example of how it really is possible to put your book on a diet that will make it shine like a star:

“YA Epic Fantasy author Sarah J. Maas did just that with her 240k-word novel Throne of Glass back in 2008. And guess what? She got rejected. She did eventually get an agent with her manuscript at 145k words. And guess what? She got rejected by editors. Throne of Glass was finally published in August 2012, with a final word count of… a little over 100K words.” (Read the entire article here)

I feel encouraged!

Bookending for the Wordy

I was recently reading some things online about story structure, and one of the authors talked about how the beginning and the end must serve as bookends for the middle. The beginning inevitably leads to the end. They nest each other. (Sorry, I do not remember who to give the credit to! Link me up if you have the answer!)

This reinforced other advice I’ve read. My beginning was good (but not great). I’d written the end—and it’s very pretty, but it’s very soft. Not at all what I’d like out of it. Ugh.

So I mulled that over as I was going to sleep one night. (BEST thinking time—if I can remember my great ideas in the morning. Yes, I know, I need something to write on by the bed, but I’m lazy, and Hubby would not appreciate me turning on the light twenty-seven times in a row as he’s trying to fall asleep.)

Much to my delight, I remembered what I’d been thinking. I ran to my computer first thing the next morning and banged out the New and Improved Chapter One, and scribbled notes for the New and Improved Ending Chapter (the poor, sad thing has no number yet).

My writing partner says, “I like it! A lot better than the previous opening, actually. Surprisingly, because I liked that, too. It’s tight, serves the purpose of introduction well and gets rid of the distractions.”

It also whittled long three scenes down to one shorter one and took a chunk out of the scene that follows.

It’s a win!

The new Last Chapter is in progress.

“I love it when a plan comes together”!

Photo by evelynbelgium via is licensed under CC0 2.0
Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday: Children of Earth and Sky (2)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

So, Confession Time. I haven’t read much of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work. I recall reading The Summer Tree about a million years ago. Okay, not a million; it was originally published in 1984. I recall liking it.

And… I read nothing after that. Oops?

I always loved the covers of his books when I saw them, but somehow the books never made it into my library book bag. Time passed. Rabbit holes happened.

A free copy of The Darkest Road recently made its way to my Kindle. Cool cover. (It’s an owl. I like owls!) I haven’t read it yet—but, as you probably gathered from my last Teaser Tuesday post, NetGalley had Children of Earth and Sky, and it was only available for a limited time, so… Continue reading Teaser Tuesday: Children of Earth and Sky (2)

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday: Dragon Fate

Dragon Fate by J.D. HallowellTeaser Tuesday: Dragon Fate
Genre: Teen & YA Fantasy
Series: War of the Blades
 Smithcraft Press
Find the Author on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook

“I know the difference between a bird and a dragon. I was raised in a kingdom that is unfortunate enough to have three of those damned beasts in residence.”

~location 1839 on my Kindle (27%)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.
To play along just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


TBR (To Be Read) Challenge!

TBR_Feb2016I don’t know about you, but I have about a meeellion books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf. How can I not? New and interesting books are constantly being released. If that’s not enough, I belong to several book groups, and the people there are always talking about… books. (I know, weird, right?)

“Recently finished Schafer’s most excellent Shattered Sigil’s trilogy, it’s a great character-driven fantasy tale, with wondrous landscapes…”

“About 50% through Morning Star (by Pierce Brown) and it’s been totally rocking my world!”

“I am reading  The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1) by Brandon Sanderson. This will be my first five star rating in 2016. This book is fantastic!”

Those are just a few comments picked up from chatter on the Fantasy Book Club forum on Goodreads. How can I not add those books to my list?? (I don’t have to add Sanderson’s; it’s sitting on my shelf, mocking me even as I type this.)

I love reading…

I do love reading! But somehow I haven’t been reading much in the last several years, and that had to change. Immediately! In an effort to read even more, I’ve joined a couple of challenges:

  1. The Goodreads “2016 Reading Challenge
  2. The Fantasy Book Club’s “A–Z Challenge” (also on Goodreads)
  3. The featured books offered on the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network site for Epic Geeking Out With Authors.

TBR ChallengeFor the first on the list I originally committed to a modest 20 books, but two things happened. First, I joined the A–Z challenge. There are 26 letters in the alphabet! And I read so much in January (and had so much fun doing it!) that I bumped my commitment up by six whole books.

Living dangerously, right?

But, hey! I’m eight books ahead of schedule, and it’s only mid-February and I’m inordinately proud of myself, not to mention totally psyched about being immersed in all those lovely words, plots, descriptions, characters, stakes, humor, angst…

It’s a Challenge!

I’d love for you to join me in my literary abandon, so I’m going to issue a challenge. And a prize! Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Join the Goodreads “2016 Reading Challenge
  2. Create a challenge of not less than one book per month (for a total of 12 which, technically, you could read in entirely in December if you want!)
  3. “Friend” me on Goodreads (or send me a link to your profile)
  4. Link me up to your challenge page in the comments below
  5. Complete your challenge

At the end of the year, those who finish their TBR challenges will be entered in a drawing for my upcoming book, The Sharpness of the Knife. (Working title!) Easy-peasy, right?

Ready! Set! Go!

…And be sure to share this page with your reader friends! The more the merrier! The more entries I get, the more prizes I can add!

P.S. You are more than welcome to comment as well with the book you’re reading and what you think of it!


Featured Image: 屏東 旅遊文學館 via photopin (license) | “TBR Book Stack” by Robin Lythgoe ©2016

Your Hoard: How to Care for Your Books

When I was a fledgling my wonderful mama taught me a lot about cleaning, but I do not recall a lesson about how to care for your books. Dishes, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry, cooking—yes. Books? No. Maybe it was obvious to her. Or maybe she was so busy enjoying her stacks and boxes of books that it just slipped her mind. Or maybe I’m taking my book obsession to new heights.

But really—how do you care for your books? They look marvelous lined up on the shelves, but I don’t have a magical force field to keep off all the dust. Do you? If so, where can I get one, too?

I want my darlings to last forever and ever, so I jumped on the Google Train. Want to see what I learned? Continue reading Your Hoard: How to Care for Your Books

Drop Everything And Read!


This weekend (April 12th) marks the birthday of beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary. Her books have been delighting children for over 60 years—She first wrote about D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) in her book, Ramona Quimby, Age 8. When Cleary received letters from children taking part in “Drop Everything and Read” activities it inspired her to give Ramona the same experience. “Drop Everything and Read” programs have taken off nationwide since then—some of them spanning the entire month of April. In the fall of 2002 Barnes & Noble did a fabulous interview with Ms. Cleary. You can read it here. (Her favorite books are a lot like mine!)
What a gift to the world! The program encourages a love of reading, sharing, and teaching. A couple of weeks ago I talked about 10 Reasons to Read (and I could have gone a lot further than ten…). It is so amazing what reading can do for us!
Take the day or the weekend — a week! — and celebrate with a book (or two or three). Get comfy, turn off the computer (and the phone!), and support worldwide literacy. Invite your friends and family! Have a read-in! Taking part will not only be fun, it will be a great example of the value reading holds.
The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network (a group I participate in) actively, happily supports the initiative. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter where we’re using hashtags such as #DEAR and #literacy and #FSFNet.
What’s more, we’re making it easy to get plenty of reading material to keep you busy and happy. The group has over fifty books discounted (or free!) over the weekend.
Let us know if you’re participating! 
What are you reading? 
Who are you reading with? 
Are you doing something particularly awesome and fun when you Drop Everything And Read?
10 Reasons to Read

10 Reasons to Read

A never-ending reservoir of stories lies waiting for you to dive in. Literacy is incredibly powerful! Let me give you 10 reasons to read…

A never-ending reservoir of stories lies waiting for you to dive in. Why should you (or anyone else) care? I can give you 10 reasons to read.

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), literacy is the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

Literacy is incredibly powerful! What can it do for you?

1) Reading increases your word power

People who read have a greater variety of words to use—and a greater variety of words helps them to express themselves better. And, like a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. And the more you know, the better you’ll be able to converse with others. You’ll be able to talk to a greater variety of people about an ever-widening range of subjects. As a bonus, you’ll remember more. When you read you have time to stop and think about a particular passage; when you listen to audio or watch television, the information doesn’t always have time to sink in.

“Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Read until words become your friends. Then when you need to find one, they will jump into your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them. And you can select whichever you like, just like a captain choosing a stickball team.” —Karen Witemeyer

2) Reading is fundamental to our society

We need to be able to read instructions (for instance, on medicine bottles or road signs), follow a map, fill out job applications, understand agreements we sign. The inability to read can lead to some serious frustration.

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” —Kofi Annan

3) Reading can help you relax and relieve stress

“Reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds, according to new research.” (The Telegraph, 30 Mar 2009)

4) Reading helps us discover new things

The internet, magazines, and books are amazing tools. We can learn anything we want to learn about anything in the world. The information available to us today is immeasurable. Isn’t that amazing? But… you have to know how to read and how to operate those tools. Don’t know how to do it? Google it! (Did you know that “google” became a verb in the 1990s?)

“Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.” —Tomie dePaola

5) Readers improve their imaginations—and improve the world

The stories in books (fictional and non-fictional) feed our imaginations. We are exposed to so many worlds, opinions, views! When you read something, your brain fills in all the details. When you watch television it’s filled in for you. People with good imaginations are more likely to do volunteer and charity work, to figure things out and to build things.

A never-ending reservoir of stories lies waiting for you to dive in. Literacy is incredibly powerful! Let me give you 10 reasons to read…6) Reading increases concentration

When you read a book—as opposed to a blog or newsfeed—you have to dedicate time to the effort. Immersing yourself in the story means closing off the rest of the world. Is it hard to focus for more than a few minutes at a time? You might have been trained by our social media! Practice, though, will increase your attention span.

7) Reading teaches better spelling and punctuation

The more you see it done properly, the more you learn.

8) Reading shows other places and cultures

By learning about others, you can better understand and share their feelings and beliefs.

“It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.” —S.I. Hayakawa

9) Reading builds self-esteem

When you are more knowledgeable and informed, you feel better about yourself. People come to you for answers. And that feels good!

10) Reading is inexpensive entertainment

For the same price as a two-hour movie you can buy a book that will give you hours (or days!) more. And a library card is free. Many libraries now participate in on-line lending, too.

Oh, the joy…

Now that you know why to read, I’d like to challenge you to participate in “D.E.A.R.” (Drop Everything And Read).

You may remember that Beverly Cleary wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Since then, “Drop Everything and Read” programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Mrs. Cleary’s birthday.

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read!) A never-ending reservoir of stories lies waiting for you to dive in. Literacy is incredibly powerful! Let me give you 10 reasons to read…

How do you participate? Drop everything and read!

The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network will be sponsoring an event on their website and on Facebook. We’d love for you to join! Who’s with us? What will you be reading? Spread the word, and leave your comments (and commitments!) in the space below!

A never-ending reservoir of stories lies waiting for you to dive in. Literacy is incredibly powerful! Let me give you 10 reasons to read…

More Good, Clean Reading

Are you one of those people that loves to read but hates trying to disinfect your eyeballs after they’ve been exposed to blood, guts, profanity or sex? Yeah, me, too … And I have good news!

As the hunt continues for providers of “clean” fiction, more sites and blogs are cropping up. This time I’d like to introduce you to Clean Indie Reads:

The goal of this site is to connect writers from across the fiction genre spectrum with readers who want to discover something great. Specifically, it is to find independent authors who are writing fiction that would generally be deemed “clean”. Does that mean everything featured on this site is squeaky-clean Disney-Princess pure? Well, no. But you can rest assured that these books are clean […]

Naturally, I’m most interested in their fantasy listings, and I’m always up for a little science fiction, but they have other categories too (so easy to get side-tracked to the pages for dystopian and steampunk!).

And look at their tagline! “Home of Flinch-Free Fiction!” You might want to pay a visit to my own list of Flinch-Free reading recommendations: Read these!

Clean Indie Reads also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Have you got a go-to site for finding clean fantasy and sci-fi reads?

What are some of your favorite (clean) fantasy and sci-fi books?

Stuff Your Kindle!

It’s the day after Christmas! Are you stuffed full of turkey? Family? Joy? There is nothing in the world like the energy that comes when my family gathers to celebrate this joyous season. I like seeing the way the idea of the gift-giving has evolved in my grown children. They’re looking for more than the easy solutions and searching a little deeper, sifting through the possibilities to find gifts that mean something. They’re using their hearts.

It makes Christmas different than it used to be when they were small. Sometimes I miss the eager, childish excitement—but that’s what grandkids are for, right? I like the adults my children have become. Last night my husband asked if I’d gotten everything I wanted for Christmas. What more could I want than to have my family close, healthy, and happy?

That’s not to say I didn’t get some terrific gifts (read above re: maturity and thoughtfulness). I did! But I’ll bet it won’t surprise you to learn that one of my favorites came from a of couple years ago:
my Kindle e-reader. I do — and always will — love physical books. I have a growing collection of them, and in my new office I even have  a little bit of room for expansion. Obviously, my bookshelves should go all the way up to the ceiling, right? But I also love the notion of being able to bring my entire library with me wherever I go. (Okay, half, because I don’t have all my physical books in digital format. Yet.) It’s such a futuristic thing to be able to do. And handy!

So did you get a new Kindle for Christmas? Or have you got an older one with some space on it calling out to be filled?

As it happens, As the Crow Flies is on sale at Amazon through New Year’s Day. What a happy coincidence!

Here’s what some folks are saying about the book:

“As the Crow Flies will keep you up reading long into the night. All fantasy fans must read this one.” (Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite) 

“Robin has created a likeable, despicable, arrogant, caring, flawed, and talented character in Crow. All contradictions – I’m aware of this. He is full of contradictions as an individual, which Robin has done a marvelous job of bringing to full life. You know Crow by the time this story has ended – I already miss him! 

What I enoyed most about this novel was that the fantasy element was subtle. Yes, there are thieves and dragons and wizards and swords and such, but Robin doesn’t throw those things at you without explanation. Instead, the world she creates is grounded in a reality that is easy to acclimate to (for us as readers) and as elements of magic or the fantastic are introduced, we are ready for them. Like The Hobbit, this adventure will appeal to a broad audience because it doesn’t geek-ify its fantasy roots and Crow is so very likeable as the story’s hero.” (Matthew Keith, novelist)

Want even more awesome books?
Of course you do! What kind of question is that?
Well, good news! The sale the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network was having before Christmas has been reprised! It’s on today, too, and some of the books will continue to be sold at bargain prices for the next several days. Be sure to check the price before you buy!

“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.” 
~ Diane Duane
Happy reading, my friends!