Monday, February 25, 2019

Speed-Reading and the February Story Report


As I stated in my previous reading report within my February IWSG post, I read voraciously. It's part of my life. I love it, but I also don't really think about it. It's not something that's always good (I block out the world a little too much sometimes), but it does bring my joy, rest, comfort, inspiration, and a jumble of story ideas in the back of my mind.

My reading count this month was aided by snow days, mid-winter break, the flu, and my local library.

I think every writer starts as someone who enjoys stories - whether they are oral stories, books, movies, or musically told stories. I enjoy all kinds of stories. And given that I enjoy "all" kinds of stories, I'm including a bit about some of the movies and shows I watched this month, too, with small reviews.

SPEED-READING (Warning: Nerd Overshare)

As a seventh grader, I was in a mandated school-wide speed-reading program. I enjoyed the challenge and loved the idea that it would help me read more books (so many books so little time). Part of the speed-reading challenge included questions after each reading session to determine how much we remembered.

Because of this, I do well with remembering trivial book details within days of reading books, but I forget the farther I get from my initial read and how much I remember depends on both my enjoyment and how much time I spend thinking over their details afterwards. Some books stick in my mind for a while. Some don't. Sometimes, I think about re-reading an old favorite and all I have to do is touch the cover and I can replay the book in my head in a fast-forward summary version with a fair number of details. It's kind of odd, but these favorites are usually books I've read more than a half dozen times or more.

So, unlike some people believe, speed-reading (especially speed-reading on repeat) does not mean I don't remember anything. I remember whatever struck me as the most important, and that means I remember the details that mattered to me the most at the moment I read the book.

Although it's not a super-power, reading fast is probably my favorite skill, which isn't something I have ever really figured out how to put onto a resume. I'm sure there's a place for it, somewhere. I probably should try to figure out if I could become a book editor (change of career).

Going back again to seventh grade for a moment: a guy at my school broke into the speed-reading teacher's desk and discovered the speed-reading scores of the top ten readers, then went out in search of those readers to befriend them. I was on that list. (The only girl in the top three.) Although I didn't agree with his reasoning exactly (he sounded a bit elitist at first), we did become friends. We talked books, shared books, and I really appreciated knowing people who loved to read like me. I miss that group of friends and when I went to prepare this post, I thought of them. Wherever they are, I wish them many books and enough time to read them.

And now for the:



A truly lovely and unexpected find at the library, The Forgotten Book was magical, mysterious, full of magical realism/urban fantasy and a tiny bit of romance - all set in and near a German castle which houses a school.

I really enjoyed the characters as well as the setting and as a lover of books, it was great to read of a book-based magic system I felt I could really dig into and enjoy on multiple levels even though I'm a "grown-up" and it's YA. I was really impressed by the author, Mechthild Glaser, and I plan to look up more books by her.

The Hills Have Spies by Mercedes Lackey - I enjoyed the way Lackey changed the "trope" of her own world-building in this book. For the first time in a long time, the two main characters are not in a love relationship, but instead are in a father-son relationship. In addition to that nice change, one of the characters isn't sure he wants to become a Herald.

Overall, it was a fun adventure in familiar territory with a few unexpected and welcome twists.

 In The Girl in the Gatehouse, I really enjoyed all of her purposeful nods to Jane Austen as the main character of the novel, Mariah, is a novelist in the same time period as the real-life Austen and Klassen uses quotes about and from Austen to start some of the chapters. The historical setting is beautifully described and the plot has some nice twists.

One of the reasons I don't usually write romance or read it is because the first romance books I stumbled upon as a kid were the kind where the heroine is either completely helpless or she gives up her dream/career/life to pursue the knight in shining armor/steamy dude. I never liked how powerless the women were in those books. Although Klassen does show her character, Mariah, in a tough situation and a tough time in history for women, Mariah always perseveres. She writes novels. She ghost-writes. She does what she needs to do to provide for herself and stays strong through her failures. I really appreciate that aspect of the book.

Man Overboard: An Ali Reynolds Novel by JA Jance – a thriller about a killer who cyber-bullies his victims into committing suicide. I liked the way Jance showed each character fully in characterization.

This book isn’t in my usual wheelhouse, but I saw it at the library and thought I would give it a try. It was a satisfying read from start to finish, and although I didn’t come away saying “wow” for any particular reason, I felt like Jance did a great job with characterization, action, and plot development. In fact, it was really seamless, and so when I think of that, I think “wow!” Not many books achieve seamlessness

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey is a SF-Fantasy-Post-Apocalypse mash-up with humans surviving after a massive disaster (or series of disasters) in small compounds and a few large cities, where they can protect themselves from all of the Otherland creatures who have crossed into the human realm. Out of all the nasty beasties (dragons, harpies, tommyknockers), the only friendly ones are hounds, which come in a variety of hound-like forms to work with Hunters - humans who hunt all the nasty beasties.

My only dislike (and it was a big one for me) - the prejudice that the MC has against "Christers" and the way Lackey blamed the past world disaster on Christians in a fairly obvious way. Even if the main character struggles to overcome her prejudice, I am just tired of seeing Christians or people of any other religious faith (Muslim, Jewish) getting blamed in life or fiction. This dislike made me really glad I got this book from the library.
There are crazies out there in the world, but they aren't limited to one worldview or faith background as far as I've noticed.

Corruption by Nick Wilford is the second book in his Black & White Trilogy. In this novel, Nick shows how hard it is for people to accept and embrace change. The people of Whiteopolis have difficulty in giving up their usual ways of thinking and doing things because there society has been extremely regimented and greed seemed to be a core value. The three main characters from the first novel - Welles, Mal, and Ez - are back to stirring things up, but Welles and Ez also struggle with some of the changes and how to handle them. Mal is faced with an issue that requires justice but also care-taking and kindness to the victims and he must make a tough choice in how he handles his emotions.

One way that Wilford's book stands out in the dystopian landscape is the emphasis on peaceful solutions his characters strive to find. Even when faced with setbacks and a villain who has committed atrocities, they search for a way to handle the situation as non-violently as possible.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden starts with a less-often-mined folk and fairy tale background in mother Russia. With historical events as a backdrop, we meet a family and a mother who just wants one more child, a girl child with magic/mythical powers like her mother's mother. The child is born, the mother dies, and an adventure begins. Some of this book felt truly new and magical to me. I especially loved Vasilisa's connection with horses and her connection with family. It's not often we get a backdrop of a loving family behind a strong heroine who is misunderstood, but loved nonetheless by her siblings and father.


Failstate by John W. Otte is a Christian fantasy superhero YA adventure following the life of Failstate, a teen with a power which changed his very face, as well as his family dynamic. With the help of a special necklace, he can live life as an everyday teen, but that isn't so easy either with a brother who is a show off at high school and on a reality TV series where they are both competing to become a licensed, sanctioned hero. While I didn't love the way Failstate refereed to his brother when they were both in costume - making it a bit confusing at the beginning, I do like the book quite a bit. It's an enjoyable read.

The Return of the King by Tolkien is full of Merry and Pippin - what's not to love there? I re-read this with my College Prep English class.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee used to be one of my favorites, but I didn't love it this time around. I re-read this with my ninth grade language arts class.


Job: a Story of Unlikely Joy is a Bible Study by Lisa Harper. She has an in-depth, seminary-trained approach to scripture lightened by a wonderful sense of humor (I think I've heard her refer to spanks twice in two different studies now and we all laughed).

My Saturday Bible Study group chose this book for our current study, so we started (and it is really good so far), and we'll finish sometime next month or early April. I'm not a huge fan of Job (I've read it 11 times before this so I know how it goes), I like the study so far.

Every time I open this book, I run to my WIP and make changes or work through a problem. It's going to be another month before it finish it.


My older daughter recommended Dunkirk to our family after she’d seen it with friends, but it took us a while to get around to seeing it.
I highly this recommend this film portraying three different timelines which flow into one at the end. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the characters, the unique timeline, and the camera views of the beach and sea. It was heart-wrenching, but beautifully done. My husband did have a bit of trouble with how quickly the boats sank – he knows something about this (engineer brain + experiences with boating during his childhood and with the Navy) but he also acknowledges when ships go down, they take numerous lives with them.

I could definitely watch this again – not right away, but someday.

Kong: Skull Island is a fun romp in the jungle with the beloved Kong and a highly skilled cast portraying some interesting characters. 

Only caveat: my hubs and I agree that not all military officers or soldiers are really that gung-ho on bombing and killing wildlife as they are portrayed to be in this movie.

However, again, we did enjoy the movie and the acting is excellent with Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson (finally, a strong woman in a Kong movie), John C. Reilly, and John Goodman. Plus, Kong is pretty awesome in this rendition.

Hanna (2011) – Since we watched the Amazon Prime preview for their upcoming Hana series, we decided to check out the primary source material. We were surprised by the Rotten Tomato rating. We would have given it a 40% not a 72% for dizzying (nauseating) cinematography, odd imagery that didn’t quite come together, and an uneven pace.
the acting was really well-done – and that kept the film from being a total bomb. We thought it had an interesting premise, so we are still interested in seeing what Amazon Prime is going to do with some of the same material.

Does anyone else remember Babylon 5?
We started re-watching this award-winning SF series when my husband had a medical procedure last fall.

We've loved watching it again. It's one of my husband's favorite shows and I think if you're a SF nerd, this show is just something you have to watch from beginning to end to see some excellent character and plot arcs over the course of 5 seasons.

If you haven't seen Babylon 5, I recommend it, but I also recommend giving it several episodes before making a decision on it. The sound, video, and editing quality all move upward after a beginning episode that feels a bit like a play rehearsal. At the same time, don't skip those first episodes - they contain important bits of information that play into the entire series!

In The Umbrella Academy (Netflix Series), a dysfunctional family of supers and one normal-(?) mourn their adoptive father while trying not to kill each other. And, then there's that saving the world from the apocalypse thing, which might not even be possible because they aren't the only power around town.

With the amount of cynicism in this show, I'm not sure they will actually win the day, which makes it a bit of a different superhero show.

I haven't finished watching the first season yet, but it's definitely keeping my attention. It has cynical moments, sweet moments, odd moments, and moments full of laughter. The actors are doing superb work.

I've been re-watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and taking some notes for an unnamed project (shh). I plan to watch the rest of the Indiana Jones series over the next few months, along with The Man in the Iron Mask, a few Star Trek movie re-runs and the two Tomb Raider movies.

Believe it or not, it's all in the name of research - so I'm not even watching these with my family. I'm watching and taking notes.

How do those all go together? Well, I might explain eventually if the project goes well.

I'm also a fan of non-fiction Ted Talks and I viewed this one this month: The Dark Side of Storytelling

Monday, February 18, 2019

28 Days #WEP Flash Writing Contest

This post is officially for the WEP February 28 Days Challenge, but I also have a post live over at the Insecure Writer's Support Group site today about Studying Stories - and the ways we can pick up the DNA of "Story" and storytelling.

Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is an online writing community now partnering with the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). We post the third Wednesday of every second month.  WEP challenges are open to all. The winner for each prompt wins a $10 Amazon Gift Card with winners’ badges for second and third prize.

Note: I've written short stories about Captain Wrath before and I had a few false starts on novelizations about his adventures. This is the first time I've tried to write anything with him from a 1st person POV. Although I'm currently working on another WIP, I thought of the Captain again and decided to bring him out of my own writing archives.

Questions: Did his characterization work here in 1st POV? And, what do you think of the way I started it with the Professor?

28 Days of Captain Wrath's Personal Log

28 Days from the Captain Wrath Archives is a new decryption from the earliest Captain’s Log. The source indicates that while his true identity remains unknown, Captain Wrath was a troubled individual with an obsession over his missing sister Lia. Given the truth in his own words here, should we perpetuate his mythical and legendary heroism? My colleagues and I believe we should strike this volatile, depressed individual from the Galaxy’s Hall of Heroes. (Dr. Aranus Shlump, Professor of Cultural Purity at Halitox University)

1.2.2175 - Only 28 days until I leave this job. 

2.2.2175 - I miss Lia. No one knows what happened to my little sister or they don’t care. It’s been fourteen months since she disappeared, thirteen months since I was thrown out of Earth’s Space-force Academy for drunken, belligerent behavior, gambling, and fighting. Almost twelve months since I took this year-long contract with the Galaxy Cruises Unlimited. 

3.2.2175 - I hate my job. 

4.2.2175 - Some shifty-looking rich passengers from Helven took over the suites and brought large containers to their quarters. I don’t like it. Something’s off about them. 

5.2.2175 - I hate that I’ve done nothing worthwhile towards finding Lia. The traffickers have probably already killed her.

6.2.2175 - Real pirates don't dance.

7.2.2175 - I should be looking for a different job, but who would want to hire me?

8.2.2175 - I’d really like a drink, but Telli – my Dwarvinian first-mate and mothering nanny – won’t let me have anything stronger than bubbly juice. 

9.2.2175 - I hate stomping around as a pretend pirate captain for the passengers. It’s too easy these days.

10.2.2175 - The Helvens have been sizing up my crew. We're keeping our eyes on them. 

11.2.2175 - 17 more days of singing that song.

12.2.2175 - I want to take off this mask of lies and become something more than a washed-up Academy drop out

13.2.2175 - I found a Helven in a hallway looming over a frightened child, a shape-shifter whose parents had lost him on the adventure deck. I intervened, but the child wouldn’t say what had happened. 

14.2.2175 - Four sex slaves rescued, including one human boy of seven who had been chained inside a crate. One Helven is dead. The others are in the brig.
I would have killed the rest of them, if it weren’t for the restraint of my crew.

15.2.2175 - The inquiry and the paperwork over murdering one of my paying passengers took 12 standard hours. I’m not sure if the company cared more about the paying perp or the ruined décor of the suite.

16.2.2175 - Telli and Security Officer Garth gave me a set of steel swords for my birthday. I was surprised they even knew and even more surprised to find them authentic, not decorative.

17.2.2175 - My synth-mask slipped at dinner. A couple of children screamed. Telli and Garth both tell me the Company gives their best costumes to lifers, but I don’t think a better mask will make this job any easier. When I took down those traffickers, I felt like I had a purpose for the first time in a year. But I don’t think the Secure Force will take me as an applicant with my previous record.

18.2.2175 - I would rather walk the ship’s plank over the Abyss without a bungee cord than perform another Pirate Christening or Wedding for passengers. It’s ridiculous!

19.2.2175 - The traffickers are finally off my ship. The Secure Force officers have them in custody. 

20.2.2175 - One of the trafficking victims, the young human boy, is an orphan. My ship’s mechanic, a rock troll from Terra 10, has asked me to write him a reference for the adoption agency. I agreed. I know the boy will be safe with Hank.  

21.2.2175 - We have a ship’s counselor on board now. I don’t like her.

22.2.2175 - Miss Nosy Counselor wanted to discuss my actions regarding the traffickers in her make-shift office. Ugh.

23.2.2175 - Six more days. I could walk free of this hell-job or sign on for more years. I don’t have any other prospects. 

24.2.2175 - A dozen Leprechaunarians boarded the ship last night. They irk me. I know they shouldn’t, but if a certain Leprechaunarian hadn’t been at the Academy, I might not be here.

25.2.2175 - Half of the Leprechaunarians drank all the wine for this week’s cruise! I threw them in the brig and they applauded my showmanship as Captain Wrath. I nearly tore off my mask and showed them my real anger.

26.2.2175 - Miss Nosy Counselor reminded me that interspecies prejudice like the one I have with Leprechaunarians will not be tolerated by the company. 
I hate that she’s right and I’m in the wrong. 
I need a drink, but I can’t have one.

27.2.2175 - Raiders kidnapped our passengers on an overnight excursion, but my guests thought their discomfort was part of the Adventure Pirate Cruise Surprise Package so they were none the wiser to their real danger even after I rescued them.

28.2.2175  - The Galaxy Intelligence Agency sent representatives to my contract signing with Galaxy Cruises Unlimited and offered me a different deal. 
They want me to continue to dress up as Captain Wrath, but they’re going to give me a new, weaponized ship under the cover of the pirate cruise line gig. My actions against those traffickers and the raiders got the attention of someone high up. 

I signed a ten-year contract and convinced most of my crew to do the same. Miss Nosy is already an operative, but that didn’t hold me back. I’ll be trained by the GIA and given a chance to do something decent, with a security clearance high enough to break down political fire-walls.

The only thing that could make it even better would be a chance to find and save my sister Lia. 

If you would like to know more about WEP or would like to join us, visit the website or visit the linky list.

This is the line up of challenges for the year:

Also, if you would like to read a bit about Studying Stories, come join me at the IWSG site.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Corruption Blog Tour with Author Nick Wilford + Nanobots!

Hi Tyrean! Thanks for hosting me as part of my blog tour. Today I'd like to get a bit more serious by having a look at the antidote used against the disease in Corruption and how it's been inspired by real-life developments.

(Thank you for stopping by, Nick!)

At the beginning of Corruption we see Dr George Tindleson, Chief Scientist at the Harmonian research lab, working on the antidote to the disease that is ravaging the land of Loretania. A flotation tank had been used to cure the young hero, Wellesbury, after he was infected in Book 1. But that’s too cumbersome to cure people en masse, so George needs a lightweight version that he can take overseas in large quantities. The key ingredient? Nanobots. Tiny robots that eat away at the disease cells while leaving the healthy ones intact.

Does this have any basis in reality, and are we anywhere close to using these nanobots to treat conditions? Let’s find out.

Nanobots are not yet widely used in treatments for cancer and other diseases, but it seems we’re getting close. The problem with many traditional cancer treatments is that they cannot distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy ones. Nanobots, however, would have the benefit of artificial intelligence that would allow them to carry out a pre-programmed task. They could discriminate between the various objects they encounter and would have many of the same characteristics as the robots currently used in things like car manufacture, just on a microscopic scale.

The tiny bots have the potential to deliver drugs to sites that need them and could even be equipped with tools to carry out miniature medical procedures. They could also attack tumours by cutting off their blood supply. According to NBCNews, in 2018 scientists from China and Arizona reported that they had developed robots a few hundred nanometres in diameter – to get a sense of scale, there are 25 million nanometres in an inch. These bots were constructed from a sheet of DNA rolled into a tube that could hold a blood-clotting drug. On the outside of the tube was placed a small DNA molecule that binds with a protein found only in tumours. When they injected them into the bloodstream of mice, the bots travelled to the tumours and this molecule attached itself to the protein, which triggered the sheet to unroll and administer the drug.

Nanobots would also have the ability to act autonomously and intuitively, latching on to the body’s natural processes. For example, they could use magnetic fields to navigate to where they need to go, leaving little need for external intervention.

Sci-fi writers have long dreamed of us becoming one with the machines, a prospect that has often seemed frightening. However, if these machines are small, inoffensive, and have the potential to perhaps one day offer a cure for cancer, our fusion with technology looks a lot more inviting.
Title: Corruption
Author: Nick Wilford
Genre: YA dystopian Series: Black & White Series #: 2 of 3
Release date: 11th February 2019
Publisher: Superstar Peanut Publishing
Wellesbury Noon and Ezmerelda Dontible have found themselves in a position where they can make their native land somewhere that lives up to its name: Harmonia. However, they’re setting their sights further afield for their number one task: eradicating the disease that has plagued the neighbouring country of Loretania for generations and allowed the privileged Harmonians to live in a sterile environment.

After dispatching a team of scientists to Loretania, armed with cratefuls of an antidote and vaccine and headed up by their friend, Dr George Tindleson, Welles, Ez, and Welles’s brother Mal – who grew up in that benighted nation – start to worry when they hear nothing back, despite what they had agreed. Commandeering a fishing boat to follow the science team over the sea, they soon find that, while the disease may be on the way out, a new kind of infection has set in – the corruption they thought they had stamped out in Harmonia.

Can they get to the root of the problem and eliminate it before even more damage is done to an innocent people?

*** Warning – this book contains themes that some sensitive readers may find upsetting. ***

Purchase Links:
Meet the author:
Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those early morning times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew. Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter, GoodreadsFacebook, or Amazon.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Snow Days and Determination

This last week has been snowy. (We had a final total of 9.5 inches at our house before it turned to rain.)
View Down our Gravel Driveway

Walking on Day 3

Foolish Adventures in Driving on Day 5 - getting slightly stuck in front of my parent's house after dropping them off.

The deck.

Under the trees in our backyard, it wasn't so deep.

I've had a few new worries on the health side of my life. A few medical tests down, a few more to come, and some answers, but not all the answers. The waiting and the in-between moments are the worst for me, when my imagination goes wild in the wrong way.

Last week on Wednesday, I basically shut down and just worried all day - I didn't get a single bit of anything done - not for IWSG, not for teaching, not for writing, not anything. It was just a worry day. I think I did my steps, but that's it. I breathed. I walked. I worried. I pet the cat and dog. I didn't even realize it was Wednesday or IWSG day or anything. It was a day of personal storm.

It wasn't a good day. But, I had to get through it. I had to find my way out of the other side with prayer, some journal writing filled with exclamation points, and a bit of music and movement (not happy dancing, but dancing that helped me get through the mood).

I know I can be healthy - physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. But, my health isn't going to look like everyone else's health. I have physical illnesses and potential physical illnesses which are life-long. Some of them are inherited. Some just are. I have to live with them, but I don't have to let them own me.

I may have Hashimoto's Disease, Meniere's Disease, SIBO (current, but I'm killing it with a special diet), and a handful of other issues (undergoing tests, etc), but they don't own me. I refuse to let them define me.

I am an author. I am a mom. I am a wife. I am a teacher. I am a Child of God.

I am a dancer (not a good one, but a dance around the house one). I am a singer. I am a reader. I am a walker. I have been and will be again a skier and bicyclist.

I am not giving up. I am embracing a future of hope and promise.

What do you do when you are snowed in? (Literally or Figuratively)?

BTW - Come Back on Valentine's Day for a Guest Post from Nick Wilford!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#TheIWSG February 2018

This post ended up long. Please jump to any area that interests you.

OPTIONAL QUESTION: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

Photography - with my phone and a "nicer" camera
Dancing around the house

My main goal for 2019: 

Small Steps.
Literally: I am getting my exercise in small steps (10,000 a day, five times a week), not jogging, running, or even hiking or galumphing along (my term for how I usually walk), but small steps. I have including a bit of "dancing around the house" but I am keeping it fun and light. 
Why? Because I keep twisting my left ankle, foot, and knee doing anything bigger. Small steps are my answer.

Figuratively: Taking every big goal down to small chunks and making them manageable. This applies to writing, household, and career projects. Everything can be made manageable, smaller, doable, and more positive. 

Literal: In January, I only accomplished 10,000 or more steps a day 13 times, but I did make it over 5,000 steps a day for a total of 21 times (includes the 13), so I feel like I'm definitely heading in the right direction. I did not twist or strain anything, and I spent three days on an indoor exercise bike for 25 minutes each session. 
Figurative: I took part in the IWSGPit event as a host and an author. I managed the IWSG Instagram page with fewer posts but decent engagement. I taught three classes. I went to a job interview. I queried a novel. I queried short stories. I sang for Praise Team each Sunday. I started a critique group discussion which is turning into an actual critique group in February. I went to Write-Ins almost every Tuesday night. I gave myself a few minutes of time each week to take photos.

When I look back at that, it's actually a lot. Sometimes, I don't see my accomplishments because I don't write them down.

Take-away: Write down finished tasks and accomplishments. It helps to see progress made and it gives a boost of confidence for the next small steps. 


I read a lot and I read fast (except for books I beta read). It's like breathing for me. I don't think about it, plan it, or even push myself, I just do it. I can't "not" read. If I go for two weeks without reading a novel, I start to feel desperate and cranky. So, this isn't a brag list as much as a report of my crazy reading habits.

I'll put my February Reading Report in an end-of-the-month post because this became a bit long for IWSG day ...

On my Kindle:

Writing Secrets of the World's Most Prolific Authors by Sean McLachlan. I loved it!!! It's super-inspiring and highly recommended.

Writers Unblocked: Insightful Tips from Award-Winning Authors In and Around Seattle compiled by EC Murray. It's short but also great writing inspiration with tips from authors like JA Jance.

Voice of Command by Melanie Cellier is the second book in a fantasy series about a young woman who can speak with magical power. Melanie is a gifted and prolific author of clean fantasy and sweet fairy tale romance with a tiny bit of Christian faith in the background of each of her books. As a reading writer, I have enjoyed seeing her writing skill grow with each book and series. I think Voice of Command is her best so far. (Favorite Fiction Read of the Month!)

Shifted: Siren Prophecy 1, the first in a series of shape-shifter fantasy books by a group of authors who are intent on releasing each novel six weeks apart. Again, both a gifted and prolific group of writers. This is a fun series so far.

3rd and Starlight is the third book in a Fantasy-SciFi series of anthologies with works by several authors. I really liked some of the stories and really disliked some of the others. It's definitely interesting to read new authors and new "worlds."

In Print:

The Kracken Project by Douglas Preston is about a rogue AI with some great characterization. My parents handed it to me to read, saying it was "new and exciting material," but I've read a few rogue AI books before, so it's an old trope for me and midway through I was somewhere between "meh" and "it's okay." At this point, one of the female characters (the computer programmer) had been described as - tall, beautiful, amazon, genius. I felt annoyed, like I'd been force-fed stereotypical adjectives too quickly.
However, other characters started to make a greater impact (a depressed boy with a dorky robot) and the AI herself. The story picked up speed and a few twists took place, and when I ended the book, I thought "wow." So, it makes sense that Douglas Preston is a best-selling author, even if I couldn't see it at the beginning of this book and I still think the computer programmer (blonde amazon genius) needed a few different adjectives to describe her, especially in the thoughts of Wyman Ford (a slightly less-than-believable love interest for various reasons - two tall beautiful people will not necessarily fall in love with each other if they are truly disgusted by each other's eating and cleanliness habits).

 I reread: The Two Towers (Tolkien) and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch because I'm using those books in two of the classes I teach.

Still Reading:

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel - a good craft book that I put down because I wanted to to apply what I was getting from it. I plan to pick it up again in February. Some non-fiction books are slow for me.

On Overdrive, but switching to paperback (so still reading): Big Magic - This IWSG Goodreads Book Club read grabbed me in the first chapter but I really want my own paper copy of it so I can write in the margins the old-fashioned way. (Yes, I am a tree-killer with most non-fiction books.)


The IWSG Instagram February Challenge

The February-March IWSG Goodreads Book

Recommended Ted Talk from Andrew Stanton (Pixar Storyteller) "The Clues to a Great Story." It's been around since 2014 but since I just watched it, I'm passing it along now.

What other creative outlets do you have? Do you track your progress and accomplishments?