FTWM’s 2018 Book List

Hello, 2018!

I’ll have to start by saying that I’m slightly disappointed in myself; I did not finish reading all of my books on my 2017 book list. As of last week, I was holding onto the faint hope that I might be reading the last book on my list at the turn of the new year, but alas, I am reading the second to last. Still, I did read every single new book on my list, at least.

So what novels did I read in 2017? Here follows the list in the order in which I read them (and if you want to see my original list, click here—you’ll see I read eight titles not on the original list, so I really can’t feel too bad):

  1. Children of the Mind (Ender’s Saga #4) by Orson Scott Card
  2. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  3. First Meetings in Ender’s Universe (Ender’s Saga #0.5) by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  5. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  6. A War of Gifts: An Ender Story (Ender’s Saga #1.1) by Orson Scott Card
  7. Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan
  8. Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard
  9. Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4) by Jeff Kinney
  10. Ender in Exile (Ender’s Saga #1.2) by Orson Scott Card
  11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  12. Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
  13. An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir
  14. A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir
  15. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  16. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
  17. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH #1) by Robert C. O’Brien
  18. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  19. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  20. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  21. I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011 (I Survived #12) by Lauren Tarshis
  22. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  23. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan
  24. The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book II) by Rick Riordan
  25. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
  26. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
  27. Starflight (Starflight #1) by Melissa Landers
  28. D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire
  29. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) by Rick Riordan
  30. Starfall (Starflight #2) by Melissa Landers
  31. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
  33. The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye
  34. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  35. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
  36. The Dog Who Thought He Was Santa by Bill Wallace
  37. The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book I) by Jonathan Stroud
  38. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  39. Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
  40. Red Rising by Pierce Brown

You may notice that many of the books I read are from series. Some are new series that I stumbled upon, and I just couldn’t help but buy the next book, which may be why I was set back a little at end of the year. Some of the books, to be honest, are already in my pile of books to pass on to someone else. I suppose it would be too good to be true to hope that every book I read is a winner. There are also quite a few titles that I would not have read if it weren’t for my 10-year-old wanting me to read with him. And as long as he wants me to, I will be glad to oblige.

Christmas Books 2017

Christmas Books!

Excepting the second and third books of the Red Rising series, this year’s list contains all new books for a change. One is not a novel (and yes, I do read non-fiction, although I don’t list it here unless it’s writing-related). Some books are parts of series that I started in 2017, so I can’t promise I won’t re-read those earlier books, but here’s hoping I can mostly stay on track. Included in this list is my latest pile of borrowed books from my media specialist cousin-in-law (pictured here from a post last summer). My Christmas books were also plentiful this year, as well. I received every one I wanted, plus a couple surprises.

So here is my 2018 book list (alpha by author):

  1. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  2. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  4. Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken
  5. Golden Son (Red Rising Saga #2) by Pierce Brown
  6. Morning Star (Red Rising Saga #3) by Pierce Brown
  7. Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown
  8. Ender’s Shadow (The Shadow Series #1) by Orson Scott Card
  9. Shadow of the Hegemon (The Shadow Series #2) by Orson Scott Card
  10. Shadow Puppets (The Shadow Series #3) by Orson Scott Card
  11. Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series #4) by Orson Scott Card
  12. Shadows in Flight (The Shadow Series #5) by Orson Scott Card
  13. The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
  14. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  15. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  16. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  17. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
  18. The Diabolic (The Diabolic #1) by S.J. Kincaid
  19. The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5) by Jeff Kinney
  20. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz
  21. Nil (Nil #1) by Lynne Matson
  22. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  23. A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
  24. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan
  25. The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book III) by Rick Riordan
  26. Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1) by Victoria Roth
  27. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  28. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  29. Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab
  30. The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
  31. A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) by Sabaa Tahir

This is a shorter list than those of the past couple years because working full-time, year-round has decimated my free time, but I hope I’ll be able to stick to it and maybe have some room to intersperse some unplanned surprise titles.

I hope you’re inspired to read something you’ll fall in love with this year. Happy reading in 2018!


It Feels Like a Good Day to Write 50,000 Words

NaNoWriMo 2017 Badge

Okay, first off, I didn’t write 50,000 words today. As of this moment, I’ve written 2650 words today, but right around word 2550, I had 50,000 in my word bank, which means that I won NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2017!

If you read my last post (click here), you know that I was really taking a giant leap this year, working with little more than an idea I’d gotten from a dream. (And my husband can attest that some of my dreams are really strange and don’t necessarily lend themselves to coherent narratives.)

NaNoWriMo 2017 graph

NaNoWriMo 2017 Word Count Graph

Add to that the challenge of this November’s brutal lack of free time, and I was lucky to keep up with the requisite 1667 words per day. In fact, I only kept up through day 15, as you can see in the 2017 graph. That nice diagonal line that’s going up? The bar for every day needs to reach that diagonal line in order to keep up with the word count. As you can see, I took a little dip for a few days. There was even one day when I only typed 201 words. Yikes.

And this was uncharted territory for me. Never before have I fallen behind. Usually I’m just ahead (see my 2016 graph below—and I thought that novel was hard to write), but sometimes I’m way ahead. (See 2013—doesn’t that make you sick? I don’t know how I managed that except to say that I had inspiration strike just about every day.)

NaNoWriMo 2016 graph

NaNoWriMo 2016 Word Count Graph

NaNoWriMo 2013 graph

NaNoWriMo 2013 Word Count Graph

On Thanksgiving evening, my dad asked me what my word count was, and at the time, it was only about 33,500 (which I admitted with a cringe). Already, I had a plan to write 2500 that night and the following three nights, which would put me at 43,500 before I had to go back to work and reality on Monday. That would allow me to breathe a little, and I would only have to write a little over 2000 words for the next three days, thus giving me a tiny bit of cushion, and I would validate on the 29th.

Now it’s time to admit to why I had fallen so far behind, something that’s a huge NaNoWriMo no-no. About 25,000 words in, I realized I had a major flaw in my (half-written) novel and decided that, instead of tackling it in the editing stage, I would go ahead and fix it. Yep. That’s the OCD at work. Of course, I used the opportunity, while going back, to add scenes and fluff when- and wherever I could, but a lot of it was just reading, looking for the flaw, and fixing it.

Thanksgiving night, I decided I couldn’t afford to edit anymore, fast-forwarded to the end of my story, and just started typing thousands of words of info-dump back story. Yes, much of it will be woven into the larger story, so it won’t seem as dump-y in the end (I hope), but for now, I just need the words. (I even left in an entire scene that really needs to go, but I’m being a good girl and ignoring it for now.)

By Friday, I felt like I had enough words down that I went back and finished the edit, then started moving forward again. Yesterday, the epiphanies started to hit—finally! it only took 40,000 word to get there—and I wrote over 7000 words in one day. Whew. I can’t tell you the relief I feel. Meeting today’s word count was a breeze, and now the rest of my writing won’t feel as much “have to” as “want to.”

So if you’re stuck, if you can’t see the light at the end of your tunnel, stick with it! I promise you’ll be glad you ventured into the scary, dark unknown of your novel-in-progress. It’s Rainbow-Unicornland on the other side.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Wrap Up


I had a hard enough time believing it was already November—and that was over a month ago. It’s always one of the busiest months of my year, thanks in part to NaNoWriMo. Now that we’re several days into December, I have to remind myself daily that I can relax—I no longer need to achieve a certain word count every day.

Still, even though I “won” a minute before midnight on November 23rd, that’s just a step on the path to finishing my novel. When I first learned about NaNoWriMo in 2012 (the year before I started participating), I wrote a post entitled “What Happens After NaNoWriMo?” I wanted to know if people called it quits after reaching 50,000 words or if they kept with their novels until the end (assuming their novels didn’t end at exactly 50,000 words).

As for me, I keep plugging away after 50,000 words (however long it takes). Otherwise, I would have quit after day 14 my first year. Winning to me isn’t just writing 50,000 words—it’s continuing until the story is finished telling itself. Last year, which was the most challenging so far, it took until day 27 to “win,” but it took months to finish the first draft. The experience made me tackle this year’s NaNoWriMo with more purpose.

I’ve slowed down since December first, though. Part of it is the pure craziness that is December. (Perhaps this is why no one was foolish enough to put it in December—who would have the time?) The first day of the month, when I was already up an hour later than usual, I sat down and typed 100 words, just so I wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving my novel hanging for a day.

Without November looming over me anymore, it’s a lot easier to procrastinate—even though I’m one story-day away from the scene I’ve been imagining for over a year. I’m getting hung up on things like voice. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m using four first person narrators this time. It’s what this story needs, but the problem is differentiating the narrators from one another. While this is really an issue for the editing stage, I can’t help but let the worry creep in that I should be doing a better job up front.

The other day, when writing the youngest of these characters, she said something that seemed particularly her, and I thought, This is it! But now, how to make “this” happen in every section she narrates? In a book I read over the summer, Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, there are two narrators, twins (brother and sister). These characters are unique and a little peculiar, but their individual peculiarities shine through in such a way that it’s easy to pick out who is narrating without being told whose section it is.

I love how discovery happens through reading someone else’s story. I dream of inspiring someone with one of my own stories someday—but it’s not going to happen if I don’t go ahead and write—no matter how ragged the first draft is.

Longhand NaNoWriMo?

This year, NaNoWriMo (AKA National Novel Writing Month, AKA November) is going to be different for me. I thought I was crazy to try to write a 50,000-word novel in one month in previous years, but this time, I really am a glutton for punishment. I’m working full-time for the first time in almost eight years, and November concerns me a teensy bit. I’m not worried at all about having a 50,000-word idea. In fact, I already have a novel idea for next year, too. What I’m worried about is not having enough hours in the day to get that idea on paper.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you know I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, but although I met my word count goal, I didn’t finish that particular novel in July or even later in the summer. I hoped to finish the first draft by the end of September, giving me October to edit my 2013 and 2014 NaNoWriMo novels (which are the first two books of the trilogy that I will complete this year). But I can no longer carry my MacBook with me wherever I go and write in my spare time. I’ve had to squeeze all my writing into a few minutes after my kids go to bed and on the weekends. At the end of September, I dutifully (but regretfully) set Camp NaNoWriMo aside and started editing.

Then one day recently I had a stroke of genius – I can still write longhand. Actually, aside from the inconvenience of having to read and then type my sloppy scrawl, I prefer writing that way. Research shows that writing longhand (particularly cursive, which is how I write) makes what we write stick in our brains better than when we type. It’s how I took all my notes in college, in the dark ages before students carried tablets and laptops to every class. I rarely read over those notes after taking them; it was in the taking that the magic happened.

I used to carry a massive folder of loose pages – a novel in progress – with me everywhere, writing when I could. And then, I went back with a pen and edited over my hand-written draft. A guy in my fiction workshop saw me doing this once and marveled that I still “actually wrote longhand.” Gasp! Can you imagine? This was still the early 2000s, folks. He would really flip out now, but I’m excited to employ this method again – something I’ve hardly done at all since 2011.

You might think that there’s no possible way to write longhand and still validate a 50,000-word novel with NaNoWriMo, but they have a specific guideline for just this issue (read it here). Would it be a bit of a pain to keep track that way? Sure. But it’s possible. And who knows – maybe something magical will happen if I write this novel (or a good portion of it) by hand. It’s certainly a more laborious process, but it’s better than the alternative – letting my ideas fade because there’s not a word processing program nearby, losing the thread of my novel in the absence of technology.

As for Camp NaNoWriMo’s novel, I’m still working on it, pulling a pad of paper out of my purse and adding to it one sentence at a time. I may not be able to finish it until after November, but as long as I carry a writing implement and paper with me, I’m ready when inspiration strikes.

I am excited about NaNoWriMo. I know I’ll at least be able to type on November first, and maybe I’ll make up for the time I miss during the week on weekends (and our super long Thanksgiving break – yay!). My fingers are crossed, and I’m ready to go. Maybe I’ll even regain the mark of the writer, my good old friend, the callous on the finger where my pencil rests.

The Return of the Callous

The Return of the Callous

Identity Crisis

As both an editor and an author, I used to assume that if someone claimed to be a author, he had to know how to spell (or at least turn over a manuscript relatively free of typos). But I’ve learned that that is not the case at all. And while it’s handy to be able to easily pick out typos, bad syntax, and gaping plot holes, it is something of a disadvantage when the editor part of me gets in the way of the author part.

When I participated in National Novel Writing Month, both in 2013 and 2014, I had to remind myself that to write 50,000 words in 30 days, I had to set my internal editor aside. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook recently, and I can totally relate:

Month-Long Novel Agreement

As I’ve said many times, I love both the outpouring of raw story as well as the subsequent cutting, adding, tweaking, and rearranging that come with the editing process. It’s hard to say which I enjoy more, although it’s quite satisfying to read something I’ve edited and note its improvement. And it’s also wonderful to have those Aha! moments (usually in the car or shower – totally not convenient times to write) that provide just the right solution to a problem that’s been irritating me.

This last can happen in either stage. When writing this past November, I counted on these moments to get me through long periods of stagnation. This book was the sequel to my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, and as such, I sometimes wrote something that either solved a problem in the first book or necessitated a change in that earlier storyline. I had to jot down these ideas and come back to them later; I didn’t have time to both write 50,000 words of my new novel as well as edit the old one.

But I finished NaNoWriMo 2014, set it aside to percolate while I made those necessary changes to NaNoWriMo 2013, and I even had a date written in my calendar for when I would switch gears again to start editing the sequel.

February 24th was when I was supposed to get back to the 2014 book. It’s now May 9th. I’m still on the first book. Granted, all the changes I’ve made so far have been necessary – and I even had an Aha! moment as recently as this past week. But the editor in me is tired. She wants to move on to something else. She wants to talk to the frustrated author of NaNoWriMo 2014 and hash some things out. But I can’t give equal space to both right now, and the more they argue, the less work I get done.

I presented this issue to my husband, and he gave me the answer that I knew all along (but that I needed to have reaffirmed): finish editing the first book. After all, I have to make sure I know exactly how it will end in order to have a smooth transition to the sequel.

I often hear jokes about artists and how they’re flighty and unorganized. That’s why it’s so odd for me to be a stickler when it comes to grammar, punctuation, formatting – you name it – but also creative enough to invent new worlds. For me, the two are so interconnected that they will always need to work in tandem. But I wonder if it’s freeing to not worry about spelling properly, to just hand a manuscript over to someone else to correct. Not that I write without any outside input at all – a second pair of eyes to catch typos and plot inconsistencies is always necessary. Especially because…

Writing Quote

I don’t know what numbers one through three are, but number four certainly does have a point – all the more reason for me to find out if the story in my head gets across at all, even if it’s not as eloquent or funny or moving as I originally thought. Because of my Grammar Nazism, I sometimes worry that I’m not the author I should be. Maybe I’m too careful, too precise, too self-censored (God forbid). Maybe one part of my inner writer holds back the other.

Editing my novel is necessary (it really is – auto format deleted about two-thirds of my sections breaks, and I have to put them back in), but it’s almost time to move on. Besides, I have a good incentive: CreateSpace is offering two free copies of NaNoWriMo winners’ novels again, and I don’t want to miss the deadline like I did last year. I want to give my beta readers the chance to tear another novel to shreds, to give me good reason to sink my teeth into another good edit… and to gear up for NaNoWriMo 2015. After all, these books are a part of a trilogy, and unless my muse materializes and does the dirty work for me, the author in me is going to take the driver’s seat on November first.

Procrastination (I’m Writing This When I Should Be Writing Something Else)

Anne Tyler Quote

Anne Tyler might just have a point. Take this post, for instance: I’ve been thinking about writing about procrastination for a while. And what’s the best way to do this? Well, to procrastinate, of course. (I find it’s often helpful to write about things that I’ve experienced first-hand.) Granted, I did have other topics to cover first, which I did. Then I even sat down and wrote a few paragraphs. Which I let sit for five days. Then I came back and erased them all.

Sometimes I don’t write because I have other things to do. I am a very structured person, and as such, I cannot allow myself to write a blog post or edit my novel or read for pleasure when I need to pack my son’s lunch or send an important e-mail or wash a load of laundry. But sometimes I don’t write because… well, maybe I’m just wasting time on Facebook. Granted, I don’t do that too often – and I even got rid of all the games on my phone to eliminate those distractions – but there are still plenty of times when I should be writing, but I do things that could easily wait until later instead.

If such a self-disciplined person as me has a hard time staying on task, what hope is there for writers who aren’t nearly as structured to ever start the writing process?

I have a two-part answer, and the first part is that I think it’s a me thing, separate from being self-disciplined.

This isn’t something that’s just happened to me since having kids. It’s something that’s gone on as long as I’ve written. I remember spending afternoons at my parents’ business, pacing through the same four rooms, building scenes in my mind, sometimes even muttering the lines. I would hash over those same scenes ad infinitum. I still do this, although nowadays, I’m not a teenager with a bunch of free time but a mom who squeezes all of her creative thinking into stolen moments in the shower or car or while folding laundry.

The second part of my answer is that thinking is a part of the writing process – or any creative process. Now, the problem is that if you don’t ever move beyond thinking – to the actual doing part – you are not a writer or a painter or an inventor (or whatever) but merely someone who aspires to be one of those things.

Philip Pullman Quote

Thank you for making my point, Mr. Pullman. And my problem is that I don’t always take my ideas to my “desk.”

Sometimes I’ll think over a scene so much that I just assume I’ve written it. And then, as often happens, I’ll move onto something else. Months or even years later, I may look for that scene, only to discover that it was only ever in my head. Other times, I do sit down to write, but the words that were perfected in my mind have all but evaporated. Or they just don’t ring true anymore. Something has changed between the initial thinking and the writing.

Madeleine L'Engle Quote II

Well said, Ms. L’Engle – and the same thing can apply to blogs. But I don’t think it’s a totally bad thing. I think internalizing a scene or some dialogue or just an idea is all a part of the writing process. As long as I do eventually sit down and write (like I’m doing right now), it adds up to the creative whole.

Earlier this week, I discovered an incongruity in my novel. A scene hinged on my protagonist having an opinion based on a conversation she overheard. Unfortunately, I realized this conversation happened when she was three or four and would have been way over her head at the time (if she’d even been paying attention). I had to re-work the scene, keeping the content but changing how it happened. I couldn’t move on until I’d fixed the scene, and I had to think it through first. For several days.

I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated by it. When you realize that you’ve created a problem that you have to write your way out of, sometimes the easy way out is just to give up – set the manuscript aside. And I’ve done that before, but I can’t with this one because I’m shopping literary agents. I had to tackle that scene, and after letting it simmer and then reading a few scenes around it, I figured out a solution.

Madeleine L'Engle Quote

Yet again, I feel like Madeleine L’Engle is talking to me. I am that woman with children and another job – a woman who wants to write, who needs to. After all, I can only procrastinate so long before the creative dam breaks. I have legitimate distractions, but I also have stories to tell. So I will continue to fight myself but understand that sometimes it’s okay to just think – as long as I do carve out that time to take my ideas to my desk-slash-laptop.

Speaking of which, I think it’s about time to wrap this up so I can get back to it.