Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yankee Book Swap

This coming weekend is one of the favorite evens in the department where I work, The Yankee Book Swap. It’s sort of our answer to a holiday party, but about a month late, because students leave pretty early in December, and what with finals and everything, they’re a little busy at that time of year.

The basic premise is that of the White Elephant Gift. Everyone brings a wrapped book and then everyone draws a number. The person with number 1 can select any present from the pile (I keep wanting to type under the tree here) and then opens it for everyone to see. The person with the number 2 is allowed to either take Person 1’s present or pick their own. If Person 1’s present is taken, then they go back to the pile to pick another present.

Then comes Person 3. Person 3 is allowed to take any of the books that have been unwrapped or any book that is still in the pile. Anyone whose books has been taken may steal from someone else, providing there are books to steal, so long as it wasn’t stolen from them before (at least I think that’s how it works, there are some variations in the way the game is played). There are some regulations as to how many times a gift can be stolen, but they very and I’m not sure what they are.

This is my first year participating (because this is my first year working here), but from what I’ve been told chaos pretty much reigns king. Everyone tries to bring a hot item book (or a good gag gift) and there are certain titles that go round and round the room.

Selecting a book to bring for this year’s Yankee Book Swap was a rather stressful task. I wanted to pick a great book that would just go around and around, something that was brand new or something from the bestseller list. But what? And if it’s from one of those lists chances are I haven’t read it, and I don’t want to bring something I haven’t read because what if it’s awful? And to make things even more stressful, these are English Majors that are going to be unwrapping these, bring anything too fluffy and it reflects on you.

It was driving me crazy.

So weekend before last I headed down to the bookstore and spent a long time perusing the shelves and tables looking for the perfect book.

I finally found a great one, it probably won’t go round and round the room, but it’s a good English joke and should get a laugh or two if nothing else.

It brings to mind questions of aesthetics and taste and questions of what will and will not sell (or be stolen in the case of the Yankee Book Swap). I’m beginning to see a little clearer part of the difficult jobs that editors and agents have in finding the good books in between the everything else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And The Winner Is...

First I’d like to thank everyone who commented about their favorite historical non/fiction books. Next time I’m looking for a good historical fiction book I know where to go. Also, thanks to Lauren Willig for posting on her facebook page about this give-away and for taking the time to comment on some of the selections.

And now for the moment you all have been waiting for! Drum-roll please…

The winner selected by Randomizer is:


Congrats and I hope you enjoy the book.

I’ll be posting another give-away in the not too distant future (1-2 weeks, I think), so keep checking back!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sophie Kinsella

**Don’t forget that today is the last day to sign up for the giveaway of a Hard Cover copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Sign up ends at midnight EST and I’ll draw the name tomorrow! See you then!**

Today’s recommendation is Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (author of the Shopaholic books). I know it’s not a recent book, but I still love it. It’s the story of a woman working in marketing (even though she’s barely more than a secretary) who, after a really bad meeting, gets drunk on a plane and spills all of her secrets to her seatmate. Secrets like the fact that she steals her roommate’s clothes when she’s not around, and that she feeds her coworker’s plan orange juice when she gets annoyed with her, and that she and another coworker have a code for when they want to go out for coffee. Seemingly innocent secrets to tell a complete stranger, right?

But then the stranger turns out to be the reclusive owner of the company she works for, and he’s decided to start taking a more front seat role in the company.

This story is an example of really well written chick lit. The story is well told, the voice of the narrator is very engaging. The main characters seem like real people, with real emotions, real flaws, and a slightly crazy family. Right now in the publishing industry it seems as though chick lit is dead (or is it making a comeback, I can’t really keep up) but I think that writers like Sophie Kinsella have a staying power that will be able to survive the rockings of the industry and keep producing great fiction.

Another great book I’d recommend from Sophie Kinsella is The Undomestic Goddess. When her job goes on the line because of a mistake that she can’t believe she made, Samantha goes on the run, and somehow ends up getting hired as a housekeeper, even though she can’t figure out what a vacuum bag is for. But with a little help from some friends, old and new, she just might be able to pull it off.

Sophie Kinsella is also published under the name Madeline Wickham, with several well sold titles under that name.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Covers

**Sorry this is so late. I was behind on my reading for my class today and I was trying to get it done before class. It didn’t happen, but that’s okay.**

For the past few days I’ve been trying to come up with a cool background image for the cover of my NaNoWriMo Novel. I know… I know… I should be more concerned with something important, like editing it before the deadline or coming up with a real title. But this is what I’ve selected to focus on at the moment, so *shrug*

One thing that I never really considered all that much is the cover of a book. So much must go into the planning of the cover of a book. Not all books I realize, some books are rather straight forward. If there’s a definite theme of some sort that is easily visualized you can find that image and run with it.

But not so much with other books (especially for poor English majors who don’t really know what they’re doing.

I think of the great cover to a book like The Time Traveler’s Wife. That is an awesome cover that fits so well, but isn’t something that is directly in the book.

Another such book would be Dedication. This book, much like The Time Traveler’s Wife is not set solely in one time. This novel bounces between the main character’s childhood and adulthood and there are many images that could potentially convey parts of the story, but none so well as this cover portrays pretty much the whole story.

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but a cover can tell so much about a story. To have a good cover is important because a picture is worth a thousand words (to go along with another cliché) and as any good writer knows it would be a shame to waste words.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Give-Away!

In honor of the recent release of the latest book in Lauren Willig’s Secret History Series, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (I read it on my day off and it was excellent! One of her best) I am doing my first blog give-away! It’s a HARD COVER copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, the first book in the series.

All you have to do is start following my blog (if you’re not a follower already) and then leave a message talking about your favorite historical fiction (or non-fiction) book.

The give-away will run through Tuesday, January 26, 2010 (it will end at Midnight EST) and I will announce the winner on Wednesday, January 27. I also plan to do more give-aways in the future, so keep stopping by to see what’s in store!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fancy Pants

My book suggestion this week is Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake. While all of the books in this series are good (and, quite frankly, I’m a big fan of Cathy Marie Hake in general) this one is my favorite.

It’s the story of young Sydney Hathwell, a young London socialite who moves to the US from England after the death of her father to marry a man she’s never met. When she decides that the match will never work she runs away to Texas to find her long lost uncle. The only problem is that her uncle thinks that she’s a boy, and that he has no use for girls on his ranch. That shouldn’t be much of a problem. She can pretend to be a boy for a little while… can’t she?

When she arrives at her uncle’s ranch and discovers that he’s out of town and they don’t know when he’ll be back, she realizes that she must carry on the charade far longer than she ever expected.

Big Tim Creighton, Sydney’s uncle’s partner at the ranch, sees the scrawny little boy who shows up and immediately decides that he needs to whip him into shape. He cuts his hair, changes his clothes, and does his best to turn him into a real man. The other ranch hands decide to help, by taking him to the local saloon and getting him drunk and a little time with one of the ladies that works upstairs.

It doesn't take very long for the women in their community to figure out what is going on, but what will happen when the men find out?

This is a very well told story, with great moments of humor mixed with moments of sadness and serious discussions about what it mean to really be a Christian. The characters are all very realistic and likable (the ones that are supposed to be likable anyway) and I just thought it was a great read all together.

Friday, January 15, 2010

And Now for the Insightful Chuck Post

And now for the insightful Chuck post.

Yes, yes, I know that it’s not Tuesday, but this is only partially a recommendation that you watch one of the best shows on TV right now. Keep reading…

Something I’ve noticed about this show is that many of the episodes have an interesting story arc.

I first noticed this during the season 2 finale. My friends and I were sitting and watching with bated breath what might be the final episode of Chuck ever and as we watched this feeling of dread overtook us as they wrapped up loose ends. Chuck had the Intersect out of his head. Ellie and Awesome were married. Anna and Morgan were on their way to Hawaii so Morgan could learn to be a hibachi chef. And then, during a commercial break I looked at the clock and realized the episode was only half over! There was a lot left to come time wise… and sure enough, by the end of the episode Chuck was re-Intersected and Bryce was dead *sniff* and nothing was really all that tied up.

This past week or two I have been re-watching Chuck on DVD and I noticed that this was not a story arc that they used just once, but on a semi regular basis. Just when you think that everything is all hunky-dory something happens (usually right around the half way point of the episode) and the episode is not nearly as over as it appeared.

My guess (because I don’t do screen writing or television marketing or anything) is that they do this so you feel as though you’re getting more bang for your buck. If you think that the episode is over, and then it’s not it’s almost like getting two episodes at once, even if it’s just in the same hour slot.

So check out Chuck Mondays at 8 (EST) on NBC. It’s great.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I know, 2 posts in one day (within one hour even)! Shocking!

But I found this on Rachelle Gardner’s blog and I’ve been thinking about e-readers lately (I’m considering purchasing a Nook) so I thought I’d pass it on.

Long Distance

Yes, Yes, I know I was supposed to say something insightful about a favorite book of mine, but the last week or so has been insane and it just didn’t happen. Expect a great commentary on the show Chuck in the coming weeks.

Two things today:

Check out this post on my friend’s blog about her dog that thinks it’s a cat. It’s awesome.

Also, I’ve been thinking about posting more writing on here, nothing particularly important, but little short stories and stuff that I’ve dabbled with, so here it is. The first installment:

Long Distance

Who was the first person to say that long distance relationships dont ever work? I mutter to myself as I hit the last button on the remote and flip from a rerun of Friends to a rerun of How I Met Your Mother, waiting for your call.

I bet during World Wars One and Two they didn
t tell the guys that they should break up with their girls because long distance relationships didnt work out. Or maybe they did. It seems like you hear all kinds of stories about Dear John letters a lot.

Maybe as the 49ers headed west across the frontier their mothers told them,
break up with this girl youve been courtin, cuz this long distance thing never works out. There will be some nice pretty girl out there for you to court.

t you just imagine the pilgrims leaving Europe for the colonies and that lovelorn teenage in knee britches and a funny hat looking back at the girl waving at him on the dock and his dad patting him on the shoulder and telling him, Forget about her son. Long distance things never make it.

Or the fair maiden, watching her knight ride off into the sunset, off on a crusade, while her father calls in the next suitor because
These long distance relationships never survive. What is the difference between one knight and another anyway?"

Or the Legionnaire, headed from Rome to some eastern city where his regiment has been called. Him turning and looking back at the toga clad girl waving at him sadly and his buddy telling him,
Youll find some pretty eastern slave to fill your time. Long distance relationships never last.

The lonely cave teenager refusing to go flirt with the girl in the next cave because he
s thinking about the girl who lived there before and his mother grunting at him, Well never survive if you dont forget about that girl and find a new one. Long distance things never survive.

Did they sit there waiting for a letter to arrive? To see a piece of paper with that familiar scrawl? A scroll with a recognizable seal? A rock with a picture on it? Something to tell them that the one they loved hadn
t forgotten them, was still thinking of them.

I sigh and then my phone buzzes your ringtone.

Hi, I breathe.

Hi, you reply. Thirty-seven more days until I get to see you again.

I grin.
I know. Seems like forever.

You know what they say, Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’”

My grin grows wider. I wonder who was the first person to say that.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Book that Changed My Life

**This was supposed to go up yesterday, but anyone’s who’s ever worked at a University could tell you that the first week of a semester is INSANE! So here it is.**

I just read The Book that Changed My Life. One of the professors at the University where I work used one of the chapters for one of her classes and it caught my attention.

In this book 71 writers talk about the books that have changed their lives. The authors include Anne Lamott, Frank, McCourt and Jack Prelutsky, among others, and the books they discusss include The Lord of the Rings, A Room of One’s Own, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Even though I had never read many of the books discussed, I felt as though some of the things that were said were practically pulled from my head. All of the entries were short, though some were shorter than others, so it was a pretty easy and quick read. It was interesting to see the wide variety of books that have affected writers, and the ways they have been affected.

Another aspect of the book that I liked was the fact that a portion of the sale of each book goes to the organization Read To Grow. This organization provides books for every child born in several hospitals in Connecticut (I believe) in the hope that these books will encourage a love of reading in children that will last with them forever. I really believe that reading to children is the way to create children who love to read, and any organization that encourages this has my support (providing their legit of course).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

No Kiss Blogfest! Horray!

And it’s the Official No Kiss Blogfest day! Horray!

This is an excerpt from something I’ve been working on on-and-off for a long time now. Stephanie is the witness in a high-profile murder, and is now under the protection of the US Marshalls. Because she’s deaf, they had to call in Michael, because he’s one of their only people who knows American Sign Language. Stephanie has worked very hard to learn how to read lips, so sometimes he speaks to her, when signing is not convenient. They are flying her to his home town to hide because the murderers are now after her.

Stephanie was frozen in her seat. She hated flying. She’d always hated it. When she was growing up her family had taken one plane trip, to Disney World in Florida when she was six and they’d never flown anywhere ever again, not with her anyway. She’d been so terrified of the plane and everything that was going on that her parents had almost been asked to leave the plane. They’d rented a car to drive home and she had never gotten on a plane since, until now.

“We’ll be landing in about twenty minutes,” Michael said, sitting down next to her again.

Something, some noise most likely, distracted him before he’d barely sat down, and he got up and went back to the front of the plane. Stephanie wished he’d stop doing that. Every time he did that she was absolutely terrified that he’d just received news that the plan was crashing and they only had a few minutes left to live, not that she’d say that to anyone. She hadn’t even told anyone of her fear of flying. They were actually lucky she hadn’t started screaming like she had two decades before.

It wasn’t very long before Michael was back at her side. “Ever been to Chicago before?” he asked.

Stephanie nodded.

“My family has a farm about twenty minutes out of the city. My dad and my brother live out on the farm. There’s plenty of room for us to spread a little, more room than we had in your condo at the very least. We’ll have a bigger group with us, I’ll introduce you when we get there,” Michael explained.

“How long will we be there?” she asked, trying to ignore the lurching of her stomach as they started to descend a little bit.

“As long as it takes,” he replied, not looking at her eyes.

Suddenly the plane dropped. Stephanie fought to keep from screaming. Lord, please tell me this isn’t happening! She thought.

Michael must have seen her terror because he reached out and touched her arm. “Are you okay?” he asked.

* * * * *

“Why didn’t you tell me you were afraid of flying?” Michael asked, putting his arm around her. He would have pulled her in close to him, but then she couldn’t see what he had to say next. “Stephanie, you know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you. I wouldn’t put you anywhere I thought you wouldn’t be safe.” He spoke the words aloud, but quietly, not loud enough Amy could hear them over Thom’s snoring.

Then he pulled her in close. He could practically feel the fear coming from her body. For some reason it hurt a little. It hurt him that she didn’t trust him to keep her safe in this. Not that there was much he could do if the plane started to go down, but he wasn’t going to think about that.

Michael was amazed at Stephanie’s ability to trust him in the other situations they’d encountered thus far. He knew it had to be hard for her to not ask questions, to simply go along with what he said, but she did it. Over and over again she did it. He wanted to be worthy of her trust. He wanted to be someone she could trust through thick and thin; in the big things and the little things.

Something drew him to kiss her on the forehead. He simply brushed his lips against her soft skin, but it caused her to look up into his eyes. He felt something in the pit of his stomach as he gazed into her beautiful green eyes. That something made him want to press his lips to hers, to kiss all her fears and worries away. He saw the same something in her eyes and he leaned forward. Slowly Stephanie’s eyes fluttered shut as she licked her lips slightly.

Just before their lips met the plane dropped again and Stephanie stiffened before burying her face in his shirt.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day Five of the Countdown to the No Kiss Blogfest

Some thoughts on the perfect almost kiss.

The perfect almost kiss.

What goes into the perfect almost kiss? What actually qualifies as an almost kiss that’s not a real kiss? Does it have to be on the lips or will any kiss disqualify it from the “almost” category?

For example: If someone goes in for the kiss and it ends up being instead rerouted (unintentionally or intentionally on the part of the kissee) by the turn of a head, landing on the cheek, does it still count? Or if the kisser kisses the kissee on the cheek or forehead (intentionally) instead of on the lips, does it count as an almost kiss?

Also, in order for a perfect almost kiss to occur does the kiss need to be interrupted? Can, rather than interruption, one member of the kiss decide that the kiss should not occur and therefore avert it? Would it still qualify for perfection?

Or, if they are interrupted, who/what must/should do the interrupting? Should it be a human force or can it be a so-called “Act of God” (be it happenstance or because God actually doesn’t want you to kiss)?

These are all questions one must consider (or at least, I have been considering) when composing the perfect almost kiss, because, as we all know, the perfect almost kiss can be almost as good as the real thing.

In fiction anyway.

Tomorrow's the big day!

I was going to add a clip or two for today from either the TV show gLee or Bones but could not find the clips I was looking for. They're both great shows, though, so check them out.

See ya' tomorrow! (Oh, and Happy New Year!)