It’s been a while! What have I been up to since September? Loads.

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The Update

My kids are back in school, which means I’m dropping one off early every morning at public school and bringing the other home with me to teach and hang out with during the day. It’s a struggle, but I think I manage my time between homeschooling, writing, writing-related stuff, and personal time pretty well. Mostly.

Halloween has come and gone, and I’m sad. I enjoyed it this year, but not as much as the year before, and not as much as the year before that. I guess I’m in a lull. Halloween is still my favorite holiday, but with two ‘tweens, everything is just a little more difficult.

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Then came November, which brought NaNoWriMo. This year I got about 21K written on the sequel to Banquet, which is exciting. I’m really loving the story.

I didn’t “win” NaNo this year as I did last year, but my son did! He wrote 1,000 words on a story about a squirrel, a raccoon, and a werewolf. We’ll be editing next month, and I’m excited about that. Oh, and that other November holiday went well.

Now it’s December, and I’m playing catch-up on all the things that I’ve missed since September. It’s a lot, but I’m making great progress.

I’m working on getting paperbacks of all my novels published, so look out for those announcements in the coming months. I’m also catching up on reading, so you’ll probably see some book reviews here and on Goodreads. And I’m going through a bookmarks folder in my browser simply titled “2do”. Should be fun.

Now, on to the challenge!

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Don’t worry, it’s for me, not for you. You just have to watch out in case I tag you!

Ten (Day) Book Challenge

You probably saw this going around on Facebook back in September, but if you didn’t, here’s the gist. People were posting covers of books they loved or found influential without an explanation.

I was tagged in the challenge by fellow author Rami Ungar, who writes awesome horror and also happened to change the rules of the game a bit by posting on his blog AND by giving explanations. And, since I’m a long-winded type, which you all know by now, I liked his version best, so that’s what I’m going to do.

But I’m going to change it, too, by only making one huge post. I guess we all have our little quirks.

The Rules:

Thank the person who tagged you and link to them somewhere. I did that in the introduction, but I’ll do it again, because Rami’s work is just that amazing. Thanks for the tag, Rami!

  • Post the cover of the book you loved or found influential.
  • Explain why you love it. (This rule is optional, as per the original game, but I’d love to know why you chose the book.)
  • Tag someone else and let them know they’ve been tagged. For this challenge I’m only posting once, so I’ll be tagging more than one person. First, I’m tagging fellow author and my great friend, Emily Selleck. You should read her work. It’s good stuff.

I’m also tagging some of my other writer friends, in no particular order: John Bean, Heather Thomas, Sonja Little, and Peggy Eileen. They’re all great writers, and I can’t wait to see what they publish someday.

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My list will be presented in the order I thought of them, not in the order I read them nor in order of my love for them or their influence.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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This is one of the only books I have ever read more than once.

The first time I was probably eight to ten years old, and it was the first book I read that I would actually call romantic. I had gotten into my mother’s bodice-rippers before I ever found Jane Eyre, but I always found those to be confusing and vaguely gross.

Jane Eyre was different. It was dark, subtle, and had depth. It taught me that romance could be more than ultra masculine rogues pursuing dim-witted, bosomy young maidens.

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Goosebumps: The Phantom of the Auditorium by R.L. Stine

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Even though I was already reading adult books like Jane Eyre, I could still enjoy Goosebumps, and I did – every book I could get my hands on. That’s why I first got my hands on this one.

Never having read The Phantom of the Opera, the plot of this book really resonated with me as something unique. I loved the friendship between the main character and her best friend. I loved the mystery. And it stuck with me for some reason.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

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This was the first book I ever read that my mother expressed any interest in.

Anyone who knows anything about my relationship with her knows it was strained at the best of times, so having something to bond over was new and special. We read this book, and the rest in the series, and talked about which characters we loved most, what we thought would happen, and what we hoped would happen in the next book.

And it’s a great story. If you enjoyed the Vampire Chronicles, chances are you’ll like this series.

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

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I don’t know exactly when I read this book, but I remember thinking that maybe it would happen to me one day. I was terrified, but oddly excited, by the idea. My brother always insisted that I was adopted (I wasn’t). Even when I would deny it, there was always a little part of me that hoped maybe it was true.

I loved the mystery, the high school dynamics, and the cult aspect. The story got better the longer I read it, and the following books were just as enjoyable.

I’m not sure how well they hold up, but this series whet my appetite for learning about kidnapped children and the kinds of people who take them, which led to my long-lived fascination with true crime.

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Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

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I knew this book would make the list as soon as I saw the challenge, but it wasn’t until I went back and read some of the reviews on Goodreads that I realized I had splintered the plotlines of this book into more than one book in my head.

The identity politics the main character goes through hit home with me because at the time I read the book, sometime around sixth grade, I had already been getting teased by older kids who thought I was gay. At the time, I was in serious denial, and it was a really rough part in my life, so I identified with Sal so much.

The part I forgot was in this book was the mystery about the woman, Mrs. Cadaver. (Great name, right?) The kids think she’s a black widow, but what they learn is a lot bigger deal than that. I won’t spoil the surprise for those who want to read this middle grade classic, but I have to say I really recommend it.

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

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This is another book that I didn’t really remember the plot of, but the title popped into my head immediately. I ate this book up. I read it so fast, it’s no wonder I didn’t remember much about it.

All I can say that it solidified in my mind that Chuck Palahniuk is a brilliant, sick writer. It’s not for the faint of heart.

IT by Stephen King

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Almost everyone knows the plot of this one, so I’ll skip over that part.

I first read this book about the same time as I read Jane Eyre, somewhere between eight and ten. I know I was much too young to read it, but it affected me in more ways than just being shellshocked by the content.

I thought the writing was brilliant. The story was bizarre and shocking and amazing. It was a story that has still stuck with me to this day. I loved the mini series, and I loved the new movie. I can’t wait to see the second part.

This was the story that made me start writing horror in earnest.

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Drawing Blood by Poppy Z Brite

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I read this one as a teenager, and it made me a huge fan of Poppy Z Brite. The writing and content reminded me a lot of King and Anne Rice, but with a younger, more queer vibe.

I was still struggling with my sexuality at the time and this story gave me hope that I wasn’t some kind of freak the world had never seen before. I was some kind of queer, I knew, and I was into the macabre, always had been, but those things were both okay. I was okay.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

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Ah, Fried Green Tomatoes. I saw the movie before I read the book. I loved it, of course, because it had a stellar cast and a bittersweet story about two… ahem, “friends”, and their lives together. And who could resist the exuberant Ms. Bates?

I searched out the book because I knew there was more to the story than what they showed on screen, and I was right. Those “friends” were really sweethearts, and the story was much deeper and richer than I could have imagined.

I was young when I read this; too young to admit to myself that I was gay, but not too young to feel for those two women who just wanted to be together.

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Don’t Hurt Laurie! by Willo Davis Roberts

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This one has the most bittersweet memories of all these books for me. I hesitated to even include it on the list, but I want to be honest, and this list wouldn’t be complete without this book.

What drew me to this book was simple: the cover. The girl on the cover of the book in my elementary school library looked almost exactly like the sister I had lost several years prior to a car accident.

The story is a sad one. The girl, Laurie – which happened to be my lost sister’s name – was abused by her mother. I had always had the feeling that my own sister was abused by her mother, but didn’t know, because we only shared a father. So reading this was sort of cathartic before I even knew I needed to let go of those old emotions.

It changed me for the better at a time when I needed it, and that’s why I had to include it.

That’s All, Folks

So that’s my list. Anyone else care to share theirs?

The next time I’m here, I hope to have news on my publication schedule for 2019. Happy holidays, dear reader!

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