Thursday Writing Quote ~ Ben Bova

The conflict in a story should be rooted in the mind of the protagonist; it is the protagonist's inner turmoil that drives the narrative. – Ben Bova

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Mark Twain

"The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell, together, as quickly as possible.  – Mark Twain

Thursday Writing Quote ~ John Irving

I try to think of characters who, on the surface of their actions, are deeply unsympathetic. It's the writer's job to make them sympathetic, in spite of themselves. - John Irving, from an article in The Globe and Mail, July 13, 2004

Best Books of 2012

First, my disclaimer. These books didn't all come out in 2012. 2012 is merely the year I discovered them. And it was a very good year, so . . . here we go. 

Unraveled by Courtney Milan did come out in 2012. The last book of Ms Milan's Turner trilogy was just as good as the first. Though best if read in order (Unveiled
& Unclaimed), it's not a requirement.  

The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning starts with Darkfever

One of the best Urban Fantasy series I've ever read. I tore through this series like it was on fire. Though there are more books planned, the first five are out and tell a complete story. (As I understand it, the next books will pick up with a different character.) Set in Dublin, there's lots of tension as the heroine works to discover who killed her sister. In the process, she discovers that entire sections of the city are disappearing from residents' awareness. On the edge of one of these dead zones is a bookstore and its mysterious owner who knows much more than he's sharing. Should she trust him? (Hell, yes. He's a hunk.) But can he keep her safe from the Death-by-Fairy Unseelie? It's worth reading just for that.

The Disillusionist Trilogy by Carolyn Crane

Mind Games
Double Cross
Head Rush

Superheros whose powers spring from . . . their neuroses?  A truly original concept that enthralled me right from the start. If you like your superheroes a little on the dark, neurotic side, you'll love this. I pretty much inhaled these.

The Last True Cowboy
by Kathleen Eagle

I'm not altogether sure why this book spoke so loudly to me. Part of it has to do with the main characters behaving like grown ups. Both had baggage that made them cautious but they weren't neurotic about it (yeah, that's apparently something that's reserved for superheroes.)

Boy's Life

by Robert McCammon

A friend recommended this to me or I never would have found it. I'm not usually a big fan of coming-of-age stories, but this one is special. Set in the south of the sixties with a touch of magical realism, it also masquerades as a mystery and manages to satisfy on all levels. It touches that magical place where our memories of childhood lay, where everything is possible.


This was a good year for nonfiction. It was also heavy on the theme of men, particularly about men among themselves.

Ten on Sunday: The Secret Life of Men
by Alan Eisenstock

His memoir of the years he lived in a house with a driveway big enough to shoot hoops with a bunch of guys took me by surprise. Watching these men bond over their weekly basketball game touched my heart, and convinced me that men need intimacy just as much as women do, but they achieve it differently  (and far too seldom) . This story stayed with me long after the last page.

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back by Norah Vincent

I found this on the sale shelf at my local library and, being a writer, I'm always interested in the differences between the way men and women see things, so I bought it. I'm glad I did because I'm not sure anyone but a woman undercover would have recognized some of the insights about men that they take for granted about themselves.

Operation Broken Reed: Truman's Secret North Korean Spy Mission That Averted World War III
 by Arthur L. Boyd

While this may appear to be a "war book," it's really about is the ten men who went on this mission. Through Arthur Boyd, I feel as if I came to know these men, particularly the ones he traveled most closely with. Because the story is told in bookend fashion, I knew from the beginning that most of the men didn't survive. I know my reading habits well enough to know that that knowledge kept me from bonding too tightly with the men I knew were doomed because I didn't want my heart ripped out when they died, but that didn't hold for ones who I knew might survive, and in fact, I think I fell a little in love with Capeman.

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War
by David Bellavia

It takes a special kind of person to want to be an infantry soldier. David Bellavia is one of those people. If you really want to know what the battle of Fallujah was like, this is the book. He was there in the thick of it on his 29th birthday. To say I'm awed by the loyalty, courage, and tenacity of these men is an understatement, but I don't have the words to express my admiration and gratitude that these men exist in my world. These are the men who go out there and get the job done while the REMFs sit on their brass. Bellavia opens his heart and mind to tell this story, revealing, without shame, his love and loyalty to his men, his moments of doubt, fear and shame, and his conflicted loyalties to his platoon and to his family back home.

Have I mentioned that I'm a contrarian? Whenever the "common wisdom" says something is true, I tend to dig into the other side of the argument. What I generally find supports the idea that any time someone tells you that the science is done, they're trying to sell you something.

The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so
 by Lawrence Solomon

If the doomsday sayers have you scared, this is the book to read. The author didn't just interview scientists, he interviewed scientist who are at the top of their fields. These scientists don't necessarily say that global warming isn't true; it just isn't true in their area of expertise. For instance, Al Gore's famous hockey stick graph? The data may be accurate but the numbers weren't crunched in any statistically meaningful way. In other words, they don't mean what he says they mean according to real statisticians. This is an amazing book and when you finish, you'll be left to wonder what science is left to support the alarmist.

Racing to a Cure: A Cancer Victim Refuses Chemotherapy and Finds Tomorrow's Cures in Today's Scientific Laboratories by Neil Ruzic

Neil Ruzic had cancer but he also had the means to research alternatives to what he calls "the chemo culture." He explored the cutting edge and found researchers who are doing amazing things, mostly in the labs but also sometimes in trials. He also learned up close and personal how the FDA keeps patients from availing themselves of these promising therapies. This book will give you hope, but it will also tick you off because we should be seeing more of these treatments in the mainstream in the years since this came out in 2006.

Knockout: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer--And How to Prevent Getting It in the First Place
by Suzanne Somers

Another great book on what's going on in the world of cancer therapies. While Ruzic's book explores what's going on in the world of research, this book focuses on the doctors who are in the trenches today. Each chapter is devoted to one of those doctors who is having better than average success in treating cancer. Ms. Somers is no more impressed with the chemo culture than Ruzic and quotes one doctor as saying that only three types of cancer can possibly be cured with chemo: testicular cancer, some lymphomas, and childhood leukemias. If cancer runs in your family, arm yourself with the information in these two books.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis was at one time a bond trader, so this is an inside look at one aspect of the real estate bubble and subsequent collapse. Some people saw it coming. Michael Lewis was one of them. This is how he made a killing in that explosive market and why it was possible.

I've decided to add a new category, but in the interest of full disclosure, these are authors I have a connection to, so this might be considered the "plug my friends' new books" category. 

A Spark of Death: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery (Professor Bradshaw Mysteries)
by Bernadette Pajer

Bernadette was the first serious writer I ever met. At the time, her sister Rebecca lived kitty-corner to me and was the first person I ever identified myself to as a writer (this is a huge step for any aspiring author.) Of course, she had to introduce me to her sister (and in due course the rest of her family.) Bernadette impressed me with her willingness to give me guidance. A Spark of Death is a cozy mystery is set in the early 20th century in Seattle. I don't generally read cozies myself, but I enjoyed this, and when I recommended it to a friend who likes cozies, she loved it. She especially enjoyed the hero of the story, which of course she should having been married to an electrical engineer for more than 20 years.

Never Stay Past Midnight
by Mira Lyn Kelly

I actually know Mira because I loved her book Wild Fling or a Wedding Ring so much that I found her online and forced myself on her. She hasn't complained (much), and I've enjoyed every book since.

She also has a freebie that's just come out, Waking Up Married which is a delightful book.

Her Devoted Vampire
by Siobhan Muir

I met Siobhan on-line through her Six Sentence Sunday posts. She was posting teasers from a book she'd written about dragons, and I fell in love with her voice. (Pretty awesome when an author can do that in six short sentences.) When I demanded politely inquired when and where I could get that book, she talked back to me, and in that weird way the universe sometimes works, we discovered that though she lives in Las Vegas, she grew up where I now live, and in due course, we met over lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant when she came to visit family. I discovered that she's a real kick. Sadly, the dragon book hasn't been published yet (and I still want to know when and where I can get it), but her vampire book is available.

This is also the year I broke down and tried out audio books. I had some mixed results as I discovered that I don't really want anyone reading the sexy parts to me, especially if it's at all graphic. Even so, listening to a book is well worth doing on a long drive. It really makes the trip go much faster.

So the audio books that worked for me:

by Kristin Cashore

This is a YA fantasy with a bit of a magical medieval flavor with kingdoms and such. The audio version is done by Full Cast Audio which is exactly what it sounds like: each character is read by a different actor. This is a nice feature and not common from what I understand.

Welcome to Temptation
by Jennifer Crusie

I've read all Jennifer Crusie's books, but I thought that reading a story I was familiar with might be a better way to break into audio books because, as an audio book newbie, it's nigh onto impossible for me to separate out the quality of the book from the quality of the reading. I thought I could figure out how to do that if I listened to books I knew. I think I was misguided. This is a fun book that I've read multiple times, but listening to actress Aasne Vigesaa read it was like discovering it all over again. There really is no way to separate the material from the delivery. If they were all this good, I wouldn't care.

So there's the highlights of my year in books. What did I miss? (and please, don't even mention 50 Shades to me.)