Best Books of 2016

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“Did you have a good year?” some people ask. Their judgment of 2016 might be dependent on how much money they made, or if everyone they knew lived, if they became famous, or even who won the election. However, money comes and goes, people around us are born and die, and every few years the leadership of the government changes. There are always going to be some amazingly beautiful experiences along with some hard, painful, even dark times, all interspersed with days that you just plod ahead keeping the cart moving. That’s part of mortal life. The real question is, did you change within? Did you personally grow?
I judge a year by the books I have read. Books have the power to change a person’s life, to inspire them and challenge them, to break down walls and become the catalyst for growth, new thought, and healing. A book can challenge you to set goals and give you the hope you need to keep working towards them. A book can inspire you to become a better writer, artist, teacher, or person. Some books just make you laugh. Some are like chocolate and a ray of sunshine on a cold, rainy day. And then there are books who are like an old friend who provides comfort when you need it most. So, here is my list of my favorite books for 2016, concluding with the winners for the year.

Mystery:
The Waves Break Gray – Sibella Giorello
The Stones Cry Out – Sibella Giorello
Crocodile on the Sandbank – Elizabeth Peters
YA Mystery:
Stone and Spark – Sibella Giorello
Romantic Suspense:
Twilight – Kristen Heitzmann
Told You Twice – Kristen Heitzmann
Adult Suspense:
The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer
YA/NA Contemporary Romance:
P.S. I Like You – Kasie West
There You’ll Find Me – Jenny B. Jones
The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen
Greensleeves – Eloise Jarvis McGraw
YA Fantasy:
David (The Unseen #3) – Johnny Worthen
Fantasy:
The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner
Tea With the Black Dragon – R.A. MacAvoy
Moon Dancing – Anna Zogg
The Xerxes Factor – Anna Zogg
Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
Kingfisher – Patricia A. McKillip
Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold
Historical Romance:
The Rose of Winslow Street – Elizabeth Camden
Doing No Harm – Carla Kelly
Huckleberry Summer – Jennifer Beckstrand
Fantasy/Romance:
Gladly Beyond – Nichole Van
Intertwine – Nichole Van
Adult Fiction:
Where the River Ends – Charles Martin
Non-Fiction:
Where the Blind Horse Sings – Kathy Stevens
Lehi in the Desert – Hugh Nibley
An Approach to the Book of Abraham – Hugh Nibley
Children’s:
The Mouse and the Motorcycle – Beverly Cleary
Middle Grade:
Sarafina and the Black Cloak – Robert Beatty
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid – Mark Waxman

Third place goes to Where the River Ends, by Charles Martin (a poignant, deeply moving book). Second place goes to The Stones Cry Out, by Sibella Giorello (all her books are amazing!) And the winner for 2016 is… (drum roll) Greensleeves – by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Read it, and you’ll know why I picked it as my favorite.

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Merry Christmas to All…

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This is a season filled with happy memories and enjoyable experiences as families gather, special foods are eaten, gifts are exchanged, and songs are sung. It can also be a time of poignant memories, loneliness and sorrow. Sometimes we don’t get to be with the ones we love. But whatever our circumstances, we can reach out to others in kindness.  We can remember the first Christmas — a little baby born in a humble stable, a star shining in the night, the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, and the angel’s proclamation. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” The joyous news echoes through the ages and still brings us peace. Merry Christmas.

 

NaNoWriMo Winner: I’m done!

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I’m done! It’s November 30th, and I am officially finished my first draft of Out of the Depths. It has been quite the month, with a rollercoaster of emotions as I tried to figure out what this book was about and where it was heading. Some days I got discouraged and never wrote. Some days I gritted my teeth, plowed through the opposition, and kept writing. Other days were glorious, where I dreamed of whole scenes and woke up and wrote them. Characters just popped onto the page fully developed, with distinct voices and characteristics. They said and did things I didn’t expect and took the story down twisted paths that eventually ended up where they needed to be. It was amazing!

Oh, I know this is just the beginning. Now the hard work begins of checking back to my outline (thanks to Johnny Worthen I actually made one), rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. But still the accomplishment stands. I’ve written a novel. Yeah!

Here’s an example of one of my favorite characters:

The dragon stood there with a confused look on its face. “Dear me. Oh dear me. What have I done?”
He looked at Westley with an expression of chagrin. “My good knight, may I congratulate you. Somehow you have broken the spell that was laid on me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, thank you.”
The dragon spoke with a cultured, British voice in a fine tenor, which was surprising considering its size.
Westley felt dazed. “Uh… I don’t think you should go around thanking people here. It gives them power over you.”
“Oh, that only applies to the Fey, and I can see that you are no Fey, although you do smell of Selkie and spider.” He sniffed delicately. “And something else I haven’t smelled for a long time. Hmmm.”
Westley stayed where he was, frozen against the boulder. At any moment the dragon would decide to eat him. Would it politely apologize before snatching him up and crunching on him like some appetizer?
The dragon seemed to be lost in thought. Then he looked at Westley again. “No matter. Please, Sir Knight, put that sword away. You have nothing to fear from me now. Allow me to introduce myself. Professor Martin Cho at your service, head librarian of the Boston Public Library. At least, I was before I was ensorcelled by the Dark Knight. It’s all a muddle. Would you mind awfully telling me the date?”
Boston? Library? Westley thought he was going to faint. He stammered. “Ah. When I left home it was June 20th 2016.”
The dragon shook its head. “Ah, well, they most certainly have replaced me by now. I started working at the Boston library back when it opened in 1890, and I lost track of the time. Some sixty-fifty years later, I set out to research some arcane tidbit of information, and I was captured. Very foolish of me. I wasn’t paying attention at all. And perhaps I’d grown a little careless. After all, your world had become wrapped in iron and few of the Fey had any influence there. And since I’ve been here, well, to me it seems as if only a mere week has gone by, but then you can’t expect time to match here, can you?”

Out of the Depths is a YA Fantasy.

NaNoWriMo Update

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It’s November 19th, and that means that all of us WriMo fans have been writing like crazy for 19 days. How is everybody doing? Don’t give up. You still have enough time to finish your novel. Keep writing!

I’ve got 48,863 words, and a lot farther to go in my plot.

Here’s an excerpt from Out of the Depths:

A man walked toward him. As he got closer, Westley recognized him and tensed up.“Callum. Fancy meeting you here.”
Westley didn’t know how old Callum was. He was an advisor to Morell Thomas, the Atlantic Selkie High King, so he couldn’t be under fifty, but he looked as if he was in his late twenties, with a lithe yet muscular body that spoke of a lifetime spent swimming. His skin glistened in the moonlight, and his dark hair dripped water. He wore only swim trunks, yet the cold night air didn’t seem to bother him.
The older man’s lips quirked. “You’re out late.”
“Working on a case. Needed a break.”
Callum’s eyes caught the moonlight and gleamed for a moment. There was something wild and dangerous about him, a sense of other that raised the hairs on Westley’s arms. Maybe Callum was an alien from another planet, and this was all a complicated plot to take over the world. No, instead he was a Selkie spy with his own agenda and his fingers in far too many pies.
Either way, no one would believe Westley if he told them the truth. He had been caught up in a fairy tale, and not only did he not understand the plot line, but he didn’t see a happy ending coming either. This was not a Disney film. This was the Brothers Grimm.
Fear crawled along his skin. “Who are you? What are you?”
“Ask yourself that same question, boy.” The mocking lips grinned now.

 

 

The Cubs Win the World Series!

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Wasn’t that an amazing game? Wow. It was so much fun to cheer for the Cubs. Now for all you baseball fans, if you want to read a book involving the Cubs, baseball, magic, adventure and even romance, look for Double Play on Amazon.

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NaNoWriMo is Here!

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Today is November first, and you all know what that means. It’s NaNoWriMo — or National Novel Writing Month. It’s time to shut out the outside world. Leave the dishes in the sink and the beds unmade. Ignore the phone calls, the invitations for entertainment, and hubby’s pleas to turn out the light and go to sleep. Hurry home from work or school and fire up that computer. This is it — that amazing month when you focus on writing that novel you’ve always wanted to start, when you experience the exhilarating rush of having an entire book-length story flow out of your mind, through your fingertips and onto your computer screen. You will live the adventure you create. There will be roadblocks: the kids will need at least some of your attention, work will demand a certain amount of hours, teachers will complain, and sickness may dog every step. People may even die. But will you let a few small details like that stop you from writing the greatest novel on earth? No! Go forth my friends with determination to write every day, to push through the obstacles that will come, and let that story shine forth. You can do it. I believe in you. And for all of those skeptics and doubters out there who are just too left-brained: no, there is no monetary reward at the end of the journey: just 50,000 words and the enormous satisfaction of having lived an entire life in a month. Happy Writing!

The Cubs Win!

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Tonight in Game 2 of the World Series, the Chicago Cubs won 5-1.  Yeah! What a great way to end a very long day. The Cubs have been my favorite baseball team ever since I began my research for my novel, Double Play. I am so happy that they are in the World Series, and I’ll be cheering for them during every game. And now, if you want to curl up with a book about baseball, the Cubs, magic, adventure and love, read Double Play. Available on Amazon.

A girl with a secret. A desperate magician. A baseball game that will never be forgotten. Read Double Play: A Novel of Magic today.