Top Three Books of 2016: Jeffe’s Picks

Every year since my birth, my mother has given me a Christmas ornament. She usually gives it to me at Thanksgiving, so that I have it for decorating my tree. This year she gave me a Nambé star for a tree-topper. I may have made a special request, as I love all things Nambé, and I love this, in particular. One day I hope to have Santa’s sleigh, but … alas the price! 

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is a round-up of our three most memorable books of the year. I think it’s interesting that we frame it as “most memorable,” as opposed to the best, or most loved or favorite. There’s a difference, isn’t it?

At any rate, come on over to find out what mine are!

Why I Like Being Hybrid

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Happy Mother’s Day to everyone, whether your mom was good or terrible, still with you or not, and whether anyone’s ever acknowledged your own mothering. Special love and gratitude to both my own mother – the blonde in our family photo there – and to my second mother, my aunt sitting next to her. I’m blessed to have you in my life!

I’m over at Word Whores – changing to the SFF Seven! – where we’ll be discussing all week the various publishing paths and what’s best for you

Why Dropping a Ball Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

001Longtime readers of my blog know that my mom has given me a Christmas ornament every year since I was born. These last few years, we’ve formed a tradition of shopping with my stepsister the day after Thanksgiving. Not big box store mob sale shopping, but at this lovely outdoor mall in Tucson. Our first stop is always Crate & Barrel, where I now get to pick out my own ornament(s).

This year I spotted these sparkly castles – just perfect to remember that this is the year my Twelve Kingdoms books come out. I’m so in love with them.

Once again, however (this make two years in a row – eep!), I’ve decided not to put up a Christmas tree. Jackson, though no longer a kitten, is still wild to tear up any and everything he can. He’s also become keenly interested in climbing.

Uh huh. Exactly.

Also, we’re going on a bit of an odyssey this year. We’ll drive to Tucson for Christmas, then drive up the western slope over several days to Billings, Montana, for my stepson’s wedding on New Year’s Eve. We won’t be home until January 2, at best. Maybe later if the driving weather is bad, since we’ll return down the front range.

(For those who don’t know the Rocky Mountain region, the weather on the western side of the mountains is typically much warmer and drier than on the front range, the eastern side.)002

Though we’ll have a house sitter, that’s still a lot of opportunity for Jackson to wreak havoc. And, by the time we get home, I won’t want to deal with TONS of clean-up. Last year, however, I found I really missed getting out all of my ornaments, revisiting all those Christmas memories. So this year, I plan to do a lot of garlands and suspend the non-breakable ornaments from those.

(I haven’t SEEN Jackson climb walls, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.)

One of my nephews has gotten into juggling lately, so we’re getting him a copy of Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle. It might be a bit dense for him, but he’s struggling with adolescence and I think the themes of being dispossessed and discovering who you are will speak to him. Plus, juggling!

I recall that book for the way his learning to juggle gave Valentine the keys to handling his problems. It’s been a long time since I read it, so forgive me if I get the details wrong, but I recall the concept that, while keeping the balls in the air is part of the point, dropping one isn’t the end of the world.

I think about this sometimes because I often use juggling as a metaphor for keeping up with everything I’m doing. We all do, really, referring to “dropping the ball.” (Or is that a sports metaphor? Brilliant, really – the metaphor that works for both sportsing types AND theater geeks!) The problem with that is, I get so focused on keeping those balls going, adding in more, concentrating on catching and throwing, that it’s easy to lose the sense of fun.

And yes, juggling is fun.

Also, occasionally dropping a ball is part of the game.

If there wasn’t the possibility of dropping a ball, then juggling wouldn’t be interesting. The real joy, too, is when you get them all flowing.

Like magic.

What Genres Do You Read While Drafting?

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Edward Zelster Photography

This is the Kensington cocktail party at the RWA conference. I’m apparently describing something very large to Alexandra Nicolajsen, who manages the digital marketing for the house. Maybe a bus ad.

(That’s the lovely Carolyn Crane sitting next to me.)

As I mentioned previously, I brought back a lot of paper books from RWA, along with a wish list of ebooks I want to download to the Kindle. However, I also have a big road trip coming up. Today I’m flying up to Denver where I’ll help my mom and Stepdad Dave rent a U-Haul truck. My mom has sold my childhood home – after 41 years! – and they’re moving permanently into their Tucson house.

I’d already taken some things a few weeks ago and my aunt went and took some things. Then they had their friends over for a “take some things” party, followed by an estate sale. So there’s not THAT much to convey to Tucson. But there will be two vehicles and neither of them are all that comfortable driving alone for long periods of time. We’ll drive down to Santa Fe on Saturday (about 5.5 hours), spend the night, then go on to Tucson (~8 hours). I’ll hang out on Monday, then drive their “extra” vehicle back to Santa Fe, where it will now be ours. All of this boils down to one thing: audio books.

I sorely need to listen to some books, to help pass the solo driving time.

So, I went to Audible to find the right ones. After all, this is a perfect opportunity to catch up on books I really want to read – for research or because friends wrote them or because they’ve been on my list for a while. But then the two books I wanted most weren’t on Audible! I considered doing them on the Kindle text-to-voice, but I don’t LOVE that. The robo-voice takes away from the story for me. My friend, Sassy Outwater, who is blind, essentially told me I couldn’t bitch about that because, hello, welcome to HER world. I see her point, because Audible books are *expensive* – but I still like them better.

At any rate, I was in the odd position of finding books, any books, on Audible that would be good for the trip. And I didn’t want to burn a lot of time searching. Also, since I’ll be losing writing time doing this trip, I wanted books that would at least feed the story I’m working on, which is an Adult Fantasy. (Book 2 of Twelve Kingdoms, for those who don’t have my life memorized.)

Here’s where I get to my point, because I do have one (shocking!). I wonder what better feeds an in progress story – the same genre or a different one? Someone at the conference says she never reads books in her own genre, because she’s afraid of accidentally stealing ideas. That doesn’t really resonate for me. But I do think it’s better for me to read other genres than the one I’m cooking in.

I ended up choosing the first in Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English m/m detective series, as it’s been recommended to me many times. I’ll listen to Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ contemporary romance Ain’t She Sweet, though I’ve read it before, because it’s practically the text book on how to redeem an unlikable heroine – which I’m dealing with in the story I’m writing. Finally, I got Christina Lauren’s erotic romance Beautiful Bastard, so I can find out what got people so excited about it.

So, I’m curious. For writers, what do you read while you’re drafting? And for the non-writers, do you choose genre by what else is going on in your life?

One commenter will win a book from the ones pictured in Tuesday’s post. Except Sarah MacLean’s A Rogue by Any Other Name – that one has been snapped up by a previous winner.