Saturday, October 13, 2007

106 Most Unread Books

This is a book meme going around right now. I got it from Books, Memes, and Musings.

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Bold what you have read, italicize books you’ve started but couldn’t finish, and strike through books you hated. Add an asterisk* to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your TBR (To Be Read) list.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina[TBR]
Crime and Punishment
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius [TBR]
Atlas shrugged*
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West [TBR]
The Canterbury tales
The Historian
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A clockwork orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible*
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and sensibility[TBR]
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
A confederacy of dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The unbearable lightness of being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The mists of Avalon[TBR]
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance[TBR]
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

And yes, I was an English major in college (as if you couldn't tell!) I rarely put books down without finishing them, but there's a couple here I just had to. I've read 36 of the 106, only about 30%. Wonder if there's a reason why they're the most unread??

Friday, October 12, 2007


Wow, it's been raining for 3 straight days... here's a rather soggy Friday Feast:

When was the last time you were surprised?

Gosh, my students surprise me a lot, almost every day ~ usually with what they don't know, but once in a while with their kindness and insight :)

Fill in the blanks: My eyes are ________, but I wish they were __________.

Blind as a bat ~ 20/20.

If you were a Beanie Baby, what would you look like and what would your name be?

Um...I'm not even sure I know what that is. A little stuffed animal that collectors obsess over, right? I guess I would be red (my fave color) and have 2 heads and 4 arms, since I'm always trying to do a hundred things at one time. Anyone have a name for that?

Main Course
Name two things you consistently do that you consider to be healthy habits.

Eat lots of fruits and veggies, and work out 4-6 times a week.

What brand of toothpaste are you using these days? Do you like it? Why or why not?

Colgate Total - the white paste, not the gel. My husband started me on it years ago. Sure, I like it, but I'm not picky when it comes to toothpaste, to be honest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Next Big Thing

So yesterday, I read a very long and heated discussion about this blog post, over on Donald Maass' site. Now, he's a BIG NAME agency, and so you'd think that he and his agents have a pretty good feel for the fiction market and what the next big thing might be. But c'mon:

"A literary romance with a heroine for all time and a tragic ending, preferably written by a man."

Really? Could you be a little more sexist in that suggestion? The assumptions are, of course, not only that most men can't really understand or write about romance, so one who can is an automatic star; but that most romance written today (by women) falls short of being truly moving/rich/worth reading. [And by the way, Donald, a romance without a happy ending isn't a romance, according to the traditional definition of the genre.]

I know, I know, maybe I'm over-reacting. I mean, his overall point is to urge writers to discover the "original premise" that will be the next best-seller. And if that gets people thinking creatively, I guess it's a good thing.

But I also wonder at what point authors stop being true to their creative muses and start trying to write solely for the market. One writer involved in the discussion admitted that his agent spent an entire weekend at a conference, talking to editors and publishers and other agents, about what the next big thing in fiction would be. He came back and sketched out the book he thought this author should write. Said author has never written anything in that particular genre, but he gave it a go. Now the ms. is being looked at by a couple of big publishing houses in NY, and his comment was that it was absolutely worth it, because he's almost 40 and "running out of time."

I thought that was interesting. I mean, it's great that he was able to write the book and have NY houses show an interest. But his motivation was to beat the clock?


Am I going to change what I write? I really don't know. [Since I just got my latest royalty statement, maybe :)] Am I going to explore new ideas and challenge the traditions of my genre? Yeah, I think I will. Stretching oneself is always a good thing. If it takes me into another genre, one I like and feel interested enough to spend a year or so writing in, then great.

Or maybe I'll just write a Huck Finn-like fantasy featuring a Muslim detective, investigating a ghost story that’s truly contemporary, set in New York-in-mid-Century. Oh yeah, and I'll submit it under a male pen name, just in case.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Adrienne Kress

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! A quick promo mention before we dive into today's interview: I have an article up at The Long and the Short of It today, titled "How to Jump Start Your Writing." Give it a read, if you'd like.


And now...I'm thrilled to introduce today's featured author, Adrienne Kress. Her book Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, was released just this year, to rave reviews. Settle're in for a terrific interview!

Welcome, Adrienne! Can you tell us a little about your background?

Sure! I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My parents were both high school English teachers, so I had a very literary upbringing. My dad read to me every night (he was awesome at doing voices), everything from Dickens to Tolkein to Douglas Adams. He was also a creative writing teacher, so I learned very early on all about the various forms of writing out there. As for my mom, well, she’s a very strong, smart woman, and really taught me to be the kind of girl who thought for herself, who was never ashamed to have opinions. Must be why I don’t have a problem now sharing my thoughts with the world (whether the world wants it or not)!

I went to an arts school as a drama major from the age of 11 through high school, and specialized in the subject at the University of Toronto graduating with an honours BA. Then I moved to London, England for three years where I studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and worked as an actress.

Throughout my education I always wrote, earning an award for my work in high school. I got really into writing plays and studied with the award winning playwright Djanet Sears in my last year at U of T. I have since produced and directed the show I wrote, A Weekend in the Country, as a result of that class, three times – twice in Toronto (this past summer at the Summerworks Festival), and once for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Now I am back in Toronto, writing and acting, and really having a great time!

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My latest book, okay let’s be honest, my only book, is called Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (Alex and the Wigpowder Treasure in the UK). On the surface it is a very straightforward adventure story about a 10 and a half year old girl Alex, who finds herself on a rescue mission to save her grade six teacher from pirates (and to hopefully find some buried treasure on the way). It’s all very swashbuckling, and slightly absurd, and hopefully a lot of fun. But I really look at the book as a bit of a satire for kids, in much the same way as Lewis Carroll mocked the politics etc of his time in Alice in Wonderland (and in fact the second act of my book is most definitely an homage to that fabulous work).

I tried to write a bit of a commentary on the adult world. For example, I temped a lot to make ends meet as an actress. And at these jobs it sometimes felt like my boss expected me to read his/her mind. So I translated this in the book into Mental Dictation, where Alex’s boss actually does expect her to read his mind. Of course for the kids reading it, I just hope they have a really good time, and that they laugh a lot. But I do like to throw something in there for the adults as well.

As for current projects, I am working on the sequel to the book. But it isn’t exactly the kind of sequel you normally expect. In this case the book is a whole new adventure starring a new kid, Timothy. Basically Timothy’s adventure is happening parallel to Alex’s, and then two thirds of the way through Timothy’s story, he meets up with the end (where we left off) of Alex’s. So then together they finish off the rest of Timothy’s. If that makes sense. It makes sense to me. Sort of. Well anyway, there’s a dragon involved, yet more awesome pirates, and the story ends up in China. Pretty cool I think.

That does sound cool! What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

I would say to do two things. Read a lot. And write a lot.

You’ll find there are tons of “how to write” books out there, and while I firmly believe that the rules of grammar should be learnt most definitely, the best way to learn about writing is to do it. And also to read it. By reading some of the great authors out there, you’ll get a real sense of how to write, better I think than in any “how to” book. Read the classics, learn how language, and the use of language, has evolved over time. Read many different genres. And then when you think you have a favourite genre, get to know that genre inside and out. And understand that while the rules of writing are meant to be broken, you can’t break them until you know them in the first place.

But always write. Just keep doing it. Even if you think what you’ve written sucks, just keep going.

As they say in Galaxy Quest: “Never give up! Never surrender!”

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The act of starting to write is very tough for me. That sitting down in front of your computer and going, “Right, let’s write!” And it can feel torturous at times, the first few sentences typed out a word a minute. It’s the big secret about being a professional writer: Writing is hard! It isn’t about being inspired. In fact it is very rare that I sit down to write and I just have inspiration and the words just flow out of me. Most often it is a slog. And starting the slog, to me that’s the hardest bit. The discipline. Once you get going though, things start to come together.

Most rewarding? Well when people like the book, that’s pretty swell! But I really really love making someone laugh. And when someone says that the book is funny, or when I show someone a piece of writing and they just start laughing, I swear there is really nothing quite like that feeling.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It actually has worked out really well for me. I am also a professional actress, and I used to temp to supplement my income. Now, thanks to the book, I don’t need to temp anymore, so I work from home doing my writing. What this means is that I am available to audition last minute (as almost all auditions wind up coming up last minute), and my schedule is incredibly flexible. Acting and writing work really well together actually.

As for my social life, most of my friends are busy working during the day, so I wind up writing during the day as well, and get together with them in the evening. Fortunately I have one friend with whom I jog in the morning three times a week, so that gets me up at a reasonable hour. Creating your own schedule is definitely one of the best and one of the worst things of being a writer.

Describe your writing space...

I love my writing space! It’s a corner desk in my apartment that I stained a dark rosewood colour. I have framed versions of my cover from different countries on my wall, as well as a white board. And I have a doorknob that I bought in the doorknob shop that inspired Alex’s uncle’s shop in the book. I’ve screwed it into the wall, and hung a frame around it. It looks very cool. On the shelves next to me, I have little inspirational tidbits. A few stuffed animals, I like stuffed animals, and a small wooden junk (a Chinese ship). I also have the treasure chest that Scholastic sent my agent with the offer for my book in it. They had filled the chest with costume jewelry and chocolate money, as well as tiny scrolls on which the offer was printed. It’s just so neat. On my desk I have a little black and white TV, because I think television makes the best white noise. And of course a desk lamp, and my wonderful laptop, Horatio.

Anyway, here’s a picture of it!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

I think one of the most surprising things in this whole process is how the imperfect the final product is. As an author you can always find something to change in your writing each time you read it over. If it were up to authors, the thing would never get finished.And I guess I find it surprising because when you are a student, working with a book, you take each word as if it is carved in stone. Quoting a work needs to be utterly accurate, “It’s isn’t ‘in the house”, it’s ‘by the house’.” When you look at a book as a reader you assume that this product is ‘perfect’, that the every word the author chose was a very conscious decision. But as an author you realize that the word choice, sometimes, it’s just the best that everyone could agree to at the moment.

Of course we strive to make the book as perfect as we can, but it is just impossible to make it flawless. Books exist for hundreds of years after they are published. And it’s really funny to think that quite possibly if someone, like Dickens say, looked at their work today, they’d shake their head and comment, “Oh that phrase, yeah that was because I was working on deadline. Man I can’t believe that’s in there!”

Adrienne, thanks so much for a great interview!

Would you like to know more about this author? Visit her website and her blog, and, as always, leave a comment and make sure to let her know you were here today!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Indians 6, Yankees 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They did it! The Cleveland Indians actually beat the New York Yankees!!!!!

Now they take on the Boston Red Sox, starting Friday, in a best-of-seven game series. Looks as though I won't be getting to bed before 11 in the next week!

OK, OK, I'm sorry for all you Yankee fans. Really, I know how much it hurts to lose a big post-season game. But let's face it: when you're a Yankee fan, your team is pretty much going to go to the playoffs a few times a decade. Maybe even win a World Series once in a while.

You know the last time the Indians won it all? 1948. That's the second longest dry spell in baseball next to the Chicago Cubs. The last time they were in the World Series, in 1997, they lost to the Florida Marlins, in the bottom of the 11th inning in the 7th game. I watched every pitch. Talk about a heart-breaker.

So let's hear it for the underdog this year, shall we? No one picked them to beat the Yankees. (And by the way, the Yankees' payroll is $200 million. Cleveland's is $62 million. Maybe you can't buy a championship, after all).

Boston, here we come!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

I Have to Suffer Through Another Game...

Well, the Yankees managed to squeeze out a win last night, so it's Game 4 tonight for my Cleveland Indians. I really, really hope they don't fall apart mentally now (it's been known to happen on more than one occasion...) Ryan Garko, one of their key players, is keeping a playoff blog, which is kind of cool.


You might be amused to hear that I spent all of yesterday hanging vinyl siding with hubby. Up and down ladders all day long, hammering (nails most of the time, my thumb once in a while) and today I am really tired and sore. We aren't finished, either. And I begin to realize why those guys who work construction for a living never go to the gym.

It's very helpful in the name of research, though. The hero in my WIP Summer's Song is a carpenter/construction guy, so I told myself, about 4:00 yesterday afternoon, as I was balancing on the top rung of a ladder trying to stretch out and put in one last nail, that at least I could write really accurate details for all those home-renovation scenes I'm working on. :)

THANK YOU to everyone who gave me promo ideas yesterday, for the NYC Book Fair in December. I've got a terrific list now, and my only problem is that darn 18" x 30" limited table space! Hmm...I could hang things off the front of it, right??

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What's the Best Draw??

So as most of my regular readers know, I'll be making my first public appearance as an author at the NYC Independent and Small Press Book Fair in December. There will be massive amounts of authors there, all genres, so here's the thing: how do I get people to come over to the table where I'll be (think I'll be with about 5 other authors, so not a lot of space). What would make you actually stop by and take a look at a specific author? Table signs can only be 8 1/2 x 11, and my entire table space will be about 18"x30". I could have promotional items, though as I mentioned in another blog, I'm not sure how effective those would be, long-term.

So...any terribly clever ideas??


In other semi-exciting news, my second novel, Lost in Paradise, is on its way to the senior editor at The Wild Rose Press for a final read-through. I think this means a publication date might actually be in sight! Finally...

But now I have to think about cute & clever ways to promote this title. I've been so caught up with being cute and clever for One Night in Boston that I haven't given it a whole lot of thought. Hmm...any ideas?