2015 Holiday Gift Suggestions

Milwaukee Christmas treeIt’s Black Friday, when folks trample each other to buy price-reduced manufactured goods so they can give them to family and friends to prove just how much they love and appreciate them. As much fun as that is (and as someone who has worked retail off and on for years and got to watch two ladies nearly come to blows over a scooter, I know my good times), not everyone is hip to getting their friends and family the same gift everyone else is giving to their favorite humans.

Well, that’s why I am here. To point you in the direction of some really nifty finds that you won’t find in all of those fliers and on the shelves of your local big box store.

Obviously, you should totally buy all of my books and give them to all of your friends. But if you don’t want people to get suspicious that you’re not putting any thought into your gifts (but you really would be; I’d vouch for you), you should also check out these authors: Shanna Hammaker, Brandon Ford, Jeremy C. Shipp, Shonell Bacon, and Johi Jenkins. Horror, memoir, mystery, fantasy, paranormal romance, young adult…you’re bound to find something for someone or many somethings for many someones.

If you know an aspiring writer (or anyone that uses a writing instrument, really), perhaps check out Roweville Retro and get them a one-of-kind pen, pencil, or stylus. You can even get a custom made creation. Get them that present that other people will be trying to steal from them for years to come.

Speaking of writing, how about encouraging the people you really do like to keep in touch with some spiffy postcards? This is what happens when I keep taking and drawing pictures with no set purpose in mind. I have to find something to do with them and what better use than to remind people that dropping a picture card in the mail and sending it to a friend is still a fun surprise.

But, if you’re looking for better art (and you probably should be), then check out Hannah McFaddon Art. Hannah McFaddon is an amazing artist and now she’s got a whole line of prints available, too. Tea-Rex! Are you kidding me? Absolutely adorable! And guaranteed to be something that a loved one is going to adore and hang proudly on their wall.

So go! Shop! Buy things that people didn’t know they needed and will love to get!


**Yes, I am once again promoting my friends and acquaintances (and myself) for the holidays because I like them, I like what they’re doing, and I think they deserve some spotlight. Go team!

Writing–Reading Goals 2014 Achieved

booksIf you’ll recall, my goal was to read 24 books this year at an even pace of 2 books a month and only four could be re-reads. I’m happy to say that I hit the end goal of 24 books, but that reading at least two books a month…that wasn’t always so smooth. I got behind a couple of times so that I was really cramming at the end of the month to make sure I got two books read. I also totally failed at it entirely two months. September and November I only read one book. Not exactly happy with that part of my goal-accomplishing.

(I thought I was going to have to read three books this month to make sure I had my total, but then I checked my list and realized that I didn’t. I did have a period earlier in the year when I read like 2 1/2 books a couple of months so I think that little edge saved me. It also made me realize that while I can do algebra, apparently counting is out of my league.)

So here is the last 12 books I read in 2014. The list of the first 12 books can be found here.

13. From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes by Robert Clary

14. Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

15. The Game from Where I Stand by Doug Glanville

16. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

17. On Writing by Stephen King (re-read)

18. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (re-read)

19. The Thirst Within by Johi Jenkins

20. Coroner’s Journal: Forensics and the Art of Stalking Death by Louis Cataldie MD

21. Christine by Stephen King

22. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

23. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

24. Coffee at Midnight by Brandon Ford

Looking back on the whole list, content-wise, I have to say I’m pretty proud of the fact that I read some “classics”. I never thought I’d ever even consider reading one after Honors English. Good job, self.

Good reading year, too.

Writing–Reading Goals Update

booksSince we’ve accomplished half of a year already, I figure it’s time to check in to see how I’m accomplishing my reading goals.

As you may or probably don’t remember, this year I laid down the gauntlet of reading 24 books in total, 2 books a month, only 4 could be re-reads. The object of these goals was to get me into the habit of reading steadily. I also hoped that I would continue reading widely, which was what my reading goals emphasized last year, even though I put no restrictions on what I could read.

So, according to this, six months should equal 12 books. Let’s check the math. Here are the books I’ve read so far:

1. The Badge by Jack Webb

2. The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of Quotations edited by Alex Ayres

3. Jaws by Peter Benchley (re-read)

4. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore

5. Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra

6. Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way by Marcia Wallace

7. Ron Santo: A Perfect Ten by Pat Hughes and Rich Wolfe

8. Horns by Joe Hill

9. Just Farr Fun by Jamie Farr

10. The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

11. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

12. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Looks like I’m right on target. Decent mix of fiction and non-fiction. Even got some chick-lit and a classic in there. It hasn’t always been easy getting in my reading time every day and I admit to being lazy about it sometimes, but I’m meeting the challenge pretty well. Reading two books at once helps.

The best part about this is that I have a pile of books waiting to be read. I won’t need to be scrambling for something to read any time soon.

Writing–Books of 2013

Cover of "Rescue 471: A Paramedic's Stori...

As I said earlier this year, laziness led me to stop reviewing every book that I read, which was my form of accountability when it came to doing my reading goals. Instead, I kept a list of all of the books that I read during the course of the year, some reviewed on my blog before I abandoned that idea, but most of them not.

This is the full list, the whole list, and nothing but the list, but the list is not in chronological order. Re-reads are marked.

The moral of this list: my goals were achieved. At least 24 books. At least 10 non-fiction. More than one outside of my genre. More than one memoir. A couple from authors I know. Good job self.

1. Real Murders by Charlaine Harris (blog post)

2. A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris (blog post)

3. Charlie by Shana Hammaker (blog post)

4. Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King (blog post)

5. Fall Down Laughing by David L. Lander (blog post)

6. The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst (blog post)

7. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (blog post)

8. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (blog post)

9. Emergency! True Stories from the Nation’s ERs by Mark Brown, MD (re-read)

10. Resurgence by Johi Jenkins

11. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

12. Fat Chicks Rule! How to Survive in a Thin-Centric World by Lara Frater (re-read)

13. Trauma Junkie: Memoirs of an Emergency Flight Nurse by Janice Hudson

14. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

15. The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman

16. House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels

17. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsly

18. The Murderous Urges of Ordinary Women by Lois Meltzer

19. The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth

20. Shark Attacks: Terrifying True Accounts of Shark Attacks Worldwide by Alex MacCormick

21. Secret Lives of Great Authors by Robert Schnakenberg

22. Carrie by Stephen King

23. Rescue 471: A Paramedic’s Stories by Peter Canning

24. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

25. Writer’s Gone Wild by Bill Peschel

26. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

27. Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home by Gil Reavill

Writing–2013 Reading Goals Update…Again

Fiction Stacks

With a little less than three months to go, here’s where I’m at.

Of my goal of 24 books, I’ve read 20. Yay!

Since July, I’ve read one more non-fiction book which brings my total to five.

Since July, I’ve read five more fiction books which brings my total to twelve.

The non-fiction book wasn’t a re-read (yay!)

Of the five fiction books, I’d count four of them as being outside of my usual genre.

So, if you add this all up, carry the one, subtract the one non-fiction re-read…then I need to read six more non-fiction books and two more fiction books. And since I’ve been so good at reading outside my genre, the last two books can be horror if I want them to be, which is good because I just got Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep.

I’ve made up quite a bit of ground after my first six months of fail, but I’m still really lacking in my non-fiction reads. This is kind of frustrating considering how much non-fiction I used to read. You’d think it be easy for me to find a few books on various subjects to read about and yet…no. I’m really struggling in this department for some reason. It’s become an effort to get over it

So I need to read a total of eight books before the end of the year and most of them need to be non-fiction.

I’m sure I can do that.


Ugh. When did reading get so hard for me?

I Tried to Read a Romance Novel

English: Romance icon

Picture this: a selfish woman with a grating personality meets a man pining for his dead wife and spoiling his little daughter to the point that she’s passed unbearable and on her way to loathsome. And somehow the woman and the man fall in love and they all live happily ever after.

I’m guessing that’s what happened. I don’t know.

When I was in high school my friends and I would read during lunch (if we didn’t have homework to do or tests to study for). While I was reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King (or whatever was due for Sci-Fi class), my friends were reading and swapping romance novels. I didn’t partake because they didn’t interest me. I’d read the backs of them and raise an eyebrow and pass them back. I couldn’t understand then how they could read them, but I didn’t say much about it. To each their own and such.

However, in my latest quest to read outside of my comfort zone, I decided to try reading a romance novel for the first time. I was dedicated, determined, and ready to accept the challenge. Who knows? I thought. Maybe I’ll like it.

Yeah, a lot of things have changed since I was in high school. I’ve changed a bit since high school.

My ability to enjoy romance novels is not one of those changes. I made it like five chapters and went…yeah, no. If I don’t care about two people with unlikable personalities and whether or not they get together as it’s acted out on Facebook, I’m not going to want to read about it in novel form.

And so, I abandoned my attempt, wiser, but a little disappointed with myself that I didn’t have the fortitude to finish it.

So, thanks anyway, romance genre, but I’ll leave you to the folks that love you.

Writing–Reading Goals Update

Fiction Stacks

When we last left our heroine, she was embarking on a trek to read twenty-four books, ten of them being non-fiction, one of those being a memoir, no more than eight of them being from the horror genre, and only two of them total being re-reads.

Well, here’s where our heroine is now…

She’s not being much of a heroine.

I’ve read eleven books so far. Not even half-way done. Of those eleven I’ve read, four have been non-fiction and seven have been fiction. Of the non-fiction, two have been re-reads (oops) and two have been memoirs (good job!). Of the fiction, three have been horror, three have been outside my comfort genres, none have been re-reads (yet), and two have been by folks like myself (good job!).

I fully admit to struggling with my reading this year. I don’t feel like it. Nothing sounds good. Nothing is what I want to read at the time. I’ve just been a real pain in the ass about it. And because I’ve been such a pain in the ass about it and I’ve been struggling with it, I haven’t been posting reviews of everything I’ve read. I’m thinking that I’ll just do a few more as I feel the need, and then just give a final list at the end of the year in case folks are looking for new titles. It’s not like my reviews are worth a whole lot to begin with. They were mostly just proof that I’d actually read what I said I’d read. This year you’re going to have to take my word for it.

I’ve got plenty of time to make up for what I haven’t been doing and make my goals. If I break it down, I’ve got seven more non-fiction to read (can’t count one of the re-reads), and seven more fiction (one of which can be a re-read).

It doesn’t look quite as overwhelming when I put it that way.

Except that it does.

Stupid math.

Book: Charlie by Shana Hammaker

Charlie by Shana HammakerShana Hammaker and I have been mutually following each other on Twitter for a while now. It’s a consensual stalking based on the fact that we’re both writers, we both like scary things, and we both write scary things. (Yes, this is totally a namedrop. Eat your hearts out.)

Charlie is book one of Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011. I like starting at the beginning, you know. I also wanted to read this one because it’s about a body that keeps popping up which reminds me of The Trouble With Harry.

However, a problem body is where the similarities end as Charlie is much more sinister than Harry.

Alex’s life is going along swimmingly. She’s got a job, a fiance, and a new house. It’s all peachy keen. And then a body turns up in her basement. A persistent little corpse she calls Charlie, it just will not stay buried.

This is a twisted little story that unearths more than just a corpse. It’s a tight, quick read that’ll have you double checking your basement.

And yourself.

Okay, maybe that’s just me. I’m easily influenced sometimes.

Still, if you’re looking for a short, creepy read, I highly recommend this one.

Book: Fall Down Laughing by David L. Lander

Fall Down Laughing by David L. LanderIf you know David L. Lander as Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley, then you know why I read this book. If you don’t know who Squiggy, Laverne, and/or Shirley are, well then, I weep for you and judge you harshly. Really. Get on the stick here.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for several years, but I’ve got a great gift for not doing things I mean to do so I just got around to it recently. And I’m kicking myself for waiting as usual.

For those not in the loop, Mr. Lander, actor, writer, serial barger-inner, has multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease in which the nerves are attacked, stripping them of their protective coating and diminishing their function. It can lead to a wide array of symptoms and outcomes including loss of balance, loss of feeling in the hands and feet, bladder issues, loss of the ability to swallow, and ending up in the wheelchair. the disease is a bit of a snowflake in that it affects different people differently. The one constant is that there is no cure. People find different ways to cope with it. I’m not just talking about medicine either.

That’s what the book is about. How Mr. Lander coped with being diagnosed and how he coped was by hiding his illness from everyone but his wife and daughter. He would have rather people thought he was a drunk than know he was sick.

It’s a funny, but heartbreaking look at his life and his head space at that time. It’s also an inside look at a devastating illness that affects millions of people. It’s cautiously hopeful and blatantly honest.

I’ll make up for waiting so long to read it by reading it again.

And again.

And again.

Writing–2013 Reading Goals

Fiction Stacks

I need to come up with some tangible reading goals for 2013.  So let’s do a quick review of what my 2012 goals were and what I actually did.

My goal was to read 12 books, 6 fiction (at least one from a genre I didn’t normally read), 6 non-fiction (at least one memoir and only one could be a re-read). In reality, I read 20 books, 6 fictions, 6 non-fiction, and at least one of the fiction books was from a different genre. I kind of blew the rest of the goals.

So here’s my idea for 2013:

-Read 24 books. That’s just four more than I did read and it averages out to two a month. That should be more than doable for me.

-At least 10 need to be non-fiction. I failed to read my required number of non-fiction books last year (strange since I usually prefer non-fiction to fiction). I need to do a better job of balancing my intake. It’s not quite half, but it’s close enough.

-Only ONE non-fiction re-read counts towards my total. I re-read non-fiction a lot so I have to watch it. I need to look for new stuff.

-At least one of my non-fiction reads needs to be a memoir. This was one of the goals I failed last year.

-Only one of my fiction re-reads counts towards my goal. I don’t usually re-read fiction, but I’ve been hankering to read a couple of Stephen King books again.

-I will continue exploring other fiction genres. That means I need to limit the number of horror books I read. I say no more than eight.

-Read more of books by people I know. I need to be more active in supporting the authors that I interact with on Twitter. Reading more of their books would be a good idea.

I think these goals will be a great way to keep me productively reading this year.

Let’s hope I do better at meeting (exceeding?) them than last year.