stephen king

Here are 13 books that have made an impact on me. I can’t say they’re all necessarily my favorites … some are just memorable.

1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Okay, I lied. This has to be my all time favorite book. The first real romance I read and I was probably 13. I’ve since learned I jumped right over all the wonderful Judy Bloom books most girls my age were reading. Ah, well, that’s me … I never do anything by the book … get it? By the … oh, never mind.

2. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel – Actually the whole series. Many people didn’t like her detailed descriptions of the main character’s intimate relationship. I can’t lie … it’s one of the reasons I dipped my toe into erotica. (Yes, I’ve fallen head first into the pool!)

3. The Reef by Nora Roberts – This is the first book of many I read of Nora’s. From here I read everything she had in the local library. But this book will always remain one of my favorite of hers. (I have several more, but I didn’t want to clog the list with all of her books.)

4. Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown – Again, only the first of many Sandra Brown books I have plowed through. A lover of suspense, I go back to this again and again to learn from this incredibly talented author.

5. Freedom Series by Anne McCaffrey – Anne McCaffrey is an amazing science fiction author. There are many of her books I have loved. But this is the first series that literally held me captive until I got through all of the books. If you’re looking for amazing world building, you couldn’t choose a better teacher.

6. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – Not assigned reading. As a matter of fact, it was banned from the school library and the English curriculum in my high school. So of course … I had to read it. Without the benefit of someone wiser than I to help interpret all the nuances, I didn’t find anything more than a lot of swear words and odd drivel by a young man. I’m sure I missed something.

7. A Death in the Family by James Agee – Now this is a book we had to read in English. The author did an amazing job of setting the reader up for an obvious death, but then twists your gut by killing off a main character instead. Amazing writing. Enough that the impact of that book has stayed with me all these years.

8. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – A quick read definitely. There are arguments among authors as to the place this book holds in the literary world. For me, I almost fainted when I found out this book was only 55,000 words. The same length as Harlequin series books, but half the length of most main stream novels. With an economy of words this author told the life story of two lovers. Even if you don’t care for the writing, you can’t help but admire the success of this novel in all it’s media forms.

9. The Hostage by Susan Wiggs – Looove this story. (I’m a huge fan of Susan Wiggs and had a hard time choosing just one book.) I’ve read and reread this book to learn how Susan Wiggs weaves a tale. She’s an amazing writer and I continue to learn from her every time I pick up one of her books. (I actually got to meet her at the writer’s conference I went to last spring. Nice lady.)

10. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – I didn’t have to read this classic either in high school or college. Feeling I had missed something, I went to the local library and pulled this from the shelves. It shocked me. But mostly the last few paragraphs have stayed with me. I thought it a rather odd ending. I know it was rich with symbolism, but hey … it just didn’t work for me.

11. The Loop by Nicholas Evans – Many who read Evans would have chosen The Horse Whisperer and though I’ve read it, my feelings are tainted by Hollywood’s gross interpretation of his story. So, in an effort to remain pure to this author, I’ve chosen this book that hasn’t been altered by a movie.

12. Firestarter by Stephen King – I don’t like to read horror, but I do like stories of regular people in extraordinary circumstances. King hooked me in the beginning with the very real possibility of college students being paid to participate in a drug experiment followed by a subsequent government coverup. The ending was just as memorable as a young girl takes her story to the only place that would believe her extraordinary tale … Rolling Stone Magazine. Love that twist. The man is truly a master of words.

13. Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – I’m old enough to have read this when it originally was published. I lived on the Maine coast at the time and was enthralled with the idea of gulls being more than birds. It really taught me some new ways to look at my life.

So do you have some books you’ve read that have just stayed with you? Why do you think you couldn’t let go? Of course I want to know … I’m curious about stuff like that.(And now I’m off to have a little something to eat. Which begs the question … how do you feel about cooking nekkid?)

In celebration of Halloween, I’ve decided to devote the next three Wednesdays to all things spookie and mysterious. This week’s topic … HORROR!

Now, as a disclaimer I’m going to tell you, I’m not really a fan of reading or watching horror. I’ve read Stephen King, but only those that were more psychological rather than outright horror. I’m just not into all that blood and gore. However, I can watch classic Hitchcock, television and movies. I think it has to do with the fact that his horror happens off screen. No severed heads rolling across the screen or bloody limbs hanging in the trees.*shiver* Seriously, I can’t stand that stuff.

Of course I had to look at the science behind actually choosing to expose ourselves to something that frightens us. It turns out research has shown we’re hardwired to enjoy the hunt, the thrill of the unknown. There’s a rush of endorphines, the body’s natural pain killer, flooding our brain when we become frightened. The fight or flight response is triggered, increasing our heartrate, dilating our eyes and tensing our muscles.

When we realize there truly is no threat, the life-saving reactions of our bodies become a pleasurable adrenaline rush. Hence the thrill of the fear.

This also translates over to high-risk activities like skydiving, white-water rafting and bungee jumping. See, these things I enjoy. When I participate in these activities I’m left with memories that don’t haunt my dreams or wake me in the night.

Horror movies on the other hand … yeeeeah, those visuals live with me long after the movie is over. I watched a B-rated horror movie when I was a teen that I knew would scare the bejeebers out of me. (cheap tickets, dark theater, new boyfriend … you get the picture) Anyway, I’ve forgotten very little of that movie. I remember how each and every person died when the door to hell was opened at a vacation home of some college kids. Of course the hero and heroine managed to fall into the depths of hell, stab the devil with a very large cross which he threw out of the gates of hell which they in turn used to seal the door shut again saving the world from the clutches of satan. I saw this movie over 30 years ago and remember huge chunks of the gore. If I want horror (which I wouldn’t), I’d just replay a few those scenes (which I don’t).

The only horror type movie that I watched every year even though I knew it would scare me for weeks was an odd version of Frankenstein. Definitely a more romantic version of the original. It was a mini-series and included a wife and everything. It ran for three or four years and it must have been shown around Halloween. I wish I knew the name of it because I just loved that movie and I wonder if I would enjoy it as much as an adult.

Okay, so I’ve rambled enough. What about you? Do you enjoy horror movies and/or books? Any favorites you can recommend for my other visitors … because you know I’m not watching them. LOL!

I’d like to welcome guest RACHEL HAIMOWITZ. Rachel has just begun a blog tour for her newest Release Anchored. Welcome!

I’ve always been fascinated by barely-alternate alternate universes in stories. Secret vampires running detective agencies in modern LA, secret dog shifters owning bars, secret succubae who don’t know what they are but accidently eat people’s chi on occasion . . . and yes, yes I do watch too much paranormal TV, why do you ask?* Stories where the world isn’t so fundamentally different from our own, where just one small thing is different (well, okay, maybe a big thing, but small on a quantum scale), birth some fascinating contrasts at the crossroads.

Stephen King is a master of the barely-AU, and long one of my idols in that regard. From The Stand to the epic Dark Tower series, everything he touched was just a little sideways. Stargate has done some great work with it too, whether through the quantum mirror or a rift in space-time. And let’s face it, it would have been hot to see McKay make out with Rod.

But I digress. After twenty-odd years of watching and reading the masters of the barely-AU, I knew I wanted to try one myself. But I didn’t give it much thought until one spring when I found myself in the middle of a busy newsroom floor at a 24-hour cable news channel. I was working fourteen-hour days logging tape, doing research, and running scripts for an evening broadcast. Our anchor was hosting a big panel one night on, of all things, the Aqua-Teen Hunger Force Lite-Brite bomb scare in Boston. (I. Shit. You. Not.) They needed extra make-up artists to get all the guests ready on time. Zaula Pahn’s** (remember her? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else) makeup artist was sitting in her little work-room right off our news floor, chewing gum and reading a magazine. I was sent to fetch her. “Sorry,” she said. “I only touch Zaula Pahn.”

Well, if all that wasn’t me stepping through a barely-AU portal into a New York where Lite-Brites shaped like cartoon characters shut down entire cities and makeup artists were salaried to work for 30 minutes a day, I don’t know what was.

So, with TV news swallowing my life, and the idea of the barely-AU having crawled and nested firmly back in my brain, I sat down to write Anchored, a barely-AU set in modern Manhattan and starring a slave news anchor owned by his network. TV news staff often work 80-hour weeks anyway, and Zaula Pahn already seemed to own her makeup artist; it was hardly a stretch. 

Forming the Anchored world—one with iPhones and gluten-free bagels and copies of The Economist and also, oh yeah, institutionalized slavery all around the globe—was some of the best fun I’ve had at work in a good long while. I finally got to write my barely-AU, and I didn’t even need to whip out a bunch of goatees to do it.

Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company who’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.

Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason a man would pay so much for what little free time he has, and it’s got nothing to do with his knowledge of current events. But he’s never been made to serve like that before, and he fears he won’t survive the experience with his sanity intact.

He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him time and again when it comes to ordering Daniel to bed. Daniel knows what Carl wants, but it seems as if Carl isn’t willing to take it, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, love just might flourish where once there’d been only fear and pain. Can Carl become the anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, or will he end up the weight that sinks his slave for good?

***GIVEAWAYS *** Rachel will be giving away…
* 1 ebook copy of Counterpoint: Book I of Song of the Fallen
OR of Sublime: Collected Shorts (winner’s choice).
* 1 swag pack featuring cover art from Anchored and my other works.
* 1 extra swag pack to the first commenter to name all three shows
referenced in the first paragraph of this post

And continue to follow RACHEL on the rest of her tour. And visit her blog on JANUARY 23 for your chance for more prizes.

It’s Monday. I went downstate this past weekend to my RWA chapter meeting. (Since I live at the ends of the earth, this means a 4 hour drive one way … anyhoodles) I love those women (and one guy). We’re like extended family. Most of us hadn’t seen each other since the last regular meeting in June and we had a whooooole bunch of catching up to do. It’s so much fun (and totally motivational) to be with these writers.

So I spent yesterday cleaning out my inbox and catching up on laundry and sleep. I thought about working on my writing, but just couldn’t seem to bring myself to open up my WIP and get cranking. Which is dumb, since I really love the characters and the story. Okay, let’s be honest, it’s hard because I have to THINK. I don’t mean I’m not always thinking it’s just that I’ve now got to figure out the backstory on a couple of shifters that I let slide in the last book. Well no more missy. Now I need to step up to the plate and actually mine through their personal history and figure out what is making them tick.

To top it off. I’m reading Stephen King’s book On Writing. I’m about half way through. The beginning was about him as a writer and the history that formed him and created the inspiring writer he is today. What’s this have to do with me? I’m getting to that. I’m now at the point in the book where Mr. King says writing is hard. It’s work. It takes effort to dredge up those words to form paragraphs (he skips the sentence part of writing) and pages which eventually turn into a complete story.

He’s right.

And part of me sometimes wants to sit in the corner and feel bad for herself. I mean, sometimes I’d rather be teaching. But I can’t. What I can do is write. And I have to remember how lucky I am to be gifted with that.

The last couple of weeks I was working on rewriting an earlier piece of work. I remember writing it. I sat down each day with eager anticipation having no idea where my characters would take me, but knowing full well, they’d wind their way into some trouble and maybe a couple of heart wrenching escapades.

But I’ve lost that.

Now I worry, even in writing my first draft that perhaps the readers won’t  like this new character or they’ve figured out the twist to the plot that was supposed to be a surprise. I just worry about every word finding it’s way to the page. Writing has lost it’s spontaneity and joy. And I’ve been feeling kind of bummed about it.

But I decided this week to put it aside. So what–I don’t know what motivates a character and it may take me a couple of chapters to figure it out. The key is to get down that first draft, THEN iron out the details in the rewrite. So I’m telling my muse to BUCK UP, get ready to get down and dirty and do some writing. Stop worrying so much and start having fun again. I don’t know if this’ll work, but I’m giving it a try.

Wish me luck. I’m going in …