In Passing

41h0dp9njSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Check out JR Wirth‘s new book In Passing. I designed the cover! Here’s some promo copy:

“Trying to bring closure to her haunted youth, Mary Elizabeth Stroll’s past and present converge during a haunting, day-long interview. In Passing is a dark, yet romantic, paranormal tale, which thrusts two adolescent, suicide victims into a haunting afterlife odyssey where they find love and meaning. The journey leads them to intervene in the lives of other distressed young people, all the while amorous feelings grow. The two are then reunited with their lifeless bodies to search for the truth and their lost love.”


Books on writing I read in 2015

Every year I try and read a couple of books on the writing craft. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but,  honestly, I love reading stuff on how to write fiction. Here is what I read in 2015:

2940151898539_p0_v3_s192x300Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
by Hank Quense
Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. What I want is something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over?

9780985780401_p0_v1_s192x300Structuring Your Novel
by K.M. Weiland
Weiland shows how to make the most of using the three-act structure as you write your novel. She has become sort of an online tutor/mentor to me because books like this one answer my questions about writing fiction.

51QhpMsap6L._UY250_Your Guide to Scrivener by Nicole Dionisio
Scrivener is a program to help writers organize their projects, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t praise the software enough. There are dozens of books out there to show the writer how to use Scrivener, and I picked this by Nicole Dionisio. I admit I selected because it was the cheapest ebook on the subject I could find. But it’s all okay, because she did a great job and the book is short, so you can learn Scrivener quickly.

Some memoirs I read in 2015

I read several biographies/autobiographies/memoirs this past year, and here is what I thought of them:

9780316334310_p0_v2_s192x300Born With Teeth
by Kate Mulgrew
Actress Kate Mulgrew offers up vignettes of her life as an actress and also her personal triumphs and tragedies. Some remember her as Mary Ryan on Ryan’s Hope; some remember her as Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager; some now know her as Red on Orange Is the New Black. The nerd in me was hoping to get more behind-the-scenes stories about Voyager, and while she goes in to detail about how she landed that iconic role, she only glosses over her eight-year run as a captain for the Federation. But that’s okay. This memoir is well-written and is focused around her heartache of giving away a daughter at birth.

9781937009304_p0_v1_s192x300For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
by Jason Sizemore
Jason Sizemore gives the history of how he started his own small publishing company of horror fiction. While this book would be interesting to those in the independent publishing field, I’m not sure the appeal goes beyond that. The problem with this book is that the author doesn’t seem to know what kind of book it’s supposed to be. Is it a memoir? Is it a how-to? He includes some well-told anecdotes, but I’m not sure most people would get into this one.

9780618871711_p0_v2_s192x300Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel
A beautifully illustrated comic book style narrative about Bechdel’s dysfunctional childhood. The author had to be brave to share her story about her eccentric father and his early death. She struggles with her relationship with him and finds a connection with him in an unusual way. Warning: adult situations in this story.

9780374531263_p0_v5_s192x300A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
In the early 90’s, a boy from a village in Sierra Leone is forced to join the rebel’s army. This is the author’s version of his story and how he escape the fighting. Apparently there is some speculation about the accuracy of the author’s memories, but it’s still a great read that reveals the tragedy of children in politically-motivated combat.

9781453258132_p0_v1_s192x300The Man in the Empty Boat
by Mark Salzman
I enjoyed Salzman’s Iron and Silk and True Notebooks, but I realized he hadn’t written anything in a while. This book explains why. Salzman tells about his crippling anxiety and how it affected his life, including his writing, and also how he dealt with the death of his sister.


My favorite fiction titles I read this past year

See, I read stuff besides Science Fiction & Fantasy.

9781476746586_p0_v9_s192x300All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; World War II Fiction
An indirect connection between a blind French girl and a German soldier boy guides them through the ravishes of Germany’s invasion of France. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel can be compared to The Book Thief.

9780451526342_p0_v1_s192x300Animal Farm by George Orwell
Genre: Classic; Allegory; Distopian
Orwell describes the rise of the Soviet Union using animals on a farm. Yes, this is the first time I’ve read this classic, because I never encountered it in high school language arts classes. I appreciated the review of Soviet history and wondered if anyone is paying attention to the lessons of this story.

9780679745655_p0_v1_s192x300Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Genre: Classic; Fiction; Novella
In the 1940s, an American writer becomes fascinated with an outspoken woman in his apartment building who has an outspoken personality and a hidden past. This short novel reminds me of The Great Gatsby in some ways: narrator becomes slightly obsessed with a larger-than-life neighbor.

9780451232700_p0_v1_s192x300Caught by Harlan Coben
Genre: Murder Mystery
A social worker is accused of a horrible crime, and reporter Wendy Tines investigates a story that unravels into a complex web. Not a genre I’ve read much, but I really enjoyed this fast-paced thriller. If you are looking for a good book to read on the beach, this one will hit the spot.

9781400034710_p0_v2_s192x300Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Genre: Murder Mystery; Novella
This author is better known for his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, but this is the first work of his I have read. It’s a short novel about a murder that transpires in a Columbian town. The reader knows who the murderer is, but the author spends most of the book unraveling why the murder took place. After reading this, I will give One Hundred Years of Solitude a try.

9780399501487_p0_v1_s192x300Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Genre: Classic; Young Adult Fiction
I have seen the movies and I finally got around to reading the classic novel.  A group of British boys get stuck on an island and they try to govern themselves. Unfortunately, the results are terrifying. This book has changed people’s lives with its commentary on the human condition. It’s a pretty violent and thought-provoking novel for its time, the 1950’s.

9780143039976_p0_v1_s192x300 We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Genre: Classic; Horror
Merricat Blackwood, her sister and uncle live in an old mansion on the edge of town. Something chilling has happened to the other family members. This is a pretty creepy story written by the same person who wrote the famous short story that terrified me in high school: The Lottery. Jackson is one of the 20th century’s under-appreciated writers. This book is a good one to read around Halloween.


Science Fiction and Fantasy I read this year and why I did or did not like them

9780316246620_p0_v6_s192x300Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Genre: Science Fiction; Space Opera
A starship, thousands of years old, has been dismantled and its memories downloaded into one of its mechanic beings that seeks revenge. First of all, the narrator of this story is the starship who cannot distinguish gender, so every character is male, although some of them are actually female. This makes the story both clever and confusing. Clues exist to should which are female, but then the question arises: does it really matter?

9780374104092_p0_v2_s192x300Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Southern Reach #1
Area X has been cut off from civilization for years and everyone who goes in either disappears or goes insane when they return. While I enjoyed this well-written episode in this series, I felt unable to really care about the characters. I can see why this series is popular, but I probably won’t read the rest of the books in it.

9780804137256_p0_v2_s192x300Armada by Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction
One day, teen nerd Zach Lightman sits in class bored to death and the next he finds himself fighting off invading aliens and asking, “How did I get here?” It seems every science fiction book, movie and tv show of the past several decades have actually been training modules for earthlings to fight off the nasty lizard beings heading toward earth. It’s very similar to Ender’s Game and strangely enough, that’s the whole point. I loved, loved, loved Cline’s novel Ready Player One, and even though I get what he was doing in Armada, I thought it lacked something. Not a bad read, but don’t go into it expecting Ready Player One.

9780812976823_p0_v2_s192x300The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Genre: Urban Fantasy; Horror
A young woman finds herself in the middle of a war between two groups of mystical humans. This ended up being one of my favorite reads in 2015. It’s quite long, but I enjoyed the well-developed characters and storyline that is pieced together with each chapter. And the ending nearly killed me emotionally. Mitchell is the author of A Cloud Atlas, which I have not read, but I’ve heard The Bone Clocks is better.

9780316217583_p0_v2_s192x3009780316334686_p0_v2_s192x300Cibola Burns and Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey
Genre: Sc
ience Fiction; Space Opera
Series: The Expanse (#
4 xand #5 respectively)
I will just go ahead and admit this series is currently my favorite in the SF genre. A new tv series based on these books just started on the SyFy channel, which is no surprise; these novels were meant to be adapted for the screen. The last installment, Nemesis Games, is probably my favorite along with the first book in the series. What makes NG special is the revelation of the backgrounds of the main characters. Finally. In the first four books, their histories were only hinted at, but this volume shows more about why they are the way they are. And it’s a pretty epic Apocalyptic story that turns the series in a whole new direction.

9781481455923_p0_v9_s192x300City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Genre: Urban Fantasy; Young Adult Fiction
Series: The Mortal Instruments #1
Clary Flay is a teen girl who finds out she has a supernatural background. This is the first in a series that falls into the Young Adult Urban Fantasy genre, to which the Twilight series belongs. I’ve never read Twilight. But I did like this book. A movie was made of the book a few years ago and now there is a television show based on the books.

9781482567434_p0_v2_s192x300Days Gone Bad by Eric A. Asher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Vesik #1
Damian Valdis Vesik is a Harry Dresden type modern day wizard who fights the local supernatural bad guys. Okay, I wanted to like this book more than I did. It had great dialogue, characters, and action scenes but I could not figure out who the antagonist was in this novel. The characters are reacting to situations, but I wasn’t sure why. I feel the author should have made the bad guy more tangible. The reviews for the next book in this series are positive, so I’m going to give it another shot because, overall, Asher is a good writer.

2940045438209_p0_v2_s192x300Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland
Genre: Fantasy; Urban Fantasy
Every time Chris Redston falls asleep, he wakes up in a different reality where he is a messiah figure everyone wants to kill. That would put a cramp in anyone’s day. This ended up being one of my favorites for 2015. Weiland has written several books on the craft of fiction writing, and all her skills are obvious in the execution of this story. If you like swash-buckling adventure, romance and fantasy, you’ll enjoy Dreamlander.

9780545284141_p0_v2_s192x300False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult Fiction
The setting is a Middle Earth type world where an orphan boy named Sage is kidnapped and used to replace a prince who’s gone missing. Although I’ve classified this as Fantasy, there is really no magic in this novel, just a great story.

9780544336261_p0_v4_s192x300The Giver by Lois Lowry
Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult Fiction
I read this about 20 years ago when it first came out and after seeing the 2014 movie, I became inspired to read it again. Having gained twenty years of sorrow and joy, I appreciate this book more. The question of “Why is there pain?” causes more people to lose their faith in a supreme being, causes many people every year to take their own lives, causes the lonely and hurting to fall into the depths of hopelessness. But pain in life is necessary. This book shows why.

9780765381323_p0_v3_s192x300Lock In by John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction; Murder Mystery
A mysterious disease causes a portion of the world’s population to be locked in their bodies, unable to move. Technology is created in which their consciousness is transferred to robotic bodies so they can interact with society. Chris Shane is one of the disease’s victims who finds himself solving a murder in his robotic body. This novel was obviously written to be adapted for television or movies, but that’s okay. It’s a fun read.

9780452296299_p0_v1_s192x300The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Magicians #1
Quinten Coldwater finds himself enrolled in a secretive school for magic. This book has been described as “Harry Potter for adults” and I would say that is a fair assessment. It’s a little dark at some points, and too be honest, the protagonist is kind of hard to like, but overall a good read.

9780553418026_p0_v3_s192x300The Martian by Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
In the not too distant future, astronaut and botanist, Mark Watney, finds himself accidentally stranded on Mars after his crewmates took off during a sandstorm. The book and the movie follow each other as closely as possible, but the endings are executed slightly differently. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book as it goes into more detail. Also, the author is fantastic at making the scientific infodumps seem comprehensible.

The_Maze_Runner_coverThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult Fiction
Thomas wakes up with no memories and finds himself in a strange prison-like environment. Too make things worse, everyone blames him when out of the ordinary things begin to happen. I finally got a chance to read this. I enjoyed it. If you like The Hunger Games or the Divergent series, you’ll like this one. Movies based on this book series have been released–seems like that is the case for many of the books I read in 2015.

9780316198363_p0_v1_s192x3009780316198387_p0_v1_s192x300The Spirit War and Spirit’s End by Rachel Aaron
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress (#4 and #5 respectively)
You know how you get sad at the end of a book because you’ll miss the characters so much? That’s me and this series. I finished the last two books of this series and now I’m sad that there are no more stories about Eli Monpress and his associates.

9781468132335_p0_v1_s192x300The Unraveling by Hugh Howey
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Wool #4
Post-apocalyptic tale of humans living inside an enormous silo and the rewriting of history by the winners. The author originally wrote this in five parts and then put them together in one volume. Eager to read the last book soon.



9780985780470_p0_v1_s192x300Next on my to read list is a newly published book by K.M. Weiland called Storming. Not only are her stories entertaining–I read her novel Dreamlander earlier this year–her non-fiction books on writing have mentored me as I complete my novel. Check out her awesome website and blog. You will find tons of resources and great advice on writing.