The Year of the Woman – Book Recommendations Wanted!

For my 2017 Reading Challenge, I chose to focus on book series. My core list included books from seventeen different series. It’s been an incredibly fun year so far, reading books by favorite authors, as well as discovering new authors. My favorite new discovery this year is probably Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy.

Though the year isn’t over yet, and I have a few books on my list still to read, I’ve begun looking ahead to 2018. In looking at the books I’ve read over the last few years, and the books currently waiting my my TBR list, I can’t help but notice a preponderance of male authors.

Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. Most of my favorite authors are men – Tad Williams, Brandon Sanderson, J. R. R. Tolkien, and many others. But my reading list feels a little one sided, and I’d like it to be more balanced.

Therefore, I’ve decided that my focus for 2018 will be on women authors. There are women writers I’ve never read, but feel like I should have – such as classic fantasy writers like Anne McCaffrey and Ursula K. Leguin. And there are books that have been on my list for way too long like The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

My hope is that I can broaden my reading experience and discover some amazing writers along the way. So along with focusing on women writers, I want to include books from various genres, writers from all walks of life, and as much diversity as I can pack into the year.

Here’s where I need your help. I have a huge stack of books on my shelf already to choose from, but most of these fall into one of two of my favorite genres – fantasy or suspense. There’s also a good representation of young adult fiction. What’s missing more than anything else are the non-fiction categories such as poetry, biography and essays. I’d also like to find more independent/self-published writers.

So I’m looking for recommendations. Particularly in non-fiction genres as well as translations into English. Who are your favorite women writers? Who should I consider adding to my reading list next year? Please, let me know!

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher: A Review

With my writing obligations of late, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my reading obligations. I’m still reading, however and number two on my 2017 Reading Challenge list, is the category, “a book published last year.” Technically speaking, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher, was published two years ago, but I decided to stretch things a little for this book.

I’ve never read any of Jim Butcher’s books before this one, though I know he has two other ongoing series. My book club has often talked about his books, so I was somewhat familiar with him already. This book joined my list because I went to my friends on Twitter and asked for a recommendation for a book in the steampunk sub-genre, something I’d never read before. This book was recommended, and I am so glad I picked it up. I loved this book!

I love this quote on the back cover by David Weber, which sums the book up very nicely:

It’s steampunk meets magic with a dose of sci-fi for seasoning.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first book of The Cinder Spires, a new series by Jim Butcher. It features a Captain Grimm, formerly of the Fleet of Spire Albion. He now captains his own private vessel, working as a privateer, attacking and disrupting trade vessels of rival spires. His ship, however, is something special. It’s a fascinating combination of an old time sailing ship and a zeppelin style airship, but powered by special crystals rather than steam engines or wind. Though both are also possible in addition to the crystals.

The story opens with an amazing air battle scene between Captain Grimm’s Predator and a much larger trade vessel, and then an even larger battle cruiser. Butcher expertly draws the reader in and sets the story up to be an incredibly fun read. I was not disappointed.

Butcher’s action scenes have a cinematic feel, bringing the reader right into the action. So much so that I felt like I was right in the middle of it, seeing the action, feeling the wind on my face, watching the expressions of the characters change as they respond to what’s happening. There is one scene in particular that I will likely never forget. I’d share it, but I don’t want to spoil anything. You’ll just have to read the book!

The characters in this book are delightfully complex. Besides Captain Grimm, there is Benedict Sorellin, a warriorborn (what seems to be some sort of human and animal hybrid), his cousin, the Lady Gwendolyn Lancaster, a pair of etherealists who are very likely insane, and Bridget Tagwyn, a young woman of the lesser nobility. This group of mismatched individuals are sent on a mission to save the spire from the invading force of a rival spire.

Even the villains are fun to read. The rival armies are filled with honorable officers, some I can even sympathize with. The main villain at the heart of the worst treachery is great. She’s fabulously wicked, and someone I loved to hate. I am still intrigued by her, and want to know more about her motivations.

And let’s not forget one other significant member of the party of heroes, Rowl of the Silent Paws. Rowl is a cat, to whom the Lady Tagwyn (known to Rowl as Littlemouse) belongs. The relationship between cats and humans in this story is complicated. And absolutely wonderful. The cats in this story are brilliantly written and add an extra layer of fun.

This book is a truly great read. And, oh! What an ending! I look forward with great anticipation to the next book! In the meantime, I’m going to have to look into the other series written by Jim Butcher.

Tyrion Lannister, Body Image & Books That Make You Think

My first thought when I saw today’s word prompt, was of Tyrion Lannister. If you don’t know the name, Tyrion is a character in the book, Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

I began this conversation with myself this morning with the word squat, and with trying to think of what I could write. I saw a number of posts taking the word “squat” and talking about its meaning of “nothing.” I didn’t want to go there, having been suffering of late from this “nothingness,” and an inability to put words to paper.

That’s when I thought of Tyrion Lannister.

I am currently reading Game of Thrones as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. I am about two thirds of the way through the book, and I haven’t yet decided if I like this character, or despise him. Tyrion is a squat, little man, affected by dwarfism. He makes up for his lack of physical size with a keen mind and a brash, often impertinent tongue.

This compensation of his frequently gets Tyrion into trouble, opening his mouth at the wrong moments and saying all the wrong things. The reverse is just as often true as well, however. He can talk his way out of certain death as quickly as he got himself into the trouble in the first place.

It is human nature to hide our weaknesses from others whenever possible. In Tyrion’s case, however, his physical stature is an obvious weakness, plain for all to see. Rather than hide it, Tyrion instead hides within his weakness. He embraces it, and uses it to his advantage over those who would discount him for it.

Negative body image is a huge issue in our real world today. We don’t really need characters like Tyrion to remind us of this fact. But I couldn’t help wondering what could we learn from Tyrion about dealing with those who would shame us for our physical attributes. He says:

“Let them see that their words can cut you and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore.” – Tyrion Lannister

I found myself surprised that I would think of Tyrion when this word prompt came up. I haven’t had much to write lately, and I didn’t really think a little word like squat could inspire me. As I wondered about my apparent inability to write, and what to do about it, I asked myself the question, what have I been writing about lately? Aside from my fiction projects currently in the works, I’ve mostly been writing about what I’m reading. And currently, that is Game of Thrones.

Unlike another book I’ve read recently, a collection of stories by H. G. Wells, I haven’t been inspired to write much about Game of Thrones. I’ve been too busy reading it! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the book, completely absorbed in the story.

While reading the Wells book, on the other hand, I had several ideas pop into my head along the way. My curiosity was triggered about a lot of different things. Such as this impromptu mini-study on the discovery of helium. Or this ongoing investigation into the treatment of gender roles in fiction. Reading through the Wells collection also generated ideas for several new stories I hope to one day pursue.

There are, of course, any number of differences between these two works that could account for this variance between them. Wells wrote his stories more than a hundred years ago. His language and styling are vastly different from Martin’s contemporary storytelling. Also, Wells is a collection of stories, as opposed to a single work. Make that part of a single work.

The bottom line is, there are some books that make you think. They instruct and inspire curiosity about the world around you. The H. G. Wells collection was such a book. Then, there are other books like Game of Thrones that simply take over your world, and devour you whole.

What does all this have to do with Tyrion Lannister? Ultimately, not much, I suppose. But he does fit the description of squat, and for that I am grateful, as he has inspired me to write these words.

And, what do you know, I suddenly find myself intrigued by dwarfism. What causes it? How many people are affected by it? How do those affected manage their day to day lives? …

In Support of Indie Authors: Why Should I Choose YOUR Book?

Recently I had someone request I read their independently published book with the admonition that I should support indie authors. This got me thinking about the books I have on my current TBR list and what goes into choosing a particular book.

How do I choose what to read? First, genre matters. When I go into a bookstore, I will automatically head for the Fantasy/Science Fiction section and begin there. More recently, the YA section will also demand my attention. Though I do enjoy a good romance or a suspense/thriller, I’m far less likely to pick up a random book from one of these genres.

Some of the top reasons I choose a book are:

1. I’ve read the author before and enjoyed his/her books. This is especially true when a series is involved, such as with Tad Williams and Brandon Sanderson. Often when I’ve really enjoyed one book by an author, I want to read everything ever written by that author.

2. I watched the movie that was based on the book. This isn’t a forgone conclusion. There are a number of movies I’ve seen and enjoyed and I’ve never given much thought to reading the book. A case in point: Jurassic Park.

3. The book was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value and respect. Fellow writers, for example, or other readers who enjoy the same genre as I do. In this manner, I discovered the author Tamora Pierce, as well as a love for the children’s/teen’s section of the library!

4. The book has been the subject of much conversation. This might be a lot of sensational talk like that which has always surrounded the Harry Potter books, or Game of Thrones, driving me to it out of sheer curiosity. It might also be that the author is renowned in literary or genre circles. This would include fantasy/sci-fi greats such as Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. All those “must-read” greats of classic literature such as Shakespeare, Walt Whitman and the Brontë sisters? Yeah, they’re on my TBR “bucket list” as well.

5. The cover! When I choose to pick up a random book I know nothing about, it is invariably because I was drawn to it by way of amazing cover art. This will usually be enough to get me to pick up the book and read the back cover. If the story premise intrigues me, I very well might purchase the book.

6. Price. If I’m being completely honest, the price of a book makes a huge impact on my decision to purchase it. This is where I’ve really come to appreciate ebooks, as their low prices makes it far less “risky” to experiment with unknown authors.

Since starting this blog and joining Twitter, I’ve encountered a huge network of writers and readers that has exposed me to a vast and unending book selection. I’ve discovered a number of books that appeal to me and I wish I had more time to read. I want to read all the books! But alas, I do not have an unlimited supply of time, and so I have to narrow down the choices somehow.

For you indie authors out there hoping to sell more books, what I’ve found that has ultimately led me to decide to take a chance on a book by an unknown author, is the interaction I’ve seen from that author online. I’ve followed them on Twitter, read their posts, engaged with them on their websites and blogs. In this way I have come to feel as though I know the author, at least on some level. If they’ve engaged my interest in this fashion, I’m far more willing to purchase a book from them. And if I like that one? Well, I’m probably a fan for life at that point.

My current reading list has a remarkable lack of indie authors. Instead it is filled with a lot of popular fiction written by mostly well-known and successful authors. Traditionally published authors. Books written mostly by American authors. And in large part, male authors. This is not an intentional choice, and one I am working to change.

I am trying to include more indie authors in my reading list. I want to read more books by women authors. And I’d very much like to find more authors from outside the American/European experience and tradition.

I’m always open to suggestions for books to add to my TBR list. If you have a favorite, especially if it falls outside the “norm” I’ve mentioned above, please let me know! Include your reason for your choice as well. I want to know why I should read this book over and above all the others demanding my attention.

As always, thank you for reading.

2017 Reading Challenge, Reprise

When I didn’t find a fun reading challenge list like I used last year, I finally went ahead and built my own list. I was quite content with it, and really, I still am. But then, I ran across this 26/52-book 2017 Reading Challenge, and it just looked like too much fun. Especially when I realized all seventeen books on my original list fit very neatly into this one.

I confess, I took the entire list of 52 and arranged it to my own liking, choosing which categories I liked best, and narrowing it back down to 26, rounding out the original seventeen books to fill in the gaps. I added in some books I’m already working on, or have queued up to read. After all, if I’m going to push myself to read more, I might as well really make it interesting.

And so, without further ado, here is my new and improved reading list. (Books marked with a * were not included on my original reading challenge list.)

1. A book from your childhood – Prince Caspian, by C. S. Lewis
Book two of the Chronicles of Narnia, this is a continuation of a series I began reading last year. I started reading the Narnia books when I was younger, but never moved past the first book. I’ve enjoyed reading this one with my boys. (Find my review of this book here.)

2. A book published last year – The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher
Okay, released September 29, 2015, it doesn’t quite qualify, but I’ll go with it anyway. This book came recommended to me by a Twitter friend when I asked for a place to start reading steampunk, a sub-genre I’ve been curious about. I’ve heard good things about Jim Butcher already, having learned about him and his other book series from my book club group. (Read my review of this book here.)

3. A non-fiction book – *The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
I’ve been thinking it’s time I put my history degree to work and do a little research. I’ve been curious to read these and other writings from the early period of American politics. I don’t know if I’ll actually get to this one this year, but I would like to try.

4. A book that became a movie – The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
I first became intrigued by this series of books when I saw the first movie. When I found out it was based on a book, I immediately wanted to read them. Still, it took some time before I finally picked up the books and added them to my TBR pile. (Here is my review of this book.)

5. A book published in the 20th century – Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
There weren’t many books on my list written before 2000, and though not the oldest one, it is one of the few. This first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, published in 1996, has become the basis of a very popular television series, though I haven’t watched it. I don’t typically like to start reading a series before it is completed, but perhaps it is a bit of morbid curiosity that finally led me to check this one out. (Read my review here.)

6. A book set in your hometown/region – *Dies the Fire, by S. M. Stirling
When I ran across this category on the reading list, I went looking for a book set in Oregon. I found this one and remembered this is another book I first heard about through my book club. So, even though I really don’t need to add another series to my list, I made an exception for this one. (Here is my review of this book.)

7. A book with a number in the title – I Am Number Four, by James Frey
This one was easy, the only one already on my list that fit the category. (Find my review of this book here.)

8. A book someone else recommended to you – City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
As I mentioned in my last post, my sister strongly suggested this series to me. She took me to see the movie when it came out, and I enjoyed that. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one for awhile. (Here is my review of City of Bones.)

9. A book with over 500 pages – Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams
Tad Williams is one of my favorite authors, so picking up another series of his was easy. This isn’t the only long book on my list this year, fantasy novels have a tendency to be long. I like them that way! (Read my review of this book here.)

10. A book you can finish in a day – *A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeliene L’Engle
This is another book on my fantasy book “must read” list. When I found it on my nephew’s bookshelf, he kindly allowed me to borrow it. Can I read it in a day? I guess I’ll find out. (You can find my review of this book here.)

11. A previously banned book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling
This is the only series on my list that I have read before. Since it was first published, the Harry Potter series has been controversial in school libraries. In fact, the series made the top ten most frequently challenged books from 2001-2003. I’m not afraid of a little controversy.

12. A book with a one word title – Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson
I’ve been eager to read this series by Brandon Sanderson since I finished reading the Wheel of Time books early last year. He did a great job finishing a series I really loved, and I can’t wait to see what he’s created for himself.

13. A book translated from another language – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
This series, written by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, wasn’t published until after his death. Of all the books on my list this year, this one might be the most unique, a crime novel rather than fantasy, and certainly not YA. (Find my review of this book here.)

14. A book that will improve a specific area of your life – *Boys Should Be Boys, by Meg Meeker
I’m a mother of three boys. I can use all the help I can get in raising decent kids. This book is subtitled 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons. There’s little I want as much as for my boys to be happy, healthy, normal boys. If I can learn something from this book, I will be grateful.

15. A play – *The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
I discovered audio books last year, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. So far, I’ve chosen to listen to classic books I might not otherwise pick up. My latest pick includes a selection of famous plays including this one by Shakespeare. (Here is my review of this play.)

16. A book of short stories – *H. G. Wells, Collector’s Book of Science Fiction, by H. G. Wells
This one might be a bit of a cheat. Technically, this is part of last year’s reading challenge, but since I haven’t finished reading it yet, and it is a collection of short stories, I figured why not include it here again. (Find my review of this collection here.)

17. A trilogy or series – The Selection, by Kiera Cass
I’ve already declared 2017 as the “Year of the Series.” Therefore, filling this category was merely a matter of which series to list here. Turns out, it was an easy “selection.” (Here is my review of this series.)

18. A bestseller – The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
Last year, The Name of the Wind was on my reading list. I quickly came to appreciate why this series of books has received such high acclaim. I have been looking forward to reading this second book of the series, and I’m not at all surprised it has achieved bestseller status. The only reason I haven’t already read this one is that book three hasn’t been released yet, and I don’t look forward to waiting for the conclusion.

19. A book you own but haven’t read yet – The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
I’m ashamed to admit that I could almost close my eyes and grab any book off my shelf and it would fit into this category. However, since I already had several chosen to read this year, my choices were a little narrower. I’ve been eager to read this one, hoping it would be one I could interest my boys in reading with me. (Read my review of this book here.)

20. An epic poem – *Beowulf, translated by C. W. Kennedy
I decided I needed to read this one because I’m writing a novel about a bard. Epic poetry is the realm of a bard, and familiarizing myself with the form would be useful. I decided to listen to it instead, so right now, this is what I’m listening to during my commute to work. (You can find my review of Beowulf here.)

21. A book of poetry – *Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
I found this book at a used bookstore and picked it up for my boys for Christmas. We’ve started reading it, but so far, I think I might be enjoying it more than they are. (Read my review here.)

22. A book with a color in the title – Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
I think I discovered this book through Twitter, or more likely, a newsletter from the publisher I learned about via Twitter. I was intrigued immediately, and I can’t wait to read it. (You can read my review of this book here.)

23. A book with an appealing cover – Windwitch, by Susan Dennard
I was first drawn to this series last year when I found the first book, Truthwitch, on Twitter. The cover drew me to it instantly, and I decided I had to read it. I did, loved it, and now, I’m excited to read the second book which also has a beautiful cover. As well as an intriguing premise. (Find my review of Windwitch here.)

24. A self-published book – *Necromancer Falling, by Nat Russo
This is yet one more book I discovered through Twitter. I read the first book, Necromancer Awakening and was intrigued by the idea. After a slowish start, I really enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one. (My review of this book can be found here.)

25. A book by an author you haven’t read before – Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
The Twitter marketing scheme seems to be working, at least on me. This is another book I’m sure I first encountered through Twitter. The books are beautiful and intriguing, and look to be exactly the kind of book I love. But I better start with book one, so here goes.

26. A book set in a country you’ve never been to – The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
I was a little hard pressed to find a book that fit this category. Most of the books on my list are fantasy novels set in their own fantasy realm. Another is set on another planet! Of those that are set on Earth, most take place in the United States. This one, however, is apparently set, at least in part, in England, a place I’d love to go, but have never been. (Read my review here.)

 

I didn’t intend to write a second reading challenge post for 2017. I didn’t intend to try and read quite this many books. But you’ve got to admit, this list is a whole lot more interesting than my original list. I still plan to focus first on my “rainbow” of books lined out in the original post. The other books I’ll read (listen to!) as I can, and hope for the best. Now if only I didn’t need the day job, and could get paid to read books…

2017 Reading Challenge: The Year of the Series

I began this blog with a list of books I had chosen to read in response to a reading challenge that gave me twelve categories to fill with a book to read. Thus, it seems the appropriate thing to do to begin my second year of blogging with a similar post. It’s a new year, and I’ve put together a new list of books I intend to read in the coming months. If things go at all the way they did in 2016, this will not be all that I read. My goal is to read even more than I did in 2016.

Finding this 2016 Reading Challenge was a brilliant stroke of luck at just the moment I was trying to start this blog. It gave me something to focus on for an entire year, so I always had a least something I would be able to write about as I tried to determine my place in the blogging world. It also gave me the chance to practice writing book reviews, and to learn to think critically about what I was reading.

The list also provided a challenge for me, making me stretch my reading abilities and push myself to read even more. While to many readers, a mere twelve books in a year would be nothing at all, but for myself, having read only eleven books in 2015, this felt like a good goal to pursue. And, as it turns out, twelve books was only the beginning of what I would read in 2016. I did, in fact, double that goal, reading twenty-five books.

I ended up reading some interesting, and often surprising books. Most of the books I chose for the Challenge came off my already impossibly long “to be read someday” list of books. So in that respect I accomplished something I might not otherwise have done.

As 2016 wound to an end, I began looking for a new reading challenge list for 2017. I didn’t run across one that I thought would work for me, at least not in the same way the list for 2016 did. So instead, I looked at my book shelves and I began pulling out books I’ve been collecting for too long unread. It turns out, a large number of my books are a part of a series, and so, I have declared 2017 to be the year of the series. I have chosen seventeen books that I’ve been meaning to read, or in one case, reread. All of which, are part of a series of at least three books.

A couple are by authors I’ve read before, Tad Williams and Brandon Sanderson. Three are a continuation of books I read in 2016, C. S. Lewis, Susan Dennard and Patrick Rothfuss. I decided to reread the Harry Potter series after binge watching the movies. And the others are books that in one way or another drew my attention and sparked my curiosity whether by their popularity, good reviews, by the movies that were made from them, or by some other means.

Having narrowed my choices down to seventeen books, I now had the dilemma of what order to put them in. I want to read all of them. Now. But, since I have to start somewhere, I sought input from my sister. She suggested I start with the Shadowhunter series by Cassandra Clare, as it’s one of her current favorites.

So, beginning with City of Bones, I put the books on my shelf in a sort of rainbow order, for lack of any other order that made any sense. The colors aren’t quite right to make a true rainbow (see the photo above), but it’s close enough. Here’s what I came up with:

City of Bones – Cassandra Clare
Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Red Rising – Pierce Brown
I Am Number Four – Pitticus Lore
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
The Selection – Kiera Cass
Shadowmarch – Tad Williams
Prince Caspian – C. S. Lewis
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
Windwitch – Susan Dennard
Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

The real challenge for me in reading through this list, will be not getting caught up in the series. I can see myself not wanting to stop with just the one book, but needing to finish the entire series before moving on. In some cases that will be impossible as the series isn’t finished yet. But it will be interesting to see which ones I can set aside after one book, and which ones will demand I read everything available.

This then, is my reading list for 2017. Seventeen books. All part of a larger series. Five by women authors, twelve by men. Most were published since 2005, a little more than half of them in the last ten years. It’s an ambitious list, as it in essence contains upwards of sixty books.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot of variety in the choices I’ve made. Most of the books are in the fantasy genre, and more specifically, young adult fantasy. Still, a list that contains authors such as C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin certainly won’t be boring. I’m excited to get started on this list. And I can’t wait to see what surprises come my way as the year progresses.

With that, let me say, Happy New Year! Happy 2017! Happy reading!

The Great Literary Mash-up

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been participating in the Twitter #hashtag game, WIPjoy. Hosted by @simmeringmind, there is a prompt for each day encouraging writers to share about their current work in progress.

WIPjoy_Sept2016

Today’s prompt is this: If you could choose any other book to mash-up with your own, which would it be? I never intended to write an entire blog post on this subject, but in trying to come up with an answer, that’s just exactly what happened.

I’ve honestly never given any thought to this idea – that of mashing up the world I’ve created in my novel with the world created by someone else. I’ve never considered writing fan fiction either. Those worlds, no matter how much I’ve fallen in love with them, belong to someone else.

The more I thought about this question, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that my work is already a mash-up of sorts of everything I’ve ever read, seen or experienced.

I’ve been a reader from a very young age. Some early influences I can remember include the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series. Anything by Roald Dahl or Beverly Cleary. I loved Charlotte’s Web, the Black Stallion books and Where the Red Fern Grows.

At one point I went through a romance phase and I read every Harlequin or similar title I could get my hands on. The particulars of the story didn’t matter – cowboys, cops, surf stars – I read all of them. I read the sweet romances, the intrigue stories, even the “spicy” ones!

I don’t remember for sure when I read my first fantasy novel, but I’m pretty sure it was J. R. R. Tolkein. I was hooked in an instant. Tolkein was quickly followed by others: Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Stephen R. Donaldson, Tad Williams.

There’s been more influences, of course. Suspense and thrillers like John Grisham, Tami Hoag, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich. And classics such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Homer, George Orwell, Mark Twain.

All of these and more have become “mashed up” together in my imagination. This is where my own stories come from.

I can’t deny that the greatest influence has been my background in Christian faith – an influence that began even before my birth. I grew up going to church, reading the Bible and so on. The stories of Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Balaam’s Donkey, the miracles of Jesus. These stories formed the foundation of my imagination.

What then would I “mash up” with my own current novel in progress? I can’t choose just one. I’d have to go with the rich, world-building details of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the exciting suspense of Tami Hoag, the beautiful language of Shakespeare and the simple, outright fun of Janet Evanovich.

And yes, I’ll own my faith too. This is who I am, and I write from this worldview. A worldview that is built on the foundation of faith and that expands with each new book, each new experience. I won’t pretend it’s a complete or perfect worldview. That’s why I keep reading. And writing.