Writer’s Workspace: 3/28

Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on: only 9 days remain until my self-imposed deadline to complete the second draft of my archaeological time travel novel, ABSENT.  I conferred this morning with my secretary and social planner, Mr. Ramses, and he and I decided the agenda for today was to lay some major pipe.  Word count needs to exceed 3K this afternoon or there’s no way I’m gonna make it.

Snippet from the screen: Black spots appeared in Nick’s vision, peppering his last glimpse of Emily’s pale, determined face before she disappeared from view.

“Be careful,” he whispered.

He and Alexa worked in silence, shoveling away snow, listening to the weight of it groaning up-slope.  He had to stop halfway through and throw up.  Alexa watched him with a deep crease set between her brows. 

“Hey, Detective Stoic.  You determined to kill yourself too?”

He shrugged.  Maybe he was.

In my mug: Tazo Zen green tea, ’cause, you know, antioxidants and stuff.

On the iTunes: I’ve got a little Bruce Springsteen “Thunder Road” action going on over here.  And It. Is. Sweet.

Out my window: Brooklyn’s bout of spring/winter cray-cray ain’t over by a long shot.  Yesterday it was 40.  Today?  65.  I know which I prefer, and global warming be damned.

Keeping me company:  the aforementioned secretary/social planner, Mr. Ramses, King of Cats, has abandoned me for his afternoon nap.  Hard to argue with the cute, though.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  links for you, my dears!  First up, some musing on the writing life from the awesome Laini Taylor.  Second, the next book in Stacia Kane’s SUPER FABULOUS Downside series is out!  If you haven’t devoured these great books yet, now’s an ideal time to start.  And, finally, for those of you who like being in all your characters’ heads at once…a podcast from Writing Excuses on the omniscient POV.  Enjoy 🙂

What great links do you have to share?  Post em’ in the comments, and while you’re at it, tell me what you’ve got cooking today.

Miranda’s Holiday Reading Guide

Well, according to our Corporate Overlords, now that Thanksgiving is over it’s time to begin the Annual Holiday Buying of Things We Can’t Afford.  Perhaps a better approach is to buy things we can afford – such as books!  In support of the myriad joys of the written word, I’ve put together my must-have, must-read list.  Whether given as a gift or devoured yourself during whatever leisure time your holidays provide, here are 9 fabulous books that will (hopefully) keep your holidays merry.

In no particular order, consider:

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel KayUnder Heaven is lyrical, epic fantasy at its best.  Though, really, Under Heaven is best described not as fantasy, but as historical fiction about a world that just happens to be invented.  Guy Gavriel Kay masterfully tells a sweeping, historical tale through the eyes of the individuals caught up in it’s unfolding.  There’s very little magic and no mythical creatures, just beautiful writing, an intricate plot, and fascinating characters that benefit greatly from the author’s detailed research on the Tang Dynasty.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood is that most delightful of combinations:  a horror/love story.  By turns a thrilling, twisty page turner and a chilling Gothic consideration of what it is to become enamored with death, Anna Dressed in Blood pits Cas, a young man who hunts vengeful spirits, against Anna, a murdered girl turned murderous ghost.  But as the plot unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that Anna isn’t the ghost Cas should really be afraid of.  Set against the backdrop of a Canadian winter, this story of love against all odds is both scary and endearing.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryLonesome Dove is a classic tale of the American West and hands-down my favorite book of all time.  If you’ve read it, isn’t it time for a re-read?  And if you haven’t…well, do yourself a favor and rectify that.  Sad, beautiful, and funny, Lonesome Dove also boasts one of the best characters of all time:  the life-loving, philosophical cowboy, Augustus McCrae.

His Good Opinion by Nancy KelleyHis Good Opinion is definitely one for the Jane Austen fans out there.  It tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view.  Kelley does a great job of staying true to the mood of the Recency period and hews close to the original story.  It’s quite fun to see the tale turned on its head and follow the many misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Darcy from the latter’s point of view.

The Downside Series by Stacia Kane.  Consisting of 3 books (with a 4th out in March 2012), Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, and City of Ghosts, offer the reader a flawed but loyal heroine, Chess Putman.  An agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess uses her skills as a ghost hunter to try and make the urban underbelly in which she lives a safer (or at least a less haunted) place.  Complications include her struggle with drug addiction, a love triangle with a gang leader and his rival’s enforcer (rather awesomely named Terrible), and Chess’s attempts to reconcile her calling in the Church of Real Truth with her seedy life in Downside.  This series is well-written and different from most Urban Fantasy fare.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom RiggsMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is probably the most inventive, compelling book I’ve read this year.  My only complaint would be the current lack of a published sequel.  Coming of age.  Monsters.  Heroism.  Difficult choices.  A moody setting.  Great writing – and all inspired by the creepiest, coolest set of old-fashioned photographs I’ve ever seen.

The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass.  Of all the “craft of writing” books I’ve read and used, The Breakout Novelist is my favorite.  Maass gives you both the big picture and the small, providing overarching commentary on what makes plot, structure, and characters work while also offering exercises you can apply to your own works in progress.  Practical and useful.

So, those are my suggestions…but what about you?  What books would you recommend for holiday readers and shoppers?  What are your favorites from 2011?  What are your favorites of all time?  Share the love, folks!