I'm a voracious reader, of almost everything. I've recently read a great romance and two excellent writing craft books.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips's extraordinary romantic comedy, Match Me If You Can is a delight. The book has a more "chicklit" cover and attitude, but SEP came through again with well-rounded and fascinating characters and more twists to the romance plot than the heroine's corkscrew curls. SEP has revisited the pro football world of the Chicago Stars with comic and heartwarming results. Heath Champion, the hot-shot and sometimes abrasive sports agent, hires not one, but two matchmakers to find him a bride. Annabelle Granger has inherited her grandmother's matchmaking business, including the seniors who were Nana's clients. In order to jumpstart the business her way, she needs a high-profile success--Heath Champion, called the Python for his cutthroat negotiating. This book is a great ride--crackling dialogue, sparkling wit, sizzling sensual tension, and characters who become their best selves because of each other. Don't miss Match Me If You Can. Now I have to find the next book, Natural Born Charmer, a sequel featuring one of the sexy football stars introduced in Match.
Now for those of you who are writers as well as readers, I have two books to recommend. The first is 10 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters, by Sue Viders, Lucynda Storey, Cher Gorman, and Becky Martinez (Lone Eagle Publishing Company 2006). Sue Viders is one of the authors of the must-have The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines (Lone Eagle Publishing, 2000), so you can be sure these authors know what goes into creating dynamic characters. The book includes forms, checklists and exercises to help a writer develop and build story characters. The exercises go beyond the usual backstory, occupation and physical description. They address such topics as successes and regrets, defining moments, family, pet peeves, soft spot, identifying tags, most prized possession, and flaws and fears. Their guidelines helped me develop the hero and heroine in my current project, so I feel I have much deeper characterization than I would have. The other handy manual is Becoming Your Own Critique Partner by Janet Lane Walters and Jane Toombs (Zumaya Publications, 2006). The authors are multipublished in a variety of romance subgenres and offer a wealth of examples and advice for critiquing one's own writing. The book covers in detail the aspects of ensuring one's novel is saleable, and more than saleable. The chapters address using telling and showing, deciding whether scenes stay or go, strengthening dialogue, building toward the black moment, using point of view effectively, and first chapters, among many others. Reading it cover to cover gave me the overview, and now I can refer to specific chapters's checklists and questions when I'm unsure of a scene or chapter or of my plot and characters. I recommend both these books as useful references in the writer's toolbox. Both are available online.