2015 Summer Reading (and Writing) Program from Nerd in the Brain

Click HERE for the Audio Edition!


Hello all!

Sorry, I know I haven’t been keeping up with most of my online writing, but I promise it’s because I’ve been hard at work editing Ravens and Roses.  But I did want to share something fun that I’m doing at the same time:  the Summer Reading (and Writing) Program from Nerd in the Brain.

I only found out about this challenge a few days before it started, but I’ve been enjoying it.  There are 30 reading challenges, 10 writing challenges, and 10 “other” challenges.  I’ve been reading like a madwoman, since now I have added motivation to get through the pile of library books I’ve been hoarding for weeks.  The reading challenges are really easy to write a small summary for, but the writing challenges are (for me) a little harder to tackle.  I didn’t want to just write a little summary of something I wrote, but I also didn’t want to post the entire response to the challenge in that small space.  It could be done… I just didn’t want it to be inconvenient.

So I decided to post my writing responses here on The Cat’s Cradle, as well as a list of the books I read for the reading challenge.  I’ll post a summary and a link for Nerd in the Brain, so I won’t take up all that space, but folk can see what I did if they want to.  So check back throughout the summer to see the results of the challenge.

Here goes!


June 14 – RC 28
“A book that has more than 300 pages”
Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan

June 15 – RC 11 
A book with a red cover”
Other People’s Rejection Letters
edited by Bill Shapiro

June 15 – RC 24
“A book with a protagonist that is not human”
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

June 17 – RC 20
“A book that was recommended by a friend”  (Thanks, R.E. Myles!)
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

June 19 – RC 25
“A book that includes an alien, dinosaur, monster, or robot”
Halo: Cyptum by Greg Bear

June 21 – RC 15
“A book that takes place in another world”
Halo: Primordium by Greg Bear

June 22 – RC 03
“A book that includes science”
Halo: Silentium by Greg Bear

June 26 – RC 19
“Book that is less than 100 pages”
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

June 28 – RC 06  
“A book with an animal on the cover”
Death of a Dowager by Joanna Campbell Slan

June 28 – RC 21  
“A book that was turned into a movie”
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

July 1 – RC 22
“A book based off a movie or TV show”
Battlestar Galactica by Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston

July 1 – RC 16
“A book with a protagonist who is opposite of you in some way”
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

July 2 – RC 18
“A book that has the letter J, Q, or Z in the title.”
Jhereg by Steven Brust

July 3 – RC 10
“A book by an author that shares the same first or last name with you”
The Adept by Katherine Kurtz

July 4 – RC 05
“A book with a protagonist younger than 14”
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

July 11 – RC 17
“A book written by another blogger”
A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars by Natacha Guyot

July 13 – RC 26
“A book about a real person that you want to know more about”
The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

July 13 – RC 08
“Judge a book by its cover — read a book you chose just because of the cover”
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

July 16 – RC 29
“A book with a protagonist over the age of 50”
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross

July 20 – RC 01
“A book with a dragon in it”
Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey

July 24 – RC 13
“A book that has NO words”
Flotsam by David Wiesner

July 25 – RC 12
“A book that has food on the cover”
Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

July 25 – RC 02
“A book with a one word title”
Yendi by Steven Brust

August 4 – RC 04
“A book that includes math”
Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan

August 4 – RC 27
“A book that was published the year you were born”
Stained with Crimson (a novella within The Book of the Damned) by Tanith Lee

August 4 – RC 14
“Read a graphic novel”
Hatter M: The Zen of Wonder by Frank Beddor, illustrated by Sami Makkonen

August 6 – RC 07
“Read a book that is older than you”
The Monster Bed by Jeanne Willis and Susan Varley

August 10 – RC 30
“Read a book that is just plain silly”
Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clarke

August 10 – RC 23
“Read a book that is considered a classic”
The Princess Bride by William Goldman



August 4 – OC 09
“Donate books to your local library, school, or thrift store.”
I donated a box of classic literature that I read for school (but will probably never read again) to my local library.

August 9 – OC 10
“Gift a book (new or used) to a friend.”
I found three books at our local annual book sale for my friend, Foxglove:  Empress Orchid by Anchee Min, Shakespeare’s Insults: Educating Your Wit by Wayne E. Hill & Cynthia J. Ottchen, and The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.



June 16 – WC 03  
“Other than holding papers together, list 10 uses for a paper clip.”

a) Lock pick.
b) Hair pin or hair clip.
c) Ring.
d) Link several together to form a necklace or bracelet.
e) Toothpick.
f) Tweezers.
g) Twist-tie.
h) Needle, if the weaving isn’t too tight.
i) Replacement for a broken switch, if you can attach it.
j) Very small back-scratcher.
k) BONUS: Cat toy.

June 29 – WC 01
“You wake up in the middle of the night to find a small but fierce dragon chewing on your toe. What happens next?”

I thought it was the cat.

Well, a cat, anyway.  I’ve got seven, so it’s Russian roulette as to who’s the perpetrator of their late-night antics.  All I know is, I woke up with a bunch of needle-sharp teeth chewing on my toes at one in the morning.  I had the early shift, so I lurched upright and yanked my feet away from the teeth, snarling, “QUIT IT!”

I heard the RRRIIIPPP of shredding sheets and a frustrated growl.  Groaning, I reached over and pulled the chain of the lamp on my nightstand.

It wasn’t a cat.  The cats were perched on every high surface in the room like furry gargoyles, eyes fixed on the end of my bed.  Sitting there, with its claws hooked into my now-shredded blanket, was a dragon.

No, really.  I’m serious.  An honest-to-god dragon.

It was roughly the size of my biggest cat, Diego, but with wings.  Those were folded tightly against its back and sides.  It was kind of built like a cat too; same kind of proportions and movement.  Its tail lashed back and forth with irritation and four clawed feet clutched the blankets.  But it was covered in small scales like a fish with wider, thicker ones curving across its back.  The neck was traditionally snake-like but not very long.  A row of dull spines ran down its back and a pair of horns curved back from its head, just above a pair of small, floppy ears that were currently pinned back.  It had large green-gold eyes with pupils narrowed into slits because of the light.  The eyes were positioned like a hawk’s in such a way that it probably had a wide range of stereoscopic vision.  It was a dusky orange color with glints of copper and darker orange, almost brown, horizontal stripes.  

A tabby dragon.  Go figure.

Now, I can tell you, if I was a kid who woke with a dragon on my bed, I would have been ecstatic.  Dragons were a childhood passion of mine, and I still enjoy reading about them.  But, circumstances being what they were, I was more annoyed than anything else.  I mean, you’d probably react the same way if you’d just been jerked out of REM sleep.  For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I was still dreaming, or if someone had put a toy dragon in my bed as a joke.

But then the little dragon growled, showing a row of white teeth.  A pink forked tongue flicked out and a tiny bit of smoke rose form its nostrils.  I started to cough at the sharp smell.  (My sinuses are really sensitive.  Can’t burn incense anymore.  So sad.)  That was when it started to dawn on me that no, I wasn’t dreaming and yes, there was a cat-sized dragon on my bed that looked like it wanted to try taking another chunk out of my feet.  Or out of the bed; that was also a possibility.  

When a wild animal growls at you, there are two options.  One, back away slowly, or two, freeze.  I couldn’t exactly back up through the headboard, so I chose option two.  Okay, good.  No signs of attack, although the dragon kept growling and stayed crouched.  Now I had another dilemma: could I meet its eye?  If I stared it down, would it see that as a challenge for dominance or a threat and attack or would that frighten it into backing down (or attacking)?  Judging from the white fangs, this dragon was definitely a meat-eater, and there are conflicting reports about looking directly at a predator.  Dogs and wolves see it as a threat.  If it got spooked, those talons and teeth would make mincemeat of my face or perhaps turn on my cats.  The dragon’s back stayed arched.  If it had possessed fur, it would have been bristling.

Ah, hell, I thought.  It’s so much like a cat… maybe this will work.  “Hi, little one,” I said in my gentlest, most coaxing, come-here-kitty-I-won’t-hurt-you voice.  I looked into its eyes and very slowly blinked.  With cats, it’s a sign of deep affection, like a kiss.

The dragon’s ears flicked forward with interest.  The growling eased and then stopped.  So I did it again.  “Wow, you’re such a pretty fellow.  Or are you a pretty lady?  Sorry, I’m afraid I can’t tell.  What are you doing here, lovely?”  The dragon raised and drew back its head.  I swear, it looked surprised.  The lashing tail slowed.  Another slow eyeblink.  The dragon tilted its head to the side and rose up out of its crouch.  I kept up my low, soothing monologuing as the tense muscles started to relax.  Then the dragon chirruped.  

Yeah, I don’t know how else to explain it.  If you own a cat, you probably have an idea of what it sounds like.  Really cute and bird-like.  This was a little more reedy and high-pitched than my cats, but he probably had longer vocal cords.  (I say “he” because the coloring and markings reminded me of an orange kitten I used to have named Simon who adored me.)  I chirruped back, trying to mimic the dragon’s tone as much as possible.

The dragon withdrew his claws from the sheets and stood fully upright, the very tip of his tail twitching.  “Good dragon,” I said.  “Nice pretty, curious dragon.”  Very slowly, I extended my right hand, palm down.

He chirruped again and padded closer to sniff my fingers.  I almost squeaked when he rubbed his muzzle along my hand.  I could feel his exposed incisors brush my wrist.  

The dragon took his time examining my hand, then looked pointedly at the other one, which was currently propping me up.  Slowly, I lowered my right hand, shifted slightly, and stuck out my left for inspection.  He tensed a little as my weight shifted in the bed, but the claws and teeth stayed out of my skin.  His scales felt very smooth and supple, like a ring-neck snake’s scales.  (Those little guys are so cute, and they don’t bite!)

Apparently I passed inspection because, with another chirrup, the little dragon jumped into my lap, turned in a circle, and looked up at me.  Slowly, and deliberately, he blinked.  Then he put his head under his wing and apparently went to sleep.  Very gently, I stroked the dragon’s wings.  I felt a rumbling vibration coming from his chest.  The little guy was purring.

That must have been some kind of signal, because all seven of my cats jumped down from their perches and bounded onto the bed in a furry flood.  The dragon didn’t even flinch, just readjusted so Phantom had some space on my lap.  Within moments, I was completely covered by a mound of purring felines.  Plus one dragon.  

It was sort of cute, seeing all of them curled up together.  Unfortunately, I was also pinned in a sitting position against my headboard.  I contemplated trying to scoot back down into my bed to lay down, but that would probably displace my slumbering bedmates.  I wasn’t sure how my new scaly houseguest would react.  As uncomfortable as it was, it was best to let sleeping dragons (and cats) lie.

“Oh man,” I sighed.  “I’m gonna be so stiff in the morning.”  


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