December 31, 2010

Resolutions

Every year I have scores and scores of resolutions, most of which grow dusty and fat with disuse very quickly (and are only pulled out again around this time of year, to be recycled for the new year). This year, I'm determined to be different, to be focused, and to actually make it through my list.

Resolutions in Reading
  • Join the re-reading challenge. There's this challenge that has been going around the blogosphere that involves re-reading favorite books during 2011. (Unfortunately I haven't been able to find it again -- does anyone know who's hosting it? Help?) There are a number of books and series I've been thinking about re-reading recently (Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Sabriel, etc. etc. etc.), and formalizing it would go a long way toward actually making it happen.
  • Broaden my reading horizons. My favorite genres tend to be young adult, but this past year I've been making an effort to read more, especially nonfiction. For 2011, I'm aiming to further read outside my habitual reading zones.
  • Follow authors. I'm beginning to realize that I used to be pretty bad about keeping track of authors, even if I'd read a fantastic book by someone. In 2011, I'd like to make notes of the fantastic books I read, and immediately put their authors on my to-watch list. (Already there: Gail Carriger, Carrie Ryan, and Lish McBride, among others.)
  • Read 300 books. This year (so far) I've read 259. For no particular reason, my number for 2011 is 300. (Not counting rereads.)
Resolutions in Writing
  • Write every day. Even if it's just for fifteen minutes.
  • Keep a random writing journal for thought exercises and such, and actually use it.
  • Stop worrying so much about perfection.
  • Finish one full rewrite of my NaNo 2010 novel.
Resolutions in Blogging
  •  Make a schedule and stick to it. I've been a fairly unreliable blogger my first year in, but I think I've hit upon a fairly flexible schedule that will help me keep to a steady pace. Starting January 1, 2011, my schedule will be as follows: Mondays in Reading, Wednesdays in Writing, Fridays in Random (better titles to come).
  • Polish up the blog. I haven't given the layout, page information, sidebars, (etc.) of my blog nearly enough thought as I've grown and developed as a blogger over the past year. At some point in the near future, I'd like to go through an evaluation and revamp of the blog as necessary.
  • Be a better contributor. I read a lot of blog posts, by a lot of bloggers, but I'm not nearly as good as I should be at commenting on them, and commenting back to people who have commented on my blog, etc. etc. Resolution: reply to everyone.
  • Revive Lost Book Girls. Yes, I blog there...or I used to. I still think it's a cool place for book-thought. It just fell victim to busyness over the last few months. (A revamp there is probably appropriate.)
Anyone else have thoughts for the new year?

December 29, 2010

2010 in Retrospect

As we close the door (slowly, over a number of days) on 2010, I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge some big, life-changing events that happened in the last 363 days. In chronological order...

May 2010: I graduated from college.

July 2010: I attended the Denver Publishing Institute, which turned out to be a brilliant thing to do, as it led directly to...

August 2010: Getting a job. Like a real, salaried, full time job with vacation time and everything.

September 2010: I turned 21. As it turns out, this mostly meant surreptitiously sipping at other people's alcoholic drinks before making a face and spitting them out. (But I can do it legally now!)

November 2010: I finished a full rough draft of a novel, which is a: the second complete draft of a novel I've ever written, b: the first one I've done since middle school (eight years!), and c: the product of my most successful NaNoWriMo yet.

So it's been a big year for me. Here's hoping that next year will be even better, especially in the writing things category.

To all of you out there -- I'm so happy to have met a lot of you. I've discovered that the internet is far, far vaster than I ever knew, and I'm looking forward to knowing you more in the future. Happy 2010!

December 27, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

So I cheated a little. (And by a little, I mean I lumped some (many) series into one entry rather than trying to decide on the best of the series.) But here you go: my personal favorites of 2010, in no particular order.


White Cat (Holly Black)
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)
Anna and the French Kiss
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)The Dead-Tossed Waves (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #2)

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1)Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate, #2)

Perfect Chemistry series (Simone Elkeles)
Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, #1)Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)

The Seven Kingdoms series (Kristin Cashore)
Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms, #1)Fire (The Seven Kingdoms, #2)

Twelve Houses series (Sharon Shinn)
Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses, #1)Fortune and Fate (Twelve Houses, #5) 

The Queen's Thief series (Megan Whalen Turner)
 The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)

 Fables series (Bill Willingham)
Fables: Legends in Exile (Fables, #1)Fables: Animal Farm (Fables #2)

 Read them all! Know them! Love them!

December 16, 2010

Why yes, this is what revising looks like...

...and it looks like a whole lot of procrastination.

Okay, just kidding. There's a (BIG) difference between revising procrastination. It's just that where I'm at right now looks a lot like both. (It's revision. It totally is.)

So there are steps to writing a novel, and they're different for every writer. So far, step 1: write a really crappy first draft -- check!..............................

.....................Now I'm just having trouble moving past that. I took a break. And then that break turned into a longer break... And that longer break turned into revision. Really. My draft is a very very very rough draft. Some writers call that draft 0. In any case, that means I am sitting down to a LOT of changes, planning, insertion of subplots and characters. (Yeah, that's right. I am currently missing at least one major secondary character.) ...Where do you go from here?

There are lots of things that need to change about this story, but I wanted to make sure I had a foundation (a solid idea of my vision, at least, for the story) before I started tinkering with the drapes. With that in mind -- well, I'm sitting. Listening to some music, but mostly sitting and letting thoughts wander in and out. I'm not planning on doing this for too long (my next step is character sheets for every major character), but so far I've changed a major institution, sacked six universities, and made a god irrelevant (or at least, relevant in a very different way than he was previously) in my hunt for the heart of the story.

This, despite the fact that it appears to the outward eye like me sitting in my chair for an hour, doing nothing, actually counts. Yes it does.

December 15, 2010

November (Belatedly)

Yeah, this is late. It's almost time to be doing a December retrospective, but still! I read some really good books in November. Here's what I'd recommend:

Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor.
Eerie, otherworldly stories. The first one I didn't love that much, but the second and third! My goodness, this is the kind of imagination that I wish I could steal. And the illustrations are gorgeous.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly.
This book has been getting a lot of attention. So there's history, foreign lands, some adventures... There's some solid French history, and a surprising amount of very interesting music history. Plus, the classic story of personal trauma and recovery. This book is in turns heart-tugging, entertaining, and informative.

A Spy in the House, by Y. S. Lee.
Another historical book, this one about Victorian England. This book also illuminates a part of history I had never even thought about (which I am not going to talk about, because it's kind of spoiler-y). But there's a feisty heroine, a delicious hero, some mystery and intrigue and plenty more to keep me waiting for the next book in the series.

Mistwood, by Leah Cypess.
Wow. Wow... This book may not be the best one I read in November, but it was certainly the one that surpassed my expectations by the most. I applaud Leah Cypess by coming out with original, compelling mythology, and a story I just could not call for much of the book. Unexpected, with some awesome girl kick-assery.

Well, that's it for me for November. All of these books are young adult... Hmm... (I don't read only young adult, I promise...)

December 13, 2010

Moment of Panic

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Yes, that is what a moment of panic looks like on paper. Much akin to what going down a very long drop on a roller coaster looks like. Except I'm telling you that this is not a roller coaster. This is a moment of panic. And I had one of those over the last two days.

Why? Well, I listened to half of an interview with the deplorably AWESOME Neil Gaiman. I am convinced that there is no one quite as AWESOME as Neil Gaiman, nor can there be. And the sheer AWESOMENESS and brilliance of Neil Gaiman really just makes me want to throw the towel in right now, because come on. With Neil Gaiman, who needs me-writer in the world? (This is not usually me -- I'm usually very confident that the world needs me-writer in the world. But Neil Gaiman is Neil Gaiman. AWESOME, but intimidating.)

The other thing that had me going was the prospect of revision. And the fact that I have never really revised a novel. Not really. Not if you don't count that one from middle school that I outlined neatly with my co-writer before going on to NOT revise it. Yes, it's been sitting, unfinished, for about eight years now. Anyway, I'm now facing the bottomless pit of revisions, and I'm really hanging on by a thread here.

I can identify problems. Identifying problems is not the problem here. The problem (which, of course, is really an over-simplification of a LOT of problems) is that I don't even know where to start. Plotting? Characters? Setting? Whaaaaa...?

Which is why I would love it if you all could suggest books to me. Books on crafting a story, and character arcs, and creating settings. Or -- they don't have to be books, by any means. But help? Guidance? Divine intervention? I take all the above, and more.

December 9, 2010

THE PLAN

I've come up with the final (and right) plan. The absolutely perfect plan to begin revising my novel. Yep, I've got it. I really do. And I'm going to show you... Err...

Yeah. So there's a vast world of revision to be done out there. And what am I doing? Putting it off, of course. But in a very responsible manner, I'm sure you'll agree. My reasoning is as follows: Yes, it's time to get started on revising. But before I do that, I should make sure my computer isn't going to die on me, right? (That has actually been a tricky thing for the past couple of months -- I've started saving up for a new computer.) So yesterday I installed some much better security software, and defragmented my hard drive. And today I'm going to be backing up my computer (yes, it's the first time in years...let's not dwell on that, shall we?) to my brand new fancy-shmancy external hard drive. And then I will be ready to write.

Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow.

December 8, 2010

Hello, world!

So I've been on a bit of a hiatus. We can chalk that one (almost entirely) up to NaNoWriMo and Post-NaNo vacationing. Yes, the rumors are true. I completed 50,000 words on November 29, making me a NaNo 2010 winner. After clocking out on the website I promptly declared myself on a writing break for an entire week. No writing. All reading.

And I read some really good books this past week, including Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Lish McBride) and Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins). It was a good break. A great break. A necessary break, to let my fingers recover from the incessant pounding of fingertips on keys. But now, it's time to get back to work. Work like writing. And reading. And blogging.

About NaNoWriMo. This year, 2010, has been without a doubt my best NaNo success ever. This is my fourth year doing it, and my fourth year "winning," as far as word count goes. But this is the first time I've a) stuck to a story the whole way through, without restarting; b) finished a rough draft (beginning, middle and end) in the month of November; and c) come up with something I actually plan on working on going forward.

In other words, it was awesome. I chalk this up to the amount of time I planned for this year's NaNo, because let's face it -- NaNoWriMo does not (and should not, and will never) work as a productive tool for all writers. But it does help a lot of them. And I really really really wanted it to work for me, so I switched up my modus operandi for the month of November.

The big things I changed in preparation for NaNo 2010? First, I spent about two months just thinking about the story, and then another month (October) doing a rough outline of it. Second (and perhaps more importantly), I concentrated on the story, rather than the words. I dropped my obsession with word count and instead made sure that every scene, no matter how painful or weird it was to write, actually moved the story forward.

And all that resulted in a really crappy first draft -- but it's a complete first draft, and one I'm actually looking forward to tearing apart.

In conclusion, NaNoWriMo? A success. Resoundingly so. (But it does not work for everyone, and if you want to do it you should first give some thought to how to make it work best for you.) Now on to the revision -- expect (many) more posts about that to come.

November 17, 2010

NaNoWriMo: A heads up

This is just to say I have disappeared into the noveling monster, and do not expect to come out again until December has come. Possibly longer, as I do not expect my first draft to be done by the first. If you would like to pay attention to me, I seem to be posting on twitter every so often (@readerlyperson). This is probably because it's short.

In the meantime, please enjoy yourselves. I intend to come back way cooler than I left, although we'll see how that goes. Also, any suggestions for how to celebrate finishing the first legitimate draft of my first legitimate novel?

November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo: The music

So, about music. Anyone listen to it while writing? Specifically, anyone listening to music while doing NaNoWriMo?

I used to do the music thing, especially during my college years, while doing homework. But as time went on things changed. I'm still not sure what--maybe I started concentrating more, or maybe I started paying more attention to the music. But as is, I cannot listen to music while writing. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. I can listen to music. But not just any music. Specifically, music I cannot associated with anything. Nothing with words, or else I'll start listening to them. No movie soundtracks from movies I know and love, because I will start thinking of the scenes in which each song comes up. Yep, it's that bad.

That being said, this year's NaNo novel is being written to the soundtrack from the new Alice in Wonderland. I did see the movie, but only once, and some time ago at this point. Thus, it provides the perfect musical background (without being too intrusive) for my finger-tapping.

What about you? Do you listen to music while writing? What kind? Worded? (If so, how can you possibly concentrate on the novel? I just don't get it...)

November 5, 2010

Notes from the (noveling) front: NaNoWriMo (1)

So, the writing's going. I'm excited! Beginnings are difficult to me, because I go back and forth on when the story should start. In the case of this year's NaNo novel, the horribly tentatively titled Like Water, Like Air (PLEASE suggest better titles if you've got them, and I know you do), I wrestled with the beginning for weeks. Prologue? No prologue? Before or after the horrible accident? How cliche is starting with a character awakening, anyway? What if she's waking from a coma? You get the picture.

Anyway, it's day four as I write this and I have managed to get those words down! This may be the first year I actually feel like keeping the stuff I throw down on the page, which I credit entirely to the fact that I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make NaNoWriMo work for me as a writer. (This included an extensive outline process during October, and a commitment to the story, rather than the word count.) And so far, it's going well.

Tomorrow, our heroine will meet the hero. (She thinks he's her hero, anyway -- turns out he's someone else's, but that's a whole different book.) I'm excited! What about all of you? How are your NaNo adventures coming along?

November 4, 2010

Notes, introductions, explanatory notes, and other things the Kindle classics lack

So I've downloaded about 70 free classics onto my Kindle. The text is there, alright. One can read the old, public domain works and get lots and lots of stellar insights and education from them. But something that's missing from all the ones I've looked at so far? The notes.

Yes, the notes. The introductions. The forwards. The scholars who elucidated the author's life and purpose, who discussed where this work stood in comparison to the rest of the author's works, and the rest of the world's works, for that matter.

Now, I know this was the most boring thing to read in high school--at least, it was for me. I couldn't wait to skip what this boring person said and just get on with the story. But lately, I've been gobbling them up. All the introductions, all the forwards, all the footnotes. I've been in a frenzy to learn absolutely everything I can able every author I read (evidenced by the fact that I'm actually reading the introductory notes to Mark Twain's Autobiography, which run through the first 200 or so pages of the book), which is why I'm disappointed that the Kindle free classics do not come with such text.

Obviously this makes sense and there's no other way it could have been done (since it all stems from the public domain/not public domain question), but I'm still sad to see my additional notes disappear. Anyone else? Or am I just the only nerd out there?

PS: I got my Kindle cover. And it's awesome. Yay!

November 3, 2010

Notes From the Stacks (1)

So I recently wrote about Books on the Nightstand, that awesome awesome book podcast that absolutely everyone should check out. Well, everyone should still check it out, but I mention it today because Cinette expressed her disappointment that the post wasn't about what books I have on my nightstand and am currently reading.

So I thought about that. It's true, I do the occasional review, and I do my monthly wrap-ups, but I don't really do regular updates on what I'm reading. This thought coincided with another of my thoughts (my disappointment that Goodreads doesn't have a very good way of keeping track of books reread), and they hung out together until I decided that yes -- maybe it would be interesting to do a semi-regular feature about what I've been reading. (It's called the Stacks -- well, because I have about 75 books, give or take, stacked around my desk at the moment, waiting to be read. A picture may or may not be forthcoming.)

So. What have I been reading? Well, I just finished rereading The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusack. I first read this book... Honestly, I can't remember when I first read it. The text is copyright 2005, so it must have been sometime between then and now. Before I reread the book, I remembered the Death bit, and that was pretty much it. So it was a great experience rereading -- I would recommend this read to all comers.

Besides that, I've started The Autobiography of Mark Twain (volume 1). It's great! I'm the kind of nerd who loves the explanatory notes at the beginning, so I'm having a ball swimming in the first 200 pages or so before Twain's actual words start. The only problem is that it's HUGE. I love that it's huge, but I went on BART a few days ago and was forced to face the fact that I could not take it along. (Because it's huge and weighs a ridiculous amount.) This would be where having the Kindle version would be helpful.

Speaking of my Kindle, it's been fairly quiet on the front, mostly because I had no cover for it and was therefore forced to leave it at home all the time. Now that I've finally ordered the cover, I'm anticipating being able to carry the Kindle around in the real world, which is, of course, very exciting.

So, more later. I've decided preemptively that I like this feature. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it'll probably hang around.

November 2, 2010

October (Disappointedly)

Is it weird that I'm kind of disappointed in October? I read books, I know I did...but for some reason they're just not sticking in my mind the way they should. 20 books down in October, and here are the ones you should think about:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson.
Adorable, I say. About growing older and learning new worlds. Very British, too.

A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner.
Yay, Megan Whalen Turner! This book continues her series "The Queen's Thief," and of course it's full of intrigue and characters who are never doing exactly what you think they're doing...

Prisoners in the Palace, by Michaela MacColl.
I reviewed this book here. In short, some good old-fashioned mystery and intrigue, focused on the real-life Princess (later Queen) Victoria. Very well detailed world, sympathetic (if not absolutely original) characters, and some fun too.

More later. One hopes that this slight slump is not a staying thing.

November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo! (!!)

It's here, and I've just gotten used to the idea myself. Now, onward to fame and fortune! My blank Word document awaits...

Please, brethren, keep me up to date on how you're doing! How are your characters? Still as fuzzy and lovable as they were through your planning months? Tricking you into thinking they're the good guys, when the truth is the exact opposite?

All I can say is that I am emphatically NOT up at midnight tonight, but I'll be writing tomorrow! And I'll be posting updates...

This all goes to say: It's not too late! You can do it! Enter, join, write write write!

See you on the other side.

October 29, 2010

Reader fatigue (leads to writer breakthrough?)

Lately I haven't really felt like reading. Is that weird?

I mean, I love books. I couldn't live without them. But for some reason... For some reason I'm having a hard time coming up with the last book that just blew me away. Oh, right. That was months ago.

None of the books I'm reading right now are really captivating me, pulling me in -- and part of me wants to think that they're just not that good, and part of me suspects that it just might be time for a reading break. Because some of these books? Well, they're on the list for a reason, and I know that on a different day I'd find the acerbic puns absolutely delightful, but today (right now) they're just not working. (There may be a post on different book-moods some other time.)

So what is it, if the books are good, but I'm just not interested? (For those who need a glimpse into my book-life, I can say honestly that I have at least 75 books piled (literally) around my desk, not to mention those wiling time away on my Kindle -- and I'm not really interested in any of them.) Maybe it's just reader fatigue. I tend to read a lot, and hold this bizarre notion that if I can't finish a month having read at least 20 books, I've somehow failed. So my Goodreads page has been getting kind of depressing for me to even look at...

But I do have a suspicion. And that suspicion, while perhaps bad news for my reading life in the short run, may turn out to be just the thing for my writing life. And that suspicion is based on this observation: Lately, I've been dreaming of writing, of being a writer, of holding a finished draft, of marking it up countless times, sending it off to agents like a parent sends her first baby to school... Sometimes (and increasingly all the time, nowadays) I want to be a writer so badly it affects me physically -- I lie awake and just think about it, dream about it, hope for it. And I think that's why I haven't been that interested in reading lately. It's because my brain is trying to make me divert all possible energy into writing.

It's perfect timing, really -- NaNoWriMo starts on Monday (go buddy me! (by clicking on the sock!)), and I have an outline that, while not perfect, is probably the most planned I've ever gotten on a serious project. So, I must tell myself this: There will be time to read later. Now is the time to grasp that manic write! energy and ram words down its throat. Who's with me?

October 28, 2010

Naked Books

(This only applies to hardcovers.)

How many of you take off the jackets of your book as you read? I never used to, but then I started thinking about things like longevity of the jackets, and how I wanted them to line up prettily on my custom-made bookcases someday, so I started taking off the jackets of books while I read them, replacing them once I'd finished. And boy, what a difference.

For those of you who are not in the habit of defrocking your books, I have to tell you: You should be. Some books, admittedly, are boring on the inside. But many books have been meticulously designed (both the jacket and the cover), so that once you remove the jacket, an entirely different side of the story is revealed. Maybe you can think of it as books going out to a party. When in the bookstore, they dress to impress. Every little detail counts, and everything is designed to grab attention and keep it. But once they get home the jacket comes off, and you are sometimes met with a shockingly different look. (But keep in mind -- this look is also designed to attract, even if it's not quite as flashy.)

I say it's interesting (but not essential) to defrock your books. What say you?

October 26, 2010

Adventures with the Kindle (Week Two)

On the flip side...

This post is all the things that annoy me about the Kindle. There aren't many, but there are a few.

1. It's in black and white. Okay, that's not something that annoys me, per se, but it's a limitation that I feel should be addressed. The Kindle is in black and white, so no one is going to see excellent illustrations or pretty covers. (I hear the iPad has pretty shocking color -- if that's something that matters to you, you might want to check that out.)

2. Lack of backlighting. I want to be able to read in the dark, people! Backlight! Backlight!... Okay, I should temper my call here, because after reading some reviews it's pretty easy to see that the designers made a calculated move here. Sure, you don't have backlighting. But you also don't have the added weight that a lighting feature would have added. All told, I don't need my Kindle to be backlit -- I just think it would have been kind of cool. So I'm okay with the Kindle not being backlit.

3. The Kindle store on the Kindle. I think it's cool that you can order books through the Kindle, but I wish the store layout were better. There's no real way to browse -- since the screen is so small, you pretty much have to know what you're looking for, and search for it directly. Which is fine when I know what I want. Bad when I'm just puttering around, which I usually am.

4. This one actually annoys me, and annoys me a lot. (In fact, it's pretty much my only big complaint that I have at this point.) The Kindle does not have a cover. For those thinking of getting a Kindle, I have to say it is imperative to have a good cover. I do not yet have a cover, and for the last two weeks have lived in fear of dropping my Kindle, smudging it, cracking it, whatever. In fact, I rarely take it with me places, and when I do, I actually put it back in the Amazon shipping container to avoid it banging around haphazardly in my enormous bag with the rest of my junk. Okay, read that again. I actually put it back in the shipping container. Because I am that scared of messing it up. So -- a cover is absolutely necessary if you actually want your Kindle to be functionally portable. I will be buying one shortly, as soon as I can decide which one I should get...

5. The audio voice. I don't do text-to-speech -- never have, even the actual audio books which are meant to be listened to. But this text-to-speech thing, while a nice idea, is just creepy. It's like there's a homicidal robot reading to you, with no understanding of pauses or paragraph breaks. While I understand this could be a useful feature, it definitely needs to go through some new iterations before it'll be functional and pleasant.

(The actual reading is going quite well. I approve. It's a good reading experience. Yay.)

October 21, 2010

Reasons why this week rocked

1. Ann Kingman commented on my blog.

2. I got a copy of The Autobiography of Mark Twain. Oh, I want to read it, but I am afraid to ruin its pristine condition by taking it out of the shrink-wrap. Err...

3. After two months of temping, I was officially offered the job. Hello, employment. Hello, job in a publishing house.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Back on Monday.

October 20, 2010

Notes from the (noveling) front: The montage

So the writing's going. The countdown to NaNoWriMo is on -- ten days (depending on how you count) to go, and the big question is: Am I done with my outline? The answer is no, but come on! I still have a third of the month.

Anyway, the outline is coming along, but I find myself at the moment in the part of the outline inevitably referred to as "the montage."

You know, that part of the movie where the hero/ine has met the main characters and settled into the training/romance/whatever sequence, set to a bunch of music (before the big conflict blows up, which will inevitably lead to the dramatic climax). If it's Say Anything, then there's a bunch of kissing and some rain. If it's Mulan, there's a bunch of manly man-stuff and manly singing. (By Donny Osmond too! Who knew?) And if it's my book, it's the heroine learning a bunch of stuff at the castle, and I find myself not really being that enthusiastic about outlining it. Because it all reads like this:

...and then she met up with the awesome spy.
...and then she found the secret tapestry language.
...and then she discovered the god underneath the castle.
...and then blah blah blah.

Set to some creepy music, of course. It's the montage sequence. Which will be interesting when I get around to writing it, but while outlining, I'm fed up with the mounting tension. I want the BIG stuff to happen already! There are some really, really wrenching scenes in my head from the end of the book, and I am just itching to set it all out prettily on my yellow legal pads. (Yes, my outline is currently on yellow legal pads. I'm just that old school.)

Of course, the wrenching scenes won't be nearly as wrenching without the necessary foundation of the montage. Which is why every scene of your book is (and should be) important and necessary. Because every step should lead to the next, should lead to the next, should lead to the (ultimately astounding and powerful) climax and ending. The fact that I can't wait to get there is good, I think...? But it still means slogging through the montage. Wish me luck!

October 19, 2010

Books on the Nightstand

So does who here listen to book podcasts? Anyone? Anyone actually do a book podcast? Because if you do, I want to know about it...

Anyway, even though I've been blogging (both successfully and unsuccessfully, at times) for ten months, I still sometimes feel like there is WAY too much stuff on the internet to wrap my head around. Blogging? Okay, I can write some stuff every so often. Tweeting? Hmm... Might be able to pull that off. Goodreads, of course, is just an extension of my massive to-read list. But book podcasts are beasts I hadn't really heard of for a while, and I still think I'm just scraping the surface in terms of what's out there to be seen.

I've tried out about eight or ten podcasts, and have come to the general conclusion that I don't really have the time. Too much stuff going on, too much work, too much to read and write without adding more hours into the day listening to people talk about books. So I don't really listen to book podcasts. Except...

Except Books on the Nightstand, of course. Who can say exactly what it is about this particular podcast that hooked me, except that it is just head and shoulders above all other podcasts I've tried out so far. It's awesome. Just awesome. It feels like your best friend is in your head, giving you delicious (delicious!) book recommendations at the drop of the hat. I've added pretty much every book they've talked about on that show to my list, because they always sound so good.

There's also that sense of community -- BotNS is very much a listener-participation show, where listeners regularly call in and comment, and the founders, Ann and Michael, actually talk up many of those comments.

Anyway, there's my two cents for the day. If you're listening to book podcasts and you haven't tried this one, you should. And if you don't and you're looking to try it out, do this one. Books on the Nightstand is available to subscribe via iTunes, or you can listen on their website (link above). They also have Goodreads and Facebook groups, if you want to get that into it...

October 18, 2010

Adventures with the Kindle (Week One)

I've had the Kindle for a week now, so I figure it's about time for an update on how things are going.

Things, as it turns out, are going swimmingly. Remember when I was that skeptical girl with the raised eyebrow and the "Okay, Kindles are fine, but I love me my print books"? Well, I still love me my print books. But as it turns out, I love my Kindle too.

I LOVE it. I LOVE it. I'd bring it to work and read all day if only it were easily mistakable as an in-house book I was referencing for some work-related reason, instead of being what it obviously is, which is a Kindle. (Duh.) As I'm a list-maker, I figured I'd do a handy-dandy list of what I've been up to.

1. Downloading books. Downloading is so nifty! Especially with that new 3G feature that enables you to access the Kindle Store from everywhere. I've downloaded a number of the free classics (all those public domain works you hated in high school), just because I wanted them. (And also to show off to friends just how FAST I can get a book sent straight to my inbox. And yes. It is FAST.)

2. Reading books. Of course! Because that's what you need to do once you've downloaded them. I've read Frankenstein for the first time ever, although Pride and Prejudice was my test download (because one's first download should always be Pride and Prejudice). Then I moved on and read two galleys from NetGalley (more on that below), and right now I'm highlighting and barreling through Northanger Abbey.

3. NetGalley. I first joined NetGalley a while ago, thinking that I'd (maybe) use it, since at the time I had no interest or inclination in an e-reader. Then, of course, the stars aligned and a Kindle fell into my lap. At approximately the same time, I got a notification from NetGalley that there were some hot new books available to request, so I tentatively made my first requests from NetGalley. Which were answered pretty much instantaneously. And then (here's the magic) I figured out how to download them onto my Kindle. For free. Awesome? Awesome.

4. Highlighting. I have to admit, I'm not a notetaker, underliner, or highlighter when it comes to my print books. I tried it once -- there was a phase in middle school where that was the thing to do, and yes, I know we were a pretentious bunch back then -- but I could never get over that feeling of desecration. Well, guess what? This feeling is nonexistent when it comes to the Kindle, because it's NOT PAPER. You can just delete a highlight later, and there will be no record of it having ever existed at all. Poof! So I've been trying it out on the hilarious Henry Tilney. Everything that comes out of his mouth is just so hilarious and awesome it's ridiculous.

In short, I love my Kindle, and I would highly recommend it for all insatiable readers. (This does NOT mean, however, that I believe the Kindle will or should supplant the print book. More on this later.) The last thing I really need to do is name it. Right now it bears the obnoxious assembly line name "Rebecca's Kindle." Anyone have a better suggestion?

October 13, 2010

Progress Report #3

So how's the writing going, Rebecca?

The answer is that I am SO a plotter, but I was trying and trying and trying to make myself into a pantser. (I will let you in on a little secret: That is the biggest reason none of my NaNo novels have gone anywhere other than into a sad little Word document hidden away on the archives somewhere. Somewhere without light.)

So now that I've figured this out, that I can't just write and produce a story without some kind of PLAN, what's next? Well, NaNoWriMo is next, and I've been taking October to plan. So far, I have a vaguely outline-shaped thing. My latest addition is an enormous character interview (sketch/meme/questionnaire?) to fill out for all of my characters. Because the main three or four? We're getting along. We've been friends for a couple months, maybe. But the rest of the supporting cast is shadowy. Example: Two princes are among my main characters. Since they are princes, there must be a king or queen around, right?

Umm... Yeah. I know absolutely nothing about the king. And gaping holes like these are keeping my plot from moving forward on the outline. So that's where I'm headed now. Character interviews.

What are you up to? Gearing up for NaNoWriMo? Mourning the loss of summer? Making some new book-friends?

October 12, 2010

September (Coughingly)

Yes, that's right. I have a nasty cold, and it is beating the snot out of me, keeping me home from work and from eating and breathing like a normal person...

In the meantime, September! I read 23 books, and would especially recommend the following:

House of Many Ways, by Diana Wynne Jones.
Come on, it's Diana Wynne Jones! What's not to love? This is the third book involving Wizard Howl, and I didn't know it existed until about two months ago. More Howl is always appreciated.

 Blameless, by Gail Carriger.
I think we all know how much I like Gail Carriger. Come on -- vampires, werewolves, Victorians and parasols? It's really a no-brainer. I got the chance to see Gail Carriger, and she is awesome. Very, very fun and lovely.


Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal.
This one is blurbed as Jane Eyre + Beauty & the Beast + Jane Austen. I'm not sure it's quite as awesome as you'd expect that combination to be, but it certainly comes close.


Quatrain, by Sharon Shinn.
I reviewed this book here. Put simply, this book is for everyone who has read Sharon Shinn, and everyone who hasn't. Especially for people who enjoy well-built science fiction and fantasy worlds.

Room, by Emma Donoghue.
There were moments where I wasn't sure I could finish the book, although I'm glad I did. Definitely recommended for those who enjoyed Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, although this one is written for an older audience.

Let's Take the Long Way Home, by Gail Caldwell.
The subtitle of this book is "a memoir of friendship," and that is exactly what it is. A story of deep, lasting friendship, and the profound bond one can have with one's dog. If you like friends or dogs, this book, and its sadness, poignancy, bittersweet hope, is for you.

October 11, 2010

Well hello, gorgeous!

It's official: I received a Kindle for my birthday.

It's an interesting thing, having a Kindle. I've always been pro-print, and while I have seen the usefulness of having an e-reader (not lugging around ten pounds of books everywhere, good to travel with, etc.), I hadn't considered buying one. Not now, and not even in my wish-list "wouldn't it be nice to have this" future.

And yet here I am, with a Kindle. First impressions? Pretty. It's a pretty device, sleek, smooth, nice. The basic commands are pretty easy to learn, although more complicated stuff (highlighting, notes, etc.) I haven't quite figured out yet. (Probably because I generally don't highlight or make notes in my print books...)

Anyway, so far I've downloaded a few of those free classics from Amazon. Today I read Frankenstein for the first time, on the Kindle. Reading experience? Takes some getting used to, but acceptable. We'll see how it goes in the future.

In short, I'll definitely be using the Kindle (probably mostly for those free e-books in the near future), but what I want to hear now are your Kindle stories. Like I said, I hadn't even thought of having one, and now that there's a Kindle in my lap, I almost don't know what to do with it. Do any of you have Kindles? What do you do on them? What features do you find the most useful? Also, do any of you have a favorite Kindle cover? I definitely need to get one -- I'm not trusting my overstuffed bag to keep the Kindle intact without one.

October 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo

It's that time of year again, isn't it? The scent of wet leaves is in the air, umbrellas are coming out, and look! Is that pumpkin pie on the distant horizon? Not to mention, of course, that something is creeping quite quickly up on us.

Ah, NaNoWriMo. For those who know, this needs no further explanation. For those who don't, here's a quick summary: Thousands of people write novels in November. (Or, you know, draftish things vaguely shaped like novels.) This will be my fourth year participating, and what a year! I have big plans for the next month, plans that involve my first ever outline-before-November-has-begun. (Which, as you know, means things have gotten serious.)

Yes, friends -- that thing called progress has been eluding me for the past few months, as many readers know. But no more! I have picked my spot, squarely in the plotter camp, and I intend to remain, scribbling away on my outline for the rest of the month. (Let's hope the outline doesn't dwarf the actual draft, once that gets going...) Once November begins, beware! The apocalypse may be nigh, because I (for real now, seriously, absolutely, with no holds barred and no return) will be starting (and finishing) a complete novel draft by November 30. You think I've been serious before, but that just goes to show you that nothing beats serious in November.

Who's with me? (In text, it doesn't quite have that level of manic energy that Gaston had in the mob scene, but I suppose it will have to do.)

PS: Please come be my friend! I'll cheer you on! I'm "aandune" on the website, a name chosen before I had any idea I'd be starting a blog ever, so please forgive me. I'll be keeping an eye out for each and every one of you.

October 1, 2010

BBW: An actual true story

Once upon a time, fairly recently, I was in middle school.

For those of you who do not know me personally, it may help to set the scene if I describe the school itself: a quirky private school billed as a place where girls could be themselves and class sizes were strictly limited - my graduating class, in eighth grade, was 38. The school was built to scale, including a library that must have been (I swear this is true) roughly 10 feet by 10 feet. (I made it my mission to read that entire library from A to Z during my exploits as a middle schooler, and I actually succeeded. But that's a digression.)

As is characteristic of quirky schools, we had a quirky librarian. Some people remember teachers with fondness; I remember my librarians. On the particular day I am about to describe to you, however, my love for this librarian was sorely tested.

It was about a month after school had begun, and my friends and I met outside of the library, as was our norm, only to halt in the mid-morning air in horror. Our books, our favorite books, our beloved books, were locked in a glass cabinet across the way from the library. After storming into the library in a rage, our librarian  said only that some parents had objected to the material in those particular books (each one of the commonly banned books in the United States), and so the books would be locked away until further notice.

Well. We were intrepid middle schoolers, I must say, and faced with such a challenge, the removal of exceptional books from our already miniscule school library, we buckled down and got to work. First on the order of business was a petition we circulated among our classmates, accompanied by personal letters both to our librarian and the parents of the school, arguing for the release of certain prisoners of war, namely those locked behind glass. As the week progressed, we got more serious. Picket lines outside the library, with homemade signs proclaiming our right to read what we wanted, and in some cases costumes that expressed our love for these books. And of course, we thumbed our noses at the authority by bringing in our own copies of those banned books to school throughout the week.

And then it was Friday, and an impromptu assembly was held, purportedly to address the issue that had come up (that of inappropriate material in our school library). We held our breaths and marched to battle, our signs held high, and were met, surprisingly, by the sound of loud applause from our librarian. (Character description here: our librarian, musical-theatre-inclined, male, 6'7", and altogether wonderful.) The wind fell from our sails as we looked at each other, confused. We had passed a test, it seemed - but for what?

As it turned out, there had never been offended parents. Our librarian had locked up the books by himself, had pulled the proverbial wool over our eyes, had gotten the entire faculty to go along with it, all to demonstrate what happens when books you love get taken away. Why? Well...because it was Banned Books Week.

Nowadays it seems banned book awareness is everywhere, especially on the blogs, and increasingly (thankfully) in schools and other public places. But nine years ago I didn't know that much about the issue of banned books, not to mention Banned Books Week. I'd been shocked to discover that someone could take away something I took so much for granted, and depended upon for so much in my life.

What if the situation we found ourselves in that school morning had been real? What if a school parent really had protested, and books I truly loved (including the immortal Harry Potter) had been removed from the school library forever? Our relief when we discovered the hoax was palpable, but in all honesty not good enough, because things like this actually happen in school libraries across the country. Regularly. And so I have to be eternally grateful to my middle school librarian for opening my eyes to the issue, and, of course, for nurturing my love for books.

In closing, I must say that I have been so impressed by the amount of attention banned books are getting these days, but of course that doesn't go all the way toward solving the problem. So I implore you - pay attention to banned books (and all books in general, for that matter). Read them, love them, and don't let anyone tell you what you can and cannot read. You will be a better person for it.

September 30, 2010

BBW: Mark Twain & more Mark Twain

People challenged Mark Twain's books, even when he was alive. Why? Well, in the case of Huck Finn, it was because he's a bad role model for young impressionable children. Don't wait around to see what I have to say about it - instead, check out what Twain wrote himself about censorship in his Autobiography. I think he says it way better than I could, but the question of morality in books gets me thinking - should books be written with morals in mind?

I'm of two minds here. For all the world I tell myself that no, no characters must be moral or good role models or broccoli-flavored and therefore good for you. But when it comes to writing my own work, I tend toward the "But I can't write a weak female protagonist! Think of the children! The horror!" train of thought. In general, I would say that there is no need, or even desire, for all main characters (especially in children's literature) to be good and moral and upstanding. But I do find myself thinking, from time to time, that all books should at least hold the potential of opening one's mind to new horizons. Simply put, I'd like to be able to learn from every book I read, because that, in part, is what I read for in the first place.

There is much much more to say on that front, but I'll leave it here for now. Hope you're all enjoying Banned Books Week! (There remains the issue of how much one can learn from a floppy female protagonist whose impetus for kicking off the story is unrequited love, but I figure I'll deal with that one later...)

September 29, 2010

BBW: To Kill a Mockingbird & Jackson Pearce

Everyone should read To Kill a Mockingbird. (Harper Lee, in case you have been living under a rock your entire life.) I may quibble about who I would recommend certain books to, and which books may be passed without too much damage to little stretching/growing-up brains, but this one is a book that comes with no attachments. Everyone should read this book, and everyone should find themselves a little different in the morning. Not to mention the delectable Gregory Peck in the excellent movie adaptation.

Astute readers will notice that the book has been banned in multiple places for racism, as well as for using a less-than-savory word to describe the African-American characters in the book. To those people who would remove this incredible book from their schools and libraries, I say "Ha! I bite my thumb at you! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" (Paraphrased quotes courtesy of Shakespeare and Monty Python.)

Seriously now. To ban this book in particular because one thinks it is racist is so absolutely moronic I don't know how to respond. To Kill a Mockingbird is a gorgeous book (gorgeous thematically and in its storytelling) that I would recommend to everyone, without fail.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, I point you toward Jackson Pearce on censorship.

September 28, 2010

BBW: Geography Club & Book-Banning Puppets

Today I'd like to mention Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger. Geography Club was challenged in Wisconsin by a group who designated it as "obscene or child pornography." Pornography? Color me in scratching my head. Sure, there are a couple of kisses here and there, but what did you expect? They're teenagers! (The good thing to note is that while this book was challenged, its challenge was beaten down unanimously by the library board.)

Geography Club is about a group of teenagers (both gay and straight) who form an undercover GSA-like club at their high school, under the guise of "Geography Club." I can't remember the first time I read it, but I must have been thirteen or so - and this was certainly one of the first contemporary books I'd read that tackled the minefield that is growing up gay in America.

There are certainly more serious books out there on this subject, but what I liked most about this one was that it dealt with the ordinariness of trying to live your life and staying true to yourself, regardless of who you are. I strongly recommend this book, especially if you haven't read much that deals with the same issues - Geography Club is an excellent introductory book.

Also, today's not-produced-by-me product of Banned Book Week:

September 27, 2010

Hello, Banned Books Week

So there's this thing going around this week that, if you're on the blogs at all, should be pretty darn difficult to miss. This thing? Banned Books Week.

I've been thinking about the right way to address it on my blog. Such things require some thought - for example, what should I write about? It is okay just to address the same things that other people have already discussed? How many times can people be told that yeah, this book is stellarly important because it got banned before the whole idea gets old? (The answer, my friends, is unlimited.)

So I'm going to go about it this way: There will be a post every day this week. And every day, I'll be talking up a book/series that should be universally read. And I'll also (if you're lucky) be linking to something else I've found discussing Banned Book Week that is just totally ridiculously awesome. Oh, yeah. I've already got major things to post in that category. Now my problem is just figuring out what books to limit myself to...

September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment: Writing Compelling Characters

Elana Johnson, goddess of all things internety/literary, has organized what shall from here on out be referred to as The Great Blogging Experiment. Today's (inaugural) topic? Writing compelling characters.

I have to say that character does not make or break a book to me. Some of my favorite books have had rather Mary-Sue-like characters, which I recognize and choose to accept anyway because the rest of the book is just that good. That being said, I've been struggling a lot in my current WIP with character.

I wrote about this recently, where I bemoaned the fact that my main character's main motivation at the beginning of the story is a man, her romantic interest. It's not necessarily that this makes her uninteresting and not compelling, but rather that I'm afraid of writing a weak main character - especially one who's a girl.

But today we're talking about compelling characters, not weak ones. And what I think makes a compelling character, or what I try to avoid when trying to write a compelling character, or what happens when compelling characters choose today to kick the bucket...

I think a lot of what makes a compelling character is realism. To me, a well-developed character, which a strong and believable history (known to the author, at least) goes a long way toward making a character compelling. If I believe in a character, if I understand their thought processes and the origins of their motivation, then I'm more likely to find him/her compelling.

And this is what I'm struggling with right now. One of the most interesting characters in my WIP when I started was a strong secondary character, the brother to the lead. But then I started writing him, and instead of being sad and soulful, he was suddenly snarky and kind of a jerk. Which isn't a problem, but at the least means I don't know him as well as I thought I did. And then what this means is that instead of being interesting and compelling (because of a great back story which, of course, I should have memorized), he's just a jerk. Without a back story. Which is not compelling.

Long story short, your main character can easily be made into a compelling person people will want to read about. The magic ingredient: back story. A believable background that provides your character's motivation, which turns him from a jerk you'd like to defenestrate into a jerk with a tragic past who you can't help but root for.

And all that means that you should spend time - a lot of time - with your characters. Get to know them. Have afternoon tea! Or trade snarky insults while you wait for the bus. Trust me, that's what I'm doing. Although it'll probably take a looong time to turn my formerly soulful secondary character into someone people have sympathy for. But it'll be worth it. Because in the long run, he is pretty awesome. You just have to get to know him first...

September 15, 2010

This is Mark Twain.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I think Mark Twain is a pretty cool guy. Consider the following:
  1. Both his pen name (Mark Twain) and his real name (Samuel Clemens) are awesome.
  2. There will never be books quite like his again, so clearly by Mark Twain. I must confess I'm not an exceptional fan of the books (I think this stems from that time in high school where I had to write a deductive essay off of Huck Finn, which probably means I should give the books another chance), but you can't deny that they had style.
  3. Mark Twain strikes me as an incredibly conscious person - that is to say, he considered what he wrote. Did you know that he went back and forth about the note at the beginning of Huck Finn, settling eventually on the incredible "persons attempting to find meaning in this narrative will be shot" bit that we all know and love, instead of a more serious (and, let's face it, boring) forward? That he considered his writing so consciously brings me to my next point (and indeed, the point of this blog), which is...
The Autobiography of Mark Twain, unabridged and published according to his wishes to wait until 100 years following his death, is finally hitting shelves this fall, presented by the University of California Press.

Consider this for a moment. Mark Twain. His autobiography, so raunchy, so depraved, so scandalous he insisted on posthumous publication (by a period of 100 years!). Okay, I'm kidding about the raunchy/depraved/scandalous part. But seriously - for all you fans of Mark Twain out there, aren't you just dying to know what he wrote? I know I am, and I'm not even that big of a fan! But I can just picture myself curling up in bed with that behemoth for the next few months (it weighs in at 743 pages, and that's just the first volume), just because Mark Twain seems to me to be a guy who would make you laugh, make you cry, and simply amaze you with his brilliant, acerbic, awesome wit.

Can't wait? Neither can anyone else, apparently, because a gorgeous website (This is Mark Twain) has been rolled out to welcome all those eager Twain fanatics. Go check it out. Oh, and work on your upper body strength too - you're going to need it if you expect to lift that book.

September 14, 2010

BlogFest Winners!

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First off, I'd like to say thank you. This was a great event, with a great turnout, and excellent excellent book recommendations. I'll probably be doing a recommendation post in the next few days (for those who were around for Got Books?, this will likely look familiar). Thanks to Cinnamon of A Journey of Books for organizing, and thank you to all my new followers. I hope you stick around and say hello! I'm sure we'll have a great time getting to know one another.

On to the best part now... I thought the turnout was so fantastic, I made the impromptu decision to add a second winner. So...without further ado, here are your winners (courtesy of random.org):

#371: Julie of Manga Maniac Cafe!

#797: Marcie of To Read or Not To Read!


Both winners have been e-mailed, and have 48 hours to reply before another winner is picked.

Again, thank you so much for stopping by. I had a great time, and hope to get to know you all better as we move forward!

September 13, 2010

BlogFest Update

I think the room just got a LOT smaller... Or maybe it's the masses of people trying to fit... Good thing this army is all for staking vampires!

Anyway, the BlogFest giveaway is officially closed. I haven't had time to tally up the results yet, but I will be doing that in the next day or so, and the winner will be announced soon - probably tomorrow or the day after.

New followers, welcome! I hope you stick around - I'd love to meet each and every one of you.

September 10, 2010

BlogFest Giveaway!

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Welcome to BlogFest 2010! I'm stop #68, I think...out of more than 200!

I've been thinking about which books to give away, and I've decided to spread the love - the new author love! I've discovered SO MANY excellent authors this year who are without a doubt authors I will be following through the next few years of their career at least... So here's to new loves! I will be giving away one book (via The Book Depository) by one author I discovered this year and loved (most recent books by these authors pictured below, but you'll be able to choose any of their books if you win).

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate, #3)The Dead-Tossed Waves (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #2)Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4)










So - don't you want to win a shiny new book by Gail Carriger, Carrie Ryan, Simone Elkeles, or Megan Whalen Turner? The winner of this giveaway will have a choice of ONE book by one of these fabulous authors, which will then be shipped by the Book Depository.




THE RULES:
1. Fill out the form (below) to enter.
2. This contest is open to any country the Book Depository ships to.
3. This event will close at 11:59 PM EST, September 12. The winner will be announced on or by September 17.


What are you waiting for? Just fill out the form to enter!

PS: The next stop on this wild ride is #69, A & C Book Junkies ! Have fun!

September 4, 2010

Progress Report #2

So I'm a little stuck. Which is to say, in the last eight days, I haven't really written. Good: I'm concentrating on my work. Bad: I'm not going to meet my goal.

I say this with sadness, but not too much, because I've discovered a lot of things about myself in the process. Like how I actually write more consistently if I'm writing longhand. And since I'm writing longhand, I've made it very difficult to delete. Instead, whenever I decide the last several pages were just awful, I write a note in the margin about what should happen there, and move on. Like how I wrote about 10,000 words and then decided I should start my story in an entirely different place. Did I trash that first section? No. It's on the page, it's untrashable. Instead, I wrote a little note, something like "Start here? Flesh out society" and moved on. (See? I've moved on so much I can't even remember what I wrote.)

Anyway, I'm not going to meet my goal of finishing by September 11. 66 pages (out of a projected 350ish) is not a good place to be right now. But in light of my current circumstances, I've revised my goal and am aiming to finish my first draft by the end of September. (That times out perfectly, since I can set it aside and consider picking it back up again on the rewrite for NaNoWriMo. Which everyone should sign up for, if you haven't already.)

So that's where I am, in case you were wondering. Working full time is killer. Again, I must bow down to all those real adults out there who still manage to find the time to write. And read! Yeah, forget that. In my dreams... at the moment, anyway.

September 3, 2010

August (Exhaustedly)

So I read 28 books last month. Not all of them were that good, sadly. But some of them really were. Like...

Rules of Attraction, by Simone Elkeles.
I reviewed this book here. Basically, it comes down to this: If you like your fiction young adult, a little gritty, and contemporary, Simone Elkeles is your girl. Period.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth & The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan.
I said this once before, and I'll say it again. If you're going to pick one zombie book to read (just one), it should be The Forest of Hands and Teeth. And that voice! Carrie Ryan definitely jumped onto my new favorite author list this year, which really reminds me that I should update my Readerly Recommends page... Anyway, zombies? Weird, cult-like religion? Post-apocalyptic worlds? And it's young adult? What I love the most about these books is the writing. Plenty of people come up with interesting ideas. Not all of them can really tell a story.

Stolen, by Lucy Christopher.
A difficult book because of its subject matter, but beautiful. The writing is just lovely.

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins.
Enough said.

August 29, 2010

Some randomness

Hi, all.

Well, it's been a bit since I've posted. Honestly, it's pretty much because I haven't felt like posting. Why? Mostly because I got a full time job (sort of*) and haven't figured out the shifting time demands yet. Anyway, my free time now is spent writing my novel (which is moving along, although perhaps not as quickly as I wish it would), reading intermittently (at the moment it's Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides - the first pick for the book club I started!), and listening to Yale Open Courses. Oh, they're awesome. Lots and lots of fun.

Notice I haven't figured out how to exercise in this new schedule yet. Also, I haven't done all those productive things I told myself I was going to do after I graduated - like completely sanitize my apartment, learn how to cook, sign up for community college classes in economics... Oh yeah - and blogging. Pretty much, I haven't been blogging that much because I've been trying to figure out how to do other things, and this time shift has pushed blogging onto the back burner, probably for the next week or so, at least. (By the way, all of you real people with your real jobs? MAJOR respect. Just so you know.)

This doesn't mean I'll be abandoning you. Blogging (although not precisely at the moment) is definitely still a priority, and my blog will not die. I insist. It's just that I've been sitting at the computer for fifteen minutes trying to make myself blog, and it just wasn't happening. So I'm going to go do something else, and come back soon. (Also, Blogfest 2010 is just around the corner. I'll be participating in that one, although I still haven't quite decided what to give away. Any suggestions? Books that simply have to be on the list?)

Fun things have been happening on the internet, even if I haven't really been around! Mockingjay happened. Paranormalcy has been shipped by Amazon. (AH! I've been dying to read it ever since I discovered the HILARIOUS Kiersten White's blog, and it is finally coming to me!) So, world - go on without me. I'll catch up soon.


* So this (sort of) job. Basically, I applied for a permanent, full time job, and was offered the position as a temp (for the time being), because for some reason there are all sorts of bureaucratic red tape that must be navigated. Which means that I have a job for the next two months (yay!), but it's not yet a permanent position (sad face). Anyway, I'm being trained as though it's a permanent job, and hopefully that'll give me a leg up when the time comes for real interviews and things... Wish me luck, everyone?

August 24, 2010

Progress Report #1

I'm proud to report that my main character (who, oddly, does not yet have a name) has made it from her starting situation into the fray of the story.

I'm pretty pleased about this. While I am not writing quite as much as I wanted to be writing, I'm still writing more and more consistently than I ever have on a novel (with the exception of NaNoWriMo, which doesn't really count because what I tend to do there is vomit words from my hands through a keyboard onto a screen).

I'm also pleased by the fact that I'm really interested in what's happening to this character right now. Which means that theoretically (in a couple of years and a few dozen rewrites) you might be too.

You may be expecting a word count update, and I'd love to provide one. The only problem is that I'm writing this novel the long way. That's right - by hand. It took a long time for me to figure out that the only surefire way I know to avoid the word-vomit syndrome and graduate into the next level (pretty awful prose) is to write by hand, to ensure that my words never move faster than my brain. So instead of a word count, I'll settle for a page count. As of Monday afternoon, my page count is this: 49. (You can see such updates at the right upper corner of the page, where The Final Countdown has made a reemergence on this blog.) Wish me luck!

August 23, 2010

In preparation for Mockingjay... (The Catching Fire part)

So, Catching Fire. Action packed, yes, but just packed in general. I took about the same amount of time to reread this one as I took to reread the first, and yet I ended up feeling rushed. Why? Because there was too much going on. Where in The Hunger Games there was some time in the beginning for the premise and the world to seep into the skin, the sequel gave no such quarter. Action action action with no breaks and no time to get used to this world. Yes, it makes some sense to do it this way, but it also left me dizzied and confused in the end. (I suppose the point might be made that dizzied and confused is exactly the way Katniss would feel at that point...plus exhausted and terrified.)

To me, Catching Fire also seemed to struggle a bit with what I like to call middle book syndrome - where its main purpose seems to be to connect the first book to the third, and so it gives up a lot of what would make it stand on its own. It starts in the middle and ends in the middle, and while that also makes sense, I'm the kind of person who likes middle books to be more cohesive than that.

All in all, I would call Catching Fire enjoyable, but not as good as the first. I attribute much of that loss to middle book syndrome, though, so I definitely have high expectations for the third book.

The hardest hit: Suzanne Collins definitely hit the nail on the head with the Gale-Peeta-Katniss triangle in this book. While in The Hunger Games Gale was pretty much a distant memory, making Peeta the one practically everyone (including me) rooted for. But she definitely provided some strong incentive to Team Gale in this book by giving him screen (page?) time and making him an actual romantic contender.

So that's all for my pre-Mockingjay celebration - I'm pretty low-key, as you can probably tell. I will say, however, that I did a little jig when I got the e-mail that the book had been shipped. I didn't pay extra for expedited shipping, so I'm hoping for it sometime this week...

August 22, 2010

In preparation for Mockingjay...

...I've been rereading the previous books. The internet has recently been abuzz with lots and lots of news about these three books, so I'll keep it short and sweet while I talk (briefly) about The Hunger Games.

This is the second time I've read it - the first, according to Goodreads, was just over a year ago. I'm impressed by many things Suzanne Collins does. Her action sequences, for instance. Love those. Whenever I try to write stuff like that, it ends up coming out like "He hit her. She hit him back. They rolled on the ground." Etc., etc. But Collins has a knack for putting the reader into the story, right at the heart of the fighting and blood and gore, which completely escapes me, and which I adore.

I was also thrilled, by the way, by the cover and jacket design. They are gorgeous - simple and evocative. I especially love the mockingjay design on the cover itself.

(Warning: Spoilers here, for those who have not yet read The Hunger Games. Ahead lie the moments of the book that hit me the hardest.)

August 18, 2010

Scarier than a fire-breathing dragon: Character

So the writing's going. Not as well as I'd hoped, but going. Because I've been writing, I've also been thinking a great deal about writing. And along with that thinking comes the worrying. Oh, that word isn't right. Oh, horses aren't really purple, so don't write it. Oh, this is never going to be good enough, cool enough, hip enough...etc.

Certainly most of those voices should be whacked down with a hammer (at least for first-drafting purposes). But I do think that some of them deserve consideration, right from the start. Like this one: I'm afraid of writing a weak female character.

Some contextual notes: Yes, I'm a girl. And yes, one of my great dislikes of Twilight was Bella's character. And while I certainly don't think that it is the duty of the writer to moralize or preach to his/her audience, I do feel the need to present smart, strong, sympathetic female characters. And in this particular story, I'm a little afraid of failing.

Without getting too specific, I'll just say the following. My main character is a girl who falls in love with a human and consequently leaves her family and all she knows in order to be with him. Said human is a nice young lad (a prince), but not one who reciprocates the feelings (or even really knows she exists, when you get right down to it). So the girl pines away - but also gets caught up in palace intrigue and ends up playing a pretty important role in geopolitical affairs in this region. And she doesn't end up with the prince, but manages to get over that and learn about herself, etc. etc.

I was busy writing until I really thought about it and was instantly terrified that my main character is a horrible, horrible role model for girls.

My horrible response to this: But that's the way it has to be. You know, for character development! Arcs! She grows and changes and stuff!

My horrifically horrible response: And by the third book, she's totally kick-ass!

What do you think? Do writers have a responsibility to portray strong heroines? (I feel like I do, certainly...) And can my poor heroine be strong, even if she starts off the story in such time-tested weakling fashion? (I hope so...)

August 16, 2010

The Writerly Chimera: Voice

I've been paying attention recently to these sorts of things - things that writers do absolutely beautifully that I wish I could do. All told, they create a chimera of what I'd love my writing to be. There has to be a better word for this. I wanted "Chimerica," but apparently that term has been been appropriated for China-America. "Chimeriad" appears to be an unfinished poem by someone? (This is slightly more legitimate.) So right now, this new feature is called The Writerly Chimera, Or, Things I Wish I Could Steal Shamelessly From Other Writers.

First up, voice, just because I've read this book the most recently. Without further ado, the honor of the Voice I'd Most Like To Steal Award goes to... The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan.

Mary's narration is superb. The writing, of course, is fabulous, which is absolutely necessary in a great book, but it's Mary's voice, her doubts, her desires, that really sucked me into the book. I believed every word that came out of her head (or at least I believed that she believed). I was frightened when she was frightened. Hopeful when she was hopeful, although always with an eye over my shoulder, watching out for zombies. In that desperate first love with her, and dying with her when she thought she'd lost everything. In short, Mary's voice is believable, sympathetic, and absolutely captivating. (That the book is about zombies doesn't hurt either.)

Yeah. My book? It's going to have a voice like Carrie Ryan's. Or I'm going to beat myself to death trying, anyway. (By the way, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an excellent book all around, and if you're going to read only one zombie book, this is the one. Absolutely. Without question.)

What about you? What book's voice just got you, gobbled you up and carried you away?

August 13, 2010

It's go time

So I know this didn't work too well last time, but guess what? This time it's different.

Exhibit A: I have an outline. Sort of. I have some of an outline, and I spent the better part of a month contemplating my story while I was away.

Exhibit B: My birthday is in exactly one month. (Or it was when I first made this goal.) Artificial deadlines aside, my birthday would be the absolute perfect day to be done with the worst first draft in the history of the world.

Exhibit C: Not only have I been contemplating my story, I've been contemplating sequels to my story. Yes, there will be sequels.

Anyway, that all goes to say that it's time. My goal? To finish the first draft of my current WIP by September 11, 2010. Wish me luck.

(And it's happening this time. There will be updates. Serious updates.)

August 11, 2010

DPI: What's in a name?

So the Denver Publishing Institute is over. I've taken a flight back home, and now will commence searching desperately for a job. A publishing job, preferably, but any job that pays the bills will do. All this goes to say - I will no longer be posting about what I'm learning while at DPI. Instead, I'll be talking about what how attending DPI has changed the way I think and act. First up? Publishing houses and imprints.

Truly, what's in a name? Whether or not a book is published by Penguin won't change the words on the page. (Probably.) Before going to Denver, I can honestly say I was logo-blind. I could not, under pain of death, tell you what house published what. Maybe I could guess at it. And maybe I'd be right. Occasionally. When deciding whether or not to read a book, checking out its house didn't even make it onto the list of considerations.

Okay, I still can't say that yes, I love Harper Perennial books. (That would be because I still couldn't tell you a current Harper Perennial title if you paid me.) But my eyes have been fully opened to the fact that different houses have different personalities, and they each publish different types of books.

How will this change the way I act? To start with, I will be checking the spines of books I pick up in the future. I won't be doing this in order to weed out the "undesirable" publishing houses (is there such a thing?) - instead, it will be research. What houses tend to publish the books I want to read? Are there trends that publishing houses follow (or lead)? How has a house's personality changed throughout the years? (That last one will take a while to collect a reasonable set of data.) There have been entire imprints founded just because a publishing house said, "I want to start doing some science fiction." Which I think is pretty cool.

Not only are these just interesting questions to ponder, the answers to them will inform my own actions. Knowing which house published which book may end up changing my reading habits. I may start checking out a publishing house's website for their frontlist titles if I know I've read (and loved) 85% of their backlist. (Unlikely, but possible.) And I'll certainly be paying attention to those houses - chances are, I'll be very interested in any job openings that come up there.

This may take a while to get used to. My data so far? I now know that The World Without Us was published by St. Martin's Press. See? Progress! (Although it's technically published by Thomas Dunne Books, which is a division of St. Martin's Press, which in turn is part of Macmillan...? Oy. That's going to take a while...) And that funny looking bird that shows up on spines? Yeah, that's a penguin. (Just kidding - I knew that one, at least.)

What about you? Do you pay attention to imprints and publishers when you read? Any favorites? Any not-so-favorites?

August 6, 2010

July (Briefly)

For those new to the scene, I used to do quarterlies. Then they got too long, so I decided to switch to monthlies. After giving some (read: little) thought to quirky, interesting titles, I finally gave up. Prepare for names to change, formats to morph, and all-around funky blog behavior. (Remember, it's all in the spirit of experimentation!)

So, last month I read 18 books, which I call "not bad for being on the road." What follows are my top recommendations. 

The Demon's Covenant, by Sarah Rees Brennan.
I wasn't completely thrilled by the first, but was intrigued enough to read the second. And boy, did it blow me out of the water. Awesome. Am now eagerly awaiting the final book of the trilogy.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness.
Weird to get into because of the format, but definitely an interesting, original book. There was this one scene that just killed me, though. I started crying in the middle of a restaurant, so be warned.

Soulless & Changeless, by Gail Carriger.
LOVE HER! Possibly my favorite new author find this year. Light steampunk, highly entertaining vampires and werewolves, a dash of Austenian wit, and a dollop of steamy romance. Can't wait for the next.

The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.
I reviewed this book here. Excellent nonfiction with an environmental bent, for those interested.

Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.
This one reminded me a little of Doctor Who, specifically that episode with Madame de Pompadour. (That probably shouldn't surprise me, since Fisher's British, I believe.) An intriguing blend of fantasy and science fiction. Very mind bending. I am very much looking forward to the next.