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.

August 5, 2010

Reality checks, addictions, and other down-to-earth things

Hi, I'm Rebecca, and I'm addicted to book lists.

There. I said it. I am so very completely addicted to book lists. (To other kinds of lists too, but that's a story for another time.) I love it when the next "Top 10/50/100" list is posted. I greedily suck up other bloggers' lists of favorite characters, favorite romances, favorite dogs in books... I spent a scary amount of time on Goodreads after I'd gotten my account just running around in the lists. Best fairy tales, best kick-ass heroines, best travel memoirs - I had to read them all. So every book I heard about that struck that "Hey, maybe I'm interested" chord in my head got thrown on the list. Just to keep track of them, right?

The result? My Goodreads account reads like this: Books read: 935. Books currently-reading: 5. Books to-read: 3104.

Let's repeat that, shall we? 3104!

So the average American (according to some poll somewhere) reads around seven books a year. Obviously I am not average in that regard - neither are any of you readers, probably, since you're paying attention to book bloggers. I probably read (this is a guesstimate, people, based on my Goodreads account and observed reading behavior) around 275 books a year. Which is a lot, even for a person who reads a lot. But still, that means that if I took my list and decided to power through it, without adding a single book in the process, it would take me over eleven years to finish.

This is where the reality check department comes in. Because there is no way I will ever get through my to-read list. Especially when (inevitably) I add new releases to my list, discover books I've never heard of, and get cool recommendations from people like you. It's time I resigned myself to this fact: I am never going to read all the books in the world. I am never even going to read all the books I am interested in.

It's depressing, this realization, and probably something I should have accepted a long time ago. But I was the girl who, in middle school, decided she'd read the entire middle school library. And I did. I started at A and zipped along to Z. Granted, this was a school of 120 girls (my graduating class was 38), and the library was built to scale in a room which was probably 7' by 7'. And I tended to skip select titles, including but not limited to the Gossip Girls series (after the first 25 pages) and all Lurlene McDaniel tomes. But I did it. That was probably where my bizarre and unrealistic reading expectations really got their start.

Why am I pondering this now? Well, it's probably because I'll be heading back home in a few days, ready to roll up my sleeves and really start job hunting. And then start a real job, the first actual, full time, salaried position of my career. And when that happens, my time spent reading will get cut. It's inevitable. Which means it'll take me even longer to read all of those books...

Sigh. It's a cruel, cruel world when you can't read all the books you want to. But I'm coping, and I hope you are too. My method? Just read. Read as much and as widely and as entertainingly as you can, and don't think about the to-read list unless you're picking which book to read next. (Also, don't waste your time on books that you don't like. Allow yourself to put a book down - there are too many books in the world that are infinitely more deserving.) At the end of all things, my tombstone is going to look like this: She read widely, and well.

Anyway, Happy August. I'll be doing a July wrap-up in a few days. Probably earlier if I can think of a clever title.