March 30, 2011

Five YA Trends I am SO OVER

(Not in any particular order.)

1. Eternal love. You know, the kind where for whatever reason, the protagonist (usually a girl) is reincarnated but never remembers the past, and her romantic meant-to-be interest (usually the brooding, semi-abusive guy) is stalking/"educating" her about her past. Plus some nonsensical danger thing. Sometimes involving a curse.

2. Vampires. Way back in the day (as in, WAY before vampires spiked) there were some novels I remember as being pretty cool (as in not totally sucky) -- Robin McKinley's Sunshine, Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss, and (for some random reason) Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' In the Forests of the Night. I haven't picked these up in a while, but from what I recall, the main difference was that the vampire trope was not just a foil for eternal love and crap like that. There was actually a plot. Shocking, I know.

3. Werewolves. I don't know if I've ever read a really good werewolf novel. I like the way they're dealt with in the earlier Anita Blake books, but those are certainly not YA. (Same with vampires. The early Blake books are kind of awesome.)

4. Fairies. Have I ever read a good fairy book? (I'm talking "the fair folk" sorts of stories, not "fairy tales." The two are very different.) Perhaps the only books I have ever loved that had fairies as a factor were Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier, and sequels. Probably because again, the fairies were not the love interests. Although technically, that book is both a "fair folk" and a "fairy tale" book.

5. Angels. You know it's awful when you've only read ONE book featuring angels, and the thought of more makes you gag.

It's not that I hate vampires, werewolves, or fairies. It's that I detest all books that use these tropes just to carry some half-assed story about forbidden/destined/eternal/teenage love. Period.

Any trends you're sick of? Please share!

March 14, 2011

MacBook vs. MacBook Pro

I'm considering my next computer. I've already decided on a Mac, but am having difficulty choosing between a MacBook and a MacBook Pro. For those not in the know, I generally use my computer for the following:

- internet (email, blogging, streaming video)
- DVD watching
- iTunes
- Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.

I'm a light to moderate user (I think), but I do tend to watch a lot of video content (Netflix, Hulu, DVDs) and get really annoyed when things take forever to load.

Any opinions here?

March 11, 2011

Covers and such

Today I bought a second copy of The Goose Girl. Why? Did my first get caught in the rain? Eaten by wolves? Blasted in a nuclear explosion?

No... It was just that my first copy had the photographic cover, and what I really really really wanted was the old cover. The Alison Jay cover. This is not to say the photographic cover is awful -- it's just that the Alison Jay covers are gorgeous. I want. (PS: They're coming out with Alison Jay covers for Forest Born, in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, that's that. Now I have two copies of The Goose Girl. They look right at home next to my two copies of The Graveyard Book (one US, one UK). (Although I may need to track down a hardcover copy now... with the Alison Jay cover, of course.) And now my inner self is raising an eyebrow and wondering, when did I become the sort of person to buy multiple copies of books just for the cover? It's starting slow but may be catching on... I've also got multiple copies of Les Miserables (three of them!) and two of The Brothers Karamazov. Where does it end??!?

Do any of you do this sort of thing? Buy multiple copies of a book? (For any reason... my thing seems to be the cover, but I'm sure there are vastly more interesting reasons behind such compulsions.) Speak!

March 9, 2011

Vienna Teng (and the art of creation)

I love Vienna Teng. Put simply, she writes lyrical, beautiful, meaningful songs. Gorgeous songs. Scrumptious songs. And today she has something to share with you: how to write a song, edit, record, and master it all in ONE DAY. This is the project called Dubway Days, a production of Dubway Studios, and it's all about experimentation and creation. Go check it out, and you can see how Vienna Teng (and friends) produced a song out of nothing in less than 24 hours. It's a really interesting (although certainly not comprehensive) look at the creative process.*

Yes, this is really me sidling out of having to write something about my own (pathetic) creative process.

And it's about telling the whole world about Vienna Teng, who is amazing. I can't decide which song to point you towards -- either "Stray Italian Greyhound" or "Antebellum," I think. Oh, what the heck! Listen to them all!

*Plus if you get there early enough, you can get a free download of the one-day song. Just don't tell anyone I told you.

March 7, 2011

The President's Daughter (Ellen Emerson White)

Once upon a time there was a girl named Meghan Powers. She likes her life simple, but that's not always going to be the case. Her mother, Senator Powers, is running to be the first female president of the United States.

There's more I could tell you, but I think you get the gist. There aren't any vampires in this book, or in this series. No ghosts, no aliens. Instead, there's a political race, and a teenage daughter who doesn't really want to be involved. I think you should read this book. In fact, I know you should read this book, and ALL the books in this series, and I will tell you why:

1. Family. A lot of YA these days have orphans, distant/stupid parents, mysterious circumstances of birth... Anything except a real family. The President's Daughter has that. Meg has two kid brothers who crack stupid jokes, and two parents, both successful, who bicker about spending more time with their children, parent as best they know how, and feel like real people. This family is a real family, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that come with it, and it's refreshing to see.

2. Politics (and the White House). I probably know more about politics than the average person, but I certainly don't know everything -- I can't call White on every little detail, but the politics of the book feel real. Also, there's a lot of stuff about Secret Service details, etc. Again, what do I know about Secret Service details? Not much, but what is here feels real, makes sense, and paints a very good picture of what day to day life would be like, if you lived in the White House.

3. Meg. She's got a couple of quirks, but that's what you love about her. She's the average intelligent teenager, angry at her parents occasionally, worried about doing/saying the wrong things, and it's lovely to walk through this story with a real person instead of an alien. She has a great snarky sense of humor, which she puts to good use on the campaign trail, much to the dismay of her mother's campaign team. Plus, she KICKS ASS in the third and fourth books. Just saying. So you have something to look forward to.

Bottom line: Read these books if you like contemporary YA, politics, real families (and people), and great writing. These books were first released in the 1980s, and got a reissue in 2008. In my opinion, this series is a hidden gem -- one that has gotten far less attention than it deserves. I highly recommend them.

March 4, 2011

Giddy/Bubbly

Yes, today I am feeling giddy/bubbly. Why? Well, it's because last night, I had a very productive talk with my roommate, which resulted in the discovery of the ending. Turns out the place I thought was the end of my book was actually about 4/5 of the way through. Oops.

But I'm not feeling at ALL silly about that because finally finally finally I have a clear picture of this book, this story, this heroine, in my mind. I know the stakes, the love interests, the intrigue. I know it all, if not exactly how it's going to fit together just yet, and I have all weekend to play with the outline (yes, play!) before I kick into real revisions on Monday.

Revision. Wow. Secret: I have never revised a novel before. I have never even attempted to revise a novel before, as long as you don't count that time in middle school... Yeah.

Anyway, I'm on a writer's high, and everything about writing is making me excited. Even the prospect of typing away on my horribly crippled computer that should probably be put out of its misery.

March 2, 2011

Endings? :(

According to my master plan of doom, I was supposed to start revisions yesterday.

Did this happen? Not exactly. But I have spent at least six or seven hours over the last few days just trying to come up with one thing: HOW does my book end?

It's a really frustrating thing. Originally I had planned it to be a book with a sequel... And I still do. But I find myself supremely annoyed (like, throw the book across the room annoyed) when I get to the end of a book and it just doesn't hold together, because everything's waiting for the second book. Yes, I like series. But I hate books that can't even pretend to stand alone.

So I tried to come up with a way to end my book in a satisfying, wrap-it-up type of way. And it's proving to be IMPOSSIBLE. I don't understand why! (Well... Part of it might be because there's a planned coup of the kingdom right at the end, but still! I have plot! I have sub plot! You would think they would lead to some sort of conclusion, right?)

Anyway, that's where I'm stuck. I feel like if I don't have a decent idea of the ending, I won't be able to write effectively. And I don't have a good idea of the ending.

Rar. It's frustrating. And maybe at this point I should just start writing and hope that something occurs to me as I'm going along.