June 28, 2012

Vincent van Dominogh

Today I am watching this on repeat, and I encourage you to do the same:

You are all such knowledgeable internet people that you probably know all about FlippyCat already, but I just saw this one making the rounds on tumblr on Monday and knew it had to be shared. FlippyCat has a number of admirable domino videos up on youtube if that's your thing.

I've watched five or six myself and "Starry Night" remains my favorite by far. This might have something to do with my fondness for van Gogh. Or it might be more directly related to the incredible sadness and awe that was the Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor." (Side note: must look into the possibility of a blog series all about Doctor Who and how it rips open your heart EVERY SINGLE TIME.) In any case, this is artistry, and I am impressed.

June 27, 2012

More Writing and Stuff

The writing is not going very well, but I'm shouldering on. Can't bring myself to do an exhaustive post, so I'll just tell you that my self-promised rewards at the end of this revision tunnel are piling up. Yesterday it was a promise to buy Maroon 5's latest album. Today I decided I'll sign up for the Hulu Plus free trial and maraud my way through the latest season of Parks and Recreation. Who knows what I'm going to be telling myself tomorrow? Right now I'm just clinging to the edges of writing sanity.

June 26, 2012

The Art of Reading Slowly

I am reading slowly.

I've always prided myself on my ability to read fast. I can gobble up the majority of books I come across in a period of one to three hours, which usually amounts to one sitting. Sometimes two. But right now, I am reading slowly.

I didn't do it on purpose. It was a side effect of getting busy. At the beginning of June my free time became WRITING TIME, and it's been that way ever since. So there aren't any more spare hours lying around for reading. I read on my lunch break - twenty minutes, if that. I read before I go to bed, in quick thirty minute snatches. I read when I can, is what I'm trying to say. And though it's now taking me significantly longer to finish books, I'm actually quite enjoying the pace.

Now that I know I'm not going to finish the book, my reading time isn't a race to the end. I feel free to take things leisurely, lingering over words, desirous of knowing what comes next but not impatient like I usually am. Reading slowly allows me to read more closely, and more deeply. It gives me more time to digest less material before moving on to the next chapter, and the next. When I finish a book I feel like I've finished a seven course meal in Paris instead of eating standing up over the stove.

I'm still happy to be a fast reader. It's an ability I wouldn't give up for the world, this talent that allows me to keep pace with my voracious appetite for words. But little by little, I'm learning the delicate art of reading slowly, and this talent too is one I will savor.

What am I currently reading slowly? At home I read A Game of Thrones. I read this for the first time three years ago, but thought I'd revisit it in case I happen across the television series. As always, George R. R. Martin is exceptional. All I have to do is keep pretending to myself that no one is going to end up dead in the next chapter. At work, I'm working my way through A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix. Sabriel is one of my absolute favorite books, so it's surprising that I haven't read everything Nix has written. So far the new book is really interesting conceptually. We'll see if it can pull off being fascinating for the whole book.

So that's how my reading life is going this week. What about yours? What are you all reading?

June 25, 2012

Music Monday: The Heart Asks Pleasure First

I've watched The Piano once, and it was more than enough. This was my senior year in high school, and I had to pick a film to do an interpretive report on. I think it's telling that in the end I picked The Silence of the Lambs to watch a second (and third, and fourth) time. Something in The Piano (the inherent helplessness of women, the main character's complete surrender to the men in the film, her inability to help herself, etc. etc. etc.) just drove me into the arms of Clarice Starling.

However! The music was absolutely gorgeous. When I first purchased the soundtrack I listened to the main theme, "The Heart Asks Pleasure First," about twenty-five times on repeat. I am not kidding. I present it to you forthwith:

June 22, 2012

Friday Five

1. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries! Yes, I posted about this when the project got started, but now I'm talking about it because the project is just zipping along and I am impressed and super excited about the future! Because yesterday, we heard that Bing is throwing a party. And we all know how that turned out in the book... Can't wait for the next episode. There had better be some excellent Darcy-snark.

2. Facebook. Is. Annoying. (I know, not news at all.) I don't know if this is new or whether I just haven't been paying attention, but now when I log on I'm greeted by a message that tells me, "You last posted 9 days ago." And it won't go away. It just keeps staring me in the face. This makes the contrarian in me very annoyed, so I've started a boycott. How long can I go without updating my status on Facebook? (Better to ask: How long can I go without logging in to Facebook at all, because that would be making more of a statement.)

3. A Game of Thrones. I'm re-reading it (with this vague notion that eventually I will watch the HBO series). The last time around I read all but the newest book before I called it quits - I don't think it's much a spoiler to say that pretty much everyone dies, and I couldn't take it any more. Right now everything is mostly okay still (which tells you how far I am in the book, which is not far at all), but I can feel the trap slowly closing around *grmphghrlmd* (not spoiling even though I know you all know who it is). I'm not sure if I will be able to take everyone dying again, but Martin can write, and right now it is immensely pleasant to curl up in bed with this book for half an hour every night.

4. Suits. Season two just started! I was lucky enough to be late to the Suits party, so I only finished season one about a month ago and didn't have very long to wait before the premiere of season two. Let's just say that Suits and its USA companion White Collar are two of my favorite TV shows right now (and with the disturbing amount of television I watch, that's saying something). Watch them! I'm crossing my fingers for a Suits/White Collar crossover episode, but until Neal Caffrey gets back from wherever he is I suppose that's not going to happen.

5. And it's Friday. Le sigh. I am so happy it's Friday. I'm pretty stressed these days (wrapping up things at work, trying to find an apartment when I can't actually view apartments, orchestrating a cross-country move, registering for classes, getting used to the idea of being a student again, trying to WRITE at the same time...), so anything that takes even a little bit of that off my shoulders is bliss. Weekend, here I come.

June 18, 2012

Music Monday: The A Team

I discovered this week's song because it's the single of the week at iTunes. "The A Team" is still available (until tomorrow, I think) so you can get it for free if you feel so inclined. I can't believe that Ed Sheeran is younger than I am and writing this well. This is an excellent song, and incredibly sad, and I don't think any further introduction is necessary.

June 13, 2012

Writing Wednesday: WIP Update

I've been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in an effort to power through this last revision, and I've been doing very very well...until last Saturday, that is.

The good news is that I'm almost exactly halfway through the draft. The bad news is that I'm almost exactly halfway through the draft. I'd been chugging along like the engine that could until suddenly! I hit a cliff. Blank face all the way up the side of the mountain, and my track just ran out.

Of course I'll go a step further and tell you all that the further good news is, I know exactly why I just hit a cliff. I've done multiple revisions on this book before, and for various boring reasons not to be mentioned here, they've all petered out at the halfway point. The result is that the first half of my novel was in fairly good shape going into this last revision, and though I've made a few significant changes, they've all been fairly straightforward for the most part. The characters are in. Plotting stable. Road map pointing the way ahead.

The second half of this draft? Not so much. It's still fairly close to first draft state, and since I've been planning and adding and cutting various characters/plot threads/animals/etc., the second half as it currently states bears little resemblance to the second half it should be.

Why is that good news? Mostly because I know exactly what I have to do to get this revision going again: OUTLINE.

Gah, the dreaded word. I know it burns some of you. I myself have not yet figured out whether I'm a pantser or plotter -- it must be that I'm some of both, and I muddle my way through somehow. But with the first half of the book fairly solid, I will have to do some intensive planning to make sure the second half of the book measures up. Outlines! Index cards! Tracking plot points! Lovely!

So... I have a lot of work to do. Much more than on the first half of the book. At least when I'm finished with the outline it'll tell me where I need to go.

For now, back to the drawing board! Cheers!

June 12, 2012

A Modest Reading Update

According to my schedule I'm supposed to talk about something having to do with reading today. I do have an interesting post about introductions that I'm working on, but it's the sort of thing that requires more thought than I can give it in twenty minutes, and that's pretty much my limit for today. That will have to wait for next week. Yes. Got very busy yesterday. That sort of thing happens.

Suffice to say that I'm reading. Right now I'm in the middle of a Tamora Pierce re-read. I'm planning a huge Tamora Pierce appreciation post once I wrap that up, but I still have a number of books to go (half the Kel series, and the entirety of Beka Cooper). The thing I'm most struck by about Tamora Pierce's books now that I'm re-reading them in loose order of publication is how directly you can track the author's growth as a writer across her books. While the Alanna books are still near and dear to my heart (and there are so many wonderful things about them), excellent writing technique is not one of their strong points. As I progressed through Alanna's series, through Daine's and into Kel's, I saw how much Pierce's plotting improved and how complex the story lines became. It's amazing.

Anyway, those are my two cents for today. For some reason it's really heartening for me to see how authors can grow and improve even after they reach that pinnacle of first publication. Expect a better post tomorrow - a WIP update! (Finally.)

June 11, 2012

Music Monday: The Piano Guys

This week my music recommendation is The Piano Guys, who also do amazing covers of stuff. Lots of stuff. What do I like about them? The musical expertise, the incredible music videos (all on youtube), and how much FUN they have doing it. (And how much fun I have watching them.) You don't have to like classical music to like The Piano Guys - they do a lot of covers of popular songs. Here are my two favorite pieces:

1. "Cello Wars" - My very first Piano Guys video. It's awesome for Star Wars (and cello) fans. An excellent introduction to the Piano Guys world.

2. "Bourne Vivaldi" - My favorite Piano Guys piece. I have a little obsession with the Bourne Identity theme (I've always wanted to figure out how to do an a cappella arrangement of it), so this just hits that spot.)

...And that's it for this Music Monday. What music are you all listening to these days?

June 8, 2012

Not Your Mother's Book Club: Fierce Reads

Ah! I was worrying about what I was going to write about for Friday, but never fear! Not Your Mother's Book Club came to the rescue!

NYMBC is the young adult book club of Books Inc., one of my favorite Bay Area independent bookstores. They put on regular author events (including an upcoming appearance by Chris Colfer!), and last night I had the pleasure of attending the Fierce Reads! tour stop, with authors Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14), Anna Banks (Of Poseidon), Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone), and Jennifer Bosworth (Struck).

I go to every NYMBC event I can, but I was especially looking forward to seeing Leigh Bardugo because of her appearance on Authors are ROCKSTARS! as well as the great mention she got on Books on the Nightstand (which is pretty much king of all book podcasts everywhere).

She did not disappoint, and neither did any of the other authors in attendance. The Fierce Reads event ended up being one of the best author events I've attended, and why? Just because it WAS, OKAY? No, I have better reasons than that. Because all the authors were really committed to being present, entertaining, and informative. Because they had great chemistry, both with each other on the panel and with the audience. Because every question from the audience was answered thoughtfully and in-depth. Because the moderator had to stop the audience from asking questions because we were going overtime. Because I laughed multiple times.

Long story short, it was a great event. Every author was entertaining, and extremely friendly. I intended to buy one book: Leigh's. But because Emmy, Anna, and Jennifer were also so darn lovely, I bought ALL of their books. (Please excuse me while I look at my new diet of rice, rice, and more rice.) Thanks to Connie at NYMBC for putting on an excellent evening while her other half was at BEA. Thanks to the authors for bringing it. And thanks to Macmillan for sending these charming people on tour!

Now I have to go curl up with all these new books. Come get me when the next NYMBC event comes to town.

June 7, 2012

Picking a Bone with Bones

Bones wrapped up an utterly disappointing seventh season a few weeks ago, and I've been gnashing my teeth about it ever since. (This is probably a good time to point out that if you don't care about Bones, you might be bored by this blog post. Also, here be SPOILERS.) There are a lot of things I could tell you about, but here I'll stick to the blindingly obvious ones.

In my opinion, Bones excels when its seasons have a concrete focus. Usually the focus is a super-villain whose take-down requires a full twenty-two episodes of investigating and sciencing and kickassery. This season, it was all about Brennan & Baby!, and it was done in one of the worst ways possible. Before I start blowing my head off I'll mention two things I did like about this season.

Let's start with the positive: a new super-villain in the form of murderous tech-genius Christopher Pelant (played by Andrew Leeds). He could have been the glue that held season seven together. Too bad he only appeared in two of the thirteen episodes. (I assume he'll be receiving fuller treatment in season eight.)

Second positive: the ending of the last episode, "The Past in the Present." Not surprisingly, Christopher Pelant is in it. But the big news is Brennan's choice at the end of the episode. More on this later, but I think it creates some interesting potential going into the next season. (Or the unaired episodes that Fox claims are still part of this season?)

Now to the awful awfulness that was the rest of season seven. The crux of the matter is that Bones chose to make Brennan's pregnancy the hub around which the season revolved. Not only was this a huge mistake plotting-wise, the way the show dealt with Brennan and Booth's characterization and relationship was a huge disservice to everything they'd spent six seasons building up.

A pregnancy immediately following a grief-tinged one-night-stand between Booth and Brennan isn't exactly how I wanted it to go, but I accept it as a starting point because there weren't a lot of choices when Emily Deschanel was pregnant in real life.

So here's the deal: Brennan is pregnant. And somehow between the season six finale and season seven premiere, Brennan and Booth turned from being adamantly NOT TOGETHER! into DUTIFUL COUPLE!, giving each other pecks on the lips with the ease and comfort that comes from being married too long and not investing enough time in your relationship. What crap. Fans wait six seasons for Booth and Brennan to get together and THIS is how you do it?

While Booth would immediately want to have a family with Brennan after he finds out about the pregnancy (he's just that sort of traditional guy), I REFUSE to accept that Brennan (the real Brennan) would settle that easily. The Brennan I know would say, "Hold up! Where does it say that I need a man to raise a child?" Then she would point to some obscure study done in some obscure aboriginal tribe somewhere where the mothers raise their children in a collective, multigenerational, matriarchal clan.

The real Brennan would allow Booth to be a father to her child because she understands the importance of family and how important family is to Booth, but she would NOT roll over and say, "Guess this means we're a couple now!" Season seven should not have been about Booth and Brennan house-hunting. It should have been about Brennan and Booth negotiating the scary fact that they're going to have a child together, and trying to figure out what that means vis a vis their relationship with each other. Because despite the fact that they're meant for each other, Brennan and Booth are very different people, and it is their differences in large part that have kept them separate for six years. Just because there's a baby involved doesn't mean those differences suddenly melt away.

But wait! you say. By the time season seven starts, they're already together! So all that negotiating could have happened, you just don't know! And that's another problem right there: the audience just doesn't know. As far as we know, Brennan and Booth zapped from NOT TOGETHER! to DUTIFUL COUPLE! instantaneously. Cutting past the crucial relationship building stage is a disservice to the show and to the audience members who have been waiting six years for just this. Beyond everything I already mentioned above, I wanted sparks! Once upon a time Brennan and Booth had spark, and this would have been an excellent place to bring that back. Instead I got platonic pecks on the cheek. The kind you give your grandmother.

And let's not get started about the fact that Booth's first child, Parker, only makes one token appearance, and the only thing he's there to say is, "I totally love my new sister so much!" Seriously, what happened on this one? I'm picturing a show writer going, "Hey, wait. Didn't Booth already have a kid?" And then the guy sitting next to him replying something like, "Oh yeahhhhhh. Totally forgot that one, dude." Booth has been presented as a very traditional, family-oriented person. Forming a new family with Brennan & Baby! with so little involvement of his own son goes against everything I thought I knew about Booth.

So, yeah. Pretty much the only thing Bones did right with the Brennan & Baby! phenomenon was not having Booth propose to Brennan. That would have been even more disastrous.

Now I'm going to talk SPOILER SPOILER SPOILERS for the last episode, so stop reading if you don't want it spoiled.

June 6, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Camp NaNoWriMo

Most of you have probably heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). But how many of you have heard of Camp NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNo is a pared-down version of NaNoWriMo, for those who just can't get enough of the craziness that is 1,667 words every day of November. It takes place during the summer (this year, June and August), and the main difference between Camp NaNo and Original NaNo is that Camp NaNo doesn't have the bells and whistles (huge forums, crazy write-ins, CD swaps, etc.) that Original NaNo thrives on. It's a little less about the camaraderie and community, a little more about JUST WRITE. And right now, that's exactly what I love about it.

I've participated in both Camp NaNo (once) and Original NaNo (five times), and what I've realized after my vast years of experience is that 1,667 words a day is not that much. It's in the ballpark of what actual writers write every day. And if you just sit your butt in a chair every day and spend one hour writing, guess what? You'll actually have a complete draft after not too much slaving. Who knew? (Of course you all know this. But sometimes the gargantuan task of WRITING A NOVEL blinds me to this elementary fact, and it's good to remind myself once in a while.)

Confession time: I've been writing the same novel for two years, and it's killing me. I've been lazy. I've made excuses. I've spent lots of time watching TV, and lots of time complaining about how I can't write. But that is changing this month. Because the fact is that I'm done with this book. I've held on to it for far too long, frightened to let it out into the world, but it's time to let it go.

So that's what I'm doing in Camp NaNo this month. I'm powering through one last polish-up, and when June is over, I'm going to set it free. The prospect is scary, but it's past time.

June 5, 2012

Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)

So I thought I was going to be able to do huge in-depth book talks every week, but (at least at the moment) I just don't have the mental bandwidth to do that and beat my WIP into submission at the same time. (More on that tomorrow.) In the absence of a big long critique, I'm just going to point to this book and tell you all to read it:

Oh my WORD, Code Name Verity (by Elizabeth Wein) is amazing. It's about two girls in service in the United Kingdom during World War II. One is a pilot (sort of), the other is a spy (sort of). There's only so much I can say about this book because of its twisty nature -- saying too much about the plot would give away some of the revelations I found most interesting. But at the very least, here are some reasons you should read it:

1. Female friendship (of the kicking-Bechtel-into-the-dirt variety). Queenie and Maddie meet under unexpected circumstances and become the closest of close friends. Their relationship is real and tangible and wonderful, and it made me cry.

2. Historical accuracy. Okay, so obviously there have to be some inaccuracies (many of which are addressed in the author note at the back of the book). But altogether, Code Name Verity is extremely well-researched and really creates an immersive experience for the reader. If you like well-done historical fiction (particularly WWII), this is your cup of tea.

3. The twistiness. Again, I can't tell you much about it. But I can say that I am a fairly well-read person. I tend to see plot twists coming a mile away...but Code Name Verity fooled me. Multiple times. Elizabeth Wein sets up certain expectations only to undermine them to great effect, and I thought it was marvelous.

In fact, marvelous is an excellent word for this book. Also devastating. And rich. I didn't float through this book in an hour -- I read every single word on every single page, because I didn't want it to end. If you like: engrossing young adult fiction, sensational female friendships, and/or historical fiction, this book is for you. Read away.

June 4, 2012

Music Monday: Eric Whitacre

Sometimes I can't say anything about Eric Whitacre except that he is a genius and his music is transcendent.

Eric Whitacre was recommended to me by an acquaintance last fall, and I immediately hopped on iTunes and downloaded his first album, Light & Gold, then waited impatiently for his second, Water Night. For those not in the know, Eric Whitacre writes complex, innovative classical arrangements (both choral and instrumental). His songs make the hair stand up on my arms EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. More personally, they've served as a huge inspiration with my current work-in-progress, as music (specifically choral song) plays a dominant role in the plot.

Besides the fact that his music is amazing, Eric Whitacre is also awesome because of his Virtual Choir project. You can read up on the history on his website, but essentially, Whitacre makes sheet music and recordings of select songs available to the public. The public (as in, you and I) then gets to film themselves singing their preferred part, and their videos are then bundled together into one. People all over the world singing. Music bringing them together. As below:

 That's the Virtual Choir recording of "Water Night," off of Whitacre's most recent album.

If you need further proof that Eric Whitacre is wonderful, please sample the following songs that I recommend the mostest:

"The Seal Lullaby," from Light & Gold.

"Alleluia," from Water Night.

And last but not least, a choral arrangement of "Goodnight Moon." Yes, you read that right. I didn't think I'd like it originally, but it grows on me each time I listen.

So. There you go. Eric Whitacre never ceases to amaze me, and if you like classical choral music (as well as instrumental), I highly highly highly recommend his music. It's stunning and beautiful and makes my chest hurt and takes my breath away, and I can only hope that it touches some of you in the same way.

June 1, 2012

Friday stuff and stuff

Apparently it's June.

And apparently this month is so special that I'm stretching out my rusty blogging muscles for it. We'll see how that goes. June, you'd better be grateful.

Anyone else out there doing Camp NaNoWriMo? I'm kind of hoping it provides the necessary motivation to kick my WIP's butt into shape. I'm at that point where I'm close enough that I feel like I'm there already, and my brain goes: "What? *grumblegrumble* thousand more words to go? Can't be, I'm already sleeping at the finish line!" But that's not technically done. It's just FAKE done. And this fake done-ness needs to stop.

At some point in the last month or so I discovered tumblr. What have I learned? 1: You can waste a LOT of time there. 2: There are lots of angry people hanging around, more so than on certain other social networking sites. It's a little mind-boggling.

Anyway, must go. Trying to fool my brain into editing doesn't work when I'm writing blog posts.

Also, I got into graduate school. There is that.