Monday, December 31, 2012

It's the end

It's the end of 2012. It's been one heck of a year, friends.

My husband graduated law school, took the bar, passed the bar, and opened his own law firm.

We moved from Florida to Arizona and are still staying with my parents (hopefully for just a couple more weeks, though).

I had major surgery in April and a miscarriage in October/November.

My oldest started first grade.

I submitted my first novel.

And got my first rejection.

(Three publishers still have it on their desks, though, so... fingers crossed!)

I started my first steampunk novel.

And temporarily shelved it because of all the research.

I started (and finished a first draft of!) my first fantasy novel.

I read 70 books. Just by the skin of my teeth, but STILL.

And I tweeted. A lot.

See ya'll in the new year, folks. It promises to be better.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Recommendations

This is a rant, followed by some (I believe) sound advice. Proceed accordingly.

I am completely shocked by the number of times the following happens on facebook:

Original Poster: Just got a kindle/nook/B&N gift card (or starting a book club)!!! Give me book recommendations people!
Friend #1: NICHOLAS SPARKS!!! ALL THE CRIES!!! ALL THE FEELS!!!
Friend #2: Dan Brown's books. OMG, He is such a goooooood writer.
Friend #3: Twilight. It's this book about vampires and it's awesome and you'll love it.

And this happens with practically ZERO variation.

Here are the problems with these suggestions:

1. All three people are recommending old-but-not-too-old best sellers. These books (or authors) have been around long enough that everybody and their grandmother (seriously, I got a twitter follow from somebody called "TwilightGrandma" the other day) has heard of them. Opinions have been formed or the books have already been read. If your friend hasn't heard of or read this book, don't worry, it will be the one suggested on the front display in the store or when they first sign on to Amazon.

2. All three people are recommending pretty BLAH books. Let me tell you how that Nicholas Sparks novel goes: Boy meets girl, societal differences keep them apart, they fall in love anyway, death and disease threatens to tear them apart, they recommit themselves to each other, one of them dies. You'll cry, I'm sure, but COME ON. That's the BEST you have to recommend to somebody???

3. There's no accounting for personal tastes. Not everybody likes the same books as you. Shocking, I know.

4. That all said... if this person is the type of person who was given a Nook/Kindle/B&N Gift Card as a present... they've read those books. They are a "book person" and they either have read or formed opinions about those books already.

Now.

I'm not good at a lot of things. I don't know how to make cheesy sauces that aren't gritty, I can't scrapbook to save my life, and I don't even know how to hem my own pants. But I am good at recommending books. Here's my advice on the subject:

1. Find out what other books they've read that they've enjoyed. You don't need to recommend books in the same genre (especially since if they are asking for recommendations, they are probably looking to branch out a bit), but note the tone of what they like to read. The person who loved "The Kite Runner" will likely not enjoy a Sophie Kinsella novel. Pay attention to the tone: Serious? Adult? Fun? Fluffy? YA? Emotional-Heartstring-Tuggers? People will generally enjoy books that feel similar, even if they are in a different genre/category.

Sidenote: YA is a category, not a genre. Middle Grade (MG) is another category. Within each of those, there are genres, the same as in the adult category: fantasy, sci-fi, romance, mystery, suspense, non-fiction, memoir, biography, etc.

2. Get an idea of what their expectations around content are. I've posted before about people having surprising standards around language and sex. Don't recommend Game of Thrones if they thought Twilight was really violent and sexually charged.

3. Try to get off the beaten path a little. Anybody who's ever set foot in a bookstore has heard of the Notebook and the Hunger Games and Harry Potter. If your friend hasn't read them, there are probably reasons. (You can try to win people to your side, of course, but that's not a "recommendation") Recommend an author that maybe doesn't get the front-and-center display at the bookstore, or maybe isn't even sold at Target and Walmart. If you know of some indie-press authors (or really WELL-DONE self-published authors), recommend those.

4. Be careful about mentioning that you are friends with the author. A lot of people take this to mean "I am helping to hock their book because it sucks but I feel obligated to help a friend." Or, alternately, "I want to seem like a big shot." At best you'll get a "I know one of So-and-So's friends. Now I am an expert on So-and-So's books." I've never seen this work out well.

There you have it.

My advice and complaints about book recommendations. What advice do you have and more importantly, do you have a book you'd like to recommend?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best and Worst Books of 2012: Part 3

These are the Best Books I Read in 2012 That Were Released in Previous Years. AKA: I'm a little slow. And busy. But mostly slow.

I counted Shatter Me and Ashfall in the Best Books of 2012 list because they were released very close to the end of 2011, and most people did not pick them up until sometime in 2012, as they were both debut authors and weren't riding a publicity high from a previous release. The books on today's list are just simply old news, but I didn't get around to them until these year for various reasons.

The Leviathan Series by David Scott Westerfeld 

This is steampunk done right: A complete sci-fi reimagining of history. In this case, it's WWI, and we have a fictional heir to the Hapsberg empire. The world is split into Darwinists (people who manipulate living beasts for their use) and Machinists (people who rely on mechanical engineering) both are technologically fantastical, and the whole thing is magic.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver can rip your heart out and make you feel happy about it. My best good friend Kirsti says "This book is like Mean Girls and Groundhog Day had a baby. Except in a less creepy way than it sounds... " and that's pretty much the most perfect description of ever. I know most people wanted to throw the book at the wall when they reached the ending, but I didn't. I loved it. Especially considering the audience (YA) and the fact that they (teenagers) tend to project themselves into the characters they are reading about, I thought it was exactly the way the book should have ended. Somebody has to pick up the pieces, somebody has to learn from these lessons.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

This is my favorite book by Moran.
This is the thickest book by Moran.
This is the second-lowest rated book by Moran (on Goodreads).
This book chronicles the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror (AKA - The downfall of Marie Antoinette), which is a well-documented and visited topic in pop culture. The fact that she can breathe new life into a subject that so many of us are so familiar with is a feat all on its own. Michelle Moran can almost do no wrong, but this is by far and away my favorite of hers. (She released a book in 2012, The Second Empress, which was good, but not good enough to rank as one of the best of the year, IMO)

World War Z by Max Brooks

I don't usually go for zombies. I don't usually go for things that will keep me awake at night, period. But this was done documentary-style, ten years after the humans finally won the war against the zombies. It's fascinating, and resembles absolutely nothing like what I expected from a zombie book. It addresses geopolitical issues, emergency preparedness, government recovery, and more. Much like Ashfall, it's one of those books that keeps you thinking for weeks after. It also made me more confident in my skills to survive such an event (my book club decided hubby and I together ranked as a Class C or better in the post-zombie system).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Best and Worst Books of 2012: Part 2

Today I feature the most disappointing books of 2012. Books I ought to have loved, or was really excited for, but was underwhelmed by.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

I really, really loved the first three books in this series. The prequels are pretty much a steampunk version of those books, so they're fun, if not particularly innovative. This second story arc, which was supposed to feature Simon (or so the legend goes...) is turning out to be really blah. Instead of Clary and Jace getting to be happy together, Clare continually finds ways to have them having Angry Make Out Time. Simon is still in the background, even pushed further back by the introduction of some new secondary characters. And for being an urban fantasy, we spend a surprising amount of time watching people make out and have sex. Seven different couples make up the bulk of this story, and clunky writing fills out the rest. If you've started the series, stop after number three. The rest of this stuff is useless.

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

It's not that this was bad. It wasn't. It's just that it wasn't nearly as good as the other stuff she's written. I've loved all of her books except this one. It was very short, given the fact that she was writing about Napoleon's court and had TONS of source material and novel-worthy-nonsense to write about. This is her lowest rated book on Goodreads, and for good reason. I just didn't feel like it was as good as the others.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I know, this is really old. But the fourth, and final, book was released at the very end of 2011, and I barely picked up the series for the first time this year. It was underwhelming, to say the very least. A whole lot of words that don't actually amount to a whole lot of plot. Weak characters that don't ever do what you expect them to do. A semi-built world lacking in details and intrigue. Cheesy-kid-book details (Eragon = Dragon With A "E", a blue dragon named Saphira) with adult-level violence (brain matter spattering on a sword, an infant impaled on a spear). On the surface, it's fine. But it just doesn't hold up under any kind of scrutiny. 



Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best and Worst Books of 2012: Part 1

Some how I've managed to read a lot fewer books this year than in previous years. Maybe moving across the country had something to do with it. Maybe the prolonged miscarriage and recovery. In any case, I present to you The Best and Worst Books of 2012 (according to me, and based on what I've read)

Today, THE BEST:

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

It should be depressing. It's not.
It shouldn't be funny. It is.
But it's really about kids dealing with things they should never have to deal with, and doing a better job than anybody really expected them to do. All the things you probably hate about YA lit (insta-love, absentee parents, tropey characters) are absent. The age of the characters (thus the category they're forced into) is deliberate to the story, instead of obviously capitalizing on a trend. Green knocks it out of the park and I cannot recommend this book enough.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

One of the first books of the year, thus one of the most overlooked. It's adorable and sweet, if a teensy bit on the predictable side. Another YA in which the parents are not absentee so much as they are becoming irrelevant in their kids' lives. As if these kids have been raised and are now growing up. Crazy.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

The second-book-in-a-trilogy slump gets solved when the author wraps two stories into one, giving the book a double climax. Take that, slump. Our main character also has to actually deal with the negative consequences of her choices, and I'm excited to see how that plays out. (Because of this, the third book has the potential to be a really hormonal, emotional mess of teenage-love-angst, but that's book three... we're talking about book two here.) And I love how Oliver isn't afraid to remorselessly rip your heart out. I need to learn from her.

Honorable Mentions: (these came out in 2011, but I didn't read them until this year)

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Action packed and thrilling, but incredibly thought provoking. One of the best Potential Book Club Books of the year, no doubt (the sequel came out this year, but I'm in line for it from the library). It raises questions about emergency preparedness, role of government in our lives - and in particular in our disaster recovery - and on and on. It's one of those haunting books that stays with you for weeks afterward.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

At first, you feel like you've fallen into a weird rabbit hole that you don't want to be in. The narrator has cracked, and the inside of her head instead particularly welcoming or pretty. It is fascinating, though, so you continue. And you find yourself in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, conspiracy, sci-fi, superhero, romance novel. And you love it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Language in Books

I was at a book club the other night.

Sometime during that event, somebody said they had an interest in reading Bridget Jones' Diary. I've read it, and since this was a church-affiliated book club, I warned the woman that this particular book does make prolific use of the swears. She immediately shrank back in her seat and said, "Oh. Never mind."

I don't mind that. I don't judge her. I don't think she's being puritanical. I actually think Bridget Jones is overboard on the swearing, and that's why I warned this woman.

The book we were discussing that night was Matched by Allie Condie.

(some of you might see where this is going, but bear with me)

If you are unfamiliar with the plot/theme of Matched, here it is: At some point in the future, Society decides our lives are too cluttered, so they destroy all but 100 poems, 100 stories, 100 songs, 100 pieces of art. All personal artifacts are destroyed, and the people live in super bland peace.

The people of this Society are not taught to write, and all communication (including the 100 poems, stories, and songs) is electronic. Electronic communication only.

One of the book club questions was around this electronic communication, and why the Society deemed that necessary. We had a lovely discussion about how electronic communication can be monitored and controlled. I also brought up the point that relying solely on controlled electronic transmission of written works, the government could easily have manipulated or censored the work.

(Side note: This book series actually made me vehemently anti-e-reader. I will always, always be a hardback kind of girl.)

This isn't crazy, it's been happening since the beginning of forever. Churches have re-translated the Bible to make it easier to understand or to mold the teachings to their particular view of the Gospel. Books have multiple versions when they are translated. Abridgements and "edited" versions of books are available for people to read when they don't want to read the whole, big, heavy, difficult book.

People often actually prefer these books. Or they rely on movie versions. "Oh, I know what Jane Austen is about. I've seen the Kiera Knightley movie."

This came back around to the swearing. One woman said she couldn't understand why swearing was ever in a book. "It demonstrates lazy language." was her argument, and she wished there were more edited versions of books available. Yet she was staunchly against what the Society in Matched had done.

I argued that sometimes authors are going for realism. Soldiers under fire in Iraq are not going to say, "Gee, that bomb came really close. I've got some dog gone shrapnel in my head and it hurts like the dickens." Stressful situations bring out the worst in us. Some people are uneducated and use foul language in place of more proper words. Some people think it's funny. And some people just don't care.

I fully agree with part of what this woman said: Prolific swearing is a symptom of lazy language. There's probably a better way to say what you're saying.

I also do not enjoy swearing just for swearing's sake. I prefer cleaner content in books, and I've put books down when the curse words seem to be literally inserted just to prove that the author knows how to use them (he usually does not in those cases). I also give detailed parental advisories in my reviews, including remarks about language.

There are very creative ways to get around this, of course, and I'm always profoundly pleased when I see authors go to these lengths. It maintains reality (the character curses) while not offending my delicate sensibilities (I don't actually have to read the swear words).

But my question is this: Is the desire for squeaky-clean literature any different from what the Society in Condie's novels is doing? Does putting our fingers in our ears and saying "Lalalalala, I can't hear you!" really eliminate the ugliness from our society? Is there no value in realism? Or should we be constantly seeking out the greater good? And does the category (middle grade, young adult, new adult, adult, non-fiction) matter?

What think ye?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Next Big Thing Hop

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a little game the writers of the internets have devised to introduce you to all the amazing up-and-coming (whether published or not) writers out there. I'm telling you a little bit about the book I'm working on now, and introduce you to five of my writing friends.

Here goes...


1- What is the working title of your book?

I am the WORST at titles. For now, the series has a working title of Evil Intentions, but I'm not sold on that and am completely willing to change it at the very first suggestion from an editor or agent or publisher.


2- Where did the idea come from for the book?

An agent said, "It would be cool to see a fairy tale told from the villain's perspective." And I took it one step further and made the villain the hero, and the traditional hero now is the villain.


3- What genre does your book fall under?

High Fantasy. Magic, swords, cloaks, the whole bit.


4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Right now, I see someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones as the main character (you know her as the Wicked Stepmother, but I simply call her Queen Anastasia). I like the idea of having the stepmother look very much like an older version of Snow White in many ways- it makes the jealousy a little more believable. And while she is the protagonist, her motives are not always pure, and she needs to be believable as someone with shaky morals.

For Snow White, I see someone who looks very much like Samantha Barks. Now, I have no idea if Samantha Barks could pull anything like this off. Snow White is a villain in this story, and Samantha Barks' only claim to fame is playing a very lovestruck, sympathetic character. But, golly, she is pretty, and I could believe a lot of 40 year old women being jealous of her:


I'm in the very earliest stages, still carving out the rough draft, so I can't answer this very well. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart, and I cannot give you glib answers, so you will have to wait until I know my characters better to get better answers than this.


5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Snow White is not who you think she is- she is a spoiled, angry, dangerous girl, and her stepmother, the Queen, will stop at nothing to protect her kingdom.


6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan to go the traditional route. I have no interest in cover design or negotiating my contracts or anything like that. I have a story to tell. The rest is business.


7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started September 29th, and I'm 35K into the story with (I'm guessing) around 40K more to go. I took six weeks off while recovering from a miscarriage. First draft will take around five weeks of actual writing time.


8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'm most inspired by the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind and the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. And while there are some stylistic/storytelling similarities to those books, I can in no way claim that my series is the "next" of either of these.


9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I pretty much answered this in #2...


10- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

It's a female driven story, with none of the garbage that generally makes up a female driven story. (i.e. - the female characters are not defined by how/when they choose to have sex with the male characters) There is a love story intertwined in here, but it's certainly not the core of the novel. This is the story of a woman who has a complicated life, a set of relateable problems, and one really impossible task set before her, and she has to deal with it all on her own.

Now I'm supposed to tag five more writing bloggers so y'all can go read their blogs and get to know their writing projects. The Next Big Thing just might be hiding amongst these blogs...

J. Meyers - A fellow Parenthetical Chick, a like-minded soul, and just an all around cool gal.

Darci Cole - A fellow Arizonan, mother of a couple of cute little babies, and a writer of middle-grade/ young adult fantasy.

Morgan Shamy - A spunky redhead if you ever met one, using writing as a balm to her soul.

Jo Perry - One of the more prolific writers around (seriously, her fingers must type at supersonic speeds) and a flat-out awesome person.

Sarah Anne Hayes - Literary writer who is one of the sweetest and funniest people I've met in the interwebs.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I'm back.

I'm back in the blogging world. I returned to Twitter last week, but blogging has been more difficult. How do I address my absence? How personal do I want to get here? Well, here's the short version, for better or for worse.

(For those who follow my family blog/facebook, you've seen this all in much greater detail, you can probably skip this post. I'll see you next week.)

In September, I found out I was pregnant. YAY!

October 6th found me bleeding and in the hospital. BOO.

I spent weeks on bedrest, many days in a doctor's office, more time than I want to count looking at the screen of an ultrasound machine, praying for a miracle.

The miracle didn't come.

My baby died somewhere between November 1st and November 7th.

I was scheduled for a D&C, but started hemorrhaging and went to the emergency room a day early instead. The surgery was performed, everything went as well as possible, and I was sent home to heal.

Now, after weeks of sadness, pain, exhaustion, nausea, illness, and weakness, I am back to normal. I started writing again a few nights ago (thanks to Suz for doing sprints with me, even though she was up to her elbows - literally! - in chocolate caramels), and now, finally, I am returning to blogging.

I have been the worst blog commenter, and I plan to change that. Right after I mark all 3,000 items in my reader as "read".




Monday, October 1, 2012

You make me feel less crazy

Whenever I have a "What the...???" moment in real life, I go to the source of all information: Twitter.

I ask Twitter, "Hey... uh... is this normal?" and try to get a handle on whether or not I am the crazy one in the situation.

Things I have crowd sourced:

Are leggings pants?

Does the guy have to be taller than the girl in a romantic relationship?

Do you let other people's kids into your bedroom?

Your socks should match your ________.

Is it acceptable to throw YOURSELF a "Welcome Home" party?

Is the pink kid on "Sid the Science Kid" supposed to mentally disabled?



And, I'd like to point out, only ONE of these yielded an unexpected result. As in: I was wrong. Everything else, it turns out you all agree with me, and I am NOT crazy.

At least not when it comes to this stuff.

Friday, September 28, 2012

How awkward is this?

There's this couple in my church. I will call them Ross and Rachel.

I have a friend. I will call her Monica.

Rachel had a baby, their first baby. Monica and I wanted to stop by, bring them a gift and a meal, to congratulate them.

"Well, we don't want any visitors, you know, with a newborn. Could you just drop it at the door and leave?"

(Side note: I'm not going to lick your baby's face or stick my germ-covered hands in his mouth. I don't even need to hold him. Stop telling people to stay away from you, first time parents, it comes off as neurotic.)

Monica reminds them that we are bringing FOOD, and it is more than a little weird to leave that on the doorstep for an undetermined amount of time.

(Side note again: Yes. I think eating food that may have begun to rot is grosser than letting people I know be in the same room as my children.)

Monica and Rachel text back and forth for TWO HOURS trying to come to an agreement about when we should be able to stop by. Rachel keeps pushing it back "We need thirty more minutes" over and over again. Eventually we decide that 5:00 PM is a good time for everyone.

Monica and I get in the car, with Monica's kids in the backseat. Her kids are big enough to be responsible in the car for five minutes, but not quite ready to be home alone for a half hour. We head over to Ross and Rachel's house. I knock on the door and we hear Ross yell... something.

"Did he say 'coming'? Or 'come in'?"

He yells again. "COME IN!"

As Monica chants "awkward awkward awkward" under her breath, I push the door open and...

They're hoarders.

No joke, straight up, HOARDERS. The house is FULL of broken stuff (including, I kid you not, the innards of an upright piano). The halls are literally cut in half because there is so much stuff stacked up against the walls. The house is dark and dank, and there is absolutely zero horizontal space for me to set this dinner down on. Somehow, I don't think strangers breathing the same air as their baby is the biggest health risk that baby will face during the first few days of her life. Just saying.

Walking through the (dingy and cramped) hallway, I say, "We brought you dinner!" as brightly as I can.

Ross responds with, "I know. Sorry. We're just not that kind of people."

We're. Just. Not. That. Kind. Of. People.

Who eat dinner? Who answer their own door? Who expect visitors occasionally?

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE YOU NOT?!?!?!?!?!

Never mind. Don't answer that.

I set their dinner down, someplace, and Monica gives them the gift. They set it aside. We've apparently interrupted their TV time.

They stand and Ross says, "I've never seen either of you before in my life."

Well, now it's double awkward, because I spoke to Ross SIX DAYS before this happened. We had a discussion in Sunday School about repentance and asking for forgiveness. (He didn't think you need to ask for forgiveness, in case you're curious about the substance of that conversation. You're probably not, but the point is that I REMEMBER WHAT HE SAID. He doesn't remember we spoke.)

Monica and I try to politely remind them of who we are, Rachel remembers and refers to us both by what I can only assume are code-nicknames they use amongst themselves. They refer to my husband as "The Screamer."

Lovely.

Background: My husband spoke in sacrament meeting about how he has trouble controlling his temper. In order to make people understand that he does NOT hit me or our children, he was very clear that his temper displayed itself as a lot of shouting. And it's true. Controlling our tempers is something both hubby and I have worked long and hard on. It's a struggle, it's not something either of us are proud of, but it's the truth. And we're both improving (thus the fact that he mentioned it in sacrament- God truly loves us and will help us to become better people).

Ross tells me over and over and over again how highly he thinks of my husband for being proud of being a screamer. (Please note: NOT a screamer. Sometimes, rarely as of recently, a shouter. Also: not proud of it.)

I stood there (because, of course, there's no room to sit), listening to Ross, who didn't want me to come over in the first place, who doesn't remember speaking to me ever, and who didn't get up to answer his own door, rehash one of the most sensitive and painful pieces of my personal life.

Repeatedly.

Monica interrupts (bless her) with a change of subject. "Oh, that is such a pretty blanket!" (wrapped around the baby).

Ross responds with, "Ugh. We asked for all green stuff, and this was the closest we got, this weird blue and green thing."

They had a baby girl, FYI. (And named her something ridiculous, of course, but that's beside the point.)

Monica kinda grabs me by the elbow and is all, "Well, we have to go, my kids are waiting in the car, see you later! Congrats!"

As we are walking down their walkway, Monica asks, "So, do you think they'll like the pink polka-dotted blanket I got them?"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My own version of insomnia

I struggle with sleep.

Sleep and I do not see eye to eye.

I need a lot of sleep to feel my best. Nine to ten hours, preferably. Of course, with three small children, that rarely never happens.

I do everything I'm supposed. No screens for an hour before sleepy time, no food for three hours before sleepy time. Bedroom is a haven for sleep: it's neat and organized with no TV. I get myself in bed and under the blankets by a reasonable hour (ten, most nights).

Yet sleep eludes me.

Oh, I sleep for a bit. But then, somewhere around two in the morning, my brain fires up and starts doing the nuttiest stuff.

Like singing just one line from Tangled's "At Last I See the Light" ad nauseum. No exaggeration, it sounds like a broken record in my head, and I kinda want to cut someone to make it stop.

Or making mental lists of all the things I will need to do SOMEDAY. Not even tomorrow or next week. Like... next year. And I get all panicky about it; heart races, stomach ties itself in knots. Major panic.

And then I realize I have to pee.

By that time, it's three-thirty, and my alarm is set to go off in ninety minutes. Considering it generally takes me a solid thirty minutes to fall asleep, it hardly seems worth it.

So, here I am, having eaten a bowl of cereal already, at four in the morning, writing.

Always writing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OMIGOSH

Okay, so I know that's not the most professional of blog titles, but I have had the most amazing idea!

Seriously, lightning has struck my brain.

I've been toiling away at this awesome steampunk adaptation of Greek mythology for a while now, and while it is so, so, so much fun, it is a really hard story to write. Mostly because I didn't know anything about Greek mythology when I started.

Or Victorian London.

Or science-y stuff.

So... yeah. Writing-related research has been kind of my life for the last several months (which is difficult, since I'm a homeschooling parent and graduate student, so non-writing-related research is REALLY my life... *sigh*). It's been fun and interesting, and I've fallen a little more in love with the story as I go, but it's slow and tedious work.

But yesterday.

Yesterday, I had a new idea.

It popped into my head while my kids were playing at a playground. I pulled out a notebook and pen and started scribbling. By the time we left the playground, I had six pages of notes for a series (the first three are already in skeleton-plot form).

I got home and started writing.

And writing.

And writing. I skipped meals, stayed up late and have been ignoring my family this morning (don't worry- my husband is home, my kids are not being neglected).

The result?

8,500 words, three plot outlines and the beginnings of a whole world of characters, traditions, everything.

And these books are going to have maps on the inside cover. Because those are the best kind of books.

Have you ever had an idea grab a hold of you like this? Taken over your life? How did you balance it? And, seriously, HOW EXCITED WERE YOU?!?!?!?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Memes I Hate- Volume 1

If you're on Pinterest or Tumblr, I'm sure you've seen this little gem:
Whether you've seen it before or not, please read it carefully. 

Now, I know this was probably written by some sixteen year old airhead, and I shouldn't take it so seriously, but here's what I hate about it: 

"Pick her up and pretend you're going to throw her in the pool. SHE'LL SCREAM AND FIGHT YOU, but secretly, she'll LOVE IT." 

and then this: 

"Tickle her, EVEN WHEN SHE SAYS STOP."

and:

"Get her mad, then kiss her." which is really just reiterating the earlier version of "When she starts swearing at you, tell her you love her."

What manipulative pre-rape education is this???

Girls, here's a hint: We do not want to be teaching boys (who will someday be men) that when we say "NO" we really mean "YES." 

Girls, here's another hint: When you are justifiably angry, do not let him kiss you or say he loves you and then get away with whatever bad behavior he was doing. 

I suppose it's possible that this was written by a boy, but let's be honest, it's extremely unlikely. It seems to be an endless stream of single teenaged and twenty-something girls pinning, reblogging and forwarding this meme. It reeks of "girl" in every pathetic line. 

So, please. 

Stop this meme.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

How did this happen?

So, I am supposed to be writing a talk for tomorrow. (for the non-Mormons among us: I am speaking in church, and I need to write my own mini-sermon, about fifteen minutes long).

Don't judge me, you all write your talks on Saturday, too. 

We are staying at my mother in law's this weekend, just hanging out and visiting.

In order to write my talk, I had my laptop open on the couch.

But, to my two year old, this was apparently an invitation for him to climb all over me. And since I have no will power when it comes to that squishy little face, I had a very hard time prying him off of my face.

Yes. My face. That's his favorite part to cling to.

It's awesome.

So I went into the other room, which is the guest room where hubby and I sleep.

But that room is kinda cold.

So I got under the blankets, with my laptop in front of me.

And that position is just not conducive to focused writing.

So here I am, blogging when I should be focusing on other stuff.

I honestly don't know how this keeps happening.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Damsels in Distress

This is a topic I've been wrestling with a lot lately.

Metaphorically wrestling, of course. Physically wrestling with a topic would be a tad one-sided.

Here's my problem: Is a Damsel in Distress a truly anti-feminist character?

Can there be no gray area on this issue?

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I am not a particularly staunch feminist. I support (and am grateful for) equal rights, but, let's face it... I'm also a homeschooling housewife. I don't feel the need to have a career to validate who I am, and I love that my identity is intertwined with (but not defined by) my husband's. (please note: you can be the exact opposite of me on this, and I still love you. I'm not right, you're not wrong, we're just different.)

With that disclaimer out there, I have to say I've noticed a disconcerting trend. There is a very loud voice in the book blogging/writing/reading community that says anytime a girl or woman is rescued, she's setting feminism back a couple generations. That by simply being in danger, she is stripping women of the right to vote or the right to divorce their abusive husbands.

And I don't quite understand it.

There are times when characters need to be saved. If it's your main character, we hope s/he survives. And they can only be saved by one of two ways: They save themselves or are saved by a hero/ine. (I am dismissing entirely the idea that the villain might suddenly implode, leaving our protagonist danger-free.)

Either way, the saving has to make sense. There are some things you can do for yourself, and some you cannot. Fictional superpowers can obviously alter this, but for simplicity's sake, I'm going to leave those out of the equation.

Let's create a fictional female. She's physically fit, confident and smart. As she is walking home one night, she is abducted at knife-point and thrust into a back alley, where she is bound and gagged. Her attacker starts to rape her.

Now let's create a fictional male. He knows the fictional female through a neutral setting (school or work) and is on positive terms with her (i.e.- he is not the villain in disguise). He's physically fit, confident and smart. He walks past this back alley, sees what is happening and has a decision to make.

What decision is he going to make?

I would hope that he would take the necessary steps to attempt to save her.

But so many people are crying about the idea that a woman doesn't need saving, that it almost feels like they would prefer a story in which this fictional male walks by, sees whats happening, and leaves, thinking to himself, "She's a strong, confident female. I am sure she can work that out for herself. I'll just text her tomorrow to make sure she's okay."

I know what the first argument is going to be: Don't write characters that need saving! Don't put them in that situation!

But here's the thing: Your character should be in danger at some point. The stakes need to be high, and your protagonist needs to be on the brink of death/failure/losing all hope. If you refuse to put your character in danger (emotional danger counts), then you are chickening out.

Trust me, I'm not advocating for a wilting flower to take over as our new leading lady. I don't want a girl who simply stands by, wringing her hands while the hero fights for her honor. I don't want to read one book after another of girls who fret and worry and avoid making any kind of a decision, forcing the men in their lives to make their decisions for them. None of that would be fun to read, and I know it. 

But here's where the rubber meets the road: would we do this to a man? If a male character needs saving... do we automatically think of him as weak? Do we think less of the author for giving a hero some assistance? When a male character gives in and finds help, do we throw the book at the wall, shouting, "You should be stronger than that! You are giving men everywhere a bad name!"

No. It seems as though it's okay to write a male character as being in over his head and requiring help/saving/rescuing/whatever.

Is this another one of those situations where we expect far more of women than we do of men? Men work outside the home, come home and relax. Women work outside the home, come home and cook dinner. (HUGE GENERALIZATION, I KNOW. KIND OF THE POINT OF THE POST. MOVE ON.) Individual situations may vary, but the societal expectation is still there (how many commercials for cleaning products and home cooked foods have you seen featuring men doing all the work, even though women make up fifty percent of the American workforce?)

The same idea applies here- are we expecting far more of our female characters than we are of our male characters? To the point where we don't want female characters to have genuine flaws or disadvantages?

What say you? Is a Damsel in Distress automatically a strike to feminism? Or is it possible to be strong, in every sense of the word, but still need a little help now and then?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rewriting

I just started the most majorly intense rewrite I've ever done. I know this isn't saying much, considering I've only rewritten one novel before this, but still.

It's daunting.

My first three chapters were really confusing because my main character is unidentified. So, I thought it would be easier to switch to first person narrative. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. Later on, there's a lot of personal introspection and it would all be much more powerful if we were inside the character's head the whole time.

Then I realized the main character is unconscious for the opening scene.

I went over it, many, many times, trying to find a different way to open things up. But there really is no better way. She is found on the street, unconscious, naked and alone, and is delivered to the people who can help her most.

I don't want to open a novel with the main character waking up, unaware of where, when or who she is. That would be confusing. To say the least (have you read the Amber Chronicles? yeah...). So this meant I needed to leave the opening scene (about four pages) in third person, and turn it into a prologue.

I went to twitter, discussed it with several people, all of whom thought it sounded like a legit reason for a prologue to exist, as long as it's handled properly. So then I got all excited, "I just need to turn it into a prologue!!!"

Then I remembered that the whole book is in third person, and I need to rewrite the entire book, not the first four pages. The first four pages stay as-is, the other 40,000 words of a rough draft outline need to be changed.

Doh.

I'm about six paragraphs in and I'm already annoyed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The light at the end of the tunnel.

My husband got a job. He started yesterday and got all set up in their payroll system and everything, so we know that it's for real.

He finished law school in May, took the bar at the end of July and is awaiting his results (sometime in October) before he can get a "real" job (you know... a lawyering job), but this is at least WORK. And it's something he's good at, and something he's happy to do, and something he's not embarrassed to tell people he's doing. It's retail sales, and it pays very little, but it's significantly decreasing his underpants radius, and keeping him busy and happy.

Plus, you know, money.

The last deposit we got was in January, his last school deposit. I've become accustomed to stretching our dollars, but making a deposit that was intended for a single person to live off for six months into living expenses for five people for eight months is tricky business indeed.

So, we're pretty happy around here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Moving On

I deleted my Fantasy Casting blog today. If you only know me from this blog, and are not familiar with Fantasy Casting, it was a place where I discussed who ought to play the characters from books when/if they were ever turned into a movie.

I have to admit, it was more than a little difficult to make that decision. I had some really great traffic on that blog:
Thousands of pageviews per post, thousands and thousands of comments.

Of course, some of those comments are part of why I feel okay deleting the whole thing. A fair amount of them made me want to *headdesk* forever. Stuff like,

"You know that actor can't play a teen, right? I mean, he's like TWENTY TWO or something."

OR

"Ugh. That guy is not white enough to play Thomas."
(hand to God, this one is true)

OR

"Why did you pick all pretty people?"
(as if there are any genuinely ugly, or even plain, people in Hollywood)

So, despite the plethora of comments, many of them just made my head hurt, and I am not entirely sad to be rid of them in my inbox, if I'm going to be completely honest.

But getting rid of the blog is sad, still. Several authors got in on the conversation (or at least proved that they had read my blog by linking to it and sending hundreds or thousands of people my way).

Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series, mentioned me in a blog post. James Dashner, author of the Maze Runner series, agreed with my casting choices in an interview. Molly Harper got in on the fun and created her own fantasy cast in response to my cast (and, incidentally, we are now twitter buds and she is just one of the coolest chicks around).  Melanie Jacobson came around and commented on my fantasy casting of her book, The List, and Braden Bell created his own fantasy cast for his second novel, The Kindling.

Cassandra Clare somehow found out about my blog (thus the fact that Clockwork Angel is the most-visited post) and let me know that we actually agreed that Alan Tudyk would make the best Henry, and Cinda Williams Chima told me that Jason Isaacs (my choice to play her villain) was a better choice than anyone she had ever thought of.

Writing Fantasy Casting helped me feel connected to the book blogging and author community in a way I never could have imagined.

But it's time to move on.

Fantasy Casts each took anywhere from two to ten hours to put together, and I just don't have that kind of time. I have other things I want to do, and I need to let go of that blog.

No matter how proud it made me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Top Ten Things That Make Me Feel Really Old

This past weekend, I chaperoned an overnight trip for the teenage girls in our church congregation. (I'm the Personal Progress adviser, for the LDS-Lingo-users out there)

Things that made me feel really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, old:

1. That song, "Call Me Maybe," that I thought was kind of like the current "Macarena:" you know... everybody knows it but nobody actually likes it...? Apparently, this is the best song ever. It was sung so much that I still have it stuck in my head.

2. At midnight, I was pretty much collapsed on my bed, ready to sleep forever, and the girls were all still running around upstairs. Literally. It sounded like they were running relay races around above our heads. At 2:00 AM, I went upstairs and actually said the words, "You don't have to go to sleep, but you have to stop running. Don't make me come back up here."

3. One of the other adults mentioned that she's leaving for Rio next week. The girls reaction? "Like, the birds? The movie with the birds?" When I explained that "Rio" is short for "Rio de Janeiro" and, yes, that is where the bird movie was set, they reacted by saying, "OH, Edward and Bella go on their honeymoon to Rio de Janeiro. Is that the same place? I thought that was, like, in Europe." Public high schools FTW.

4. Taylor Swift is, like, soooooo smart, you guys.

5. This conversation:
"I love to read."
"Oh me too! Have you read Twilight?"
"Yes!"
"You should read House of Night. You would love it!"
"I did! I totally loved it! It was awesome!"

6. I was called "lame" by a muttering thirteen year old.

7. While switching radio stations, we heard a Beastie Boys song followed immediately by an Everclear song. I was just thinking how completely awesome my day was going when a voice from the backseat spoke up, very timidly, and asked "Can we find a good song on the radio, please?"

8. A commercial for the I Heart Radio Music Festival came on, and apparently No Doubt is performing. The girls squealed about this "new band that just came out of nowhere and is awesome."

9. I thought One Direction was kind of new.

10. I thought I was hip for knowing the words to two of their songs. That is insufficient to guarantee hipness, though. I don't know where the cutoff is, but I didn't make it.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Honorable Mention

This is just a quick post to say thank you to the gals at Falling For Fiction- I received an Honorable Mention in their Hookers and Hangers Blog Hop, that I participated in last week.

You can check out my post full of hangers here.

Thanks again for all the kind comments and to Falling for Fiction for hosting the contest!


Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm sick of it.

I am so sick of hearing women say:

"I started walking two weeks ago, and I've lost eight pounds!"

or

"I just stopped drinking soda last month, and I've lost twelve pounds!"

or

"Try this healthy recipe: bacon, cream cheese, and chicken wrapped in Pillsbury crescent rolls. What? Yes, that's how we eat every night. Yes, I've lost nine pounds this year."

This list could go on and on, it really could.

I just am so frickin sick and tired of it.

I'm currently about ten pounds overweight, and I have been for the last FIVE YEARS. Well, when I wasn't pregnant. When I was pregnant, I weighed more, of course.

I eat pretty well. Whole grains, lean proteins, lots of veggies, not a lot of sauces or cheeses. I don't drink soda unless we go out (which we can never afford to do, so I'm not consuming restaurant food, either: double points for that, eh?). I drink four bottles of water every day, I don't eat a bunch of sweets and I am a good snacker (low fat string cheese? whole grain crackers? fruit?).

I work out, somewhere between four and six times a week, and I mean I WORK OUT. I lift weights and do cardio to make a workout that's approximately seventy minutes long. Or I do yoga (if the yoga class turns out to be a little too "light" I'll do a bunch calisthenics on my own afterward). I do the "lazy girl workouts," where I do squats while brushing my teeth, lunges while carrying out the trash or taking down the laundry, and wall-sits while I straighten my hair. Trust me: people who see me in real life see me in after-workout-face often enough to believe me that I'm really doing it.

It doesn't seem to make any difference whatsoever. No change to my body size or shape.

I recently added running to my routine. I get up at 5:30 in the morning to run. Five. Thirty. AM. I run slow, yes, because I've never run for fun before in my life. But I figure slow, short distances are better than nothing.

Too bad I've gained two pounds since I started running. 

And, please, spare me.

I've heard the whole, "You gain weight when you start a new routine." and "You gain weight when you're training hard, but then you drop inches."

Well, I'm not dropping weight or inches and it frickin sucks. I don't really care how mopey or whiny this sounds, I just want the internet to know that I really hate hearing everybody else's success stories, especially when they seem to be doing just a little bit (or a lot) less than I am.

That is all.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sixteen Candles is a Thing.

Earlier this week, I entered the Hookers and Hangers contest, posting some of the hookers (first lines of chapters) and hangers (last lines of chapters) from my novels. The most commented-upon line was:

I climb in, trying really hard not to worry about the fact that this guy has never even heard of Sixteen Candles


There's actually a funny story that goes with this line. It's one of the original lines from the first draft of this novel, but I loved it so much that it was kept all the way through the editing/rewriting process, even though it did move around in the chronology a bit.

So I put that line in my novel, just as it appears here. The female character doesn't expect the guy she's talking about to have the movie memorized or anything, but he has NEVER EVEN HEARD OF IT. Bonkers, right? How could a grown man not have any idea what she's talking about when she says "Sixteen Candles"?

(I know I shouldn't be this upset, since they are 1- Fictional characters and 2- Fictional characters of my own creation, but... there you have it.)

One of my beta readers commented that most men do NOT know what Sixteen Candles is about, and that this line was out of place, unrealistic, and just basically stupid.

I thought, "Oh, no. There's no way I have so completely misread the pop culture landscape of America! Men my age know what 'Sixteen Candles' is, right? Maybe not the whole thing, but they are AWARE of it, certainly?"

So I did what any red-blooded social-media-junkie would do: I crowd sourced it. I asked Twitter and Facebook the same question:

"Men- without the help of Google, tell me what you know about 'Sixteen Candles'"

You know what I got? About sixty responses, almost all from men in their twenties (this character is supposed to be twenty-three). Some admitted to loving it as much as their girlfriends/wives, some quoted lines back at me, some said something along the lines of "Molly Ringwold's underpants, right?" and a bunch cracked jokes about it being a girls' movie but they've been forced at to watch it at least once.

But the bottom line?

Men know what this movie is.

I win.

And this has been the single most commented on line among my Hooker/Hanger entries.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hangers

You may recall I said I am terrible at opening lines. 

However, I am fantastic at "hangers-" the lines at the end of a chapter that make you turn the page, no matter how bleary-eyed you may be at the time. I can keep you coming back for more.

Today I am participating in Falling For Fiction's Hookers and Hangers Blog Hop, and we are featuring hangers, those last lines of a chapter or book.




“Wouldn’t I know if I was dating somebody?”
“You would think.”

For the first time since she arrived, she understood what it meant to be Immortal. 

Why, then, did she feel the overwhelming urge to kill somebody?



I guess that also means that we technically broke up.
 
I climb in, trying really hard not to worry about the fact that this guy has never even heard of Sixteen Candles


I decide it’s easier to just drop the subject and focus on the fact that The Princess Bride is on, since nothing else really matter when you have a young Cary Elwes to watch all night. 

Tonight, I will start being a good girlfriend.  

“Shall we, then?”
“Shall we what?”
“Go and get you a name.”


        I give him the same answer as I did four and a half years ago, and we move toward the dance floor together. 
 
        By the time I’ve finished my burger, we’ve made enough plans to fill four or five summers together, and I have no idea how we’re going to do all the things we plan to do in the short amount of time we have to do it. 


My blood runs cold at the thought. 


They have perspective, and they are able to see things that nobody was able to see in the heat of the moment. 


For now, I will have to be content with just knowing that this pain can be erased somehow, even if just temporarily.


Yes, I know that a couple of them are not technically a single line, but I thought it necessary to give you a teensy bit of context to help demonstrate why the closing line is as dramatic as it is. 

There you have it. 

Now, head over to the blog hop and check out everybody else's hangers! 
 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hookers

I am terrible at opening lines.

The irony of that being the opening line of this post is not lost on me.

However, today I am participating in Falling For Fiction's Hookers and Hangers Blog Hop, which means I need to display at least some of the hookers (opening lines) of my novels.


These first four are from a contemporary YA romance, currently on submission with niche publishers:

I’m pretty sure I can think of at least six things I would rather do on a Saturday night than be at a school dance.  

It quickly becomes apparent that Eric is a man of routines.  

I don’t even have the guts to tell Lily where I am going.  

I look down at my phone, wanting it to say that this horrid, horrid day is almost over.    

This last one comes from my current steampunk YA fantasy, in the very earliest of the rough stages: 
Alice came to intrude on Sophia’s rest around nightfall, and while the girl was nothing but polite, Sophia found it incredibly difficult to do the same.

Like I said, I'm not great at opening lines. I do encourage you to come back on Wednesday, though, because my hangers are like WHOA. 
 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Awesome Search Terms Roundup

I love seeing how people find my blog, particularly if they come in from a search engine. My favorites from this blog:

"Men in underwear"

I've never posted a picture of a man in his underwear. This isn't that kind of blog. Though I'm sure you can find a lot of those kind of pictures on the "People" tag on Pinterest. Just Saying.

"Pithy marriage advice"
Why, thank you. I thought it was pithy.

"Research paper on Harry Potter"
This person, sadly, spent only twelve seconds on my blog. If they had emailed me I probably could have helped them a whole bunch, though.

On second thought... do your own darn homework.

"Some people are exhausting"
I don't know how this lead to me, but... it's true. And I think I could blog about this topic. Stay tuned.

Probably ten percent of my traffic is looking for this post in which I correct some seriously orange hair problems.  Which is a little bit funny to me, since it was my very first post on this blog. Perhaps I should have stopped while I was ahead?

Another five percent is looking for this post, in which I display the only semi-crafty thing I've done in... five years? Yeah. Five years sounds about right.

But my proudest achievement is that a whole bunch of people came looking for What Harry Potter Taught Us.

But, seriously, internet, why are you coming to me for "Romantic Teenage Text Messages"?

I cannot help you with that.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

11 Questions

The lovely Coyote Rose of Dancing on the Bar of Life asked me eleven questions, and I decided to answer them vlog-style.




I've also tagged eleven other bloggers (including, of course, the three other Parenthetical Chicks) and ask them eleven questions of my own.

Here are the bloggers I've tagged:
1- Megan Whitmer of Finding Joy in the Journey
2- Suzanne Gale of The World According to Suz
3- Jen Meyers
4- Eisparklz
5- Kirsti of Melbourne on My Mind
6- Kimba McG
7- Sarah of Shades of Shayes
8- Lor of Late to the Party (and Snark Squad)
9- Jessica of Faith Permeating Life
10- Darci Cole
11-Marieke Nijkamp

And here are my eleven questions:
1- What are your five favorite movies?
2- (since I'm asking all females) Would you rather go without makeup for a year, or without shaving your legs for a year?
3- What book have you read recently that you really loved?
4- What book have you read recently that you really hated?
5- If you had to eat one food for one meal every day for a year, which would you choose?
6- What was the best part of your senior year of high school?
7- What piece of electronic equipment do you think you could easily live without?
8- Do you prefer your beverages through a straw, from a bottle or from another container?
9- Would you rather have glow in the dark skin or squishy teeth?
10- Who would win in a fight between Gandalf and Dumbledore?
11- Do you consider pushup bras to be a form of dishonesty?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vlogging Like It's Hot

Is anybody else endlessly amused at the screenshots they can find of themselves while vlogging?

Just me?

Good to know.