June 29, 2011

the impact of books

Yesterday was the official release day for Griffin Rising by debut author (and amazing friend) Darby Karchut. She’s giving away autographed book plates of Griffin Rising on her blog to honor the occasion. You can purchase her book at Amazon and Barnes&Noble in paperback or as an ebook. You can also read my review of Griffin Rising and an interview with Darby.

I've had the pleasure of reading the next installment in the series, and I can tell you that Darby is a phenomenal debut author, and her stories resonate with realness. She has a storyteller's voice. When you sit down to read, it's like Darby's sitting there, telling you the story next to a roaring fire, fresh hot cocoa abound. The books are definitely worth reading, and you can start with Griffin Rising knowing it is the beginning of a good series. I highly recommend it.

June 27, 2011

challenging yourself

This weekend, I broke out the plastic drop cloths, paint trays, and ├╝ber-wide scotch tape, and I tackled the daunting task of painting the two unpainted bedrooms in our house. I went in knowing what color I wanted, and I went at it.

After painting the rest of the house over the course of the past year, I’ve gotten rather good at it. I have a good system. Tape. Lay plastic. Pour paint. Face wall. Paint edges. Paint wall, from left to right. Repeat. I can knock out a coat of paint in about an hour, and that’s in a 12x14 bedroom.


June 24, 2011

good books and bad books

I am exhausted this morning, and I cannot wait to climb back into bed once this post is written and shared. My drooping eyes and wandering brain are a result of my late night endeavor: reading. Reading a terrific book.

Those of you that follow me on Twitter may remember my distaste of a certain novel a few nights ago (my brain is too fuzzy to remember exactly when this was). It was a book I had chosen for the Debut Author Challenge because it sounded promising. There's really no sense in withholding the book's title (Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari) since I was going to review it today anyway.

June 22, 2011

the importance of relationships

I have come to realize that I read books for relationships. I used to believe that I read a book for the plot, for the world of the story, for the adventure, for shenanigans abound. That isn’t the case anymore.

When I first began seriously reading, characters were more like vessels that navigated the narrative of a novel. I might like them, but really, they were just a means to an end. I cared more about the adventure, about what might happen in the story that would never happen to me. It was about experiencing worlds I would never know.

June 20, 2011

y'know... stuff

Well, I'm not allowed to work today seeing as it's mine and my husband's wedding anniversary (the first one, so it's kind of important). So I thought I'd drop in, wish everyone a spectacular Monday and see how everyone's Father's Day went. Mine was full of barbeque ribs and in-laws. Sadly, I didn't get to see my dad (he's on vacation), but I did leave him a voicemail, so there's that.

Writing update: I passed the 26,000 word mark on my novel last Friday. For those of you that don't know, 26,000 words is my nemesis. Many a novel has come to 26,000 words and never gone any further. Not sure why, but that number is evil. So we'll see if I manage to take this novel beyond the threshold of ink-spattered pages strewn about the halls of dead and maimed books, forever doomed to wallow in a pit of darkness. I'll make this a proper novel, I will. I hope to get to 30,000 this week, further if I can.

Thirdly, S.P. Sipal over at Harry Potter for Writers (who is doing a spectacular breakdown of the soon-to-be-announced POTTERMORE) tagged me in a silly little questionnaire last week, so I thought I'd pass on my answers.

1. Do you think you're hot? What is this... 8th grade? No, as a matter of fact, I do not. I find myself too silly to be anything more sultry than cute.

2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using. Seeing as the book I'm writing is chock-full of automaton awesome, this wallpaper seems appropriate.

3. When was the last time you ate chicken meat? Last Monday, I think. We had homemade French bread pizza with chicken, peppers, and mushrooms. Tasty.

4. The songs you listened to recently.  We'll go with albums. TRON:Legacy Reconfigured - Daft Punk, Night Work - Scissor Sisters, 21 - Adele, and various soundtrack albums: Doctor Who, The King's Speech, Finding Neverland, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Howl's Moving Castle, Lady in the Water, The Painted Veil, Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, and Becoming Jane. I listen to a lot of music.

5. What were you thinking when you were doing this? I'm really effing hungry.

So, feel free to provide your own answers to the silly questionnaire in the comments. And tell me how your weekend went, your goals for the coming week, and anything of note you wish to share.

June 17, 2011

review: sirenz

Sirenz - Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman

Bickering frenemies Meg and Shar are doing some serious damage at a midnight sample sale when the fashionistas find themselves arguing over a pair of shoes-with fatal consequences. One innocent bystander later, the girls are suddenly at the mercy of Hades, Lord of the Underworld himself. To make them atone for what they've done, Hades forces the teens to become special-assignment Sirens, luring to the Underworld an individual whose unholy contract is up.

Finding that delicate balance between their fashion addiction and their new part-time job in the eternal hellfire biz turns out to be harder than Meg and Shar expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved. Then there's the matter of the fine print in their own contracts...

June 15, 2011

map-making and inspiration

I’m a visual person. When it comes to writing or running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, I have this need to create the world in which the story takes place, more so than with words. I like maps.

This is the setting for the first six levels of my Dungeons & Dragons 4th ed. campaign. It's drawn on parchment with a quill. Why, yes, I am in fact that nerdy.

June 13, 2011

i be disrespectin'

Last night, I was in a dilemma. I wanted to read a book with romance in it, a love affair between two people doomed to fail. Those are my favorite romances, because more often than not, whatever rules keeping the lovers apart eventually surrender. It’s ridiculously gratifying. In my dilemma, I sat in front of my bookshelf, staring at books I’ve read at least once, most of them twice or more. None of them had that love affair. Not a single one. Most of the time, I fill that desire for forbidden love through movies or television shows. The love affair between Guinevere and Arthur in BBC’s Merlin, is one of my favorites… ever. I love stories about the lowly slave, maid, or commoner falling in love with a noble, a prince, or a king, knowing nothing could ever come of it, and then miraculously, the man returns their love.

So I took my dilemma to my husband, who cocked an eyebrow when I told him I needed to read a romance novel. This desire stemmed from a book I recently finished, where the forbidden love surfaces. The king admits his feelings for the commoner, and just when I think they will kiss and give into their feelings, the commoner runs away. No kiss. No embrace. No exchange of love in any form or fashion. She effing runs away. How dissatisfying. This is the second book in the series, and there are at least three more to be read.

This leads me to complain about ebook prices.

June 10, 2011

the formula for a good book

What is about certain things that keep us coming back for more?

I own a good number of books, and most of them easily have the rereadability factor. The Lord of the Rings. The Harry Potter series. Howl’s Moving Castle. And many others I’ve only just read that I’m sure I’ll read again. I can’t quite place what makes these books so… awesome. They just are, and they keep me captivated long after I’ve finished the book. 

I have movies that are rewatchable. Spirited Away. Castle in the Sky. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Howl’s Moving Castle. Ponyo. (Practically anything by Hayao Miyazaki). Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Stardust. TRON:Legacy. Hero. Secondhand Lions. TV shows as well. Merlin. Battlestar Galactica. Avatar: The Last Airbender. LOST. Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.  

Is it the story that brings me back each time? Is it the feelings that they invoke?

June 8, 2011

passion + confidence = happiness

It's no secret that I play Dungeons & Dragons. I don't try to hide it.

Some people give me the skeptical eye, the you must be kidding look. When I told my sister we'd be playing D&D at my dad's house this past weekend, she looked at me point blank: "Doesn't that have something to do with Satan?" No dear sister. It doesn't. She resigns to calling me a nerd.

I was never the sort of person to hide what I was passionate about. Throughout high school, people thought I was a little strange. I was. I didn't fit the social norm. I liked art, text-based RPGs, test-taking, children's books, and video games. I didn't care for football. I didn't want to go to prom. I was that kid, the one that sat out at the "fun" parties and played fifteenth level Tetris on my phone.

June 6, 2011

author interview: stephanie burgis

Today, I welcome Stephanie Burgis, author of Kat, Incorrigible, the first novel in The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson. (You can read my review here)

When did you decide you were going to be a writer?

I actually remember that moment really clearly! I was seven years old, riding in the car with my mom and my little brother, and I announced to my mom that I had finally found something that was even MORE fun than reading: writing! So I was going to be a writer. My family was shocked...mostly because I had been SO obsessed with reading for so long at that point that they couldn't imagine me liking anything better than that! ;)

As a debut author, what were some of the struggles you faced between writing Kat, Incorrigible/A Most Improper Magick and publication? What was your writing journey like?

The first struggle, of course, was finding an agent, which took about 9 months from start to finish. Once I found my fabulous agent, though, everything sped up a lot. I did a 3-week-long rewrite for him, and less than two months later, we'd had offers on Kat!

After that, the major hurdle was finding the right cover for the book. I love that my editor and publishing house were so committed to that - we went through three different covers on the way! Although it was sometimes hard to be patient, as the publication date kept getting shifted back so that we could work on better covers, it was definitely worth it in the end. I absolutely love the cover we have now.

June 3, 2011

review: ugly to start with

Guest Reviewer: M.A. Moreno

Ugly to Start With - John Michael Cummings
Jason Stevens is growing up in the picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.

Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwards ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.

Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways.

June 1, 2011

writing journey thus far

A new month, a new blog background. I enjoy shaking things up every now and then. A change of atmosphere gets the creative juices flowing. My desktop background changes every ten minutes to keep me on my toes. I’m motivated by change, by the unexpected. I think that’s why pansting held such an allure over me for so long. The writing process is in a continuous mode of discovery, always changing, always surprising. Now that I’ve changed to a plotter, it would be logical to guess that the surprises have vanished.

But that would be wrong. I know the general gist of the story, but even then, even knowing what scene comes next, I still surprise myself. When I write, I’m constantly looking for a way to change the status quo. In a nutshell, that’s what a scene is supposed to do – change the preconceived notions of the story. I’m not happy until I surprise myself, drawing from those years as a pantser. I push myself to find that nugget lurking in the shadows of the narrative, that little easter egg that’s been hiding in the margins for the last three scenes, just waiting to pop out and surprise the reader. I won’t settle for the expected, the predictable. These nuggets of change drive the plot forward, posing questions and enticing the reader to keep on with the story.