Thursday, December 16, 2010
I know a few of y'all were interested in seeing my new hair. Well, my co-worker was testing out our new Canon Rebel the other morning, and got me in the shot. So here's my hair, my ginormous monitor with the world's largest desktop scanner beside it, and the rest of my corner of the world. It's dusty, but well lit, and, most importantly for my canvas-backed friends, temperature and humidity controlled. It was really cold that day, hence, the scarf and velvet jacket, but today it's supposed to hit the mid seventies, so that's awesome.
And I've got my Christmas shopping and decorating all done, and Saturday I'm going to make a huge lasagne (seriously huge, like in a turkey roaster. What? I freeze at least half of it, I swear.), and possibly some eggnog tiramisu, like I saw Morimoto make on Iron Chef, Battle Eggnog, the other night. He topped it with powdered green tea, or macha, but I'm not sure if I get that without going to the Asian market on the West Bank. The man also had a smoker built for him out of ice. He's a genius.
I will not be making smokers out of ice, because lasagne is the only impressive-sounding dish I can actually make well. Even this tiramisu is going to be a stretch, but I'm excited about it because the one thing I've never really liked about classic tiramisu is the espresso. I'm not a fan of coffee, but I do love eggnog. And Creme de Cocoa. And especially eggnog.
If it works out well, I'm going to make another one to go with Christmas dinner. Maybe it'll be my new tradition, which I'm all about this year.
Do you have any Christmas traditions you can't wait to do every year? Are they old, or new? Since I don't have a lot of family nearby, I love hearing what others are doing.
So Happy Holidays from my corner of the world!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Well, look who it is. Yup, it's me, Mal, your favorite firefly captain. Thought I'd pop by your neck of the woods to sit a piece and tell you all about a little contest that's a brewing on Beth Revis's blog.
What? You say you don't care a bit for contests, seeing as you never win 'em? Well I don't give a good gorram what you think, since your chances of winning some plunder from this here giveaway are better than the odds of getting a fair shake from the Alliance. Heard tell there's somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 prize packs to be won. How you like them odds? You could even win a book signed by the author's own hand and a hold-ful of swag to keep you shiny. Were I into reading books and such, I might be moved to enter my own self.
Now, I ain't sayin' I read any of this book, but I heard the first chapter is mighty tearful-making for some. Not me, of course, but some. Powerful stuff.
So get on over to Missus Revis's blog for the best contest in the 'verse. You can thank me later.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Sorry for the horrible title, but as anyone who knows me can attest, I love a bad pun.
So... On Friday I decided to cut and donate my hair, which I did about two and a half years ago, and about five years before that. It wasn't such a drastic decision for me to go right below chin length since my hair grows like scary/crazy fast. But I was craving a change, something different. So I did it. I bit the big one and went for it.
That's right, folks. I got bangs.
(Cue horrified screaming)
Now, guys, (as in, ladies and any actual men-folk who may have stumbled upon this blog, to whom I apologize in advance for the following hair-related tirade) maybe some of y'all have already experienced the horror of a bad haircut, but there is nothing like the fear that comes over you, like a cold sweat, when you say to that stylist, "I want bangs."
Actually, I was too chicken to even say it. I just pulled out a picture I'd printed out of a bob Abby Lee Kershaw had this summer like a coward, and, hand shaking, gave it to the stylist, hoping all the while she was going to tell me that bangs are all wrong for my face and that I should try something else. But unless you've been going to the same stylist since the eighties, that never happens.
They're not going to try to talk you out of something you want (Also, I apologize in advance for stereotyping all hair stylists, but I need to skew the facts to make this writing analogy better. This is how the magic works, people.). They're in the business of giving the customer what they want. But, God bless 'em, they do their best to make that mistake work for you.
I looked great when I got out of the salon. Of course, I don't blow dry my hair EVER (unless it's really cold and I don't want to leave the house with wet hair), and I'm pretty low-maintenance. You can guess what's coming. Yeah, I can't get my hair to look anywhere near as good as the stylist did, even if I did pick up a few tricks from her. But why should I be surprised? I've never been good at making my hair look presentable, again: me = low-maintenance.
So by that logic... Why do I keep getting down on myself when my writing falls flat as my hair, and do things like tell myself it isn't as good as Suzanne Collins's work, or Scott Westerfeld's? I'm not Suzanne Collins or Scott Westerfeld, so why should I expect my work to be like theirs?
Comparing yourself or your writing to someone else doesn't get you anything but flat hair—er writing. Now, if you can pick up a few tips from the masters to make your own writing better, that's great, but sighing in front of your manuscript isn't going to make it any better than sighing in front of a mirror makes your hair.
I'll be as honest as a drunk ten-year old boy: I've been sighing over the manuscripts I've been working on. Which isn't fair to me or the manuscripts since neither of them is finished, and no one human has seen or offered feedback on most of either stories.
But ya know what? I opened up Evangeline after I'd gotten a few rejections from editors (the nicest rejections you've ever heard, of course), and I'm still in love with it. I can see things that I'd change, sure—style things, words I'd improve, voice things I'd make more Evie since spending so much time writing Mara from Strings, Cass from my (currently-titled) wip Aether, and my home-girls Renata, Georgia, Mel and Kris from Parallel—but it looks pretty good to me.
So I keep holding tight to that fact, that I wrote a novel I'm really happy with. A novel that caught the eye of a rock star agent. And it makes the sighing go away.
Until I look in the mirror. ;)
Friday, December 3, 2010
I have returned from a long month of candy and turkey, and stuffing, and pie. And the cranberry sauce, oh, gods, the cranberry sauce.
Cranberry sauce is one of my favorite things. (Suck on that, Oprah.) I make up excuses to use it throughout the rest of the non-Thanksgiving season. Anytime turkey is near, cranberry sauce is not far behind. And I don't care if it's made from scratch, or if it's the kind that looks like cranberry jello straight from the can no matter how you try to slice it up to hide the lines. (Though Ocean Spray's Whole Berry is the best out of a can, just so you know. I wouldn't want to die tomorrow without smearing that wisdom on ya.)
For years I was ashamed of this fact: I cannot enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce, and what is more, it's just not Thanksgiving dinner until I've mixed everything up on my plate and topped it with gravy and those ruby-pink chunks of cranberry glop. I was teased mercilessly about that in my youth—oh, the cruelty of the kids' table!—but today I mix my Thanksgiving potatoes and turkey and stuffing with cranberry flavored pride. Pride never tasted so good.
In olden days of yore, I was also embarrassed of the fact that some of my favorite books in my formative years involved a series of adventures of a certain half-elf, a curmudgeonly dwarf, and an irrepressible kender. Yes, that's right folks, I'm talking about the Dragonlance Saga. Don't lie, you read them, too. Who didn't cry when Sturm died? And Raistlin, oh, Raistlin, you were the coolest one of all, even if you were kind of (read: mostly) a jerk to everyone, especially the people who cared about you like your dear sweet oaf of a brother. I could go on, but I'll leave y'all to your own memories about raiding Xak Tsaroth for fun and profit.
Lastly, I love my blog. ("So why don't you marry it?") I missed it while I was gone for a month, rewriting an old novel because I was writing my wip into a corner. The writing went well, but I missed connecting with my fellow writers. And since I've been on sub, y'all are who I need the most. It's hard to keep my confidence up when every time a friend or loved one sees me, they ask if I sold my book yet. And it's growing tiresome to keep saying: not yet; it's a slow business; I've gotten some really nice rejections. Especially when I'm not sure any of them really understand the hard work, patience, and dedication it took me to get to this point.
But so many of y'all do, which makes all the difference in the world when I'm feeling down about my own struggles. Recent posts by Beth Revis, Natalie Whipple, and Christine Fonseca have come at a time when I need them most, when I'm losing faith, feeling jealousy, and comparing my journey to the journey of someone else.
Thanks, y'all, for helping me feel focus on my own journey. And to everyone else, good luck wherever you are in yours.
Happy Holiday Season!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Re-post from Veteran's Day 2009:
Today being Veteran's Day, I wanted thank all the members of the armed forces, from the United States or otherwise, who risk their lives. That said, I won't get into my personal politics, but my father is a veteran, and so are many other men in my family.
It got me thinking about how little I know about my dad's two tours of Vietnam, his time in Korea and Honduras, and his part in Operation Just Cause in Panama. All I knew when I was a kid was that my dad was in the army-- just like most of the other kids I knew. I thought of my dad as a man of superhuman strength and skill. He could fix almost anything, and beat us all at Trivial Pursuit. I knew that when he wasn't around, he was "in the field" or overseas. I knew he jumped out of helicopters and planes with a parachute or sometimes rappelled. But I didn't really KNOW...
Now that I'm an adult, I have a greater understanding of the things my father had to do "in the field". Especially now that his knees and shoulders are shot. And though he never really talks about when he was in Vietnam and Panama, I know what happened there shaped him into who he really is.
The point of this post?
Looking at my dad now, 62, a grandfather, with his Central Mississippi accent, shiny shoes and his creased Dockers he looks a bit like a dandy. I've had room mates make fun of the messages he'd leave on the answering machine:
"Ter-EE-sa, this is your FA-ther. Call me SOON, love." (The printed word cannot do his accent justice.)
"No, my dad is not gay!" I'd have to reassure my two gay room mates. "He fought in wars and had to kill people."
He had to KILL people.
I will never really know this part of my father, and I'm not sure I want to. But I understand, and I feel sympathy that so much of his life revolved around violence. No wonder my mother was the spanker, not him.
There are parts of my father I will never truly know, because frankly, they scare me.
But if my dad was a character in one of my novels, I'd know exactly what happened to him, exactly what he did in those wars. Because those are the actions and situations that shaped him into the man he is today.
A man you'd get a casserole recipe out of before a war story. But he still keeps his shoes shined and wakes up at 0'dark thirty.
Happy Veteran's Day, Daddy.
Do you REALLY know your characters?
Friday, October 29, 2010
Anyone else going with a group theme? Wizard of Oz is classic, but once in college I went to a party where I ran into the cast of Seinfeld. I mean, if you saw these people separately you wouldn't say "Hey, that guy is a ringer for George Costanza." But together, It was eerie how they really made it work.
Funny how it's the little details that make a story work, too. Like when I try to reread The Hunger Games since Mockingjay, that damn cat Buttercup gets me so choked up I can't even read the first chapter. The way Scott Westerfeld and James Dashner use made-up slang to pull us that much farther into their world. I'll always remember that witches are bald and have purple eyes and wear square toed shoes so their boxy feet will fit from Roald Dahl. It may have saved my life once...
Details like that are part of the reason I'm unplugging for November. *ducks decorative gourds*
No, it's not to do NaNo, but I want to wrap up my wip, and I feel like I need to devote more of myself to it than I have been. I need to write 40-50K words, and I want them to be good ones, so I feel like this is the perfect time to unplug with so many others around here fading into their NaNo projects. So, Auf Wiedersehen, so long for now, and don't eat too many peanut-butter cups, my lovelies. Save some for me! ;)
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I also like being held accountable: like, Holy Frijoles, there are actually folk out there who might notice I haven't been blogging! And those same people keep me motivated to write new stuff.
But more than anything, it's helped me find my voice. Blogging might not actually count as "writing" (it definitely shouldn't be added to your daily word-count, cheaters! ;D ), but I think there comes a point after you get out those first few thousand or so rusty words where you realize that it's YOU shining through the lines of text. It's YOUR voice your friends and minions, er, I mean followers, are attracted to, as if you were James Earl Jones reading Lolita (You CAN'T tell me you wouldn't buy THAT audio book, can you?).
I know now when I'm writing something that sounds authentically like me—something someone else would want to read—and when I'm writing something that would make an instruction manual writer yawn. I like that I can do a quick read-through before I click "publish post", and spot repeated words I've repeated. ;) When I take the time, that is. And a simple study of recent posts can also help identify crutch words to look for in my manuscripts.
Best of all, I've decided that I like being me, the original, unique person I've always been, but have been too shy, or afraid no one out there will get me. Now I'm free to be me, to share my special brand of weird with my adoring minions. Come and get it while it's hot!
What's your favorite reason to keep blogging?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
This is the as yet untitled contemporary-steampunk (is that even possible? I'd love to hear any opinions about that) I've been working on for a few months. Cass's mom's a witch, but she's not. She doesn't know anything about her dad. All she even has of his is a key she never takes off.
Poor Cass was in a heap of trouble when we saw her last (this sounds like it should be read by the guy who did the voice-overs on Dukes of Hazzard, lol), evading the strange men who are chasing her by running into her crowded garage. Enjoy!
Dun-dun-DUN!! Hope that wasn't too cliffhanger-y this time. ;)
So, do you think a story like this could count as steampunk, or does that genre absolutely have to be set in the Victorian Era? Can you have a contemporary paranormal with steampunk elements? I promise there will be a lot of steampunk elements, as well as a healthy dose of witchcraft. What do you think? I'd love to hear it!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Sometimes life just gets in the way of writing. This weekend was one of those times.
I had planned on cranking out about three thousand words this Saturday. Know how many I actually wrote? ZERO. Nada. Zilch.
It's not that I was all that busy, but I never had the chance to sit down and write. There were too many distractions, and not enough time to concentrate on my WiP. Too much was going on in my personal sphere and there was just no good time to sit down with Cass and all my new characters.
Here's the thing, though. Yesterday during lunch I did some plotting, and completely changed my idea of how the scene I hadn't written over the weekend ought to go. I decided the way I had it planned was too boring, and now I'm writing something new. I only wrote about three-hundred words yesterday, but I'm feeling more motivated to write towards this new idea.
It makes me wonder: if I'd been able to sit down and write this Saturday, would I have thought of this change sooner? Would the muse have been kick-started into action? Or would I have just written the scene the original way, thinking everything was fine? Would I have written it and not felt like it was boring? Confused yet? ;)
My last post was all about how making yourself sit down and write is better than waiting for inspiration to strike. This week, I'm so not feeling the Butt-In-Chair philosophy, and the guilt is starting to set in, but at least I'm making some progress.
Not sure what the point of this rambling little post is. Maybe that sometimes the muse knows best, and you should listen to her or you might miss the mark like poor Fido up there.
But I do know this: sitting around waiting for her to inspire isn't going to get you through any hoops. Or tires. ;)
Has your muse been A.W.O.L lately? Do you make yourself write when you're not inspired? If so, how? I'd love to hear it.
Turns out there's a guest post over at Michelle McLean's blog today on a similar subject, only written in a much more lucid style than my post. What can I say, I was sleepy this morning. ;) Check it out!
Thursday, September 30, 2010
[Tried to post this yesterday, for WiP Wednesday, but Blogger was giving me major agita and I gave up. I know, no one likes a quitter, but I felt like I was about to smash something that probably cost more than I make in a month. Makes the above picture that much more appropriate, non?]
Last night I hit the 30K mark of my WiP (see an excerpt here). Go, me! I rule!
Friday, September 24, 2010
Well, first they'll need a memorable name. Bob Smith just won't cut it, especially not if you write paranormal novels like I do. The guy's your hero, after all, you've got to give him a heroic name. Like Lance, or Vance, or Chance... actually, Chance sounds too much like a heroine, so don't forget to keep a list while you brainstorm. You never know what other characters will pop up needing memorable names.
Then, of course, they must have a memorable appearance. I favor the prodigious use of eye-patches, myself. Nothing sexier than a hero with an eye-patch. Heck, I bet a heroine with an eye-patch would be even more memorable. I mean, you've never heard of a heroine with an eye-patch, right? You wouldn't give your villain an eye-patch, because that's too predictable.
Speaking of predictable, that's one thing memorable characters never are. Like, no one ever suspected that Han Solo—the benevolent dictator of memorable characters—was going to shoot Greedo in that effed up space-bar (which was really George Lucas's basement. It's still like that, muppet band and all, except no one told them minimum wage has gone up since 1977). But Han did it anyway, because memorable characters are defined by their actions almost as much as they're defined by their cool one-liners. So be sure to have a stock of these ready before you start writing. A witty catch-phrase would be even better, so start thinking up a few of these now.
In fact, why even bother coming up with a memorable plot at all? All you need is to put these memorable characters in a situation where they're sure to get into trouble, and make them get out of it. Soooo easy when you think of it like that. Think, McFly, think!
Said plot doesn't have to be original (*cough* Cameron *cough* Avatar *cough*), as long as the characters are seven feet tall, and blue, and fly around on cool dragon-like things. Because everyone remembers characters who get to fly, so be sure to add some flying hippos, or giant eagles, or even a pack-angel, if you so desire. But nothing boring like a plane, because that's just not memorable enough.
Lesse, where was I? Oh, memorable characters must also ALWAYS get the girl. You remember her. Chance. The one with the eye-patch? Yeah, but she also has to have some kind of secret, because an eye-patch isn't quite memorable enough on it's own, and everyone loves secrets. And it would help to either make her a princess in disguise (which might be hard for poor Chance, since everyone would always recognize her eye-patch), or a girl dressed like a boy because she's in hiding from her evil uncle who wanted to marry her off to her gross second cousin, who doesn't even have an eye-patch or a memorable name. What a loser.
To sum up, if you want to create memorable characters, make sure they're tall, blue, have cool names and even cooler dialogue. If they could mouth-off to their boss once, that would be very memorable, because who here hasn't ever wanted to tell their boss exactly where they could stick something large and pointy? Okay, maybe I like my boss, so I wouldn't want to do that, but I'm proving my point right there. I'm not very memorable. Tere, WHO? I dunno, they'll all say. She didn't have an eye-patch. ;)
Note: The preceding was meant to be humorous (or humourous, however you want to spell it). Ergo, I don't want to see a rash of heroes named Vance rescuing an eye-patched princess in disguise.
Those are my ideas, and they don't come cheap. They are however, for sale. First come, first served.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The main character's name is Cassia, but she goes by Cass. She lives in modern day Mississippi (I had originally set this in the 1890s, but again, Clockwork Angel made me change my mind, and I think things are going to be much better this way now, except it's technically not steam-punk. Whatevs. It's still going to kick butt. Once I figure out how it ends) with her mother, who is a witch. An honest to goodness, spell-casting witch. Sixteen year old Cass, however, isn't. But it still affects her whole life. As you'll see when chapter 2 opens...
Sunday night, only two days into my vacation from Ma and the coven, I was watching t.v. and finishing up a Spanish lesson to email back to one of my junior college professors. The classrooms there were the first I’d ever sat in. The nearest elementary or high school was over thirty miles away, but that wasn’t the real reason Ma had home-schooled me. She always worried about me, that I’d be teased because of her.
Everyone in town thought she and her sisters were silly women playing with Wiccan incantations, but I knew better. And as a kid, I promised Ma I’d be able to handle school, that I wouldn’t let anything anyone said get to me. I wanted to meet other kids, kids who maybe didn’t have a witch for a mother. Sit at a cafeteria table, kiss a boy who wasn’t Jody. He’d been a lot cuter when I was thirteen, and kissing him had been kind of exciting at the time. That excitement quickly faded. Especially since Ma never gave in.
I could’ve held my ground and at least convinced her to let me go to high school for a few years, but instead, I decided to take the fast track to college. I’d be matriculating before my seventeenth birthday. I was taking junior college classes in calculus and Spanish, which I needed to get into a good school, and I couldn’t learn all by myself. My calculus professor was actually the one who convinced me to apply to MIT, her alma mater. She wrote me a recommendation letter and everything, which was hidden in my sock drawer next to a plane ticket. I had an interview scheduled there in October, which I had to go to if I wanted the kind of financial aid I’d need.
I turned off the t.v. and pulled up the MIT admissions page on my laptop. Ma didn’t want me to go so far away. She didn’t get that this was my dream. Maybe because I hadn’t exactly told her. She’d never understand.
So focused on the laptop, on the cheery MIT freshmen and erudite faculty, it took me a few seconds to realize the lamp next to the couch was off. Had the bulb burned out? No, all the lights on the entertainment center had gone dark, too. How could we have lost power on such a calm night?
The moonlight coming through the windows was pretty bright, but I held the open laptop in front of me on my way to the kitchen to find a flashlight. A sound like a creak came from behind me. I turned, washing the weak glow of the computer screen over the living room. Empty, just like I left it.
As I turned back around, the light didn’t shine on the open doorway of the kitchen. A guy, not even twenty, stood in the door.
I clutched the laptop to my body. Who the hell was he? Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, and a cleft chin, he stood completely still.
Just as I was about to work up the balls to tell him to get his ass out of my kitchen, another small creak sounded behind me. I slammed the laptop closed and swung it at the guy’s head. He staggered into the kitchen. I didn’t stick around to find out what kind of damage I’d done, I just raced toward the kitchen door. I’d locked it at sunset, I knew I had, but I was betting it’d be open now. It was. My keys were right by the door and I grabbed them.
The warmth of the laptop was reassuring under my arm as I ran to my truck. I slid in the cab, turned the key in the ignition, and… nothing. Baby’s engine was dead.
A shiver ran up my spine. I grabbed the Maglite from behind the seat and ran into the garage. I slammed my palm against the button to lower the garage door and hurried toward the back, where there was another entrance. It was really an old barn that had been converted decades ago by my grandfather. Swallows nested in the rafters and over the years Ma had packed the rear half of the building with junk. Cutting through the garage with only a flashlight would take longer than I thought.
I’d left the laptop in my truck. My cell was in the house. The coven was gone, and the nearest neighbor who might be home was a good eighteen miles away. A part of my brain wanted to hide in the garage, hoping these assholes would take the t.v. and the silver and whatever else they wanted, and go. The more cynical part of my brain knew they’d done something to my truck, which meant they weren’t after Ma’s paltry gemstone collection.
They were after me.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I watch the Weather Channel every morning when I'm getting ready for work. It's addictive, and fulfills my need for some kind of science quotient in my life. Don't judge me. I'm not out buying heroin from high school kids. But it would be hilarious if I was buying earth science books from them instead... Okay, end early morning pre-caffeinated rambling.
So, this morning on the Weather Channel there was an interview with two astronauts, engineer Doug Wheelock, and Tracey Caldwell Dyson. Dyson will be coming back home later today.
Mike Bettes, the Weather Channel meteorologist, asked what they missed most. After running water—Wheelock said he hadn't had a shower since the middle of June—they said they missed simple things like smells, cooking food, the smell of the outdoors.
This got me to thinking: Some of you write science fiction and dystopian, and some of it, like Beth Revis's upcoming debut novel Across the Universe (you know, the one with the BEST FIRST CHAPTER EVER? ;D ) is set in space.
I know I'm a hard-core fan of television/film space dramas. Battlestar, Firefly/Serenity, Moon with Sam Rockwell—an awesome mix of science fiction, psychological thriller and ethical drama—most kinds of Trek. I'd love to write a story set in space someday. But just watching astronaut Dyson's ponytail floating around in that low gravity made me realize how different every sensation must be, how even touching things would be a different experience, and that's just orbiting 200 miles above the earth. Real research would be difficult without interviewing an astronaut, or going into orbit yourself.
Here comes the hypothetical:
If you had the opportunity, but had to spend three months in space or more like real astronauts do, would you go? Since this is a hypothetical, let's say kids and husbands and jobs and pets are a non-issue. I'd like to say I'd immediately shout YES!, but now that I'm thinking about all the things I'd miss, I'm not so sure. About all the sensations that usually fill my writing and how it might change without them.
Plus, there's the issue of bone loss, which also occurs during prolonged periods in low gravity. Astronauts are required to do weight training exercises to keep bone loss at a minimum. And of course, SPACE MADNESS! ;)
So what do you think? Would that kind of in-depth immersion in your research be worth it to you? Or would you prefer to keep your feet on the ground and your head in orbit?
Love to hear your thoughts!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I signed a copy to mail back. I put the other copy up on my fridge to look at everyday, at least for a little while. I haven't been this proud of an accomplishment since I got my Master's, y'all.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Despite the aches and pains, this year has been good to me. I just hit two hundred followers yesterday. Dreamy McAgent loves my manuscript. My family and friends are healthy and happy.
Best of all, I still feel like that girl with the dragonfly tattoo most days, regardless of the time that's passed since I got it. Regardless of how it's faded.
Maybe it's time I got my wings re-inked.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So I've been very lame lately on Tuesdays. I know I have been, you don't need to make excuses for me. I do enough of that myself. ;)
Mostly I've been falling back on WIP Wednesdays, and I'm getting kind of bored with that, especially since I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things with my WiP after spending so long in revision-land with EVANGELINE. So today I want to talk about books. Specifically a book that I just learned about, but already has me intrigued: Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Here's the blurb from Publisher's Weekly:
SF novelist Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl) makes a stellar YA debut with this futuristic tale of class imbalance on the Gulf Coast. Teenage Nailer scavenges ships with his crewmates, eking out a poverty-filled existence while avoiding dangers that range from giant “city killer” hurricanes to his vicious, drug-addicted father. When a storm strands a beautiful shipping heiress on the beach (earning her the nickname “Lucky Girl”), Nailer manages both to infuriate members of his camp (including his father) and to become embroiled in upper-class trade disputes that he barely comprehends. As Nailer and Lucky Girl escape toward the drowned ruins of New Orleans, they witness rampant class disparity on individual and international levels (tribes whose lands were flooded have taken to the seas as pirates, attacking multinational shipping firms). Bacigalupi's cast is ethnically and morally diverse, and the book's message never overshadows the storytelling, action-packed pacing, or intricate world-building. At its core, the novel is an exploration of Nailer's discovery of the nature of the world around him and his ability to transcend that world's expectations. Ages 12-up. (May, 2010)First off, I love the cover. Second, when I read this synopsis I thought it sounded like nothing I'd ever read, yet at the same time, familiar—a boy meets girl story set in a not-too-distant future. And it's been a while since I read any YA with a MALE lead, so it's got that going for it.
I've never read any of Bacigalupi's adult sci-fi novels, so I'm hoping that the themes of poverty and class imbalance are treated as carefully and thoughtfully as the PW synopsis claims, but what I really want is a wild ride, an adventure that will take me to another world, and to discover new characters I care about. Hopefully, Ship Breaker will fit the bill.
This is the kind of smart, cynical book I wish I could write, like Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion, or Pam Bachorz's Candor (which I still haven't read. Shhhh!) I love being able to immerse myself in world that is both foreign and familiar, and that's what I like the most about dystopian serial novels like The Hunger Games and Uglies. It gives authors an arena to emphasize the problems our current society faces (or ignores) and speculate on what might happen if we keep ignoring those problems. Sounds like Ship Breaker does all that and then some, which is part of the reason I'm so intrigued.
Want an excerpt? Yeah, I thought so. ;) Luckily my Barnes and Noble e-reader makes it easy to copy and paste chunks of text.
NAILER CLAMBERED THROUGH a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free. Ancient asbestos fibers and mouse grit puffed up around him as the wire tore loose. He scrambled deeper into the duct, jerking more wire from its aluminum staples. The staples pinged about the cramped metal passage like coins offered to the Scavenge God, and Nailer felt after them eagerly, hunting for their dull gleam and collecting them in a leather bag he kept at his waist. He yanked again at the wiring. A meter’s worth of precious copper tore loose in his hands and dust clouds enveloped him.
The LED glowpaint smeared on Nailer’s forehead gave a dim green phosphorescent view of the service ducts that made up his world. Grime and salt sweat stung his eyes and trickled around the edges of his filter mask. With one scarred hand, he swiped at the salty rivulets, careful to avoid rubbing off the LED paint. The paint itched and drove him crazy, but he didn’t relish finding his way back out of the mazelike ducts in blind blackness, so he let his forehead itch and again surveyed his position.
Rusty pipes ran ahead of him, disappearing into darkness. Some iron, some steel—heavy crew would be the ones to deal with that. Nailer only cared about the light stuff—the copper wiring, the aluminum, the nickel, the steel clips that could be sacked and dragged out through the ducts to his light crew waiting outside.
Nailer turned to continue down the service passage, but as he did he banged his head on the duct ceiling. The noise from his collision echoed loud, as if he were sitting inside a Christian church bell. Dust cascaded into his hair. Despite the filter mask, he started coughing as powder leaked in around the poorly sealed edges. He sneezed, then sneezed again, eyes watering. He pulled the mask away and wiped his face, then pressed it back over his mouth and nose, willing the stickum to seal but not holding out much hope.
The mask was a hand-me-down, given to him by his father. It itched and never sealed quite right because it was the wrong size, but it was all Nailer had. On its side, faded words said: DISCARD AFTER 40 HOURS USE. But Nailer didn’t have another, and no one else did either. He was lucky to have a mask at all, even if the microfibers were beginning to shred from repeated scrubbings in the ocean.
Sloth, his crewgirl, made fun of him whenever he washed the mask, asking why he even bothered. It just made the hellish duct work hotter and more uncomfortable. There was no point, she said. Sometimes he thought she was right. But Pima’s mother told him and Pima to use the masks no matter what, and for sure there was a lot of black grime in the filters when he immersed them in the ocean. That was the black that wasn’t in his lungs, Pima’s mother said, so he kept on with the mask, even though he felt like he was smothering every time he sucked humid tropic air through the clogged breath-wet fibers."
I read so much first person lately, that sometimes getting into third can take some time, but after just these few paragraphs, the writing has got me hooked. I can picture poor Nailer in that tight, dark duct, paint on his forehead, mask covering his face, and I want to know what's going to happen NEXT.
Any books you've been lusting after lately? Read any good dystopian that's not Mockingjay? ;) I'd love to hear about it!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
But I feel very satisfied.
Hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did!
Thanks for a great ride, Suzanne.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
I can download Mockingjay at midnight EST!
Or so I've been told. We'll see if that's the case. If it is, I can see myself staying up late tonight! SQUEE!!
In other, non-nook/non-Mockingjay news, I am just looking over my revised manuscript of EVANGELINE and will send it to Dreamy McAgent this week! Yay! Thanks again to my wonderful crit partners, Abby Annis, Jade Timms, and Plamena Jetcheva. You ladies ROCK!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Check out today's post on my Evangeline blog for a peek back in time to Jude's New Orleans.
I've done posts on Evie's New Orleans before, so I thought it was high time Jude got to share a little about the New Orleans he grew up in, particularly how they got through the summer floods...
There will be food. Promise. Mmm, meat pies... *drool*
Friday, August 13, 2010
Head over to the Bibliophilic Book Blog and sign yourself up for the Readathon. You could win some prizes, and who doesn't love that, am I right? Sure, I've got revisions that need revising, but I think I need a little time to collect my thoughts about some recent crits before I go barreling over the falls, so to speak. I've got lots of books on my nook and haven't had enough time to read them.
Without further ado, here are the books I'm going to cuddle up with this weekend (in nook format, of course, which is not especially cuddly, but my nook cover has a picture of Max on it, so at least it's cute):
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. I've been too busy to read more than twenty pages of this book in a sitting, and now I'm down to the last 70. Yes! It took me about thirty pages to really get into this, and now I'm loving it, the characters, the world, the emotions. It really reminds me of the Mercedes Lackey novels I liked when I was younger. I read Fire earlier this year, and so far I like Fire better than Graceling, but we'll see.
The next book I'll be reading is The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. I've been waiting for this to be available on my nook. I almost ordered it off of amazon yesterday and then I checked the B&N page again and it was there in e-form! Wahoo!
It's already won a ton of awards and I've heard many people say what a good read it is. From the small sample I read, the voice feels very authentic, so that's always a plus. I haven't read any YA that really made me think since Catching Fire or Specials, and I hear this should fit the bill.
Hopefully Jenna Fox will be UNPUTDOWN-ABLE, and I'll finish it by Saturday night, because for my final trick, I'll be reading:
Devil's Kiss, by Sarwat Chadda. I've had it on my nook for a while, but promised myself I needed to finish Graceling first. Of course, my excitement about Jenna Fox bumped Billi Sangreal down to third, but I think she'll be okay with that. She's tough.
Her father has been training her to follow in his footsteps as a Templar Knight, sworn to protect mankind against the evils it doesn't even know exist. Of course, Billi has her own ideas about what she wants from life, and they're not the same as her dad's. So psyched to read this!
If anyone else has read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you think. And if you want to join the Readathon for yourself, just click here and sign up.
And have a productive weekend, just like me. ;)
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Austin BBQ Vacation was a success. I think my blood/barbecue sauce count is at lethal levels. I swear I'm going to have to live on falafel and salad for a few weeks just to get all the Texas beef out of my system. Like I said, a success.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
As long as I can keep from thinking about the full I have out to an agent, or the revisions my crit group is reading to be submitted to another agent. Or that I left the back door unlocked, or the iron on, or forgot to do something at work. I'm leaving my worries at the state line.
Would you believe this is the first real vacation I've taken in years? Literally, this is the first vacation my husband and I have taken together (and we've been married eight years) that wasn't our honeymoon or a trip to see relatives, or a hurricane evacuation—aka, a hurrication. So I'm very excited to be able to relax and have fun with my husband and some of our friends, who I've been sorely neglecting, worse than I've been neglecting my WiP, and that's really saying something.
I haven't been the most attentive wife and friend lately, but this weekend will change all that. It's going to rock! .... As long as I don't let go too much. Can you imagine me getting so drunk and obnoxious that I start a bar-fight and wind up in a Texas jail? Okay, some plot-lines are better left to fiction. I want my vacation to be as tension free as possible.
Though that would make a good story to tell for years afterward. If I wasn't scarred for life by a post-op hooker named Tami in the county lock-up.
Okay, I'm getting silly now, but really, there's a time and a place for tension, like on every page of my novel, but not on my VACATION!
See y'all next week. I hope... ;)
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Sorry for the re-post, but I've been really busy with revisions for Evangeline. It's been a long road, kind of gravelly and washed out in some areas with a slew of bumps, but after months of hard work, the ride is smoother than ever. I've been working on this manuscript since November of 2008 (a NaNoWriMo attempt), and though I had a pretty good submission request rate when I started querying it last spring, it didn't take long to see that the writing just wasn't good enough...
Originally posted July 7th, 2009
Lately I've been spending a lot of time with my work in progress [Strings], while querying a finished novel [Evangeline] that is as polished as I can make it. But today I received a rejection on the full (a full request from the start, so far I have had no partial requests turn into fulls for this project) that really made me think.
The agent mentioned they liked the concept and the setting, but I had problems with narrative, that the agent wanted "more" from the mc's experience. I believe the agent's comments to be genuine, and not something I'm reading into too much. The concern about narrative I had received pretty uniformly from most agents, and something I kept in mind during the latest stage of revisions. So it looks like I didn't do as well on the revisions as I had thought.
Which begs the question: barring the spontaneous propagation of a literary professional who is willing to do a line by line of my work to tell me where the problem narrative is, how do I know what needs to be changed? How do I know if I can even change the book enough to make it saleable? Will more betas help at this point, or should I put all my writing energies into my wip, where I can apply what I learned trying to write the last one?
I have a good-sized list of agents I can still query, and I could change little things, but I'd need an objective reader, or hell, a committee at this point, to help me decide where to start with yet another stage of revisions. I've read it so many times, the words just start to run together at this point.
Keep writing! the agent in question says. Does that mean I should keep writing the same story, or move on to another? It's enough to make me pull out my hair. I'm getting so deep into the main character of the wip, a place I never really got to with the mc of the novel being queried, that it would be difficult for me to switch gears right now. It's hard for me to go backward. Maybe I am a better writer now than I was, but am I a better storyteller? Can I craft a whole story that makes sense from start to finish that immerses the reader in a living breathing character's life and problems? If I can't do this, what right do I have to call myself a writer?
So for now I'm going to play it cool, wait on another full and a partial request, and decide later. Maybe there's an agent out there who will like the story enough to give me the critical feedback I need to whip the story into shape. Or maybe I'll go nuts with my wip and finish it in six weeks (ha!) and have another story to foist other concerns on. And the vicious cycle will start all over again.
How to decide without losing my sanity? Should I tackle two stories, revisions and draft writing, at the same time? Or put all my eggs in a brand new basket?
I wish I knew.
Aww, it's okay past-me. Here we are a year later, and things are looking better. You finished that WiP and learned a lot about character development and pov. And you DID apply what you learned to Evangeline. And you did enlist a small army of beta readers to help figure out where you were going wrong. And now future-you—meaning yours truly, ME—is busy with this second round of revisions to resubmit to Dreamy McAgent in the hopes that she'll like it enough to want to represent us. So you see, it all worked out for the best.
All it took was a little practice, hard work, and TIME. So if anyone else out there is thinking about trunking a story you love, maybe you just need to put it aside for a while and work on something else.
Your future-you will thank you. ;)
Monday, July 26, 2010
Had a huge laugh this morning thanks to Kristen Lippert Martin at her blog, A Rock in My Pocket. Her post, Reality TV, Why Not Us? really made me snarf, so I wanted to share it with the rest of y'all in case you missed it.
What would happen if TV producers found a way to make a reality show about writers—let's call it Top Writer for simplicity's sake—that was actually interesting?
Kristen's got a great model for Bravo TV to follow, so check it out if you need a laugh this Monday morning!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
So it's late in the day on Wednesday, and I didn't think I'd have a post today. But, seeing as it's WiP Wednesday, I decided to share what's going on in my writing sphere.
Just received a second email from Dreamy McAgent (that would be my dream agent, for those of you who don't appreciate my crappy brand of humor), and read it holding my breath, thinking it would be a rejection. But it wasn't.
It was a request for a second round of revisions focusing on different issues than the last revision letter. Sweet! Not a rejection! In fact, it's one step closer to publication!
I got all excited and told some of my friends and coworkers. Not all of them were as excited as I am. One of my coworkers even asked me:
"Does it feel like it's not even your story any more, since so many people have suggested changes to it?"
Now, I've been asked this before, about the changes that beta readers have suggested, not an agent, but I feel like the response is the same.
It's still my story, only now—since I agree with the agent's comments, of course, we can't all be so lucky— it's becoming the best it can be. I'm not going to turn down great advice that makes my story better from anyone. Especially from someone familiar with selling books in my genre, like Dreamy McAgent. Would I have been able to get this far without all my betas and their wonderful advice (meaning, the advice I actually took from them, lol)? Never!
So rather than focus on the changes, on making the old, the stale and stodgy new again, I'm focusing on the work as a whole. After all, whoever gave me the suggestion could never envision exactly how I will utilize it . No two people are going to re-write the same scene the same way. Not even LiLa. ;)
And as for this second round of revisions, if I'm lucky, it won't be my last. If the book is sold to a publisher, my revision days will have just begun. But I'm ready to write, willing to take direction, and able to churn out revisions like a champ! Hear that Harper-Collins? Hear that, Little-Brown? Are you listening, Scholastic? 'Cuz I'm ready for the endless revisions.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
No sooner do I pass the 12K mark of my WiP, Cass's story (as yet untitled), when I'm attacked by Shiny New Idea Syndrome. I've got it bad. It's too early to talk about yet, but it's an alternate history set in the same time period as my Belle Epoch novel, Strings, with a similar "theatrical" flavor, but it's more of a boy-meets-girl story. I just read the latest of Naomi Novik's alternate history of the Napoleonic wars—with DRAGONS (I heart Temeraire!), and I loved Westerfeld's Leviathan. I think I've got enough historical background of the time period to do something really fun, and introduce a huge supernatural element that will make it awesome!! Now just to finish the WiP...
I've still got another 75K or so to go with Cass's story, a story I don't have an ending to yet. So it may be some time before I am able to work on my SNI. I'm thinking if I get any ideas I'll just jot them down in a notebook, but I'm not going to brainstorm for that idea on purpose yet because I want to focus my attention on my WiP.
How do y'all handle a Shiny New Idea when you're in the middle (or the beginning) or another WiP?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I just got my home pc overhauled, got rid of my crappy Vista for Windows 7 and finally got a home copy of Microsoft Office 2007. My laptop is now a lean, mean, manuscript writing machine. It runs faster, jumps higher, and can bench-press 550... Okay, maybe that last part was a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm excited. I don't know how I survived all these years without Word, how much time I wasted during my lunch breaks at work, reformatting and fixing my headers and page breaks, and emailing agents. It was a nightmare.
Which just shows to go ya—it always helps to have the right tools for the job. That's what my southern, retired Army Sergeant daddy always says, and if you're not going to listen to an ex-sergeant, who are you gonna listen to?
Now that I have Word, I'm wondering if there aren't some other tools I've overlooked or didn't feel like I needed. I mean, I've got a word processor and a notebook and pen. What else do I need?
Now that I have Excel, I'm planning on writing out character sheets to keep track of physical features of the characters in my WiP. Since I've got a lot of pseudo-science steam-punk type inventions, I may need another spreadsheet to keep track of inventions and the limitations of the power my sorcerer characters can access. I'm sure I could think of a million different things to keep track of on a spreadsheet, but only when I'm procrastinating. ;)
Every so often I feel the need to use a mind-mapping software, like FreeMind, which is a free download, and is pretty user friendly. I use this when I'm stumped about the progression of details of a scene, particularly action scenes where I'm not sure of sequences of events, or scenes where I need to know the order of information that is to be revealed. Sometimes I just want to write out my scene-goals, and it helps to do this on the computer rather than in a notebook because I can switch between windows pretty easily.
Another tool I use when I need to do some research is Google Scholar—which can sometimes turn out to be more frustrating than helpful if it directs you a subscription only site, and you can't access the article for free. I'm also lucky enough to have access to an online article site called JSTOR both at work and at my nearby alma mater. Though some people say, write first, research later for the details, my brain just won't work like that. I need to know the settings to properly immerse my MC and others in it. Not to mention, research helps get my creative juices flowing, and sometimes even helps me figure out plot details.
Right now I'm researching Delphi, Greece as a setting, and also rural areas of both Massachusetts and Mississippi. I like to use Google Maps for that and look at the satellite imagery as well as street views where they're available. Then there's the DaylightMap, which is useful if your characters teleport across the globe and you need to know what time it is in Turkey when they just left the southeastern US.
Do you have any favorite tools besides good old paper and ink? I'd love to hear about it!
Monday, July 12, 2010
Happy Monday, y'all! I had a very relaxing weekend in which I passed the 10K mark of my WiP, made a huge lasagna, ate Vietnamese soup and po-boys with friends and watched a ton of Friday Night Lights and True Blood. Hope everyone else enjoyed the weekend.
I also did a lot of reading on my new Nook. I love that thing more every day. The new Temeraire novel comes out tomorrow and I've got it ready on my e-wishlist for the release. I can't wait!
Another wonderful feature of the Nook is the ability to download a free sample of a book before you decide to buy it. The samples range in length anywhere from 9-30 pages, and I must have downloaded half a dozen samples this weekend, prologues and all. It's been interesting to look at those beginnings and wonder how close this finished product is to the original material the agent saw potential in.
Some of the samples start more quickly than others, of course. Which seems to be a trend in YA, that the action get started quickly, I mean. The sample of a book I decided to buy did just that, got things rolling really quickly with zombies and mysterious souls. It seemed really exciting, and like it'd shape up to be something fun and hopefully romantic. Problem is, the more I read on, the less interested in the actual story I became. See, the dead bodies weren't the only "zombies". The characters might as well have been, too. They just weren't. . . FLESHY enough.
I'm still not finished, and I'm going to finish, but I'm just not feeling close enough to the characters. Like they haven't been drawn convincingly enough to carry the fantastical things that are happening to them. So now the way the plot is progressing just feels forced and fake to me. No real stakes have been revealed yet, and the motivations of the main characters either aren't all that clear, or border on "too stupid to live" territory.
I know that to the author, the characters felt alive and three-dimensional and their issues and motivations probably felt more real—just like my characters do to me. But somehow that didn't translate to me through the writing. The more I read on, the less of an emotional attachment I feel to the characters.
Not only has this experience led to a case of reader's remorse, it's shown me that no matter how hot your premise is, no matter how cool the plot, the reader still needs to identify with the characters to keep reading until your big plot twist at the end. Because that twist is nothing if the reader doesn't care about the people whose lives are being thrown into chaos.
Making your characters real doesn't stop when the first chapter ends. It's an evolution. They should change with the story, and change each other. They'll be affected by things that remind them of their past. They'll be emotional and angsty when things don't go right, but they'll also be aware of what's happening to them and work toward change. They must be ink made flesh.
Or else your fabulous plot with that amazing twist. . . will be just as insubstantial as your characters. So make 'em fleshy, and make it count!
Or else the corpses rising from the graves won't be the only zombies in your book. ;)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
It's a rainy, gloomy morning. I'm just getting back to work after a four day weekend. Yeah, blogging is very productive, I know. How do you know I'm not multi-tasking? ;) I could be scanning AND Googling. Look—I just learned that it's my homegirl Freida Kahlo's birthday today. Yeah, she's a Cancer like me, which explains so much. Thanks, Google. Ah, work. I need a hot chai.
Ugh. I wish I was back at home this morning, but not for the reason you think. Yeah, it's been a dreary, rainy morning, and no, I didn't really want to go to work, but the real reason is I want to get back to my WiP.
I really got into my new "As-Yet-Untitled" YA paranormal this weekend. I've got some amazing main characters with great voice who speak to me, and over 6500 words, not a lot yet, I know, but I'm trying to get the ideas down before they fly away into the collective unconscious. Plus, the action starts before page ten, so there's very little back story.
Even though I've got a central conflict and some other conflicts to raise the stakes, I still don't know how it ends yet, not exactly. That's actually part of the appeal this time. I've got a strange new order of magic users, and a plucky new heroine, and she's even more prepared than I am to go running halfway around the world to save a father she's never known. Cass is awesome. That's her in the picture. Her neck, anyway.
Also, there just might be some sexy steam-punk wizards. Maybe they're sorcerers, I haven't figured that out yet.
I'm thinking this could be even better—and more accessible, since the heroine is only 16—than Evangeline. But don't tell anyone, because I'm modest. ;) What are you working on? Something old? Something new? Something borrowed? Kidding! I'd love to hear all about your projects.
And don't forget to enter my birthday book giveaway! Hope your day is sunnier than mine.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This week I decided my manuscript for Evangeline is ready for resubmission to an agent who seems to really get the story. I proofed, double-proofed, and sent it off. There's a part of me that wants to open that file back up and check every word again, as if that might somehow change the copy I sent the agent. Even before I sent it, I was starting to feel antsy, like I'd read and re-read so many times I was just putting in commas and taking them out again (Thanks, Oscar).
I was obsessing over the minor details when I knew the revisions the agent wanted were big picture stuff, and elements I believe I've successfully addressed, but still, the nitpicking and obsessing continued.
All that stopped when I was in the shower the other morning and BAM! an idea just hit me. I had a name, a conflict, and a few key scenes. I still don't know how it ends, but I'm ready to find out.
And just in time, too. It's been a while since I wrote anything new, aside from a few chapters of a sequel to Evangeline to see if I had it in me. I've been so busy this spring with polishing up Evangeline that I haven't let myself think of anything new. I haven't had the time, and I didn't need the distraction.
Now I'm wondering if it's some kind of survival instinct, like my muse knew my brain was way, way, way too busy for a new idea. Especially now that it's hit me with inspiration at the exact moment I needed something to distract me while Evangeline is being reconsidered.
So, thanks, Muse! Glad ya got my back, baby! I owe you a Dr. Pepper. Anyone else want to share a little about how their muse works? Does yours inundate you with new ideas while you're working on something else, or are you and your muse on the same wavelength? Muses can be moody, pesky and irrational, but where would we be without them? Living in caves and not even bothering to draw on the walls, that's where. Oh, and if you're wondering, my new mc's name is Cass. Her mom's a witch, but she's not. And that's all I'm going to say about it right now.
Don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway, which will be open until Wednesday, July 7th.