Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tantalizing Tuesday: SHIP BREAKER

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

Just finished Mockingjay...

And all I can say is, I knew it would have me bawling.

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

Can't Blog...

Reading Mockingjay. ;)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Awesome Thing About My NOOK...

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

Jude's New Orleans: Tropical Depression

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


Need an excuse to devour a bunch of books this weekend? Here it is!

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.

Can't wait!

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

WiP Wednesday: Revision Hell? Put the Laptop Down

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.

Had the best brisket EV-UH at Black's in Lockhart, saw Inception at an Alamo Drafthouse, swam in the cool waters of Barton Springs in Zilker Park, ate more bbq at the Salt Lick, was eaten alive by ginormous Texas mosquitoes, and scared at two am by a raccoon ultimate fighting ring that spontaneously appeared on the roof of our cabin in the "wilderness" of South Austin. I also had some time to get my thoughts together about my WiP. And I didn't spend a single second thinking about Evangeline, or the revisions I'll be doing, or literary agents (much), or what my readers will think of the scenes I rewrote from scratch. Which brings us to the point of today's post.

Before I left on vacation, I was stuck for a while on how to rewrite a pivotal conflict in Evangeline. I kept looking at it and staring at the words I'd written as if I could improve the scene by simply changing a word here or there.

That's when I put the laptop down, grabbed my notebook, and walked out to the backyard to stare at the fig tree and enjoy the tiny bit of breeze rustling its leaves. Away from my computer, freed from those chains of text that were choking me, I had a spark of an idea. Then someone knocked on my front door. I scrawled that spark into my notebook and left it in my chair.

After I got up to answer the door, after I nodded at my neighbor as she told me about the vacation she was going on, and could I get her mail for her, and made some iced tea for my husband who was working late and would be home soon, and started some laundry, I held onto that spark. All the while, even when I was listening to my neighbor, the spark grew. It just needed a little air, a little breathing room, some space away from that authoritative looking text in my word processor.

It's not such as surprise. When I need to plot my novels, I turn to a notebook to synopsize my thoughts, condense the mini-scenes I see in my head and question the repercussions of what happens in each of those scenes. It's easier for me that way, instead of sitting in front of a blinking cursor on a blank Word document. It makes revision feel more like drafting, and I get that amazing first draft high, where even though I know the writing is a little sloppy, it's new and fresh and I haven't read it a thousand times.

Once I was able to get back to my notebook, changing the scene didn't feel so much like I was changing the entire reality of my novel. It felt more like a do-over on a scene that had stayed the same while most of the rest of the book slowly changed around it, a scene that was difficult for me to write in the first place. Since I first jotted down the bones of that scene, I can also honestly consider myself a better writer, so rewriting made sense from a logical standpoint. But it was still a scary prospect.

Staring at the scene while it was a part of the full, its font exuding fear-instilling permanence, kept me from seeing the potential that was there if I was only brave enough to scrap everything and start over. Only my notebook provides a comforting, safe venue to experiment with the lives of the characters I've grown to love.

So if you're stuck on revising a scene, try putting the laptop down and going to a notebook. Or if that's not your thing, open a brand new document and start from scratch without having the manuscript open or within immediate access. You don't need to be chained to that old dialogue or prose you wrote a year ago. If any of it is worth keeping, you'll have it memorized by now, you've read it so many times, right? That's what I thought.

Keep the faith, everyone out there in revision-land. It'll all be worth it in the end.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Keeping the Tension Up? Not on my Vacation

Away I go to Austin, for a fabulous long weekend of barbecue and Tex-Mex and music. It will be bliss.

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... ;)