Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Which Joanna Finishes her Story

Evening, ladies and gents! I would like to announce the successful completion of Seraphine, clocking in a few hours ago at 18,110 words. My weird little not-really-all-that-short story is doooooone!

*cue fanfare and flowers and marriage proposals*

Ahem. Anyways.

Not remotely sure if this story is a) coherent b) good or c) anything like what I originally envisioned. Kinda scared to read it, to be completely honest, but I'm sure I'll succumb to temptation momentairly. :-)

At any rate, I'm rather sad that it's all over—I enjoyed my little whirwind romance!

Goodbye, Seraphine.

Hellooooooooooooooo NaNo prep time!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Novelist and the Not-Quite-Happy Ending

I hate how the smell of coffee can permeate one's clothing in under thirty seconds. Especially if one happens to be a tea drinker. I spent a couple hours in Starbucks writing this morning, and even after a shower I still stink. Yuck. And in case anyone was wondering, the tea at the old Bucks of Star leaves pretty much everything to be desired. What they lack in taste they make up for in central locations, I guess.

Anyways. Between Saturday and this morning, I pounded out another 3k on Seraphine and am hurtling myself towards the ending (at least I think so). Made an important discovery about the plot today, and am feeling kinda smug about how clever I'm being. Don't worry, that's sure to evaporate as soon as I go back and read this thing. :-) Also, there's no way out of my tragic ending. I'm such a hypocrite about endings. Happy endings with a tinge of bittersweet are my favorite kind to read, with plain old happy endings a close second. I hate sad endings. I don't know why I write them. Just following the demands of the story, I suppose.

Speaking of which, I was up until nearly one this morning finishing Shannon Hale's The Actor and the Housewife, which, incidentally, never quite made it over to my "Currently Reading" tab. The book follows the quirky friendship of Mormon housewife Becky Jack and famous British actor Felix Calahan. It's hilarious, and sad (I cried. Shannon Hale made me cry. We're talking Kleenex, here.), and didn't end the way I wanted it to, but the way it probably should, even though I'm not sure I want to admit that. Ms. Hale's writing is bright and bouncy and lyrical all at the same time, and she's penned some of the most witty dialogue in the history of prose. All told, an enormously touching book. *sniffle*

And now, for this week's goal: finish Seraphine by Wednesday.
And this week's incentive: ordering my NaNoWriMo t-shirt.

October looms nigh. Which means November is right around the corner. Which means I really need to figure out what's happening at the end of my novel.

After Wednesday, of course.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Here an Update, there an Update and another little Update

Happy Friday, peeps! As the title promises, here are some updates:

Seraphine is up to 10,036 words, and I'm ready to be finished with it but I'm not yet. :-P How quickly the romance dies! I still like the story and I think it could be good, one day, after lots of editing, but I'm really feeling the lack of outline and wondering if it's turning out anything like the original idea. But I am glad I'm doing it, and I do think the story has merit, and I'm gonna finish it!! I'm hoping I can wrap it up in another 5k and be done by the end of the month. We'll see. Incidentally, what does one call a story that's 15,000 words long? Certainly not a short story and nowhere near novel (or even novella length). Hmmm. This is why I've been calling it a not-so-short story; guess that will have to do!

The partial of Whale and the Tree was rejected yesterday. :-( Sad, but the agent was very nice and the letter left me feeling ever-so-slightly encouraged. Maybe because I'm irrepressibly hopeful, but you'll have that. Still waiting to hear back from the full. Trying not to hope too much on that one, but... I definitely am. :-P I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for all your comments regarding the Roen/Wren post from Wednesday. I've decided I'm definitely keeping Wren's name, so hooray!

Rose Queen edits didn't get very far this week. I think I worked through part of a chapter on Tuesday, making a few very minor word-choice changes. So pretty epic fail on progress there.

And the elusive ending for this year's NaNo? Still elusive, though I feel like I'm *this* close to figuring it out. Here's hoping!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: The Winter Prince

First published in 1993 (Was that really sixteen years ago???), The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth E. Wein, tells the story of Medraut, eldest—and illigetimate—son of Artos, high king of Britain, as he struggles to come to terms with his jealousy of his younger half-brother, heir to the throne.

This is a gripping, powerful book, at times disturbing and dark, but always beautiful and elegantly told. The story, the characters, the setting, the history—all are marvelously drawn. The writing itself is exquisite. We're talking Charlotte Bronte-level gorgeousness of prose, here:
We rode through a tangle of dripping trees, then burst into a cloudy brown clearing, silvered over with mist, to see the rusty deer bright bounding through the winter bracken.
Sentences like that make me my little INFP heart soar. Dripping trees! Cloudy brown clearing! Silvered mist! Rusty deer bright bounding through the winter bracken! I want to marry this sentence!

Um, at any rate, this is a beautiful story told by a fabulously talented writer, and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Naming Conundrum

Okay, so I've a question regarding character names. Let me 'splain.

My yet-to-be-penned 2009 NaNoWriMo novel is a sort-of sequel to two earlier novels (written in 2005 and 2007, respectively), and has a few characters who carry over. One of these is a rockin' female named Roen, and although she isn't the main character, she's quite important and is present throughout most of the novel. I'm also introducing a new female character (she's not the MC, either, but is also important) who wants to be named Wren. Question is this: Roen and Wren are really similar-sounding names. Are they too much alike? Should I call Wren something else even though the name seems to fit her? Or is it enough that the names look different on the page? What do you think?

And on a related note, I still can't figure out my ending. ARGH!!!

And on an unrelated note, the greater Phoenix area totally got gypped in terms of a monsoon season this year. No rain for me. Just sun. Forever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Don't Know Half of You Half as Well as I'd Like...

Well, first off, a great big Happy Birthday to these guys:

(Yes, I'm one of those.)

Second off, my whale bag came yesterday!!! It's super cute, and today will be its first official outing:

And lastly, because, really, this post should have something to do with writing, I give you my Writing Goals for the Week:
  1. Write as much as possible on Seraphine, and hopefully start edging towards the ending
  2. Keep brainstorming for this year's NaNoWriMo novel, and hopefully figure out what exactly happens at the end!!
  3. Keep editing The Rose Queen.
  4. Try not to have a miniature heart attack every time I check my email. Er, I mean... Wait patiently to hear back from agents.
And there you have it. Hope everybody's week is off to a fabulous start! Don't forget to eat some cake for Bilbo and Frodo today! :-)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Update Friday

Okay, so thought I'd jot off a quick update.

First off (and most important ;-)), thanks for all your input about the Adorable Whale Bag of Adorableness! I decided, after much thought, to go with the messenger bag, with possible purchase of the pocketed one to follow at a later date. I can NOT wait for it to arrive!! Wa-hoooo!! :-) :-)

Both of my status queries garnered very very nice responses—one hoping to have an answer by the end of the month, the other hoping to have an answer soon. I'm not exactly sure what this means, beyond the simple fact that both agents are exceptionally nice people and I get to wait some more. :-P / :-)

Seraphine is up to 7,027 words, and I've definitely reached the middle because I feel like it's started to flounder a bit. Still, I think I can press through and wrangle this thing on to the end. I think. Next task is to make my characters fall in love, reveal pertinent backstory, and then zap 'em with my beautiful but tragic ending. Sounds easy, right?

Finished reading Skin Hunger the other night, and I liked it pretty well. One of those stories that sort of starts out quietly and slowly builds up to something profound, but is written well enough to keep your interest. Except...

Let's talk about trilogies for a minute. You know how in most trilogies, the individual volumes, although very intricately connected to each other, have their own story arc? Build-up, conflict, at least partial resolution to the conflict, leading to a semi (or perhaps full-blown) cliffhanger ending. Right? You know those?

Skin Hunger didn't follow this pattern. It was starting to get really, really interesting when it stopped. Just... stopped. No ending whatsoever. And I know it's part of a series and that the second book is out (and I've reserved it at the library), but it left me feeling a bit cheated, because it didn't really feel like a complete book. It didn't resolve anything. But then maybe that was the point. I don't know.

What do you think? Should books that are part of a series be able to—at least partly—stand alone?

I'll leave you with a link to book editor Cheryl Klein's thoughts on what makes writing good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Adorable Whale Bag of Adorableness

So, ever since I penned The Whale and the Tree, I've been irrevocably drawn to purchase adorable things with whales on them. So far, I have a t-shirt, and that's about it. And then, on two separate occasions, I saw people wandering around in public with the most fantastic whale tote bag that was an absolute must-have (if you're me). So I googled it, and found it, except there's a problem. There's more than one version.

The adorable tote with pockets:

The adorable messenger bag:

My problem? Which one do I want??? It's cruel to be forced to make this kind of decision.

What's your vote?

P. S.  Aren't they ADORABLE???

P. P. S. The bags are made by Bungalow360, and you can purchase them on Amazon if you really wanna nick my style! ;-)

P. P. P. S. What? Writing? Um, yeah, I'll get to that later. Promise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Muse: The Resistance

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled bookish blogging to gush about Muse's new album The Resistance, released in the US September 15th.

So. Muse. First fell in love with them when I heard the song "Butterflies and Hurricanes" off the Absolution album. Mostly because there was a bloody PIANO CONCERTO in the middle of it. Can you say awesome??? I afterwards grew to love the rest of the album for the soaring melodies and strong, gorgeous chord structure that very much had it's roots in 19th-century romantic works. Plus they just plain know how to rock.

I bought their earlier album Origins of Symmetry as well as Black Holes and Revelations when it came out, both of which I liked a lot, though I was ever so slightly disappointed that they weren't quite as pianistically-driven as Absolution.

And then The Resistance happened.

Wow. Piano galore. One of the tracks (United States of Eurasia) actually features part of a Chopin nocturne, and many of them have lots of epic piano styling courtesy Matt Belamy. The first half of the album is good. The second half is phenomenal. Don't get me wrong—in amongst the lush orchestral harmonies, gut-wrenchingly beautiful chord progressions, and almost inhuman vocal prowess, there's a lot of good old-fashioned rocking out going on. Oh and at one point Matt sings in French. It's enough to give a girl a heart attack.

So, to sum up... THIS ALBUM IS BRILLIANT. Go buy it now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writing and Reading and Status Queries, oh my!!

So I just did the scariest thing ever: I sent out status queries for that partial and full, at eight and nine weeks respectively. *shudder* I thought initial queries were terrifying, but no. SQ's are much worse. Probably because there's the possibility of a response. At any rate, I'll keep you posted.

I'm sure you're all anxious to know how my elopement with Shiny Idea is progressing, and I'm happy to announce that it's going pretty well so far. This might be love. :-) I'm at 5,500 words exactly (end of a sentence, too!), and I think I'm at the beginning of the middle, so keeping this thing under 20k is looking good at this point.

Writing without an outline is generally a Very Bad Idea, and I have hit a few snags, but for the most part it's gone smoothly, even if the story's already turning out different than I'd initially imagined. But then, most things generally do—and that is by no means restricted to the writing part of my life! At any rate, the story's called Seraphine, and is about a guy named Demetri who gets tossed into a labyrinth (sans David Bowie :-) ) to get eaten by a monster. It has a vaugely Greek mythology-esque setting, and is kind of a backwards Beauty & the Beast. Yesterday this rad underground library even showed up.

So. That's that. We'll see if I can stick to my guns and write the tragic ending originally planned... I'm already kinda wanting it to end happily ever after instead. :-) But you'll have that.

Finished reading Catching Fire on Thursday, but can't really review it without completely spoiling The Hunger Games, so we'll just leave it at: I enjoyed it, though not quite as much as the first one, and I'm really anxious for book three because I need some closure, dang it!!

And there you have it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Yes, this is another book review. I seem to be on a reading binge lately—the world is as it should be. :-)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, is set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by the Unconsecrated, dead people infected with a disease that reanimates them, making them hunger for the flesh of the living. And yes that means zombies. :-) :-) Not the kind of book you normally find me reading, but online reviews combined with the title (it rocks) intrigued me enough to hit it up at my local library. Forest follows the story of Mary, who lives in a village protected by the fanatic Sisterhood, the Guardians, and a fence that keeps the Unconsecrated out and the living in. Her comfortable world (as comfortable a world as you can have surrounded by a Forest teaming with Unconsecrated) is shattered when her mother dies and she is forced to join the Sisterhood.

I have slightly mixed feelings about Forest. I liked it, mostly. The prose was gorgeous, the imagery vivid (dessicated zombie flesh and all ;-)), the themes deep and the storyline—for the most part—compelling. The first person present tense POV read smoothly and naturally (same tense as Hunger Games, incidently) which is a hard thing to do.

The first part of the novel reminds me strongly of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, because the setting is so similar, but that isn't a criticism. Around a third of the way through, though, the story takes a different turn than I had been expecting and breaks away from The Village comparison almost completely. Somewhere around the three-quarter mark Forest seemed to drag a bit. (To me at least. This was where I read Sorcery and Cecelia, Fire and Hemlock, and The Hunger Games, respectively.)

(Minor spoilers in white, highlight to read.)
There were a few things that bothered me about this book. One was the love quadrangle. I didn't know who to root for, and so found the whole Travis/Harry thing kind of confusing and unsettling (of course, maybe that's the point). I also thought it a liiiiitle bit of a stretch that  the only people who survived the attack on the village were all the people Mary was close to. I was also hoping for more of a reveal about what the Sisterhood was up to and at least some closure for Mary regarding them and what exactly they did to Gabrielle. I think part of my problem was I lost the connection with Mary partway through—I'm not sure why. And my word the death toll was higher than one of my novels, which is quite a feat! :-)

I did like the ending. There's a second book in the works, too, so that might answer some of the things I felt were unresolved.

So, to sum up. Slightly mixed feelings, but I mostly liked it. :-)

Shiny Idea Update

So I thought I'd jot off a brief Shiny Idea update, because we have indeed run off together. :-)


Word Count Thus Far: 2,087

Character Deaths: a pile of dessicated bones and mention of a before-the-story-started murder. Does that count as two?

Strange Winged Creature: 1

Times the Author has Gotten Disturbed: 2

Next-to-Last Sentence: It seemed that she sighed, though it came out more as a rush of air, hot and tinged with flame.

Thus far it seems to be going well. We'll see how long that lasts.

Did I mention this story is weird?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: The Hunger Games

So I'm really glad I didn't read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games until the week the sequel was released. This way I don't have to wait whatever horrifying amount of time everyone else did (a year?? torment!) for the second installment. I am, as a matter of fact, sitting in Borders poised to get my greedy hands on Catching Fire as soon as I finish this post.

Any review—or even the briefest mention—of The Hunger Games I've ever read online gushes about this novel. So now I'm gonna gush a little, too. Because The Hunger Games was nothing short of fabulous.

Set in the ruins of North America, an oppressive government yearly sponsors the Hunger Games, a reality TV show where twenty-four randomly selected young people are forced to fight to the death as the entire nation watches. It's brutal. It's terrifying. And there can only be one survivor. The reason the government does this? To show all twelve Districts of the nation of Panea that they are in control. The story follows Katniss, who volunteers to join the Hunger Games in place of her little sister.

It's sort of a sci-fi thriller adventure dystopian borderline-horror (though not more than I could handle, which means it's mild :-)) novel that's fast-paced, to say the least. I finished it in between piano students today, gripping the book with white knuckles and forgetting to blink. I got to the end very, very happy that Catching Fire was only a bookstore away, and wishing eye drops weren't quite so expensive.

To sum up? Highly impressed. Hats off, Ms. Collins. May book two be just as fabulous and book three be swift in coming!

(As a side note, it seems like there were a lot of typos in Hunger Games. I'll often find one or two in any given book, but there were upwards of half a dozen in this one. Did anybody else notice that?)

Going to Gretna Green

It's official. I'm thinking of running away with the Shiny Idea. It could very well be a brief romance that ultimately turns sour, but I'm frustrated with Rose Queen revisions, and I'm stuck at the end of Snowflake Step Four for this year's NaNo novel because I can't figure out exactly how my villain means to cause the collapse of the universe. (Troubling stuff.) I might do it. A little whirlwind writing never hurt anyone, right? Right? Besides, it has a shiny title, shiny character names, shiny not-quite-worked-out-in-my-head plot, shiny romance, shiny tragic ending. It's the Shiny Idea of my dreams!

Yeah, I think I'm going to do it. Sans outline and all. I'll keep you posted.

In other news, no word on the partial or the full; they're at seven and eight weeks respectively. Next week I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and jot off some status queries. *shudder* This Agent Hunt is not for the faint of heart.

Reading Hunger Games (ack, I'm still not finished with Forest!). Gave up on the library queue (I'd made it to 20 out of 60) and just bought a copy. Over three-quarters of the way through and really liking it. Hard to put down (in fact when I'm done writing this blog I might have to run off and finish it).

Signed up for an account on Goodreads this morning. It remains to be seen how much I'll actually use it, but for now the site seems pretty cool. I've realized lately that I have a hard time writing book reviews. I love talking about favorite books, and I'll do a fair amount of gushing (see post below :-)), but to wrangle a decent review out of me takes a lot of effort. I wonder why that is?

Went to Prescott this weekend (trees! temps in the sixties!) and wandered into a used bookstore downtown. They had a lot of great, great stuff in there, not least of which was an entire collection of way oldschool George Eliot (so oldschool they didn't have copyright dates). Tragically, I couldn't afford to buy the whole set, but I did nab Middlemarch (even though I already have a copy), because it's one of my favoritist books ever.

I love books. Did I mention that?

Speaking of books, Hunger Games is calling me.

And then I have to pack for Gretna Green.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: Fire and Hemlock

Yes I know I posted once this morning. And yes I realize I mentioned I was reading Fire and Hemlock.

I spent the last four hours finishing it, mostly forgetting to breathe.

It was amazing.

But not at all what I expected. If I manage to write a book half that good I can die happy.

But that's not really a review, is it?

It all starts when nine-year-old Polly accidentally gate-crashes a funeral. She meets a man named Thomas Lynn, and they do a bit of silly play-acting together. Except it all seems to come true, right down to the giant in the supermarket. Ten years later Polly isn't sure it happened at all. But she still has the picture she stole the day of the funeral, the picture of fire and hemlock hanging over her bed. And she has the memories that she can't quite seem to reconcile with real life.

This book is gorgeous and gripping. Vivid. Intriguing. And it ended just a tiny bit too soon.

Diana Wynne Jones, you are my hero.

Any Other Name...

So I'm reading Fire and Hemlock (yes, yes, I know my sidebar still says Forest; I'm reading that, too—nearing the end in fact—but got distracted again), and a random, extremely minor character popped up named "Joanna."

This got me pondering some of my reading excursions when I was a kid. Which got me thinking about the random books from my childhood I read because the main character happened to have the same name as me. Which got me googling madly until I actually found said books.

So here they are:

The Best-Kept Secret, by Noela Young, in which a magic carousel ride takes Joanna seven years into the future.

The Time Tree, by Enid Richemond, in which Joanna and Rachel befriend a deaf girl from Elizabethan England.

And that's all! I remember there was a grouchy old countess named Joanna in Catherine, Called Birdy (I hated this book, not sure why; I adored Midwife's Apprentice), and of course we can't forget Joanna the lizard from The Rescuers Down Under.

Okay, that's all. This exceptionally weird post is done now. :-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Much Ado About Not Much

So Far This Week:
  • Revising Progress: none
  • Notes for Shiny New Idea: a page and a half
  • Rejections Received: none
  • Responses to Outstanding Partial and Full: none
  • Sanity Level: none
  • Precipitation: a few giant rain drops on my windshield, and a light rain for about ten minutes.
  • Spelling Errors: three
  • Cups of Tea: four

As you can see, it's been a very exciting week so far.

Okay, not really. But I am quite fond of my Shiny New Idea. It's quite beautiful and tragic and will contain Greek names and hopefully a Greek-ish mythical feel. Not exactly sure if it's a short story or a short book. Guess I'll have to write it to find out. But don't worry, I'm not allowing myself to get distracted away from revisions for Rose Queen or outlining for November. Well, not that much.

Finished Sorcery and Cecelia on Friday and enjoyed it heartily! There were even a few squee moments at the end, so that's always a plus. :-) When I get through my to-be-read* pile, it's back to the library for the sequel!

Exactly like my sidebar would have you believe, I'm reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth. About halfway through, and really like it. The writing is beautiful, and the world well-drawn. Has to be said that it reminds me a lot of Shyamalan's The Village (a movie I adore), but not in a bad way. I'm extremely interested to see where all this is going...

And now, for your clicking pleasure, some links:

And that, I believe, is that.

*The to-be-read pile includes, but is not limited to: Skin Hunger, Silver Phoenix, Fire and Hemlock, The Winter Prince, Enna Burning, The Hunger Games