Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Violet's Monster: Complete!

I can see I have been VERY slack in keeping up with this blog. I was intent on writing about my writing process, but in the thick of things, I barely had time to sleep!

I chose to sign up for National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo], our city's chapter, and met a wonderful group of people while attempting to finish my first novel.

I pounded out 50,000 words in a little under a month and have a finished manuscript! Not quite complete since I will be editing/revising in an attempt to hand it in to my professor in 3 weeks [!!!] and then taking a break for the holidays...and then revising, revising, revising all semester. Then my plan is to search for an agent over the summer. We'll see where it goes from there.

I wanted to talk a little about the writing process before I tell you about the books I read during November to keep me inspired.

I have found that, if I force myself to write every day like I had to do for NaNo, that I look forward to it, and that I can write about 2,000 words a day. Pretty normal. Nice in a routine job where I have an hour or two with nothing to occupy me but the words in my mind.

I discovered "Word Wars" - 10 minutes of rapid typing, trying to beat your score from last time and the people around you. I'm not competitive but there is something about flying along through your story quickly and realizing you wrote over 500 words in ten minutes. That's pretty cool.

I think I would like to write for a living. I know it's highly improbable, and that I will most likely always have to work a part-time job, but you know what? That's ok. As long as I get time to go home and work for a few hours, that's cool with me. I'll build my dollhouses on the weekends. :)

I feel the urge to keep writing...and I realize that I've always had the urge to write. It comes of reading...you read what others have written and long to join the ranks of so many talented artists. Wordsmyths, magical beings that, with a swirl of a pen, take you to lands across the universe. I'm happy with this part of me. I like that I love to write. And read!

I read several books during November to keep me from getting too tired/bored, and here are the ones I can quickly remember:

Mister Monday by Garth Nix
East by Edith Pattou
The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

Monday, August 31, 2009

Writing Project 2009-2010

The writing bug has bitten me. I started writing a story this summer but in the midst of filming, trying to move, and working almost full-time, it sadly fell by the wayside. Luckily, I got to keep my old job w/ one condition: I had to audit a class. I thought to myself, "I need to do something productive," and then thought about what I wanted to do. I have always loved books, and I've written various things throughout the years, so I thought I would continue the story I had abandoned. So...

I am reading 10 children's books [partial list to follow], writing a research paper to see what they all have in common, and then writing my own story. Next semester, I will be editing and revising in the hopes of looking for an agent next summer. I know this is usually a long, drawn-out process so I'm trying to prepare myself ahead of time. :P

Here is a list of books that I chose for research [it was a hard task...there are so many wonderful books! I tried to concentrate on ones that are at least somewhat similar to what I want to write]:

1. The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
2. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
3. The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt
4. Bloomability by Sharon Creech
5. Frindle by Andrew Clements
6. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
7. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
8. No Flying in the House by Valerie Tripp
9. The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsly

As you can see, I've forgotten what the last one was...I have it written down somewhere. :P

So that's my project for this semester. I will incorporate the process through this blog, as well as continuing with my recommendations and Author Notes. :) Hope you had a glorious weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Exploring Strange New Worlds - Mythology Tales

So recently I have been thinking [and reading, of course] about mythology tales. I don't really have a definition for what I call "Mythology Tales" but I can point to some examples:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix

These all set up another world, paying so much attention to detail that you could teach a history or geography class from what you know after reading these.

I recently read The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I had tried reading Taran Wanderer when I was little but since it was the 3rd in the series of 5, it didn't make a whole lot of sense. These books are simply amazing. They had echoes of the language of Tolkien but are quite different. Alexander took Welsh mythology and set it in a fantasy world, creating his own mythology for it. Simply wonderful. If you've never read these books before, PLEASE go check them out. After finishing them, I found myself missing the characters so much that I'm going to go check the books out from the library again!!

I was very interested in reading The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper but the ending of the 5th book turned me off to ever reading her again. She had created such a rich world of myths and then right at the end took it all away. Simply DREADFUL. Similar to The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit. I know E. Nesbit and Susan Cooper are famous children's authors, but if you are going to pull a cheat like that then I'm not reading your books!

I've read the Chronicles of Narnia about once a year since I was five years old, and they are still such beautiful, magical books that sometimes I just pick one up and escape for an hour or two.

I have to admit that I can't get past Tolkien's writing style. I have a lot of characteristics of ADD and I guess reading about a tree for 20 pages just makes me bored. I think his stories are wonderful, but I can't really read them...I have to watch the extended version of the movies. :)

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix are some of my favorite books in the world. They are absolutely fabulous - original, scary, and mystical. These are another must read.

What are your favorite mythology tales?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Story Ideas - Where Do They Come From?

I don't intend to answer this question, really - because everyone knows that you can't explain exactly HOW that character popped into your head, and you can't really say that he started talking to you about where he wanted to go and who he wanted to meet...

someone said once that to write is to have a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. I quite agree with this statement! It's incredible how people imagine such complex worlds and get it down on paper where the rest of us can partake of the wondrous new creation.

I was working yesterday (why is it that I always get the best ideas when I'm at work??) and an old story idea that I'd had a while ago popped back into my head. I scribbled it down so that I wouldn't forget it a second time and continued working, thinking through some of the details of the story.

J.K. Rowling said she was getting on a train when Harry Potter just stepped into her head, "fully formed." Sharon Creech describes her writing process as fishing - she "reels in" story ideas and if she doesn't like them, she'll throw them back. Imagination is a wonderful thing and I am astonished, at times, how well people develop it and how people quell it.

One of my favorite activities when riding in the car is to imagine someone flying alongside the road - if I have my iPod or discman (yes, I still have one, it still works!) I'll set action to music and there will be a chase scene, a tragic death scene, or a happy scene...I was making up a story in my head one day while listening to the Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe soundtrack, and my sister said, "Agh, I'm so bored! There's nothing to do!" I turned to her and said, "Well, just make up a story in your head, it'll be like watching a movie!" She said, "I don't do that." "Ever?" My eyebrows rose to the top of my head. "No." I was aghast. "HOW DO YOU LIVE??????????????" She just looked at me and rolled her eyes. My sister is a very talented person, but apparently, she does not have any imagination.

I just want to say that...even if you don't think you're a great writer, develop your imagination - and if you want to write, what's stopping you? You'll only get better with more writing (as my husband tells me). Let the story ideas pop into your brain and sizzle for a while, see where they lead! You never know...you might end up with a great career as a writer later on!

Here are some people who had other jobs before they started writing books:

Andrew Clements - He wrote such award-winning books as "Frindle" and "The School Story" after a career as a teacher.

James Gurney - He has written and illustrated several LOVELY books about the incredible world of Dinotopia (which you should read - the illustrations are all in oil and are, in one word, gorgeous). Before he wrote books, he worked for National Geographic as an artist.

Garth Nix (yes, that's his real name) was a part-time soldier, book seller/representative, publicist and editor before penning the brilliant Abhorsen trilogy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Golden & Cameron Dokey

Cameron Dokey is a new author to me, although she's been re-telling fairytales for a while now. I have not been able to find all her books, but once I read the first one, I had to go read all the ones I could get my hands on.

Cameron is one of those people who write so beautifully that you LIVE the story. Her wording is simply elegant, exquisite, and completely lovely. Her re-tellings are my favorite versions of classic fairytales.

The first one I read of hers, Beauty Sleep, made me cry. It is tied for first with my other favorite, Golden.

Golden is a re-telling of the story of Rapunzel. One of the things that makes Cameron such a good writer is that she infuses each classic with her own twist, making it entirely hers. I won't give this one away but it is dazzlingly clever.

Please give her a try. Her fairytale books are:

Golden (Rapunzel)
Beauty Sleep (Sleeping Beauty)
Sunlight & Shadow (Mozart's The Magic Flute!)
The Storyteller's Daughter (Arabian Nights)
Before Midnight (Cinderella)
Belle (Beauty & the Beast - haven't read this one yet!!)
A Wild Orchid (Mulan - haven't read!!)
Winter's Child (The Snow Queen - haven't read!!)

*Note - she also wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel novels. No wonder I'm a fan!

Friday, February 27, 2009

What is/are YOUR Genre(s) and Why?


Western. Science Fiction. Mystery. Fantasy. Historical Fiction.

I don't know why the human race likes to categorize so much - maybe naming the animals was so much fun that we can't help naming things now - I know I tend to name a lot of inanimate objects - like the external hard drive that my office has - his name is Sam.

I was thinking about how complicated it might be to be genre-less but you know what? I don't think it would be that complicated. It's complicated NOW with all the hybrids - SciFi/Fantasy, Fantasy/Western, Mystery/Historical/Thriller, etc. I think it would be interesting to see what the publishing world would be like without genres. "What's the book like?" "You just have to read it, I can't explain." I don't know...it might work. :) Just a thought.


There is one reason I do like the idea of genres - it helps me know what sort of person I'm talking to. "I LOVE the Christian Fiction/Romance Section!" Sadly, I don't think that person and I have a lot (if anything) in common and therefore have not much to talk about. (Maybe we can talk about something besides books?) I'm not saying I love talking to everyone who's a sci-fi nerd either - there are definite things I do and don't like, books I love and hate, and if the sci-fi nerd's one of those elitist snots who can't appreciate other genres...well I won't really have a lot to talk about with them either. But, usually, the people who enjoy the genres I do will have more to talk about and introduce each other to.

My favorite genres are Sci-Fi and Fantasy (big surprise), although when I was younger I mostly just read historical fiction, mystery, and the classics. I love all five of these areas and I am open to trying new genres, although I doubt the Romance section will hold much interest for me. If the whole story revolves around 2 people sleeping together...well, I'm not interested. Do something cool for a change. :)

What are your favorite genres?

Here are some lists of my favorite genres and good books in each:

Historical Fiction

1. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
2. Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
3. The Stowaway by Karen Hesse


1. The Harlquin Teaset & Other Stories by Agatha Christie
2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


1. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
3. Kim by Rudyard Kipling


1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


1. The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
2. The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander
3. The Wrinkle in Time Quartet by Madeleine L'Engle

I think a lot can be gained from each genre...there are definite lessons reiterated in each section of literature...perhaps that is why we are drawn to certain genres...anway,

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Golden Age & Kenneth Grahame

Have you ever read or seen the animated adaptions of the Wind in the Willows or The Willows in Winter? Did you know there is a third in this series called Toad Triumphant (and more)? These were once children's favorites, the light-hearted adventures of Ratty, Mole, Toad, and Badger. Most people now recognize the title but their only exposure is a cartoon they viewed in childhood (there are two wonderfully animated movies of the first two books - they are lovely, but there are some things in a book you just can't get in a movie).

Did you know that Kenneth Grahame, who only wrote the first in the trilogy also wrote other stories for children?

My favorite book that I've read of Grahame's is The Golden Age.

I have never found anyone else (not even my siblings!) who has read this gem of a book. The book's back cover simply states that it contains the tale of five children, including the unnamed sibling who recounts these tales, and their struggles to have adventures despite their aggravating grown-up uncles and aunts.


I always have beef with books' back covers because they never explain properly.

(but that is an entirely different post)

The Golden Age is REALLY about a young boy (the unnamed narrator) and his siblings living in the golden age of childhood, and what it's like watching your older siblings grow up to be just like you never said you'd be. It is exquisite, artistic, and full of references of a bygone era that probably no one would understand - because of my history nerdness I got one or two of them but I can't understand Greek so that reference is lost to me.

If you ever read it, pay close attention to the chapter "The Knight's Road". It's my favorite.

The only other person who enjoys these tales is my friend Elise, who begs me to read them aloud to her when I visit. They are really for reading aloud as each chapter is its own story.

I wish I could animate THIS book. It's so beautiful.

Kenneth Grahame has also written:

The Wind in the Willows
Dream Days (including The Reluctant Dragon)
Pagan Papers

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sharon Creech and Bloomability

Did you ever read a book that when you finished you thought "How did they know...?" Rarely do I find a book that I can completely resonate with, but Sharon Creech's "Bloomability" is one of these.

Sharon Creech taught in Europe for a while before coming back to the States and starting her writing career. Her only book about a girl in Europe is Bloomability, and it was a similar experience to my year of living in Europe and attending an international (MK) school.

Domenica (the heroine of this tale) is taken to live with her uncle and aunt, who are in charge of an international school in Switzerland. Her experiences that year changed her life forever.

This book also came at a time when I desperately needed it - I left Spain depressed and ready to drown myself in sorrow over leaving such a beautiful, happy place. Luckily, I found Bloomability, which I then bought and re-read several times. It's still one of my favorite books, even now residing on my bookshelf. It helped me process through leaving a place and continuing on to be "bloomable" wherever I was.

Sharon Creech has a very interesting way of writing, different from any other writer I've experienced. It's like...reading someone's thought process, almost. It's a very intimate, personal way of writing and to read one of her books is to live in her story for a while. I would highly suggest any of her books, including the following:

Absolutely Normal Chaos
The Wanderer
Ruby Holler
Chasing Redbird
Walk Two Moons

Enjoy! If you've read a Sharon Creech book, let me know what you thought!

Friday, February 13, 2009

What about the Classics?

First, a few more books to add to my list...*sheepish grin*

1. The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett
2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
3. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sczieska
4. Bloomability by Sharon Creech
5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen


So what about the classics? Why don't I have a bazillion of those listed? I remember reading somewhere that "classics are books that everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read." Hm. Why is that?

I remember when I was younger, I heard that War and Peace was the longest, possibly hardest novel to read. Accordingly, I checked out the only version I could find at the library, the 1,000+ page ABRIDGED version. Yeah. Well...I found that, although it was a slow read, the story was great, if you could keep all the characters straight in your head. I tried Dostoyevsky's The Idiot over Christmas one year but lost interest once I couldn't keep the million characters in order...I do love the concept of Russian novels and story-telling...but my (supposed) ADD keeps getting in the way. Perhaps that is why I love children's fiction so much - it's easy to keep me occupied!

So that is just to say that, while I enjoy some classics...I mostly stick to what I'm good at reading. That's why you probably won't find an entry where I will praise a book of instructions about how to build something. BORING! At least to me.

Hence: Why are classics that we want to have read? Maybe because we want to impress people - "I've read this many classics!" or maybe we wish we'd read them when we were younger when we had time to read or...maybe because reading something that large with so many characters is intimidating! There are some classics that are less trouble and I offer you the following:

a list of classics that I HAVE enjoyed, and they are here for you to peruse at your leisure.

1. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
4. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
5. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Persuasion by Jane Austen
7. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
8. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
9.Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
10. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
11. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
12. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
13. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
14. Alice in Wonderland & Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
15. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
16. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
17. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
18. The Sea Wolf by Jack London
19. Knights of the Round Table by Howard Pyle
20. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
21. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Whew...I didn't realize I'd read so many! (only 21...but that's more than I thought!)

There are about 10 more that I read that I DIDN'T enjoy but I don't want to waste your time by listing them...most of the time, I don't like a story if it has a really tragic ending...I hated Tale of Two Cities for a long time but I love Dickens so...I forgave him the ending.

Let me know what you've read, liked/disliked - I look forward to dialogging with you!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Joan Aiken & The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

First, more books that again, I would have put down but I forgot:

1. Raphael & the Noble Task by Catherine Salton
2. Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott
3. The Mona Lisa Mystery by Pat Hutchins
4. Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld
5. King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
6. Squires Tales (series) by Gerald Morris
7. The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Now, on to business:

Usually, once I find an author I like, I try out some of their other books to see if they are all just as good as the first one. Sadly, a lot of authors are hit-or-miss and rarely do I find someone who can write lots of books very well. I find that most of the time an author will write 1 or 2 really, really interesting books and that the rest are either mediocre or not about something I'm excited about. Avi, Lois Lowry, and Lloyd Alexander are three examples. Although I dearly love The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the Giver, and the Arkadians, I do not love some of their other, more boring books.


I have discovered an author who has managed to delightfully capture beautiful little tales and present them in a way that interests me. This author is Joan Aiken, sister of Jane Aiken Hodge (also a novelist) and daughter of Conrad Aiken, a poet. She was born in England (1924) and wrote over 40 books, most of them for children.

I was first introduced to her works in a library - as is my usual habit, I was perusing the children's section when I came across a curious title: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It caught my curiosity and I pulled the book out to reveal a red, black and white cover. I took it home and fell in love. Joan's book about cousins Bonnie and Sylvia is delicious - Sylvia, an orphan, goes to live with her cousin Bonnie and while Bonnie's parents are away, their evil governess takes over. Though Sylvia is a compliant, sweet child, Bonnie's rebellion against the cruel teacher lands them in heaps of trouble. They begin to unravel the plot around the governess's arrival and...well...you should read it.

The most interesting thing about Joan Aiken and the Wolves Chronicles (which begin with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) is that she writes them as if England's history had gone a bit differently...I won't say too much, but Joan writes in an alternate universe and London is not quite the same as we know it. Fascinating.

If you try Wolves of Willoughby Chase (ostensibly for 6th grade readers but quite entertaining for any age) and find that you like it (or love it) you might want to try these:

Nightbird on Nantucket
Dido and Pa
Is Underground
Blackhearts in Battersea
Midnight is a Place

Have fun and if you do read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase or any Joan Aiken book, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Favorite Books & Etc.

The reason I can't pick a favorite...

Here are books I would have put on the 25 book list but forgot:

1. The Golden Age by Kenneth Graghme
2. The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit
3. The Emily Trilogy by L.M. Montgomery
4. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
5. The High Seas Trilogy by Iain Lawrence
6. The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsly
7. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
8. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
9. The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
10. Beauty by Robin McKinley

Now on to the reason I'm writing this post:

I wanted to talk a little bit about what I'm going to use this blog for and what I want to accomplish.

I want people to enjoy reading - whatever their particular taste is, I want them to experience more of what they love. You like mysteries? Try these four books! You like children's fiction? Here's a list of 10! I want you to be able to go to the library, find a book, and explore a little. I want you to experience the joy that comes when a story touches your soul.

There are a few different types of blog entries I'm going to have - sometimes, I will list my favorite books; other times, I will talk about one of my favorite authors; sometimes I will pick one book and do a sort of literary criticism and promote it in hopes that you will read and come back and dialog with me.

The other thing I want is for you to tell me what YOU like - I could always add another book to my reading list! :) I want to get to know you better so that I will be able to suggest books to your liking - so leave feedback! If you've read one of the books I've mentioned, and you liked/disliked it, let me know! I'm always interested and would love to dialog with you about books. (Although, a warning: I'm hard to shut up once you mention the word 'book'!)

Have a lovely day, everyone!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Me, a Literary Critic?

I was chatting with a friend recently about the kind of job I would like to have someday. "I would love a job where I could get to know people and suggest books they would like to read." He suggested a job as a literary critic. This idea swirled around in my head for a bit and I decided I liked the idea and would take a stab at it.

First of all - I'm not a literary critic in the sense that I am going to read every new book that comes out and comment on it.

Second of all - I would like to get to know my readers so that I can suggest books for you PERSONALLY. That way I know what would spark your interest.

What criteria should be met for me to suggest books? I offer the following information:

1. I fell in love with reading at age 5 and have never stopped reading since.
2. I read a wide range of genres including, but not limited to, sci-fi, fantasy, children's lit., classics, historical/non-historical fiction, thriller/mystery, and biographical.
3. I have been able to create a change in several peoples' reading habits because of my suggestions
4. I do take part in some forms of writing quite often - poetry, short stories, and the occasional novella.

So, think of this blog as a...literary suggestion blog...with occasional criticisms.

And now, to start off, a list of my top 25 favorite books/trilogies/series (you are lucky, it was going to be 100! *Note: these are not in order except for the first one)

The criteria for books to be my favorites are 1. they have to challenge me/change the way I do things/think about things in some way, or open my mind to new possibilities; 2. they have to touch my soul - the beauty of a passage will make a book an instant favorite with me. What are your criteria for a favorite book?

1. The Adventures of Tippy by Glanville Smith ( a beautiful little fairytale)
2. A Wrinkle in Time Quartet by Madeleine L'Engle
3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
6. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
7. Golden by Cameron Dokey
8. Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey
9. Seven Daughters & Seven Sons by Bahija Lovejoy
10. No Flying in the House by Betty Brock
11. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
12. Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Elanor Updale
13. The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken
14. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
15. The Giver by Lois Lowry
16. The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
17. Frindle by Andrew Clements
18. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
19. The Harlequin Teaset (short story) by Agatha Christie
20. The Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
21. Sea Legs by Alex Shearer
22. The Redwall series by Brian Jacques
23. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
24. The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander
25. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller