Friday, September 28, 2012

First Line Friday No. 8

Welcome Back!

I thought we'd take a peek into one of the books I'm dying to read (see post below).  Ready?

They called the world beyond the walls of the Pod, "the Death Shop."  A million ways to die out there.  Aria never thought she'd get so close.  

She bit her lip as she stared at the heavy steel door in front of her.  A display screen read AGRICULTURE 6 -- NO ENTRY in flashing red letters.

Ag 6 was just a service dome, Aria told herself.  Dozens of domes supplied Reverie with food, water, oxygen -- all the things an enclosed city needed.  Ag 6 had been damaged in a recent storm, but supposedly the damage was minor.


--from Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Reasons to read:

1. "The Death Shop" -- brilliant name.

2.  We are instantly drawn in when we realize someone is getting close to the world beyond -- will she die?  Will she survive?  How?  Why IS she so close?

3.  I want to know more about this world -- the Pods, Reverie (the city -- another great name), the outside...

4.  Aria -- another great name!  I am loving the word choices here.

5.  Supposedly...!!!  What does this mean for our intrepid heroine?

The beginning of this book is suspenseful -- it plunges you right into the world and hints at the mystery surrounding Reverie.

I am intrigued.

Are you?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Books I'm Dying to Read

I absolutely hate waiting for books.

Sometimes I'll wait until the last book of a series is coming out and THEN read the entire series (in a week). This year, however, I started a few series that had either one or more books coming out, and I am just wasting away until they hit the (library) shelves!  A few of these are coming out next year, some have already appeared this year and some are just a month away from being in my hands (And some are new authors to me, some are one-shots -- these are just the top-of-my-list-ahhh-why-do-I-have-to-wait-to-read-these books).

I'm including their covers as well.  Are you ready?

The Ten Books I'm Dying to Read (in no particular order):

The Second Spy: The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 3 by Jacqueline West

I've read and reviewed both previous books and -- I'm completely hooked on these.  The heroine, Olive, and her sidekicks, the cats, are a riot.  There's a fascinating magical aspect to it while also dealing with real world feelings of a lonely girl and the need to prove herself.  It's already out but my library doesn't have it (YET).  Read up on the books here.


Nevermore: The FINAL Maximum Ride Adventure by James Patterson

I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THIS BOOK  I devoured (seriously, no exaggeration) the rest of the series early this year.  It's one of those series where you feel like after you read them, they're a part of you and always will be.  This one came out last month and I'm on a loooong list at the library.  SIGH.  I guess I'm going to have to find another series to sink my teeth into while I wait.  Catch up on the series here.

  • Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen -- Garth Nix
 No cover for this as we actually don't know when it's coming out.  Sometime next year, hopefully.  Here's the news (scroll down): Clariel


The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Rowling's new book is getting a mixed response -- there are people praising it to the skies (it discusses modern-day Britain's poverty problem, among other things like social status and familial relationships) and there are people who probably thought it was going to be The Mauraders' Tales (Book 1) and are therefore highly disappointed.  I mean, don't we all wish that?  But I applaud Rowling for stepping outside the box (however magical and wonderful that box is) and doing something different.  (It is more adult in theme and content -- be ye forewarned) 

Update: Most of the complaining and bad reviews I've seen on Amazon have to do with the pricing and the formatting (which has since been fixed), which is a very poor excuse for a review (that should be addressed to customer service and/or the publisher).


The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

I read all of Sharon Creech's novels.  They're absolutely brilliant, beautiful, and imaginative.  The way she handles words astounds me, like each one is a precious drop of rain that you cup in your hands after it hasn't rained for a very long time.  Read about it here.


Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I found this during some of my poking around on the web for writing advice.  I did already go and borrow it from the library on Sunday and I started it last night.  I could barely pull myself away to get some sleep. It reminds me in font type and writing style of Joan Aiken, the author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  Which is a very good sign.  Read more at her site.  Looks like we're getting two more books in the series as well as a folktale set in that world as well as a MOVIE!


Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Same story as the above -- the author graciously shared some of her expertise for WriteOnCon 2012.  I also borrowed it from the library but haven't delved into it yet.  Isn't it a great title?  Read all about it here.


Butter by Erin Jade Lange

This one was recommended to me by a friend and I'm really hoping it turns out to be like Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (general fiction about modern day teens with a redemptive theme).  I can't find Butter anywhere yet but hopefully my library will be purchasing a copy soon -- it came out September 4.


The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand

Isn't the cover mysterious and thrilling?  I saw the author do a guest post and when I read the book description, I just had to add it to my list.  You can follow Claire LeGrand on FaceBook or read her blog -- here.


Who Could That Be At This Hour?  All the Wrong Questions, Book 1 by Lemony Snicket

I think I already mentioned how ecstatic I was about this book (series).  This one comes out next month.  Early Christmas present??  Check his new site out here.  Remember, you can read the first two chapters right now!

So...what books are you dying to read?  Any from my list?  Do you have a suggestion for me?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Write Wednesday -- What Makes Great Literature and How Can We Support It?

Welcome to Write Wednesday!

Even if you don't write, I believe it is beneficial to know what good (or great) writing is -- that way your time isn't wasted by poorly conceived or ill-written books.  I believe readers have a responsibility to encourage and support great literature and to keep standards high so that new writers will (hopefully) feel that their work matters and what they are giving to the world is of value (and should therefore be as polished as possible).

 What do you think great writing is?  Here are some articles that can help you answer that question:

7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great from Writer's Digest

An article about how awesome R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame) is -- and how his writing process works

Rachel Aaron's article about Teaching Your Readers Magic (which is about writing fantasy but has some great things to say about writing good stuff in general)

Here's my list of what makes a great book:

1.  Relatable characters -- I can join a character on a spaceship, in a castle, or during a vampire hunt, but if they struggle with the same things I do (identity, redemption, etc.), I can relate.  Their struggles might enlighten me about mine and the story might end up encouraging or teaching me.  I might return to the story again and again because it helps me remember I'm not alone.

2.  Strong theme -- Like I've said before, redemption and identity are themes that click with me.  Watch any of my favorite TV shows (Firefly, Buffy, Dollhouse, Supernatural, Doctor Who, etc.) and you'll understand how powerful these themes are.

3.  Polish -- this is perhaps the lesser-noticed but might-be-most-important part of a great book.  Ensuring your writing is as tight as possible (economy of words, finding the right words), fixing any plot holes, issues with pacing, or grammar mistakes, and generally ensuring that your book is sent out when it is the best it can be -- all those tiny little things that make a good book great.

Of course, I have criteria of what I enjoy in a book (whimsy, parts where I laugh and parts where I cry, laugh-out-loud humor like funny names or one-line zingers), but that doesn't mean books I don't particularly enjoy are bad.  Just not my favorite type to read.  That's a good thing to keep in mind when reviewing or talking about books you didn't enjoy -- just because you didn't doesn't mean someone else won't or that the book doesn't have value.

Since we're talking about great literature and the need to keep reading these stories, how can we show our love and support for the writers we adore?  Below are some ideas.

You can support writers by:

-- Checking out books from the library, online or offline (there are records concerning which books are most read!), or using a service like Amazon Prime

-- writing reviews (of books you've read) on Amazon, Goodreads, or on your own blog (link to Facebook or Twitter!).  Reviews make a big difference as to whether a reader will take a chance on a book.  Believe me -- even the free ones don't get picked up (usually) unless they've got stellar reviews.

-- Read authors' thoughts outside of their books.  I follow Kate DiCamillo on Facebook (Here) and Sharon Creech's lovely photo-and-word blog entries (Here), as well as Rachel Aaron's funny and thought-provoking blog Pretentious Title.  I also read updates from authors on Goodreads.  Leave a comment and encourage them -- sincere compliments or stories about how their books have affected you make a difference.  (You can also send snail-mail to some of them via their publishers.  Who doesn't like fan mail??  Just please don't be creepy.)

-- Attend book signings, if you can.  I haven't been able to yet, but I would love to arrive at a bookstore with a favorite book in hand (or purchase one at the store) so that a favorite author can sign it especially to me!

-- Purchasing books at bookstores (where at least part of the money goes back to the author.  This can be a budgetary issue when you are like me and have no money and would prefer to spend a penny plus shipping on Amazon -- but if you can, do support the author by buying their book straight from a bookstore, whether online or off!)

Want to discuss any (or all) of this?  Leave a note in the comments!

See you on Friday for First Lines!

Monday, September 24, 2012

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

I've always been fascinated by prairie life -- the Laura Ingalls Wilder books gave me a glimpse into the past and since then I've wondered what it would have been like to settle part of a wild, young country.  

What were the real problems they faced, once settlers actually settled?  What was the internal drama as opposed to the external drama of survival?

May B. opens up an entirely new look at prairie life from this angle.

It focuses on May (Mavis Elizabeth Betterly), a young girl who wants to earn a teaching certificate but unfortunately has a difficult time reading.  Instead of going back to school, she's sent to help a new prairie bride adjust to this wild and tough environment.  What happens next is shocking and scary.  How will May B. survive?

I love this book -- the story is told in poetry, which is perfect for May.  The economy of words allows you to concentrate on her character instead of getting bogged down by descriptions of the prairie, farming, etc.  Instead, May shines and shows us that guts, determination, and the sheer will to live (and learn) are more powerful than what is outside us.

The cover is lovely, too:

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, poetry, young America, or tough heroines, give May B. a try.

See you Wednesday, and good news!  I have about a dozen books from the library to read, so more reviews are on the way!

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Line Friday No. 7

Welcome back!

Let's jump right in:

"The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective.  Take right now, for instance.  

Run!  Come on, run!  You know you can do it.

I gulped deep lungfuls of air.  My brain was on hyper-drive; I was racing for my life.  My one goal was to escape.  Nothing else mattered.  

My arms being scratched to ribbons by a briar I'd run through?  No biggie.

My bare feet hitting every sharp rock, rough root, pointed stick?  Not a problem.

My lungs aching for air?  I could deal.

As long as I could put as much distance as possible between me and the Erasers.

Yeah, Erasers.  Mutants: half-men, half-wolves, usually armed, always bloodthirsty.  Right now they were after me.  See?  That snaps everything into perspective."

-From The Angel Experiment: A Maximum Ride Novel (Book 1) by James Patterson

 Can you feel the thrill of this book?

Here's what I love about it:

1. It lets you know RIGHT AWAY what's going on.  The character is being chased, maybe to her imminent demise.

2.  It's like you're right there with her.  You're experiencing what she's feeling and thinking.  Scary, right?

3.  The shortage of words makes the pictures in your head snap and flicker, like a film reel, or like you're really running with her.  Words stick out -- "sharp rock, rough root, pointed stick..."  I flinch.  Those hurt.

4.  Erasers?!  WHAT???

5.  I want to immediately know how this happened and what is going on.  I must take a deep breath and plunge into the story and read it all in one sitting because for Pete's sake, what is going to happen to her???

I discovered the Maximum Ride series earlier this year and fell for it, hard.  I devoured all seven books in short order and am anxiously awaiting the last installment, Nevermore.  It came out in August but I'm in a huge queue at the library so I'm in agony while I wait (and yes, I'm too poor to buy it, even on Kindle).

The incredible thing about the series is that since you're reading about a bunch of kids, you experience everything with them.  You see the mistakes they're making (and want to scream in frustration) and then realize they're kids, they don't have all the information, and they're doing the best they can.  It feels so REAL.  My emotions have been roller-coaster-ing all over the place as I debate what's going to happen and if Max and the gang will finally be alright.

It's a bumpy road, my friends.

And if you decide to take the plunge and discover, along with Max, just how weird the world is getting, I take no responsibility for the sobbing, screaming, squealing and general mayhem that will ensue.  But it is WORTH IT.

Next week I'll have a post about new books coming out that I can't WAIT to read (as well as some that are new to me) as well as a review and the usual Write Wednesday and First Lines.

Have a great weekend -- read something. 

See you  Monday!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Write Wednesday: Interview with S. Underwood

Welcome back to Write Wednesday!

Today I'll be sharing an interview with my friend and fellow writer S. Underwood -- this is the friend that suggested we collaborate on a re-imagining of a classic story.  (We're still in talks, but she's visiting in a few weeks so I'll give you an update then)  S. Underwood has written a one-act play that she's submitting to the theatre company she's a part of (H and I got to see her in a production of Music Man -- it was thrilling!) and I hope you join me in wishing her the best of luck!

Ok -- first: introduce yourself
(what you do, what you've been writing, etc.)

S Underwood 
Well, I'm a stay at home mom so I'm able to set my own schedule. I like to act, read, and watch movies.
I have ideas about lots of different things to write, I keep getting these bursts, so there's a lot on the to-do list.

Nice. When did you start writing?

S Underwood
When I was about 11 my sister, Jessica, asked me to tell her a story. I made up one on the spot and she liked it so much she wanted me to tell it over and over. Eventually I wrote it down and started writing more in the series. That was when I seriously started writing. Mostly it was short stories and poems. I didn't start trying novels until after I graduated college.

That's awesome!
Who were your influences back then?

S Underwood
From a very early age my mom would read to us stuff like The Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables. When I started seriously reading for myself I really got into Louis L'Amour.

Oh wow -- Chronicles of Narnia! Those are the first books I remember reading.
Would you say your influences have changed over the years?

S Underwood
Well, I can still go back and read the Chronicles and enjoy them just as much. Lately I've been influenced by Jane Austin, Jasper Fforde, J. K. Rowling, even Stephenie Meyer (she's my example of how not to write, haha).

Ha! Fair enough. So, I haven't read many Westerns -- what drew you to Louis L'Amour's books?

S Underwood
My dad was a fan and had a whole bunch of them, so I started reading, loved the first one I tried, and kept going. Now I have a pretty substantial collection of my own. I really loved his heroes, and I liked that he always got a little bit of romance in there. I'm such a romantic.

Aw, yay!
So you've read lots of Westerns...does that mean you've written your own?

S Underwood
I have written a few short story westerns and that's one of the novels I'm currently working on. Actually I have an idea for a whole series of Biblical westerns, stories of the Bible set in the old west.

Oh, I love it! I simply adore re-imaginings.
What are your favorite things to write?

S Underwood
Probably plays. I'm actually pretty good at dialogue. That was the one thing I did well in my novel writing class in college.

Oh, yes -- reading your writing, you definitely have strong dialogue skills. Not my strong point! Is one format easier than the other for you/do you prefer one format over the other?

S Underwood
I used to not even consider novels because my weakness is finishing things. I'd get an idea and write a little bit, but when the inspiration died, it was really hard for me to keep going. Writing a poem or short story was much more feasible. Since I have actually finished a novel now, I have more confidence, but it's still hard.

So true -- NaNoWriMo got me to finally finish a story -- now that I've completed a few, I'm hooked. Do you have a daily writing routine, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

S Underwood
Well, the funny thing is, when I'm at play practice, I'll tend to write while I'm back stage waiting for my scene. My daily schedule is so random that I haven't really been able to set a specific time to write. That's another weakness of mine. Even during NaNoWriMo, I couldn't stay disciplined. I hope to do better this year.

I've found it difficult to keep up a steady writing schedule as well -- I either scramble to get words in late at night before bed or yank myself onto the computer in the morning...I'm just not a morning person. But good for you for spending backstage time doing something productive!

Have you ever spent time backstage making up stories with another person?

S Underwood
Oh yes, that's how I came up with a lot of the mystery play I sent you. This one friend and I were going back and forth, and later I had her read it for feedback. We have this whole list of other plays we want to eventually write.

That is so cool! I love creating stories communally -- there's something thrilling about a shared idea.
It helps me be a better writer, as well -- have you found that to be true?

S Underwood
Definitely. Margaret and I create some really funny stuff when we get together.

Your sister, right?

S Underwood

What do you think it is about a shared story that sparks more creativity than trying to think through a story on your own?

S Underwood
I believe it's that you have the opportunity of sounding off about your ideas. The other person is right there to say, yes that's good, or no, that really doesn't work. Margaret really helped me in that respect when I was writing my fantasy novel. I'd send her a chapter and she'd just tell me if I was on the right track. She was my accountability.

That's fantastic -- sort of like having an editor during the entire process instead of afterwards.

S Underwood

I might need to find one of those for myself!
So, to wrap this up -- do you have any advice for writers?

S Underwood
The thing that really helped me when I did my novel was to just keep going. I didn't go back and do any editing until I'd completely finished the book. For years I'd been stuck writing a little, and then re-writing that little bit to death and never finishing. I wish I'd known this years ago.

Great advice -- I've struggled with this as well.
One last question: What keeps you writing?

S Underwood
I just love thinking of new stories, putting new twists on things. I pretty much get a new idea every other day. It's not that I even need to entertain people. Right now, it's just for me. That's probably one reason it's so hard to keep going, too. Haha.

Oh yes -- we can create for ourselves but in the end we do want to share these stories with someone!
Well, thank you so much for letting me interview you -- I can't wait to read more of your work!

S Underwood
Thank you. This was a lot of fun.

Thank you, S.!

What did you think of this format, readers?  I'm thinking of doing podcasts somewhere down the road but I like this format as well.

And now -- My writing update:

I completed my 5,000 word short story last week and wrote a 2,500 (give or take a hundred words) story after that.  My project today is to finish a 3,000 word short story and do some reading over at Lightspeed (I read THIS yesterday about a living pirate spaceship -- !!) and some reading on writing from WriteOnCon (this post on plotting with 3X5 cards and the post on making characters into real people look promising!)

 Hope you all have a pleasant Wednesday -- see you on Friday for another First Lines!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Outfit

Le husband and I dropped in the library after lunch yesterday to snag several graphic novels -- I was peering through the volumes for a friend while H was pocketing whatever suited his fancy.

We came away with a dozen assorted comics, including stories about Spiderman (for the friend), Batman (for me) and Iron Man (for Husband), along with some miscellaneous stories.

I decided to give one of Husband's books a try -- it was adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, who we both admire for his 60's style drawings (He also wrote/illustrated The New Frontier, which you should definitely check out -- there are two volumes, the second of which you can find here).  He wrote four graphic novels about Parker, adapted from stories by the author, Richard Stark (a pen name of Donald Westlake).

While I don't usually go for noir storylines, The Outfit was a solid heist story with wonderful illustrations.   The antihero main character is a James Bond type (on the wrong side of the law) who learns that someone from the past wants him dead.  He hunts them down, hitting where it hurts (here's where the heists come in), pairing up with old friends to pull off the robberies with seeming ease.

The story is dark, but the drawings keep it from being too gritty.  One reviewer on Amazon disliked the book because Parker didn't really have too difficult of a time taking down crime bosses and pulling heists -- but I think this story is more about WHY you don't mess with guys like Parker.  Because they're ruthless and they will .  It's more a cautionary tale than anything else.

If you enjoy heists, noir, crime, or pulp fiction, you might want to give this one a try.

It IS Volume II of the Parker graphic novels, so for background, read the first novel, The Hunter.

I'll be seeing you on Write Wednesday with an interview, and an update on my writing progress.

Keep reading!

Friday, September 14, 2012

First Line Friday No. 6

Welcome Back to First Line Friday!

Today we are talking about a series I am so ecstatic about I almost did cartwheels when I heard the glorious news.

Are you emotionally upheaved at the mere mention of The Sugar Bowl?

Do you ever wonder about the backstory of one Lemony Snicket?

Did you ever read A Series of Unfortunate Events?

If you have and are insanely curious about what is coming next, then, dear readers, let us discuss the first paragraph of...Lemony Snicket's NEW SERIES, All the Wrong Questions!!!

"There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft.  I was living in the town, and I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it.  I was almost thirteen and I was wrong.  I was wrong about all of it.  I should have asked the question, "Why would someone say something was stolen when it was never theirs to begin with?"  Instead, I asked the wrong question -- four wrong questions, more or less.  This is the account of the first."

From Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All the Wrong Questions, Book One) by Lemony Snicket.

Reasons I'm insanely excited about this very first paragraph:

1. THE SUGAR BOWL!!!  Are we going to learn about this mysterious object and its equally mysterious past (AND WHAT IS INSIDE?!)?

2. Who is the girl (are there more than one?  Is one of them the Baudelaire's mother?  Is one of them Esme Squalor??)?

3. What "all" is Lemony wrong about?!

4. What are the other questions???

5.  Is this going to be a tell-all about the sugar bowl and Lemony's shadowy past, or will he uncover even MORE questions that shouldn't have been asked (or answered)?

I am also insanely pleased to let you in on a not-so-well-kept secret:  If you visit Mr. Snicket's website, you can read the first TWO CHAPTERS of this book!  (Find it HERE)

The book in its entirety will hit shelves in October.  I can't wait!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Untitled Short Story Project -- Update

I am happily updating to let you know I have reached 2,500 words on my short story!  This means I'm halfway through the first draft.

While it isn't *very* good (being a first draft), I think I have something here.

I'm writing a story that deals with identity (a recurring theme of mine) and the problems of fitting in and being yourself.  It's in somewhat of a sci-fi setting (with suits, transporters, and laser guns) but could be altered to be post-apocalyptic or steampunk as well.  We'll see how later drafts are revised.

Since I've reached my daily goal I'll be doing more reading this afternoon -- magazines I'm thinking of submitting the story to as well as some more about how to write short stories.

If you want to read along with me, check these out:

Lightspeed (Reading selected short stories from this publication to see if my story would be a good fit)

Strange Horizons (see above)

8 Unstoppable Rules for Writing Killer Short Stories

On Revising Short Stories

And, bonus, here's what I'm listening to while I write:

Happy reading!  Join me tomorrow for another First Line Friday!  I will say, tomorrow's post is going to be EPIC.  Scream-worthy.  If you happen to be a fan of a certain thirteen book series...

...stay tuned.

UPDATE: Spent the afternoon combing through Lightspeed (LOVE IT -- they even have audio versions of the stories!) and found this story about time travel and this story about memory to be exceptional.

I didn't find as much on Strange Horizons but will continue to comb through it over the weekend.

The two short story articles were very helpful and I ended up taking a whole page of notes.  I've started scribbling sideways and slantwise on my notebook paper in order to keep it interesting.  My brain is functioning a bit more fully as a result of being forced to work off-kilter.

See you tomorrow for First Lines!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Write Wednesday -- Jumble

Welcome back to Write Wednesday!

There's a jumble of things I'll be talking about today:
  • A review of Jeff Goins' booklet
  • An update on my writing (News!)
  • An update on what Write Wednesday of next week will be (!!)
Let's get started!

First, an update on my writing -- Camp NaNo is complete and while I'm mulling over another novel project for November's NaNoWriMo, a short story idea that I've held onto for a while is resurfacing.  I did some research yesterday (found some helpful stuff on plotting short stories here) and came up with five sci-fi/fantasy magazines that accept new work.

So, this month, my goal is to write a 5,000 word short story and next month I'll be revising it so that by the time November NaNo is over I can start sending the manuscript out.  I'll keep you posted on how it does, and we will also be discussing parts of it (First Line Friday?) and I might even share some of the critiques I get, along with some more fun (FREE?) stuff.  :D  Stay tuned...

I'm also writing three movie reviews -- The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises and Marvel's The Avengers.  I've seen them all twice and discussed them several times with friends.  I love all three and am so happy we finally have high-quality philosophical/psychological/political superhero films that can be discussed like literary classics.  (I will be posting links to these reviews once completed)

I'm still going to be working on a re-vamp of a classic story with my friend Stephanie and will be plotting my November NaNo novel early next month.  Lots of writing to do!  Quite exciting!

Second, my review of Jeff Goins' booklet,  Every Writer Needs a Tribe: A Practice Guide to Finding (and Writing for) Your Audience (The Digital Writer):

 Mr. Goins, once again, proves to be a kick in the pants to every author wannabe -- this time helping us discover how to build a platform (and which kind is best), draw an audience, and be a better writer.  I love the tone of his books -- I've read two and they're always loaded with information but you don't come away with that heavy feeling of having consumed too much pizza (or too many hotdogs, as I did last night.  Ugh.).

There's so much practical advice you could probably learn something new every time if you read Jeff's book each day for a week.  Or maybe a month.  Networking, building an audience, and creating a great little plot of space on the internet are all discussed in this book and even if you aren't a full time writer but want to be a better blogger, this book is worth a read (or two).

Some interesting things popped into my head whilst reading Jeff's book -- I'm blogging right now for a few people (including myself), in an attempt to reach ANYONE, but if I really want to get myself out there, I don't need to cater to EVERYONE.  I need to find the people like me who share my interests -- YA Fiction (writing and reading).  So, with that in mind, I'll be re-tooling my blog (still keeping Write Wednesdays and First Line Fridays -- but the reviews and focus of the blog will be pointed right at YA Fiction instead of bouncing all over the place), maybe even changing locations.  We'll see.  I'm trying to figure out all the little details at the moment.

Third and last, next week I'll be sharing an interview with a playwright friend of mine -- we'll discuss writing (she also writes stories in novel form) and a bunch of other cool reader/writer stuff.  Look for it next Wednesday!

Keep reading!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Goblet of Fire (Part 1) -- More Stuff on Hufflepuff

I'm back with more sightings of Hufflepuffs in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!

As you may notice, I have skipped Prisoner of Azkaban -- but only because I've mislaid the notes and will have to hunt them up.  I'm splitting Goblet of Fire into two parts because a Hufflepuff is ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS (!!!) in this story.

In Goblet of Fire, we see:

  • Cedric Diggory, the 17 year old Captain and Seeker of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team (reportedly handsome, modest, kind, and fair)
  • Ernie McMillan (4th year -- 1 year older than Harry) greeting the trio at the Quidditch World Cup
  • Cedric's father, Amos (presumably a Hufflepuff) leading the charge against the makers of the Dark Mark -- shows courage, although he does get carried away in trying to uncover the truth
  •  We hear about "Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad" and "For Hufflepuff, hard workers are most worthy of admission" from The Sorting Hat
  • 3rd and 4th students mentioned at Sorting Ceremony are Hufflepuffs -- Eleanor Branstone and Owen Cauldwell
  • 2 more are sorted during the ceremony -- Laura Madley and Kevin Whitby (These four Hufflepuffs are more mentions than any other house gets during the Sorting Ceremony)
  • One of the Hufflepuff students, a Mr. Summers, attempts an aging potion in order to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament -- fails
  • Ron and Seamus verbally abuse Hufflepuff (and Cedric) throughout the book, although it's quite clear there's nothing in it except envy and grudge-holding
  • Cedric Diggory, a HUFFLEPUFF, is named the Hogwarts Champion -- THE ONLY TRUE HOGWARTS CHAMPION CHOSEN BY THE GOBLET OF FIRE IS A HUFFLEPUFF.  I find this fact to be a powerful refute to the notion that Hufflepuffs are useless, stupid duffers.  Quite the contrary!
  • Ernie and Justin quite perturbed at Harry for stealing their hero's glory (later cheer for Harry AND Cedric once they realize H in no way wanted to be a Champion)
  • Cedric's wand contains a single hair of a particularly fine male unicorn -- the wand is pleasantly springy and made of ash.  
  • Cedric left out of Rita Skeeter's Daily Prophet article (no surprise there)
  • Cedric and Harry have a mutual respect for each other (when Harry isn't being insanely jealous of Cedric for spending time with Cho Chang), even helping each other out with the tasks

Anything you were surprised by?  

I've searched the web a few times and it looks like no one has listed all the sightings of Hufflepuff throughout the series, or written a scholarly article about Hufflepuff and the misperceptions people seem to have about the house.  It feels a little strange (and thrilling) to be exploring new territory in the Potterverse.  If you find a list of all the sightings, or any articles relating to Hufflepuff, leave a link below in the comments.

Thanks!  See you Wednesday for another installment of Write Wednesday.

Keep reading!

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Line Friday No. 5

Welcome back to First Line Friday!

Today we're going to be taking a peek into Garth Nix's new book, A Confusion of Princes (published May 2012).  While the rest of his fans (including myself) are DYING to read the two NEW books from the Abhorsen series (one tentatively titled Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen, supposedly arriving in bookstores next year), a standalone novel by Mr. Nix is almost as good.  (See the press release about the three-book deal here)

I haven't read this book yet, but I'm intrigued -- and every other Garth Nix book has proved thrilling, so I'm going to preview it in hopes of finishing the novel shortly, provided I find it at our library.

Here it is:

"I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.  This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.  My name is Khemri, though this is not the name my parents gave me.  I do not know who my parents are, and never will, for I was taken from them as a baby.  

This is one of the secrets the Empire keeps well.  No Prince may know his or her parents, or the world of their birth.  Even trying to find out is forbidden, which just about sums up the paradox of being a Prince.  We have vast power and seemingly limitless authority, except when we try to exercise that power or authority beyond the bounds that have been set for us."

Things that intrigue me:

1. How did Khemri die (and how did he get re-born)?  How many times can you die before you're really *dead*?

2. What is Khemri's real name?  Who are his parents?  Where was he born?

3. Are there secrets the Empire DOESN'T keep well?

4. Is their religion based on Eastern traditions (it sounds vaguely like a Dalai Lama situation)?  Is the ruling class set up like the British Monarchy?

5. Princes are male AND female -- how many are there?  Do they marry?

I am deeply interested by the setting in this story.  I get a slight whiff of Star Wars (Empire, different worlds/planets, intrigue, royalty, etc.), which means this could be a space opera of epic proportions -- I'm ready to jump in feet first and I've only read page one.

What about you?  Does this intrigue you?  If not, what books are you waiting for?

Up next (week):  More Stuff on Hufflepuff and of course the regulars, Write Wednesday and First Line Friday.

Have a good weekend -- read a great book (or two)!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Write Wednesday

Today's Write Wednesday will consist of an update on my writing and also some insight gained from the Camp NaNoWriMo experience last month -- and I will also tell you a little about what I have planned for a coming-up Write Wednesday.

First: An Update (skip if you start yawning)

A friend and I are considering writing a piece together, sort of an RPG-type take on a classic story.  We'd be writing back and forth in an attempt to construct a cohesive plot with several characters.  So that might take wing in the next few weeks.

I'm also considering ideas for my November NaNoWriMo project.  So far I have:

a sci-fi novella about individuality and conformity -- includes robotic skin suits, narrow escapes and mechanics
a drama fantasy about inter-dimensional travel, as well as grief and loss -- includes a talking animal, a possible ghost and a mysterious door
a comic fantasy about a highschool and all the types/stereotypes therein -- includes a rock band, mass hysteria and a conspiracy

Any of those sound remotely interesting?

I've been combing through some old stuff and I'm getting the hankering to mess around with some of the past few NaNoWriMo novels...are my editing chops finally growing in??  I've got three solid novels to work on plus a bunch of short stories and poems and even a I might be editing early next year.  How exciting!  (And thank goodness I got a bunch of free writing books on Kindle -- they'll come in handy!)

Second: Lessons Learned

This NaNo is the first one that made me feel like a real writer.  I spent several weeks on an outline (that I stuck to all the way through, even keeping the pacing), scribbled ideas down like mad and even took notes on some books on writing.  There were even moments in the writing process where I was completely immersed with what was going on and after writing it felt like I had to come up for air.

Even after the novel was finished (for NaNo, anyway), I am still taking big gasps of air.  All the other ideas fell out of my head as I was consumed by this story.  So now I'm looking back at my ideas and deciding which ones I could have the same experience with.

Lesson No. 1: Keep Being Interested

If I could throw a situation at my characters and keep them involved (and myself interested), I had a great night.  I pulled at least three 4k days because it was easy to keep my attention.  Note to self:  Plan in the outline for awesome stuff.

Lesson No. 2: Be Willing To Be Surprised/Just Go With It

The general idea I had for the novel was funny (to me) but I didn't have the tiny details worked out.  During the process, I started putting the pieces together and soon had several layers to my otherwise general, straight forward plot.  Instead of wrangling the plot this way and that, I rolled with the punches, jotting down memos to myself as I went so I could go back and make the beginning of the book stronger without having to worry about writing AND editing.

Lesson No. 3: Allow Your Influences To...Influence

I have two main characters in the story, and I felt bad when I realized just how close they were to characters on a TV series I'd been devouring almost daily (I have to catch up!  The new season premiers in October!).  But the further I got into the story, the more the characters developed into their own beings.  But the influence/inspiration of the characters helped me pace the storyline, write the dialogue and keep the tone I wanted, and even gave me some ideas about the twists and turns in the story.  Without that inspiration, my story just wouldn't be as strong.

Third (and last): I have another interview coming up!  We'll be talking to a playwright/author about her influences, story ideas and more in a few weeks.  Also -- more stuff on Hufflepuff coming up as well as a review (or two).

Keep reading!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Art

Today I thought I'd post some interesting or beautiful quotes I've discovered on Pinterest -- all to do with books and the act of reading or writing them.

I'll have a Write Wednesday post up for tomorrow, but for now, enjoy these.  Let me know which one's your favorite in the comments.

Source: via Kate on Pinterest

Source: via Kate on Pinterest