Jul 3 2015

Books completed in June 2015

1. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
2. Ship Breaker (audio book) by Paolo Bacigalupi
3. Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
4. Atonement by Ian McEwan
5. Kit’s Wilderness, by David Almond
6. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis


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Jun 30 2015

YA Thrills & Chills

On Monday night I attended YA Thrills & Chills at Books Inc. in Palo Alto, where three fabulous women writers — Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle — gave wonderful readings of their newly released books and talked about why they write YA and their writing process, and what books they’ve enjoyed lately.

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

Book Description (from Goodreads): On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

“I think it’s such a great compliment when people are scared,” Nova Ren said, explaining that she was too close to the process while writing the book to feel fear of what she was writing herself.

I attending this event because of my love for Nova Ren’s past novels, most notable Imaginary Girls, which I still obsess over from time to time. So, I was freaking out a little (read: a lot) to be able to meet her in person and it was fascinating to hear how she approaches the writing process, which she described as part pantsing, part outlining. Nova Ren said the opening was important for her. “I need a way in. To find the right voice.” For the The Walls Around Us, she explained, she spent several months of a writing retreat just working on the right paragraph, trying to find the right voice. Once she found that, act one of the story flowed out fairly quickly. Then, after completing the first 50 pages or so, she would outline the rest of the book heavily in order to work it to completion.

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

Book Description (from Goodreads): Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

One of the fascinating things about Those Girls is that Lauren Saft wanted to step away from the good girls who tend to populate YA novels and instead focused on the party girls, the ones who drink and smoke and have sex and get into trouble, the ones who are most often get painted as the villain in stories. But they have their own stories, Lauren explained, they have their own insecurities and dreams. Although I ran out of funds and, thus, could not buy a copy of Those Girls, it’s gone on my TBR list to read at a future date, because I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters, too.

Lauren Saft said her writing of Those Girls started with the characters. She had a clear understanding of those girls, their voices, their relationships, and she was really clear on who they were. She mentioned that writing has been described as driving down the road in which you can only see so many feet ahead of you. “I didn’t really outline this book. I just sort of put my foot on the gas and drove,” she said, explaining that she was surprised when it all worked out by the end.

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

Book Description (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

“I did what nobody should ever do,” Katie Coyle said about writing Vivian Apple At the End of the World, explaining that she join a writing contest, to which she submitted the first chapter of the book and a detailed synopsis. At which point, she proceeded to do nothing with it, assuming she wouldn’t advance any further. But lo and behold, the contest representatives called up and told her she was a finalist and the completed novel had to be submitted in three weeks — which she did. Another eight months of editing resulted in the novel I now have sitting on my bookshelf. Based on her reading from the first chapter, it’ll be quite good. As a fan of apocalyptic stories, I don’t often see rapture tales, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

Book Recommendations: The Metamorphosis Trilogy by Kate Oliver and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Jun 29 2015

It’s all about pacing

Every day last week, I came home from work and did at least a little bit of writing each night. It was great; it was wonderful; it burned me out and by Friday night I couldn’t stand to look at a computer again. So, I watched some old horror movies at my sister’s and spent most of the weekend being profoundly lazy.

Keeping forward momentum is all about maintaining a pace that allows you to complete your goals without crashing and burn up like a rocket ship off kilter during reentry. The point is that I’m still trying to figure out what that pacing is (in regards to my creative writing) considering my work levels at my day job right now.

What I’m Reading

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a story about a small town, a thought-to-be-extinct woodpecker, and a missing teenage boy. The main character is a decent kid and the story is multi-layered and emotionally complex, which makes it a good solid read so far.

Still in the process of reviewing Drink, a collection of poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman. In the meantime, you might want to check out this interview with Laura.

What I’m Writing

I was pretty consistent about sitting down to write this week, which mostly involved me banging my head against this one piece of writing that I couldn’t figure out how to approach. It was unpleasant, but I think I finally have it figured out, which is good because I was starting to get a headache.

I’m also finding myself excited about the prospect of writing an essay — something I haven’t done since college — about the roles of women in the 1001 Arabian Nights. I’ve started scanning the three volumes on my book shelf for more info and am scouring the internet for information.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish the book review I started and submit it. Complete the first draft of the 1001 Nights essay.

Submission Bonanza

A lot of prep work, but no actual submissions, so I’m at 3/20 for the Submission Bonanza. I’m extending the deadline to July 15th, since I have a chunk of things I can send out, if I just get my sh!t together.

Linky Goodness

Jun 26 2015

Let’s just bask in the moment

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.” – from the ruling

I am ridiculously happy right now.

Jun 22 2015

Dinosaurs and the Apocalypse, or what I watched over the weekend

My weekend was taken up in part by considerable time watching big screen adventures — Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road — both of which were fantastic fun and, as a side note, both using a number of mechanical effects over CGI.

Mad Max-Fury RoadFury Road was my favorite of the two as a long time fan of the Mad Max series. The movie is essentially a single long car chase seen across the apocalyptic wasteland, featuring a spectacular spectacle of mayhem. What hold the movie together are the assortment of badass characters both good and evil, the carefully choreographed stunts and action sequences, and gorgeously haunting cinematography.

Other people have already spoken about how awesome the women are in Fury Road“Mad Max” Is A Feminist Playbook For Surviving Dystopia and Beyond Furiosa: The Unsung Heroines of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ — so, I won’t expand on that.

Instead, I’d like to say that Mad Max is as hard core as he’s ever been. Although he spends the start of the movie as a captive, Tom Hardy portrays a sense of barely contained violence and rage. War Boy (or one of the others) describes him as a feral, and it’s an accurate description. As in previous Mad Max films (Road Warrior and Thunder Dome), Max starts out with a single selfish goal of obtaining only his own survival, perfectly willing to leave others behind to their fate. It’s only after circumstances force him to team up that he eventually begins to fight for a bigger cause.

Jurassic World provided almost the same feeling of wonder and thrill of the first Jurassic Park. The tone and pacing were just what I’d hoped they would be. It didn’t matter that the plot was full of holes or that most of the characters were caricatures. I loved seeing the dinosaurs again (even if they don’t fit the profile according to more modern science) — I loved seeing the ambling brachiosaurus and the stampeding gallimimus and the terrifying intelligence of the velociraptors.

The only thing that really bothered me was was the main chick’s shoes. Her character was already annoying to me anyway, just so clearly arrogant and financially motivated with little time for her nephews, that my friend and I were kind of hoping she’d get chomped on by one of the dinos. On top of that, she decided to go tromping through the jungle and running from giant dinosaurs in ridiculous spiked heels — an act not just impractical but impossible, since the heels would be sinking into the mud the entire time or she would have broken an ankle and died. If she had taken just 30 seconds to switch out for flats, I would have liked her character so much better.

What I’m Reading

Although beautifully written, Atonement by Ian McEwan, is really dragging for me. I suspect that part of my disinterest is due to have seen the movie and having hated the ending. I was told that you have to read the book to understand why it’s a great love story; I’m still skeptical.

I’m also in the process of reading and reviewing Drink, a collection of poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman. In the meantime, you might want to check out this interview with Laura.

What I’m Writing

My social activities took up a lot of my time this week and the rest of my free time was consumed with procrastinating activities (my turn off the screens plan hasn’t quite been implemented yet), so just little fragments of writing happened this week. So, I need to kick into gear this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

Nada. I’m still at a grand total of 3/20 for the month’s Submission Bonanza. Can I manage to send out another 17 submissions before the month is over and make my goal? Yes! Sure! Maybe. We’ll see. Eep!

Linky Goodness

I think I’m going to have to set a personal challenge to try to do each of these 8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.

Also, this lengthy post, Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party, provides an important look at the history and development of how the conservative party works today.

“The enduring Confederate influence on American politics goes far beyond a few rhetorical tropes. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries. 

That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.” 

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.”