Don’t Give Up

July 31, 2011 at 9:54 pm (General, Writing) (, )

Sure, imagine the Josh Groban song wailing at full volume if you’d like, but the sentiment holds true.

In so many areas, not just in writing, we meet temporary failure, frustrations, and setbacks on a daily basis, and sometimes they can build up to the point they seem overwhelming. Sometimes they can even be overwhelming. And it’s unbelievably tempting, when it hits that sunken road, to just say screw it. Let it go. I give up.

Don’t.

Don’t ever, ever give up.

(Unless your goal is to become a serial killer, in which case my advice is: GIVE UP AND GET HELP)

I’m not saying you can’t feel frustrated. We’re all there. When things aren’t going your way, when your goals are consistently stymied, when you want nothing more than to call your friends and have them come over with ice cream/liquor/bad movies/all of the above…that’s okay. Go for it! Ride the frustration, accept it for what it is, allow yourself to wallow in it for a few hours.

Then get up and get back to what you were doing.

And see how you can do it better.

Of course, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes the answer isn’t necessarily improvement, but persistence and patience. Patience. Sucks. We all know that. We’re all there. None of us have to like it, but it can be a necessity. Sometimes, no matter the rejections, we just have to keep going.

My mother’s in the job market right now, and she’s had some amazing interviews, only to be told again and again that she was the second choice. When people make jokes about second place winner being first place loser, they aren’t entirely joking (unless they were the first place person, in which case they’re just being an ass hat). Being in that place, of being good and qualified and exceptional but still not getting the job, is one of the worst places in the world, because it seems like the entire world is conspiring to tell you: You’re just not good enough. You’re unworthy. You might as well give up.

And tonight after our weekly family dinner, my mom turned to me and said that she finally understood a bit more of what it means to be a writer trying to get published; she recognized now the courage it takes to gather everything up and funnel it into a query letter and send it out, hoping against hope that someone- anyone- will want to bite. And she understood better what it feels like when you do get that bite, but the fish ends up slipping the line.

And I told my mom the same thing she’s been telling me my whole life: don’t give up. Keep trying, keep working, keep dreaming, keep doing. Keep on keepin’ on.

Now I’m saying it to you. Whatever your struggle or obstacle, whatever your goal, whatever the forces and actions dragging you down, DON’T GIVE UP. Not every dream comes true, but that shouldn’t ever mean that you stop trying or that you stop working. Belt out Josh Groban if you have to- he’d probably love it- but do whatever you have to do to inspire yourself to take that next step. It doesn’t matter if it’s slow, and it’s okay if it’s painful.

As long as it keeps going.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Heist Society, by Ally Carter

July 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Kat Bishop just wants a normal life. School, homework, set menus in the cafeteria. Predictability. Predictability is a little hard to come by when you’ve been raised in a masterclass high-end family of thieves, but Kat’s walked away from all of it and stolen a life as a normal student at a boarding school. Until her father’s life is endangered by a mob boss convinced Bobby Bishop stole several very important paintings from him. Then, with nothing but a teenage crew and some skills that have gone more rusty than she’d like to admit, Kat’s going to have to do the impossible. Preferably with style.

Imagine every good movie about high end art thieves you’ve ever seen, every impossible stunt, every mastermind plan…hell, every episode of MacGyver…add in a masterful blend of humor, self-consciousness, and ridiculosity, and then put it all in the hands of a group of teenagers. That’s Heist Society.

And it’s brilliant.

Comparisons between an author’s different series are somewhat inevitable, but despite some running gags (compare the hilarious names and prop requirements of the stunts Cammie’s crew and Kat’s crew each suggest, discard, or pull off) this book stands strong against such easy assumptions. Cammie has been studying all her life for the chance to get out there and do things; Kat’s been doing things all her life and craves the chance to stay in and study. They have different backgrounds, different outlooks, different goals, and very VERY different views on people. While who to trust is a strong element of both series, the stakes play out along separate roads and twist the stories into different directions.

This book is an incomparable use of voice and style. The narration swivels across characters at their different tasks, bystanders, even hypotheticals- the “someone would have seen” can be SO hard to use, even harder to use well, but it works here. It really puts you right into the feel of everything. Appearances can be very deceptive, something Kat and her crew use with precision, and what we don’t see and what we see incorrectly are as important as what we do or think we see. There’s also a high degree of risk- there’s really no such thing as a “safe” plan for these people.

Each of the characters are distinct, which can be hard to do in an ensemble cast. They each had distinct talents and comfort zones, each have something specific to bring to the table, but they’re also complex people with the ability to surprise Kat- not to mention their opponents. Gabrielle is amazing. I didn’t want to like her at all because she comes off as such a snot, but there’s a lot more to her than she’s let anyone realize- that she lets Kat and the others see even a bit of that shows how important they are to her. Simon and the Bagshaw brothers aren’t simply lumped together as “the boys”, which can be tempting.

And oh, Hale. W.W. Hale the Fifth (Kat’s been trying for YEARS to figure out what the W’s stand for) is rich boy turned bad boy, more the fun of it than any actual need to steal, but this bad boy has a lot more than art and jewels on his mind. Like probably every other female who’s read this book, I totally fell for Hale, mostly because beneath a startlingly thin layer of charm and moneyed boredom, there’s a deep well of vulnerability. (AND- he has Superman pajamas. I’m sorry, but amazingly HOT rich boy with charm, loyalty, a talent for thievery, AND Superman jammies? Droolworthy!)

Kat is, I think, the most interesting character Carter’s written yet. She’s short-statured and looks even younger than she is (which can go either way in any given situation), she desperately wants to be normal, and yet takes pride in the skills she’s acquired, even if she’d really rather not use them. She’s clever and resourceful, capable of taking some appalling risks, but she also brings in other opinions. She’s simultaneously confident and self-conscious, one of the few ways in which she really comes off as a normal teenager. And yet…the aging effect of her experiences never makes her seem less of a teenager- just less of a ‘normal’ one. The way she looks at things, the ways she grows, are very much a product of her age and background. Most importantly, there’s something uniquely teenager about the ability to have everyone else telling you no and deciding to do it anyway.

This book moves quickly, jumping all over the world in a matter of days, and one of the things I love is just how much work goes into pulling off each and every one of the elaborate heists. Nothing gets to be simple. It’s not as easy as proving to the bad guy that Kat’s dad didn’t steal them, but is instead an ever-increasing array of formidable and at times dangerous tasks that require a vast spread of talents, expertise, and resources.

Reading this book made me desperately wish I owned Cary Grant and Grace Kelly’s To Catch a Thief, which I’m pretty sure had to be on the research list. The pages are filled with humor and wistfulness, action and intelligence, loyalty and betrayal, and above all, inimitable characters that step out of the words and sit beside you to comment on everything.

Heist Society, by Ally Carter, out in stores and joined by its sequel, Uncommon Criminals (review to follow eventually)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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A Bit About Jargon: Signings

July 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm (General, Industry) (, )

It’s a massive book release summer, which means there are also a TON of author tours coming up. Events at Cons, workshops, regular signings…So here’s a bit about that.

1(these are in no particular order): Look before you ask.

Authors generally post tour info on their sites as soon as they have it confirmed. Publishers will also often put big events up on the author pages for their websites. Information is out there about the tours, signings, and other events, with where they’ll be held and what they’ll entail. Before you send an email or tweet or blog comment to the author asking- as eight hundred people in front of you have already asked- when they’re coming to your area, just check the website. THEN, if nothing’s listed anywhere that you can find, ask. But seriously, folks, they get eight million emails from people just like this, and so many of them ask the exact same things again and again. Just do a little research and save your chance for author contact for that burning question you’ve always wanted to ask.

2:When in doubt, check with the venue.

Every signing is going to have slightly different rules and restrictions. Some places you have to show up super early and get wristbands to show your general location in line. Some say you can bring your own books, some say you can bring your own books as long as you also purchase something at the store, some say that you have to purchase your books at the store but can bring them in with the receipt, some say you have to purchase them then and there. Venues will be apprised if the authors (or author handlers for the celebrities) have particular rules about whether or not you can take photos (and if so, whether or not you can get in there with them), whether or not they personalize, whether or not they’ll sign things other than books, as well as how many items people can bring to sign. There are a lot of things that suck more than showing up at a signing having spent money on a ton of books from somewhere else that the author won’t sign, but when it happens, you may or may not be able to think of anything. A simple call to the venue a few days in advance will tell you everything you need to know and save you a lot of hassle.

3: Be respectful.

Signings can vary from half a dozen to half a thousand, but every single other person is there for the exact same reason you are. Well, maybe not the one who was dragged along because he/she is the only one with a license or car but you get the drift. Everyone wants a chance to talk with the author, tell them how much they love the book(s) and gush about the characters and all that. Just be mindful of that. As you’re waiting, don’t begrudge the people in front of you, and when you actually get up to the table, don’t be an ass to the people behind you. It all balances out.

4: There’s a fine, fine line between fan and creeper.

You want to be very, very sure that you fall on the right side of this line. It can be hard to identify sometimes. The things that seem like they’ll be a really cool, funny schtick in theory may come off a little Fatal Attraction in person. Shrieking “OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” can be a fairly normal reaction. Pulling down your pants to show them their name tattooed on your ass? Both illegal and terrifying. When in doubt as to where you fall on the line? Play it safe. It’s hard to get your book signed from the booking cell.

5: Be generous with the thank yous.

This seems like such a no-brainer but really, you’d be astonished at how much it gets overlooked. The author has written (an) amazing book(s) that you absolutely love, has now come (possibly) out the way to do this event, and he or she has just signed your book. Say thank you! And don’t forget the venue staff. Signings are incredibly, intensely stressful. Even when they’re fun, even if they’re small, there’s just SO much to putting them on. Hearing a thank you for a job well done? Definitely makes the event better for the staff.

6: Have fun, but pay extra attention to rule number 3.

You’re there to have fun, to see someone you admire, to get the books signed so you can pet the title page and grin like an idiot for years to come, and maybe some day down the line you can try to explain to your children exactly why they should care that this person scrawled their name in your book. Just remember rule number three.

For everyone who actually gets to attend the signings and Cons and workshops and all the fun shindigs- I’m jealous but happy for you. Go get ’em!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma

July 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Chloe can do anything, if only her sister Ruby says so. She can lasso the moon, or run for miles, or hold her breath forever…or swim across the reservoir and bring back a souvenir from the town beneath the water. Just because Ruby says so. Except…when Chloe discovers the body of one of their friends out on the reservoir, it sets into motion a grave unraveling, and even Ruby may not be able to weave together the fraying threads.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would probably hate this book. Throughout the entire story, there’s a lingering, nagging feeling of “What the hell is going on?” that never fully resolves. Normally that drives me crazy- I like to know what’s going on, if not while it’s happening then at least later, when I can look back and lay it all out- but here’s the strange thing: it works. At any given point, we know just enough of what’s going on to question it. We never accept it blindly, we never simply let it pass us by. Every single moment adds to that nagging feeling, until it’s impossible to discern the reality to which we’re accustomed from the reality of Ruby’s invention.

Which is exactly how Chloe must feel.

Even though Chloe should be used to it- and in many ways, is- there’s always a piece of her that questions it as well. Chloe considers herself just a pale shadow of Ruby, “a pencil drawing of a photocopy of a Polaroid” of her older half-sister. All her life she’s gone along with Ruby, been captivated by the magic of her words into believing anything, but coming into the twilight experience of returning home, Chloe has two significant advantages.

-She knows Ruby, knows her in a way no one else does. She doesn’t always interpret that knowledge well; in many ways, she idolizes her sister, even when face to face with some severe flaws. But everyone else in town- with one notable exception- believes of Ruby whatever Ruby wants them to believe. They know only what she wants them to, sees her only how she wants them to, but Chloe sees more. Chloe is the only one who gets to see behind the sunglasses, as well as the only person who spends a lengthy period of time away from that magnetism.

-She knows what happened that night. Not all of it, not even enough of it, but more than anyone else except Ruby. Face to face with the one thing she knows for a fact is impossible, she has to question everything else, because not even Ruby’s way of twisting events can change what she knows happened.

At its heart, this is a story about sisters, about the ties that weave so closely between them that it can be hard to tell where one picks up and the other ends. It’s about love and protection, about wanting to do what’s best- if not always what’s right- about knowing that in the face of everything else, there is one person you can count on for anything and everything- even when those things seem impossible. Chloe isn’t blind to her sister’s faults, to her stranger behaviors, but she’s used to them. They’re simply part and parcel of who Ruby is. And despite her mercurial protections of Chloe, protections that frequently border on possessive, obsessive, and belittling, Ruby really would do anything for her.

Which, it turns out, is the heart of the problem.

The bond between these sisters, as well as the consequences, are at turns gripping, haunting, off-putting, disturbing, frightening, beautiful, elegant, raw, and so many other aspects that all merge together into a single, deceptively fragile-seeming concept that can only be called sisterhood. Amidst all the unreality that seeps through everything Ruby touches, that one thread is terrifyingly, beautifully real.

In addition to Ruby and Chloe, however, there’s another main player in this game: Olive. Fun fact time: as the water needs of New York City continued to grow, the decision was made to expand and create several massive resevoirs upstate, from which water could be piped down into the city. Not all of these areas were uninhabited (in fact, there were quite a few towns in the way) so the order was given to evacuate. Not everyone took that order with any intention of obeying it. Chloe and Ruby live on the edge of one of these reservoirs, where water ripples over the ghost of the town named Olive, where every man, woman, and child stayed put in their homes even as the horns and bells were going off to warn the valleys that the water was coming. Though its roads and houses stand far beneath the surface, Olive is every part as key and dynamic a player in events as the sisters.

Olive is, in every aspect of the word, haunting. It isn’t just the shiver that runs down your spine when you think of that many people sitting in their homes waiting to drown. It isn’t just the shudder that steals your breath when you imagine swimming over the watery grave of those same people. It’s that there’s something unexpectedly lovely about it too, the idea of loving your home that much, the feeling of community that no one left, even though they could. And according to Ruby, the folk of Olive are still alive. They look a little different now, and they breathe water instead of air, but they’re still there, going about their lives in the basin of the reservoir. What the people of Olive want, they get, and those who trespass over their waters are theirs.

Except, perhaps, if there’s a trick.

This isn’t a book that rivets you from page one. The first few chapters are leisurely affairs, full of beautiful prose that serves more to illustrate the nature of the sisters and of Olive than to wrap a hand around your heart and squeeze. It’s like serenely gliding across the surface of the reservoir, taking in the sights with the eyes of a neutral observer.

Until someone reaches up from Olive, wraps a cold, slimy hand around your ankle, and yanks you down into the depths and a welter of confusion where nothing can truly be trusted as real or not real. Then, long after you’ve finally clawed your way back to sunlight and broken through the surface with a heaving gasp, you know it hasn’t really let you go.

Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma, out in stores now.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Good People: They DO Exist!

July 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm (General)

Just as fair warning, this post has absolutely nothing to do with reading, writing, publishing, or selling books.

It really doesn’t.

BUT- this post is about people, which in the end is what the other stuff is all about, right?

As a culture, I think we sometimes look at books and movies that have good people doing randomly good things as a convenient way out of a real problem. Something’s wrong? Oh, let’s have a good Samaritan type come along and totally fix it for them so we don’t have to put our hero/heroine in a trying and or time-consuming situation. Hero has to get across town in five minutes or the city hall is gonna blow but he has no car and no cash? Here, have the super-religious taxi man give him a free ride out of charity and basic good spirits.

…okay, that’s a lame example, but you get my drift. We look at basic good deeds, done without any sense of repayment or superiority, as fictional. We look for the ulterior motives, we shove the concept off to join the deus ex machina moments, and when we come across it in a book or movie, we call it unbelievable and scoff at the writers for taking the easy way out.

BUT THESE PEOPLE REALLY EXIST.

AND I HAVE PROOF!

I’ve got a friend named Amanda (Hi, Amanda!) who decided to throw a huge End of Harry Potter Party about two hours south of me. I requested off work, scraped together a costume that didn’t involve spending any money or digging out the clothes that don’t fit properly anymore, drove down, and had a blast. We all hung out at the hotel room before hand playing games and watching fan-made stuff and then the first Deathly Hallows, we got to the theater super early and got great seats, and then after the movie, we had s’mores by the pool and gushed about the movie for HOURS, and then there was even more fun afterwards. Seriously, didn’t go to bed until eight in the morning. We got up, we cleaned the rooms, got everything packed up and in the cars.

And then, as I was leaving the hotel parking lot, I noticed my car was driving kind of funny. The straight ways were okay, though something still felt off, but the turns were horrible. So, being a very tiny bit smarter about cars than I used to be, I decided to pull over before I got on the interstate and check it out. I pulled over into a McDonald’s in a not particularly fantastic part of town and got out to look around the car.

My front right tire was flat.

CRAP.

There’s nothing visibly wrong with it- except for, you know, being flat- but I don’t really trust my ability with or knowledge of cars to trust taking it to the gas station and just shoving air in it. Wouldn’t really know how much to put in it anyway. And it went from normal to flat over the course of the night, but no telling when it actually started leaking, so no guarantee it wouldn’t go flat again on the drive home. I know I have a spare, but the last time I had a flat tire (because someone forced me onto a curb that took a chunk of rubber with it), my brother swapped it out for the spare while I was at work.

(And put it on wrong in a way that would have killed me if that one lonely, brave little lug nut hadn’t clung to the bolt for dear life, but I’m still grateful that he took the time and effort to do it)

That presented a problem, though. I had no idea how to change the tire.

While I was getting my spare out of the trunk- a Herculean effort given the amount of crap I have sitting on top of the case- I did what any smart, resourceful, but clueless-in-the-ways-that-really-count girl would do: I called my brother. The other one, first, who used to work with cars for a living, except he was eight minutes away from starting previews for Harry Potter. And in Indiana, but I knew that much when I called him. He walked me through the steps, what all I would need to do (always loosen and tighten the lug nuts in a criss cross pattern, not around the circle!) and how to safely drive a 120 miles on a spare meant to go 50-90 at max.

When I hung up with him, a woman who had come out of McDonald’s asked if she could help, to which my answer was a fervent YES, OH MY GOD THANK YOU. Except…I couldn’t find my jack and she didn’t have one. Whoops. But she had offered, which was really nice of her.

So I called my other brother, the one who had changed out the tire the first time (never mind that he did it wrong) because hey, he used my jack, so he MUST know where it is, right? Eventually. I get out the jack, figure out how to work it, and then spend ten minutes down on my knees on the parking lot trying to figure out exactly where it is I’m supposed to put it.

Oh by the way, this is south Florida in July- it’s 110 in the shade and muggy as hell. I was DRIPPING, which just made everything that much more fun.

So as I’m kneeling down playing with the jack with the phone still glued to my ear, a guy walks up with his ten-year-old son and asks if he can help.

To which my answer was a fervent OH MY GOD THANK YOU YES.

I know nothing about this man. I know he calls his son Buddy, I know his wife is called Cam (she called while he was helping me to ask why he was running late for something), and I know under normal circumstances he’s the kind of guy I’d laugh at for a yuppie. Untucked polo shirt, dress loafers without socks, white pants, baked tan, that kind of thing. But he knelt down on the asphalt without any thought to those white pants and figured out where to put the jack and then- wonder of wonders- he didn’t just change the tire for me. He talked his way through each step for me AND his son- he taught both of us how to change a tire. I learned to loosen the lug nuts a little while it’s still on the ground so you have the leverage to really push at the wrench. I learned (or at least I think I learned, because I’m not really sure even now) which direction the spare goes on (it doesn’t actually say on the tire; I checked).

And then he wouldn’t even let me buy them drinks to cool off after we were broiling in the sun. He just said he was glad he could help and they headed on to wherever they were going. They hadn’t even been at the McDonald’s. They’d been someplae all the way across the parking lot, already running a little bit late, but they saw me digging the spare out of the back and came over to help.

GOOD PEOPLE REALLY DO EXIST.

They’re still out there! Just when you want to believe that everything sucks, that the world is out to screw you over and laugh at your pain, that there is in fact a cosmic spite button and all of its consequences are aimed directly at you…you find good people. People who just want to help others, who see something they can do to help a stranger and do it without any wish of repayment or renumeration or glory. People who are running late and have a kid in the car and are wearing white pants but still drive across a big-ass parking lot to help a girl who’s saying very unladylike things to her car.

I would have been screwed, otherwise. I don’t have AAA, I don’t know if my insurance covers flats and didn’t have a way to check, I have some kind of roadside assistance thing with my phone but no idea what it covers or what it costs, and I am FLAT BROKE. At that point I wouldn’t have cared if city hall blew up because I was never going to escape the McDonald’s parking lot.

And those are the people we write about. If it sometimes seems overly convenient, well, we don’t need the random help when everything’s going fine. People don’t stop and ask you if you need help if you don’t look like you need it. And true, his helping me change my tire didn’t prevent a bomb from going off in the city hall. But it helped me get HOME. And next time I have a flat tire, I know how to change it, because he taught me how to do it rather than just doing it for me. I don’t have to be the helpless female next time.

And I know that if I have a chance to do that favor for someone else, I will.

Good people really do exist. They’re not just a writerly affectation or a nostalgic throwback to a brighter day when people were chivalrous and ladies were escorted on gentlemen’s arms, they really do exist here and now. So if you encounter one of these good people: THANK THEM. Hug them, if it won’t creep them out. Tell them how absofrickinlutely amazing they are.

And then, if you really want to even the scales: be one of those good people for someone else.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George

July 13, 2011 at 9:00 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Without a name, a child cannot be baptized, and trolls have been known to steal unbaptized children, but when her mother refuses to name her over her displeasure at bearing another girl, the baby becomes simply the pika, or girl. Her favorite brother Hans Peter calls her Lass. One day, however, an act of mercy to a white hart gives her a secret name and the ability to speak with animals. It’s only the beginning of the Lass’ adventure, for shortly after, a white bear comes to their home and insists she spend a year living in his palace. In this heartfelt retelling of an old Nordic tale, the Lass will follow her heart east of the moon and west of the sun to set things to rights, and along the way she’ll encounter hope and despair, kindess and cruelty, compassion and selfishness, all in a world so much bigger than the simple woodcutter’s house she calls home.

I’ve probably mentioned before how much I love retellings. There’s just something amazing to me about taking a story that’s already well loved and making it even more, of personalizing it and- in the case of some stories- making it more accessible. Most people don’t know the old Nordic tales. Not just the sweeping sagas but the simpler folk tales tend to get missed in favor of stories that are easier to find, the more traditional fairy tales. I grew up familiar with the story this is based on (East of the Sun, West of the Moon) because my mother’s family is Swedish and Norwegian. Her great-aunts swore in Swedish, cooked with measurements like pinch, dash, and skosh, and were six foot tall busty blondes who lived actively and energetically into their late 90’s. They told my grandmother and mother, my grandmother and mother told me, so I grew up on this story and always loved it. It was like a Scandinavian Beauty and the Beast, but SO much cooler.

This is a story that unfolds slowly, that really builds the world around you so you feel the ache of a winter that’s lasted far too long. The Lass is the youngest of nine children, each of them distinct in their own ways, each of them with different sets of expectations laid upon them by their mother Frida. She’s closest to Hans Peter, the eldest, who was away for many years on a voyage and came back greatly changed. He spends his days by the hearth now, carving figurings he soon burns, weighed down by sorrow and a haunting experience he won’t speak of even to the Lass.

It takes strength to thrive within emotional neglect, and the Lass shows that strength again and again. She isn’t unloved- her father and Hans Peter both adore her, and her siblings to varying degrees; even Frida would probably admit to loving her youngest if pressed- but despite the dangers presented by having no name, she doesn’t let herself become crippled by fear or doubt. When adventure presents itself, along with a way to help her family, she takes it. Most girls wouldn’t go off with an enormous bear that would as soon eat you as not, but she does, and she adjusts to the strange life in the northern palace with her spellbound companions.

At first this seems like a story about gaining- gaining a name, gaining chances and advancement- but it’s also a story about loss. It’s not just the family she left behind but also the sense of loss that pervades her new companions and the stories written into the ice walls of the palace. Sorrow weaves through her companions, sorrow without hope of surcease, with a painful dignity won by the sheer press of years and experience- a sorrow much like that which weighs down her brother.

It’s also a mystery, a story of clues and secrets and the careful, cautious search to unravel them and piece everything together. Clearly a talking bear who lives in a palace with bound servants unlike any human form presents a puzzle, as does the appearance of a strange man in her bed each night who makes no move to touch or harm her but also refuses to sleep elsewhere. The Lass has to be careful about it- the forces at work within these puzzles show no hesitation to punish the creatures under its thrall, and it’s incredibly painful to the Lass to know that others are dying as a direct result of her efforts.

The journey that unfolds is beautiful, not just in a physical sense of the world the Lass explores, but the people and creatures she encounters on the way. Everything is connected, sometimes in a delicate, tenuous fashion that could break with the slightest stress, and sometimes with chains so solid it seems impossible they could ever break. Each grace she’s given, every kindness, gives her greater strength, and each obstacle forces her to use that newly won strength. It may be slow but it’s far from stagnant, and every step of the way stirs the blood.

There’s an incredible journey, joy and loss, new friends, sacrifices born of love like no other, and the strength that comes of a lifetime of untenable odds. This is a beautiful story, a masterful retelling, and a book to lose yourself in.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Juicy Juice!

July 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm (General, Writing) (, , )

No, not the drink box, though now that I’m thinking about it… *craving*

I actually got back from vacation a little over a week ago but immediately went into a straight week and a half of work without any days off. Eep! There was much exhaustion and brain-deadness.

But the vacation was amazing, and exactly what I needed. Funny, really, given that I accomplished far, far less than I expected to while I was up there. But exactly what was needed.

Books read: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma; Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter; Nightspell by Leah Cypess; Trial By Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes; and several old stories/manuscripts of my own (there was a healthy dose of nostalgia there, I admit).

Books I meant to read while I was up there: Shadowcry by Jenna Burtenshaw; Hereafter by Tara Hudson; Hourglass by Myra McEntire; Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly; Blood Red Road by Moira Young; The Revenant by Sonia Gensler; The Dark City and The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher; A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young; and Graveminder by Melissa Marr. Whoops.

Writing done: none, but that’s okay, I wasn’t actually planning on doing any. I finished a solid round of edits at the end of May and needed to let that project sit before I went back through it, and hadn’t decided what project I was going to tackle next. Had some ideas bouncing around but they weren’t settling firmly enough that I could actually start writing anything.

Research done: TONS, and for two separate projects. I went up there with books about animals and a whole list of critters I needed to study. In addition to the books, my sister and I hit up the zoo one day. A ZOO! I’d forgotten how much fun zoos can be. There was a peacock wandering around the grounds. Just…wandering around, strolling, picking up any food the kiddos dropped, and then running like hell away from said kiddos if they showed an interest in tugging his tail. No peahens around, so he wasn’t attacking anyone, but he very obviously considered the park his turf. Were all of the animals ones I needed to know about? Not at all. In fact, most of them weren’t. But those that were I got to see up close and personal. Like seeing the bobcat sprawl out on a branch like a housecat, licking its paws and looking like an only slightly larger version of my enormously fat cat at home. Like the lynx that could barely be seen because it hid beside a tangle of logs, shy and silent. And the otters! Ridiculously cute! Came back with lots of notes on animals, lots of pictures, and lots of jokes.

On that project, what also proved invaluable was just beaing able to sit down with my sister and toss ideas back and forth. That particular project is a rewrite of a trilogy I wrote a few years ago and I’m having some trouble figuring out the ways some things need to change. So my sister and I spun them out. She sees things differently than I do, so when I toss out a possibility, she sees the consequences and ripples differently than I do. By spinning them out, we can dissect whether or not the impact is actually going to fall in line with what I want. There’s still more to do; I know a fair amount of the changes that need to be made, but there are others that are still more nebulous. Until I figure out some of those very basic pieces, I can’t really start writing.

But then…oh, but then, there was Gettysburg.

Which probably requires some explanation.

My dad is a history buff, and he’s always been particularly attracted to the Civil War. I grew up so bored of Civil War talk and I absolutely hated it when he dragged us to battlefields or museums or such not. It got a little better when I got into high school and fell in love with history, got even better when I hit a major Civil War phase near the end of college and started doing independant research for a project that never really got off the ground. I think I just needed to come to it on my own to become equally fascinated by it.

Gettysburg is about two hours from my sister and we have a friend that had semi-recently made a trip there and was telling us about it, so we decided to go. We ended up going twice.

There’s something about Gettysburg that terrifies and fascinates in equal parts. The scope is huge. The battlefield sprawls for miles, literally through the town itself, and as you’re doing the auto tour, you’re passing monuments that are actually in people’s front yards. There are monuments everywhere- EVERYWHERE- which helps give an idea of just how many individual units were involved in this struggle. Many of the officers on both sides of the Civil War served together in the Mexican War, which was the beginning of a turning point in how warfare was conducted. At that point, casualties were still measured in hundreds.

In the Civil War, they were measured in thousands. At Gettsyburg alone, sixty-some-odd thousand over a three day span and its aftermath.

Years ago, that vague project never really left the ground, and I was okay with that. The idea never finished forming. But, as we were going through the auto tour, through town, through the museum and the cyclorama and even the gift shop, that idea was niggling at the back of my mind. We went to dinner at the Old Dobbin House Tavern, we went on a ghost tour, we heard stories from the fringes of the battleground and the terrible, horrific aftermath, and the idea started forming some more. I wrote out some notes, sketched some character ideas, and then it just started running.

So now I’m neck deep in Civil War research and absolutely loving it, looking so forward to being able to start the actual writing. I’ve got a LOT of research to do first. I’ve never given a serious attempt to writing historical fiction; there are reasons for that. But I love this story already and I think it’ll be worth it.

For that alone, it wouldn’t matter if I’d ended up doing NOTHING else productive on my vacation.

The trip wasn’t all about reading and writing, of course. We did SO MUCH, the perfect balance between running around like crazy doing things and sitting on the couch staring mindlessly at the TV. I have a newfound appreciation for Disney Channel shows (LOVE Phineas and Ferb!), as well as Say Yes to the Dress, and Big Fat Gypsy Wedding outright terrifies me. We hit up a theme park, toured some graveyards, the Old Jail at Jim Thorpe where they hung the Molly Maguires (okay, so maybe my historical interests take on a somewhat morbid bent, it’s all still gorgeous), we hung out with friends at a coffeehouse for truly horrible open mic nights, and we spent an entire weekend at an amazing music festival.

It was truly a break from the routine, and now that I’m back, I feel completely recharged. Coming back to work is a bit of a readjustment but I left Florida feeling rather lost as far as where I needed to go next. I had vague ideas, even some solid ideas, on projects but none of them were enough to actually go off of. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a project without knowing what I was tackling next after a break for reading.

And now I’m all juiced up again! I have a to-do list and a stack of books and a nearly as impressive stack of notes already and despite the daunting nature of the tasks ahead of me, I am ridiculously eager.

Vacations can be rough to manage, they can be expensive (oh my GOD THEY CAN BE EXPENSIVE), but they absolutely are absolutely worth it.

And now, being all juiced up again, the blog recommences! Welcome back!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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