Farewell, 2012

December 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm (General) (, , , , , )

2012 flew by so bizarrely for me that any attempt to do a true retrospective can’t but come off as stilting, but there were some things that happened this year that will always make this year stick out in my mind.

I learned a lot about myself as an author this year. I learned my habits, both good and bad, learned some of the things that do or do not work for me in a big way. I learned what it means for me to pace myself. I learned my limits- more importantly I learned which are hard limits and which I need to push.

I signed with an agent, someone who gets me. Someone who can look at a story so creepy even I can’t help but cringe and say she loves it- honestly. There are corners of my brain that are very dark and twisty, that produce scenes or even whole books that are so thoroughly, grotesquely creeptastic almost anyone would have me committed, and Sandy gives me full permission to take my characters and go play there. We can also, in the middle of an ongoing exchange about edits and cover ideas, have a conversation about David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King’s unambiguous bulge. Welcome to the professional world. I am incredibly, profoundly grateful for meeting and signing with Sandy. She’s honest with me about what works and what doesn’t, and even if I mention I’m thinking of pursuing an oddball idea, she justs says go for it, we’ll see how it turns out. She’s more than a champion for my work- she’s a champion for me, someone who can beautifully time something personal or something absurd.

I learned that all those worries and frets and neuroses don’t go away when you sign with an agent- they just graduate into something more complicated and challenging. Somehow when A Wounded Name, then Elsinore Drowning, was on submission, it occured to me that an agent isn’t simply tossing your work and your reputation out there to editors- an agent also stakes his or her own reputation on your work. An agent takes you on as a gamble, as the risk they’re putting forward into believing your work will sell. And they’re sending your work to people who may or may not want to gamble more money on you. I have a complicated relationship with money, and a decidedly odd perspective on numbers because of it, but as soon as the business comes into the art, the neuroses ratchet up.

I learned that being personable as an author is very, VERY different from being personable in retail. I am a shy, self-conscious, and socially awkward individual, I truly am. I’ve worked retail for more than eight years now, so I’ve learned how to appear not to be, but when you’re Bookseller or Cashier or some faceless position, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do and interact on an acceptably non-dysfunctional level, that’s about as much effort as you have to put into it. Do I put more effort in? Yes, because that’s how I was raised, and if I have to spend forty hours a week doing a job other than writing, I at least want to spend more time smiling than not. But, in a different arena, the difficulty can be much greater. On the phone with my day job, I’m answering questions with easy answers. Yes or no we have that, yes or no we can order that, this or that is the problem and yes or no we can fix it. It sometimes takes some ingenuity to answer a question (Um, I saw this book somewhere like five years ago, and it might have a red cover, or maybe black? Maybe there was dragon in the title? Or on the cover? Or maybe it was just in the story? Oh, and it was written by a dude. I think) but in the end, the answers are all right there, and nearly all of us can give the same answer to the majority of the questions.
As an intensely shy person, it’s a lot easier for me to be personable and put myself forward when I’m representing an established company. My work is less reflective of myself than it is of the company that trained me and employs me. When left to my own devices, or more importantly when left to adequately represent myself…it’s nerve-wracking. And when I’m nervous, I have this stupid little laugh, which just makes me more nervous. I’m constantly afraid of being tongue-tied, or just sounding like an idiot. I’m worried about giving the wrong answer, I’m worried about coming across as too forceful on some points, or too weak in others. I know that I can come off as a snob (and in some aspects, I am a snob, I can admit that at least) and it makes me paranoid about offending people. And it’s not just talking on the phone that’s so difficult.
Seriously.
I can be am awkward in emails. And that’s supposed to be the thing you can fall back on to NOT be awkward.
But this is all part of what being an author is. You have to reach out and communicate with people. You have to be able to represent yourself intelligently and well, you have to be able to carry on comfortable communication. I’m not sure I’m there yet. I become accustomed to people, and the worry decreases a little, but it takes a while, and there are so many new people to meet and speak with. We’ll call improving this one of my working goals of 2013.

I sold a book.

I SOLD A BOOK. But it wasn’t just me- it was also Sandy, it was also all those editors and editors’ assistants who read my work and gave responses, and it was the editor who said YES. I am incredibly grateful to be working with Andrew. He’s amazing. I think one of the biggest job requirements of being an editor- other than a skill for wrangling neurotic writers- is a boundless imagination, and Andrew takes a little boy’s unabashed pleasure in exploring all the possibilities of a manuscript. Reading the differences between the submission draft and what’s become more or less the final draft (minus pass pages, which haven’t happened yet) is astounding. And the thing is, I’m still very, very proud of the draft that went out on submission. BUT IT’S LIKE A MILLION TIMES BETTER NOW. That is an editor’s gift, something Andrew possess in abundance (in addition to a deep patience for my sending him questions that make me cringe with how I stupid I perceive them to be). In the course of this year, I went from someone desperately wanting to see my book on the shelf someday to someone who WILL see my book on the shelf someday. A finite day, in fact, sometime in the fall of 2013.

I have learned so much about the process of publishing, a journey that still fills me with shock and awe and wonder and a profound sense of gratitude.

And that may be one of the biggest things I’ve learned this year. Not that I was an ungrateful buttmunch before this year, but there are the things you’re grateful for, and there are the things that fill you with gratitude. There are these moments where suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, you’re just aware. I love that when I find really funny, REALLY inappropriate jokes about Hamlet, I have someone I can send them to- and who sends them to me in return. Really late on Christmas Eve, I woke up to find an email from an author I really admire both personally and professionally, whose debut novel filled me with a lingering love of words and rhythms, saying she wanted to blurb my book. I’ll release details when I can, but I spent the next…oh, two hours, at least, as Christmas Eve passed into Christmas morning, sprawled on bed and intermittently giggling with sheer euphoria. My emotions on Christmas Eve/early morning are complicated at the best of times (house fires born from Advent candles will do that to you) and this was astounding. I am constantly in awe of the Young Adult community, not just the readers but the authors as well. I grew up in theatre- even in the midst of close friendships, there’s always competition, because only one person can have That Role. The Young Adult writing community is so incredibly welcoming it’s almost terrifying. Even shy little people like me, that can really only handle making a few new friends at a time, has a place. You have a triumph and suddenly SO MANY PEOPLE are saying YAY. And meaning it. There’s no jealousy, no sense of displacement, no cliqueyness. It’s astonishing, and it’s wonderful.

I’ve mostly told my frequently revoked Adult License to go screw itself.
I may technically be an adult, but it’s bizarre how little significance that word has for anything. I live on my own, I pay my bills, I work for my living, and if I want to get something and have the funds I can, without any sort of explanation or justification. I still don’t feel like an adult. If I’m in the apartment, I am in my pajamas. I don’t wear them outside any more, except on laundry day, but seriously? There are stuffed animals on my bed. I still eat Lucky Charms. This Christmas I got a bathrobe with a penguin-head hood and it MADE MY DAY. And there are all these worries. I look at my bank account and worry, I look at my bills and worry, I think about putting gas in the car and wonder if there’s enough and I HATE IT. That worry? That endless stress about income and expense? That’s what I associate with being an adult. I had an apartment in college, had a job, had bills, but most of that was done with a greal deal of help, and the fact of being in classes, of having a set schedule and homework and teachers/professors in aspects of authority, that all contributed to this sense of isolationism, like the real world was still beyond the hedges somewhere. That feeling is, I think, what the basis of New Adult should be, but just as Young Adult started off in one area and grew, I think New Adult will as well.

I’ve learned that sometimes you can do your absolute best, do everything you should, and yet sometimes things just suck. Things just fall apart, or turn into a complete cock-up, and it’s not your fault.

I’ve learned, once again, that people can do senselessly horrible things.

I’ve learned, once again, that people can do senselessly wonderful things.

I’ve learned that Richard Armitage is really, really hot.

REALLY hot.

I’ve learned to let things go. To look at what’s before me, and what’s behind me, and say no, this isn’t going to work, or no, this isn’t the person I want to be. It’s not easy- I don’t suppose it’ll ever be easy- but I can let it go.

2013 is going to be a strange year. My book is coming out in less time than it takes to carry a healthy baby. I’m going to be speaking at a local writer’s group meeting in February and doing a signing at BEA in May/June, and I’m terrified because this is so far out of my comfort zone but at the same time, this is what I signed up for. I have new projects lined up for next year, and a couple of them scare the bejeezus out of me- and I’m so excited for them I can hardly see straight, because that fear, that thrill of adrenaline, is what gives me the courage to tackle those exciting stories. I’ll have to make some decisions regarding priorities- which includes this blog and how I schedule/structure posts. Over the course of this year, I’ll be meeting authors I really admire, and holy hell, how am I going to be able to keep from fangirling all over them? Because yes, they’re artists whose work I adore, but they’re also (strange as it seems to say it) colleagues, but they’re colleagues who cheer each other on, and yes, flail about each other’s work in the best ways possible.
2013 is going to include a fair share of rejections, I’m sure, but hopefully there will also be a measure of acceptances, of the book I’m releasing and the books I hope to sell. So far my book is still this little baby held close to my heart where very few can touch it, but once galleys go out, it’s out of my hands. People will have the choice to read it, and they’ll love it/hate it/want to burn it as they choose. That’s terrifying, and the prospect feeds right into some of the worst of my neuroses.
Which is another goal for 2013: try to rein in some of the more neurotic tendencies unless they feed directly into being productive.

2012 has flown by in such a way that it almost feels unreal that it’s over in a few hours, but this has been a year of such change, of such personal growth, that I can say it’s been a very good year, a better year than I’ve had in a really long time.

And that, as does so much else, brings my mind circling back to that wondrous sense of gratitude.

And that, too, I’m grateful for.

Until next year~
Cheers!

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Shock and Awe

December 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm (Uncategorized)

Some days you just aren’t prepared for.

I’ve mentioned before that I work in a bookstore. Recently, my store hosted a signing for author and Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld, and after the event, we had a large number of signed books to display. Because of the number of books, because they were signed, because of the high interest our community had in the book, we displayed them prominently in the front of the store. It’s a political book, one that’s sharply divisive, one that will make its readers feel either vindicated or vilified.

It’s called The Joy of Hate.

Why am I talking about this?

Because today, while I was working near the front of the store, a very nice, well-intentioned older woman approached me and said she was concerned “about the message you’re sending” by having “such a book” in front of the doors where everyone can see it. At first I didn’t think anything of it. It’s a political book- we always get complaints about political books. We get complaints about the books we have and the books we don’t have. Conservatives accuse us of having a liberal agenda, liberals accuse of a conservative agenda, and there’s simply no way to arrange things in a way that makes everyone happy. We’ve long since given up trying. So, thinking this was a complaint like any other, I politely explained that the books were displayed so prominently because we’d just had an event with the author, and autographed books often make very nice Christmas gifts.

And she shook her head, and said “but spreading hate, especially after that shooting today…all those children. You should be better people.”

It felt like a physical blow, largely because I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. I thought about explaining that the book is not, as far as I know, about encouraging hate, but rather (if the description is anything to go by) about the insincerity of enforced tolerance and the dangers of being ‘politically correct’ at the expense of being honest. I have not read the book- I don’t intend to read the book- but from the preparation for the event, that was the impression I got. And you know, it doesn’t actually matter what the book is about, because that’s not really the point. I didn’t even know what shooting the woman was talking about, didn’t know what she meant about ‘all those children’, but I was baffled that the first thought of someone in the wake of what I assumed was a tragedy was to censor and judge others based on incomplete and inaccurate information.

Then I came home, turned on my computer, and the first thing I saw when I pulled up my browser was the wikipedia headline about the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I’m not sure what it says- about me, about our country, about our times- that my first thought was “Please God, won’t these ever end?” but my first feeling was shock. Pure, unadulterated shock and pain.

We live in a country of guns, and where there are guns, there will be accidents, there will be deaths, and sometimes there will be massacres. It’s horrible, but there’s also a certain degree of inevitability to it. People die every single day from gunshot wounds that come from a variety of reasons. Whether guns are legal or not, no matter how tightly or loosely they’re regulated, the simple fact that we can access guns means that people will die from gunshot wounds. We expect that.

But we never expect them to be children.

Someone on my facebook feed posted a question: why is everyone so shocked, since this sort of thing seems to happen all the time in the USA? It should be noted, though this really doesn’t change the comment, that this person is not American. And yes, incidents involving schools and guns do happen here more than in other countries- the reasons for that are enormous and largely obvious and the focus of many, MANY battles, battles to which you can contribute. It isn’t just that we have access to guns, it’s that we have EASY access to guns, and guns make it very easy to kill large numbers of people in small measures of time. As long as we live in a gun culture, as long as it’s easier to get a gun than to get a job or basic healthcare, people will get guns and other people will die because of it. Even if we hate it, we expect it.

But even if it happened every day (and thank God it doesn’t), we should always, ALWAYS be shocked.

Schools are supposed to be safe places. Our parents send us to schools on the expectation that we’ll be safe, that we’ll be supervised and cared for. Schools are shelters in times of trouble- in natural disasters, in community need- and schools act as one of the strongest influences in a child’s life. Our education in large part helps to define who we are as people, shapes our outlook and our prospects and our expectations. As traumatic as school can be- with bullies in the form of both teachers and students, with cliques, with puberty, with lessons we don’t always understand and work we can’t always stay on top of, with all the personal entanglements that crushes of people bring- schools are supposed to be safe.

It should always be a shock to be confronted with the fact that they’re not always.

It should always be a shock when people make the decision to walk into a school and open fire.

It should always be a shock when people die in what should be a safe place.

I remember Paducah. I remember Jonesboro. I remember Springfield. I remember sitting in my middle school cafeteria, laughing and joking with my friends, and falling still when the loudspeaker called for our attention to announce that there was a shooting in progress in Columbine High School. I remember sitting there and shaking because I had cousins in Littleton, one of them in high school, and I didn’t know what high school he went to. A month or so later, I was part of a staged reading of an incredibly powerful play called Bang, Band, You’re Dead, and I remember the fierce parental opposition of large portions of the student body because they didn’t want their children scared and scarred by such a play, and I remember why we finally won permission to put on the reading: because we were already scared, and we were already scarred. Now we were just trying to understand.

And I remember Virginia Tech, remember trying to make sense of it in the only way I nearly every made sense of incomprehensible things: through writing. I was in a playwriting class at the time, where through the course of the semester we wrote three ten minute plays, and it was through one of those assignments that I tried to make sense of it.

Tried to understand.

And finally had to accept that I could spend the rest of my life exploring it, but I would never, ever understand.

Everyone has heard “Write what you know” but we go far beyond that. We don’t know what it is to have magic, to ride a dragon, to travel for generations on a space ship. We don’t know what it is to have genetic mutations that give us extra powers. Most of us will never know what it’s like to be in jail, to have the mind-shattering trauma that too many people experience. I’ve often that that saying should be adjusted. Start with what you know- then write what you don’t know. Writing is an exploration, a tentative probe into the realm of all we don’t know or understand, and we hopefully come away from the words on the page with comprehension, or at least a better acquaintance.

I’ve written madness and murder, death and destruction, rape and war, given them life on the page and tried to understand why some of my characters would do these things.

And then I read the news, and I know that my characters do them because real people do them.

But I don’t, and will never, understand why real people do them.

I will never understand why someone would open fire in public, killing people he or she has never even met. I am incapable of understanding why anyone would kill children.

I’ve grown up around guns, I live in a county where guns are common, where hunting is a Big Thing, where gun racks are less accessory than interpreted necessity. I’ve shot guns, and I’ve lived with guns in the house. I will never understand why we make it so easy to get them, why we can’t look at numbers and facts and immutable data and not come to the conclusion that something has to be done- and I don’t understand why we don’t simply do it. I will never understand how, when massacre is a regular part of our situational language, people can look at dead children (or dead of any age) and not want to do anything they can to prevent it from happening again.

But I am in awe of the way people pull together in the wake of tragedies, how they reach out with love and support and aid. I am in awe of how people from around the world share their sorrow. I am in awe of the strength, of the capacity for compassion and kindness innate in mankind. In the midst of so much horror and violence and ugliness, in the midst of the devestation a single incomprehensible mind can create, I am awed by the beauty of the better aspects of man’s soul.

I’m grateful for the awe.

But I’m also grateful for the shock- not for the events that cause it, but for the fact that, despite how battered we are by tragedy and death, we are still stunned by it. We still don’t expect it.

And that gives me hope, even if it’s small and frail. Some things we will never understand, but it is to our credit that we unite and stand against them.

To all those who lost friends, family, students, or teachers today, to all those who’ve been affected by today’s events, my thoughts and prayers are with you all, as are the well-wishes and deep support of countless others around the world.

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Round 1 vs Round 2

December 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm (Writing) (, , , )

I mentioned a few times that my NaNo project was a rewrite, so I thought it might be interesting to do some first draft comparisons now that the numbers are all in.

I wrote the First Version in early 2008. It was my first time writing YA, and for a while it refused to settle into a voice. Somewhere in a folder I still have the paperclipped stash where the first two chapters were written in first person, then rewritten in third. Then I ignored both of them and started over in first. I don’t have the day by day breakdowns, partly because this was before I started doing that. Writing by hand meant that I didn’t really have a good grasp of word count, either per day or per chapter, and even though I typed up each chapter as I finished instead of waiting for the end, I didn’t really understand at that point how word count was supposed to translate.

(As proof, I offer you the word count of the novel I wrote for my college honors thesis: 215K+. I so wish I was joking)

But, I do have the chapter counts.

Prologue: 286 (yes, it had a prologue, and worse, it was one of those that drops you present tense into the middle of a high-octane moment, then takes you back however long for the beginning of the story)
Chapter 1: 7895 (waaaaay too long for a chapter, as I didn’t understand at that point)
Chapter 2: 7805
Chapter 3: 7758
Chapter 4: 7875
Chapter 5: 10665 (and no, I didn’t accidentally include an extra number in there, that’s really how long it was)
Chapter 6: 8161
Chapter 7: 5107
Chapter 8: 7173
Chapter 9: 6478
Chapter 10: 8161 (am I a nerd that it seriously amuses me how two chapters had the exact same word count?)
Chapter 11: 8076
Chapter 12: 5211
Chapter 13: 6840
Chapter 14: 4241
Epilogue: 296
Total word count: 102028

On its own, it’s not an egregious word count. A little overlong, but not terrible. I was in love with it, not so surprising, and given that I’ve never had much of a hand at self-editing, I started researching agents pretty much as soon as I went through looking for typos and inconsistencies. Still, I got a few bites off of it before I reluctantly retired it to query a stronger a project.

When I retired it, though, I had no intention of leavig it to die. I still believed, very passionately, in the story and the characters, and (strangely enough) in the setting. It just needed more of some things and less of others. It needed a tighter line, higher stakes, needed some sharper edges. I just wasn’t sure at that point how to achieve those things. So I set it aside, waiting for the pieces to come together.

It took a little over three years, but in mid-October or so, as I was neck deep in another project, suddenly something clicked. Or rather, about a dozen somethings. I couldn’t play with it until I was done with the other project, so that’s when I made the decision to do NaNo, even though I prefer to give three or four weeks between projects so my brain doesn’t fry.

Here are the counts for the Second Version (chapters are listed under the day they were finished, with total chapter word count)

1 November: 8429 words
Chapter 1: 5221
2 November: 2502
Chapter 2: 4527
3 November: 990
4 November: 7402
Chapter 3: 5465
Chapter 4: 5229
5 November: 2530
7 November: 3879
Chapter 5: 5486
8 November: 7610
Chapter 6: 5114
9 November: 1768
Chapter 7: 5189
10 November: 5066
Chapter 8: 5066 (yes, that was all I did that day)
11 November: 3292
15 November: 1839

Chapter 9: 4821
16 November: 2464
18 November: 6911

Chapter 10: 4321
Chapter 11: 5037
20 November: 9482
Chapter 12: 4707
Chapter 13: 5102
22 November: 7425
Chapter 14: 4751
29 November: 7498
Chapter 15: 5037
Chapter 16: 5154
6 December: 15279
Chapter 17: 5154
Chapter 18: 5180
Chapter 19: 4945
Total word count: 95571

No prologue, no epilogue, five more chapters, seven thousand fewer words.
Average chapter length Round 1: 7246 and spare letters, not counting prologue and epilogue
Average chapter length Round 2: 5030 and spare letters

Rewriting something is very, very different from writing something new. I had to decide what to keep, what to keep but change, and what to discard completely, and had to decide what that did to the story and to the characters. There are scenes that I miss SO BADLY because I loved them, some of them because they were sweet, some of them because they still have the ability to crack me up, but I had to evaluate everything on a simple question: does this do what I need it to do? For a lot of those scenes I loved, while they did wonderful things purely for character, the overall answer was no. They didn’t do enough for the story, so they had to go.

For me, doing this rewrite was a lot harder than putting down something wholly new. I knew the characters so well from three previous books that sometimes I forgot that my audience wouldn’t know them the way I did (something that will doubtless prove to be a trial when I go back to edit it in a few weeks). I wanted to stay true to the characters I’d fallen in love with, but more importantly, I wanted the characters to be true. Which actually made me fall in love with some of them even more.

And made me realize that I am merciless when it comes to putting my favorite characters through horrible things.

What doing this also taught me is that I have a process. It’s a weird process, based on writing only a couple of days a week but writing ALL DAY, but it’s mine. That process works for me, lets me get a LOT done, and going outside of that process, while a valuable experiment, is something I need to not do in the future if I want to spare myself fruitless frustration.

After I saved the completed file, I closed it out and haven’t looked at it. Starting this evening (maybe), I’ll be starting on edits for my October project, the file for which I haven’t opened since I finished it. I need time away from a draft before I can go back to it constructively, need the time to back away, to gain some distance so I can see more clearly what needs to be repaired, replaced, or removed. After I do the edits on that one, and take some time to mentally recover, then I’ll come back to my NaNo project with a wiser eye.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: The Twelve-Fingered Boy, by John Hornor Jacobs

December 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Twelve-Fingered BoyShreve’s got a pretty sweet gig for now- sure, he’s in juvi, but he makes a pretty penny by peddling contraband to his fellow inmates. The way he figures, he can coast along, leave with more than he came in, and get back to his little brother. Then he gets a cellmate, Jack, a shy boy with six fingers on each hand and a whole host of secrets, and Jack has some creepy folk after him. When Jack displays a power Shreve can’t explain, he knows they have to get out before those interested parties can find a way to take him. Getting away, though, isn’t as hard as staying free, or knowing what’s right.

I have to admit, when I first got my hands on this, I was hesitant, purely because I wasn’t really digging the prospect of a book set largely in a juvenile detention facility. Then I actually started reading it, and it could have been set anywhere and I still would have been fully immersed.

From the very first page, Shreve’s voice just grabs you, and never lets go. It’s a voice rich with slang, the language of incarcerado, as one of the guards calls it. It’s a hard-boiled prison book, and the fact that the contraband isn’t the strictly illegal type doesn’t actually lessen the stakes- or the ugliness- of those bound inside. Sure, there’s an element of humor to it- I mean, they’re using classic spy drop moves to deliver Skittles and Blow Pops- but there’s also something very sharp edged, something that subtly layers through as a reminder that half the kids in juvi will graduate, not to freedom, but to far harsher imprisonments. It’s not so much a parody of those adult dangers but a foreshadowing of them.

Shreve is a smart-ass, someone pretty much incapable of quitting while he’s ahead, whose mouth runs away with him at the worst possible times, a pragmatist who understands how to work the system and has no compunctions against doing so. He needs the good favor of the kids he’s supplying, mostly because he needs their protection against the times he smarts off just a little too far. From his attitude, from his easy cynicism, it’s not hard to see him in juvi. BUT- and this is wonderful- there’s also the part of Shreve that desperately misses his little brother, that worries about him constantly. There’s the part of Shreve that misses the girlfriend he hasn’t heard from, the vulnerable goodness that’s somehow managed to survive against the obstacles in life, incarcerado and free alike. There’s the part of Shreve that can reach out to a scared new boy, and be willing to help when he recognizes the danger. Shreve could be safe if he just didn’t interfere, if he just kept his head down and served his time.

But of course, keeping his head down wasn’t what landed Shreve in juvi in the first place.

Jack’s character is, in many respects, more straightforward than Shreve, but also in a way more complicated. Shreve grew up in a hell he could at least influence to some extent; there were obstacles he could work around, he could manipulate things to at least make the best of crap situations. Jack just had hell. He’s almost painfully sweet, shy and wounded and battered by his experiences, and he clutches at that first, tenuous offer of friendship like a lifeline. He’s remarkably self-contained, so the places where he’s most interesting are, for me at least, the places where he loses that control. Self-composure is frequently a mask, something polite and affected. That loss of control is a brilliant flash much closer to who we truly are.

It’s somewhat indicative of YA fiction that most adults (not all, admittedly, but most) are categorized by both characters ands readers as either useless or antagonistic. They’re either background at best or they’re obstacles. That’s true for many of the adults in this book, but there are also a few who inhabit a more nebulous categorization. Booth, in particular, stands out. He’s a guard at the detention center, someone who delights in being a bit of a bully, but also a bit of an enabler, someone who hovers between Person of Authority and Wicked Uncle in many respects. Our first impression of him is a solid one- someone so meticulously put together that the ritual becomes its own form of intimidation, someone who threatens a great deal more than he enforces. It’s like the big, burly man who slaps the nightstick into his hand even as he winks at you. The threat, the danger, is there, and he doesn’t want you to forget it for a moment, but you also get the sense he’d rather not ever have to deliver that promised trouble. He’s an interesting character, part obstacle, part scenery, part almost-ally, and yet he also becomes an intriguingly sympathetic character.

There are other adults who make appearances of course, and they run a gamut of impressions that can bewilder the reader almost as much as the teenage boys trying to understand who they can trust. Most of the adults are little more than impressions, brief encounters that aren’t meant to linger, and yet those impressions are so well-painted that despite less than a page of contact, we find ourselves hoping that some of them will work their way back into the course of things.

The ending (no spoilers, I promise, you’re safe) is a bit abrupt, and even after re-reading it, I’m not sure if that’s because I was so absorbed in the book that reaching the last page was that much of a shock, or it’s because it’s genuinely a sudden ending. There’s certainly more to come- there are many, MANY things that have not been answered, and these characters have much more to discover about themselves and what they can do, as well as what they can and can’t have, and I definitely look forward to more of Shreve and Jack.

The Twelve-Fingered Boy, by John Hornor Jacobs, out in February 2013!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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2012 Favorites + Giveaway!

December 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , )

This was going to be the weekend I got back into the full swing of things, but then life happened in a pretty amazing way. After a weekend spent crashing around Orlando with very good friends I haven’t seen in far too long, I came home to our rescheduled Thanksgiving, with lots of food, laughter, and card banter.

Cards are a blood sport, at least in my family, and the banter that flows through the games is truly inspiring.

And terrifying.

So, to make up for another lost week, I’m hosting a giveaway!

There are two prize packs up for offer. Prize pack one includes the paperback of Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, a hysterical, utterly creeptastic in the best possible way book that pits Rory, an American student currently enrolled in a London school, with a mysterious murderer re-enacting the murders of Jack the Ripper- with no one seeing him. Prize pack two has the paperback of Laini Taylor’s amazing and grogeous The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, with the enigmatic Karou, the mysterious Brimstones, and an ancient war that could destroy entire worlds, in one of the most beautiful expressions of language I’ve ever read. BOTH PACKS include a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card.

And there are lots of ways to get entries.

The only mandatory one is to leave a comment below telling me what your favorite book of 2012 has been, and why. There have been so many amazing books out this year, and I want to know which ones you’ve loved. (And tell me if you have a preference for a particular prize pack)

For example, although it’s really hard to choose, I’d have to say my favorite of the year so far has been John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. That book was beautiful and shattering and uplifting and devestating, and probably the only book that’s ever made me laugh and sob simultaneously. It’s an astounding work of art, something so much more than the sum of its parts, and has become one of my favorite books to handsell at work because it’s one of the very few books that I genuinely believe EVERYONE needs to read.

But there are extra ways to enter!

For +1, follow this blog, and in your comment, tell me that you’ve done so. If you already follow, tell me that too.
For +1, follow me on twitter at @dothutchison, and in your comment tell me your twitter handle. Again, if you already follow me, just tell me.
For +1, add A Wounded Name on Goodreads, and tell me in your comment. Again, if you’ve already added it, just let me know.
For +1, like my Facebook page, link on the sidebar, and tell me that you’ve done so. If you already like me (they like me, they really like me!…okay, done now) just tell me so.
And for +1 for each medium, you can tweet about it, blog about it, mention it on facebook or what have you, and just include the links in your comment.

I’d like to stress that the only thing you HAVE to do to be entered is to comment with your favorite book of the year and why you love it. Please make sure you leave the correct email address so I can contact you if you win. All the other ways to enter are purely optional, and additional- it’s your choice whether or not to do them. If you DO choose to get the extra entries, please make sure you tell me what you’ve done- I’m not going to troll through the deep stretches of the internet to see what people have done. I’m going to trust y’all on this, so please just include the links and handles.

And it is US only, I’m sorry. International gets very pricey, so I’m going to save that kind of shipping for when I have ARCs of A Wounded Name to give you. Just a few months til ARCs!

So, enter in the comments below, entries accepted through Saturday, 15 December, and best of luck to you all!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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