Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Divergent

People- there is a reason the buzz is so strong about this book.

Here's what you should know in easy bulleted form:

  • the concept behind the book is original and fascinating. As a politics nerd the idea of dividing the world into factions, and designating certain factions with certain tasks based on their strengths is so interesting to me. In fact at several points while I was reading I thought, how cool would it be to teach a politics class based on analyzing the goals of societies in dystopian novels?  I'll have to see if I can do that at some point in the future. 

  • the characters are three dimensional, and you find yourself on the edge of your seat waiting to see what they'll do next.  I have a major lit crush on Four now. I've convinced myself he's the modern Rochester. Brooding, complex, yet still fully swoon worthy. Unlike Rochester Four does not have an insane wife that's going to appear later (I'm pretty sure). 

  • the ACTION is out of this world. I've never felt so transported to the middle of a fight, to the sensation of jumping off a building, or what have you. Roth's writing was seamless-- I didn't feel like I was reading about it, I felt like I was there.

Read it-- it's a great book!

And an update on the faction-of-the-week Challenge at Deb Driza's blog.

Last week was Candor. Honesty. Truth. I brought the truth, and I'm proud that I did. Sometimes it is exactly what's needed.

This week is Erudite, which I guess means I need to get busy on my research. I'll report my results on Friday. Happy short week!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Candor and Review of No Passengers Beyond this Point

If you've noticed me missing around the blog world lately-  (and perhaps you haven't, which is cool) it's because I'm happily spending all my extra time clattering at keyboards.

I'm moving through a new book so I can send it out for feedback.

I will be in Boston at the end of this week for some events surrounding the law school graduation of a kid I used to babysit!

I will practice candor in Boston, and report back to you on Saturday or Sunday.

But before I go I MUST lay some CANDOR on your right now, and tell you about a fantastic MG book I read last week.

No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko

Tiny synopsis: India, Finn, and Mouse have to move to Colorado to live with Uncle Red when their mom loses her house to foreclosure. But when they arrive in Falling Bird, it's more like Oz than Colorado. They try to get a handle on this alternative world where cell phones don't work and there are all kinds of rules they simply don't understand.

I can't go on or I will totally spoil it. But trust me, THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD! I dreamed about this book after I finished it, and I am still thinking about it a week later.

In a nutshell, what I liked most was:

  • the three highly distinctive, utterly believable voices of the siblings telling the story, and
  • the world building. Choldenko nails that element where you make it authentic and logical, yet keep the reader guessing about just what is going on.

Read this book!

Even if you don't usually like MG, I am telling you: Read this book!

You won't regret it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A week of anniversaries!

This is the best week of the year for me, hands down.

On May 18th I celebrate being married to my husband for eight fun, hardscrabble, and globe-trotting years.

On May 20th I celebrate my birthday-- this year the 37th!

And on May 22nd, today, I celebrate the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of my blog.

...and the apocalypse did not happen, which makes it a good week for EVERYONE!

Have a Happy Week!

*Cake made by my sis, featured on cake wrecks (in the good way).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Fives

Divergent faction of the week post is below!

On to the friday fives: what are the five things I can't live without when writing or revising.

1. The internet. Though this is a slippery slope. If you can avoid the call of the FB/Twitter/Blog world, it's a great place to quickly fill in gaps in research. I recently searched "nocturnal desert animals" and thought- boy am I lucky this didn't require a trip to the library!

2. Water. I drink  it all day-- it is my constant companion.

3. My office. I don't need it to be quiet (it never is), but I feel most productive in the enclave of my little home office. It is truly the only place in my house where I can put something down, and find it in the same place the next day.

4. My journal/workbook/plotting book. It's a quick reference at my fingertips for character descriptions,  quirks and plot details.

5. The internet. That's right. It's so important, I'm putting it on here twice. My tendency is to "wing it". But this week I realized that's not enough. I can't do this on my own. A part of that is needing the support of my writer friends, and a part of that is the ease with which we can find info on craft right here on the web. Need a primer on worldbuilding: it's there. Want to tighten up your pacing: it's there, too. That and about a million other things we need to know about improving our craft.


Several days this week I thought: must LIVE amity... but how?

Part of the definition is friendly and cordial- but I'm southern, so we pretty much do that automatically.

Say hi to the guys in line at the methadone clinic on Main Street: check.
Talk to the other parents are drop off: check.
Make small talk with the neighbor: check.

It's the peaceful part of amity that I found difficult.

It's difficult to be the peacemaker in your own home.

Maybe that's because what causes a lack of peace (chaos?) is when everyone wants their own way.

Let's face it, it's difficult to stop wanting your own way.

I kept up with the reading with the kids this week, but not just at bedtime. When they started fussing around (honestly, because we were all busy working on our own things), I closed the laptop and sat down and read with them. It helped.

I also cleaned the house MUCH more than I normally do, because I wanted to give my husband a sense of peace in our house. (He's the usual cleaner, so he was doubly appreciative).

Finally, you should know that as I type this I can hear one sound: the wailing and growling of our dissatisfied cat Findus.

We should have gotten him neutered months ago. He's an inside cat, so we put it off. We didn't make time for him to go to the vet, which really isn't fair.

He's been wailing all day, every day for weeks, and marking territory inside the house (which makes me crazy). He has an appointment in July for the surgery, through a low cost mobile neutering service (read: $70 versus the $270 our vet wants).

So, yesterday I thought: our house cannot be peaceful with a sexually dissatisfied cat in it! 

Yesterday I got back online. I looked at the SPCA site and found all neutering clinics within 50 miles. I started calling them.

I found him an appointment for TODAY. That's right. TODAY, my 37th BIRTHDAY.

I am the peacemaker. 

I will drive an hour in the morning and an hour at night to get the cat to the clinic and deliver peace to my family. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What you do for you

Welcome to our 79th Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals? Answer for big goals (i.e. I will buy a Lear jet when I get published) and/or small goals (I eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting when I finish each chapter).

I will keep this short and sweet-- because I'm pretty boring in this category.

I don't reward myself over the small goals-- not explicitly, at least. 

Another way of looking at is is to say I reward myself all the time, by having a glass of wine at the end of the day, by taking a walk with the dogs, by spending time reading, by taking a long bath...

When I get published, I will definitely do something nice for myself, but that all depends on the details. I'd hate to put a Lear Jet on my wish list, only to be disappointed when the money falls short. 

I don't want to connect the accomplishment of that goal with an "item" that may be costly or unrealistic. Because, seriously, just accomplishing that goal is something to squeal about!

Not to mention, a Lear Jet is really not my scene. 

I have a long list of things I'd like to do "if": 

I'd love to be able to visit my family more.

I'd like to take a quiet vacation with just my husband and boys. 

I'd love to be able to afford only hormone-free organic meat at the grocery store. 

I'd like to buy slightly better wine than what I buy now. 

I'd love to spend a day in a bookstore and not be counting costs the whole time. 

I'd really love to trade in the $800 car we bought off of Craig's List for something that needs less gas and is more reliable. 

... so it looks like I could do this forever, huh?

I think the take-home message is that I will do something special for myself when I sell my first book. 

What that turns out to be, well, that's a question for another day. 

Check out the Highway to see what everyone else does to reward themselves!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This week Amity

I have my nose to the grindstone. 

I have a project that I am obsessed with right now, and so I am enjoying the chance to focus on it a little bit. 

You may not see or hear as much from me in the next weeks... but never fear. I am around, just staying focused, which means avoiding the interwebs.

I am still working on the Divergent faction of the week challenge. Look for details here-- it's not too late to join in!

This weak is Amity, and I can't wait to see what  friendly, cordial, peaceful acts I can implement in the coming days. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Like I trust you now blogger...

So, if you blog and use blogger you know there was a massive fail whereby yesterdays posts have simply disappeared!


So, come with me on a little time traveling adventure.

Yesterday I posted that Sophia Richardson won my contest and is getting her own copy of Invincible Summer- so if you were thinking you hallucinated that, Sophia, you didn't.


It's all wrapped up and will go out this weekend.

I also posted this amazing video from my son's after school program-- where the kids imitate celebrities and pretend they're former campers talking about their fun Y-camp experiences.

Watch it. It's funny. 

Little Gaga is especially well-delivered.

And.... here's my abnegation post for the Divergent faction of the week.

If you have kids you know that when they are sleeping, it is a magic time in the household. 

It is one of my most coveted times of day, because I can WRITE. I have been known to rush the bedtime routine because I am so eager to get cracking on my MS.

This week I decided that the most selfless act I could take part in would be to ignore that desire to rush through that time period with my kids. 

We've had long baths and extra reading (even a little 'past' bedtime)  every night this week. 

It's not quiet selfless though, because I get as much out of it as they do.

Here's hoping this post will last until tomorrow!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Invincible Summer winner and a video

Okay, so first I put everyone in a spread sheet in no particular order...

and then I went to Random.org to get a random number!

As you can see, the lucky number is 9, which means 

Sophia Richardson 

wins Invincible Summer!

I truly wish I had 16 of these to give away. 

Congrats to Sophia-- and I hope to have another blog contest soon!

Watch here for details.

Now for something completely different--

My son's after school program created a video for a local Y camp. It's a contest between all the after school programs to see whose video can get the most hits. 

So, their idea was to have the kids dress as celebrities and pretend to be talking about the camp. It's really adorable, if I say so myself. 

Check it out

The little Lady Gaga and the young girl rapping Ludacris are particular favorites of mine.

My son was too shy to say anything on camera so he is not here. Very funny, because I was the SAME WAY at his age.  

Happy Thursday Y'all!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Listen up!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 

This Week's Topic: 
If you got to choose a celebrity narrator for the audio book of your WIP or your favorite novel, who would it be and why?

I am in the middle of a new WIP that I'm obsessing over. It's told in alternate POVs, a pair of twins. I think of their dad as Michael Madsen (maybe I'm just spending too much time thinking about Michael Masden). I love his gritty voice.

But here's the thing: I have NO idea about younger actors and actresses. I watch just a couple of shows (Glee and Dr. Who) and very seldom see movies that aren't intended for the 7 and under set. Any actor I could think of would be in their thirties at least (or British). 

Lend me a hand blogiverse: who are some scratchy-voiced young actors? 

Help me voice-cast my characters, Lena (girl) and Nile (boy). They're seventeen, and here's where they live. 

Any ideas? Put them in the comments!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Just when I was thinking about a hiatus...

I saw the posts coming up about Veronica Roth's Divergent faction challenge. I couldn't resist.

A thorough explanation from Deb Driza's blog (cut and pasted, because it's 6AM and I not feeling erudite right this second):


CANDOR—The Honest
ERUDITE—The Intellectual/Knowledgeable
AMITY—The Peaceful
One of the many things I took away from the book is that while sticking to one virtue might sound simple, ultimately, it’s probably better to branch out a little bit.  So guess what?  I created theDIVERGENT FACTION-OF-THE-WEEK CHALLENGE, where some of my writer friends and I are going to take on all five of them!
Every Monday for the next 5 weeks, I’ll announce the faction/virtue of the week. Over the next four days, we’ll be trying to perform at least ONE ACT that embodies that virtue/faction. It doesn’t have to be fancy; just something in everyday life, something we might not usually do.  Then, each Friday, we’ll all blog about our act.
TO SPREAD THE DIVERGENT LOVE–and maybe find out a little something about ourselves in the process. Tell your friends, get them involved—the more, the merrier!! If you plan to join us, leave a link in the comments section each week, and I’ll make sure to add them to the bottom of the posts.
And, in honor of the main character Tris’s upbringing, our kick-off virtue is…..
According to the Divergent fansite, Abnegation means:
  1. To refuse or deny oneself (some rights, conveniences, etc.); reject, renounce.
  2. To relinquish, give up
Basically, Veronica says the faction is about selflessness; stripping unnecessary things from life in order to help people forget themselves and do away with vanity, greed, and envy.
So, this week–GO FORTH! Step outside of your “you” zone and perform your selfless act in the wild. If you like, tweet about your trials and tribulations with an #abnegation hashtag. Then, on Friday, blog about your experience and share your Abnegation-ness with the rest of us!"

I can't wait to read this!  I need to get it soon, and read along with the challenge!

So- join in, or just quietly perform abegnation this week. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fives: Dear Abby

Paper Hangover has another Friday Five for us this week!

FIVE pieces of useful advice you have received as an aspiring writer. Either in quotes, blog posts, websites or communities.

'Cause I'm a total nerd, I just looked in my file labeled "advice" to find things I've saved when I've seen them on the web.

These are very practical-- more tips than advice, but here goes.

1. Synopsis writing from Susan Dennard. Concise. Clear. Worth it.

2. Newbie writer No-Nos from Georgia McBride.

3. From Tawna Fenske, wonderful advice on blogging (gems like: make your online photos/names consistent so people know who you are!).

4. Log line pitches or how to tweet your novel from Edittorrent.

5. And finally, that classic of inspiration: a list of iconic authors who were rejected. It's not strictly advice, but it encourages me when I see Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one accepted, or that Alex Haley wrote every day for eight years before finding success.
The advice: Keep Writing. 

What useful advice have you received as a writer?

Visit the Hangover and check out everyone's posts!

Oh, and don't forget to enter my contest to win Hannah Moskowitz's Invincible Summer-- open internationally!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Help Write Now Auction begins today-- and a giveaway

Don't forget to visit the Help Write Now auction page, a benefit for Southern Storm relief.

...and because it's my birthday month and my blogiversary month (one year on May 24th) I am giving away a book:

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

I'm not the kind of person who can stay up all night to read a book anymore, because when my 3 year old wakes up at 6AM, I have to be ready no matter what-- but still I stayed up LATE (for me, you would probably laugh) to read this book.

Here's what I loved about it.
  • The dialogue was so nuanced, I did not notice it as "dialogue". And these people are quoting Camus!
  • Her writing is deft.  Simply skillful.
  •  Relationships. Whether family or other, man does she nail relationships. They are difficult, troubled, atypical, funny, honest, beautiful and complicated.

 I want to GIVE AWAY my (gently used) copy of Invincible Summer.

Open internationally.

Leave a comment with your name and an email address in this post!

If you want to promote through a tweet, post, or sidebar- great. You can earn an additional entry for each of those (just leave evidence in the comments).

Closes in one week on May 11th at midnight.

Now go to the Help Write Now auction page and bid!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Help Write Now

Who doesn't admire Kate Hart?

If you don't know this intrepid author, mistress of cool crafts, and maven of field trip Friday, you should check out her blog!

I read her Field trip Friday twitter versions for months to try to figure out what the heck twitter was all about (and I'm not saying I've figured it out completely).

Well, now you have even more reason to respect this crafty lady.

She's putting together an auction to benefit Southern Storm Relief (all proceeds will go to the Red Cross).

Check out the Help Write Now site and consider bidding on an item or donating something to the cause.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ooooooo I'm on Fire

In the good way, I think.

As I write this I am humming Bruce Springsteen. Ahh, the Boss. Good times.

Thanks first to the lovely Caitlin Vincent at Musings of an Ordinary Mind for this award. She's been blogging for a little over two months-- so go check her out and follow her.

This is my first Blog On Fire Award and I'm thrilled to get it.

I want to pass it on to some bloggers who have kindly passed me awards lately:
Sophia Richardson
Katie Upperman

 To Carrie who always cracks me up with her posts

And to my weekend of awesome mates:
Pam and Quita
and Alicia

Ladies, your blogs are all on fire, too.

In the good way!