But the children love the books!

I made friends with the library again! Hopefully this will keep me busy (and OUT of the bookstores) for awhile… 🙂

I only have five chapters left in my revision! I’m SO excited. Gotta remember to buy some paper so I can print the thing out, reread, and make any necessary additional changes. Then it’s query and change gears time! I’m super happy about that, in case you couldn’t tell!!

Kind of eyeing this contest as a possibility. It’s nice when they actually give you 10K words to work with, and the deadline is far enough away that I could potentially write something new. Hmmmm…

All righty, back to work!

Books and Movies and Not Really Much Writing (oh my!)

So somehow it’s April, and I don’t know how that happened! Guess I’d better do my taxes soon, right?

Still haven’t gotten much done on the writing front lately, although my subconscious has been doing some serious noodling the last couple of weeks, which is generally a good sign. Either a hardcore revision or a story/novel about post-apocalyptic Camelot should be seriously in the works soon. (Yes. Post-apocalyptic Camelot. Don’t ask.)

Just got The Ring of Solomon and Sapphique in the mail from Amazon, so I’m super excited to read them. Also bought copies of StarCrossed and Plain Kate via one of my local Borders’ going-out-of-business (sad face) sales. I ordered Rosemary Sutcliff’s Mark of the Horse Lord, too, but it’s currently out of stock on Amazon, so don’t know when it will arrive. Love me some Sutcliff.

Which reminds me, I went to see The Eagle back in February (I think), and despite some book-to-movie-adaptation changes, I liked it a lot. Still think they should’ve kept the original title, but you’ll have that. The movie was great, and the scenery was completely to die for. Dude.

Also saw the new Jane Eyre a couple weeks ago (I actually won a pair of free tickets via a GoodReads promotion, which was pretty cool), and although I heartily approved of the casting and costumes and sets and scenery, the movie didn’t really do it for me. It felt a little like cliff-notes, and it was missing… I don’t know. Something. Somewhere in the adaptation process they lost something important in translation. I was expecting the most awesome movie version of Jane Eyre ever to grace the silver screen, and it just… wasn’t. Which made me sad. ‘Cause, as I sad, the casting was awesome.

I’ll leave you with this adorable little video: It’s a Book!

1/11/11

So happy 1/11/11 to all and sundry!

I am very sorry to announce that I have been doing absolutely nothing in the realm of noveling lately. Haven’t worked on anything since November and am developing a serious need-a-creative-project twitch, so I’ve decided to attempt that revision of Whale and the Tree I’ve been meaning to get around to since, you know, July. Got as far as officially upgrading to Scrivener 2.0 this evening before getting distracted, but that’s a start, right?

Just started reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers, which is the third of her loosely-connected series of books set in Roman Britain (the first of which, The Eagle of the Ninth, is hitting the big screen next month!!). Finally finished Pegasus, which I had mixed feelings about, and am also partway through Beowulf, which, embarrassingly enough, I’ve never actually read before. Awaiting an Amazon package that has gotten lost somewhere between Phoenix and Mesa but will hopefully show up soon—it contains my very own copy of StarCrossed, and the fourth Bartimaeus book, which I’m soooooooooo excited to read! I keep meaning to do a “Best of 2010” book list, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet…

Here’s to a challenging and rewarding 2011!

Re-reading

I’m a hardcore re-reader and re-watcher and 99.9% of the time order exactly the same thing at restaurants and coffee shops and ice-cream parlors because I like repeating fantastic experiences. Well-loved books and movies (and sandwiches) are like old friends. You can always count on them to look and feel (and taste) the same, to move you in the same ways.

I’ve been re-reading Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series over the last week or so, and while, admittedly, nothing is quite like the first time through, with all those wonderful startling revelations and aha! moments, I still very, very much enjoyed them. In fact they were still eliciting audible reactions from me, to the point where my roommate looked up from her important doctoral studies to remark, “You do realize you’ve read that before.” 🙂

Another reason I re-read is that if I don’t read a book at least twice, details tend to fade, and I’m left only with vague impressions of I liked it or didn’t like it, which isn’t ultimately very useful. And some books stand up to multiple readings more than others; some I find kind of “meh” on a second read, some I find as amazing as I remembered, and some—like, for example, the Attolia series—you almost have to read more than once to soak up all the awesome and intricate things that are going on.

And then there’s mood to consider. As much as I love them, sometimes I’m simply not in the mood to adventure into a brand new book and unknown territory. There’s a certain amount of comfort in knowing exactly what’s coming and looking forward to parts I already have completely memorized and revisiting beloved characters and just experiencing the story again.

Man, now I want to go re-read Lord of the Rings. It’s been a few years…

What about you? Are you a habitual re-reader?

Fifteen Books

So over on the Blueboards everyone’s posting fifteen books that they’ll never forget.

Here’s my list:

  1. The Lord of the Rings (especially Return of the King), by J.R.R. Tolkien—as much as I love the movies, the books will always be better, if not least because book-Faramir/Eowyn are vastly more amazing than their movie counterparts. Frodo lives! 🙂
  2. Middlemarch, by George Elliot—an immensely great novel (and oh my gosh WILL LADISLAW!!).
  3. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky—intriguing both for its subject matter and the way Dostoevsky makes you sympathize with a guy who killed two old ladies with an axe.
  4. Beauty, by Robin McKinley—a gorgeous little novel I’ve loved and re-read for years. Poetic and stirring and just really special.
  5. The Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis—deep and haunting and disturbing in places; I’ll never forget the time I stayed up late to finish the ending of Perelandra. Still gives me the shivers (in a good way).
  6. Villette, by Charlotte Bronte—I both loved and hated this book. It was lyrical and beautiful and immensely frustrating.
  7. Persuasion (well, everything), by Jane Austen—I didn’t really appreciate this novel the first time I read it because I found it so frustrating, but a re-read illuminated just how brilliant and beautiful it really is.
  8. The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye—haunting, gorgeous, epic: this is the novel that nearly made me break down sobbing in the middle of Panda Express.
  9. The King of Attolia (well all of the Attolia books), by Megan Whalen Turner—I know I always talk about these books, but they’re really that good. Really.
  10. Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones—so not what I expected, but gripping and fascinating and just all around awesome.
  11. Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith—I’ve read this so many times I’m pretty sure I could quote the entire thing from beginning to end.
  12. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud—still in awe of these.
  13. East, by Edith Pattou—gorgeous fairy tale retelling, with fascinating multiple POVs.
  14. The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth E. Wein—haunting.
  15. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine—another one I’ve loved for years. Vastly better than the movie.

And I’ve gotta give an honorable mention to Brian Jacques’s Redwall series, most especially Mattimeo. I devoured those when I was younger and absolutely adored them.

So that’s my list. What’s yours?

Revision Update, Reading List, and Some Links

So I’m still in Chapter One. Ugh. I always forget how looooooooong it takes me to revise. Not that I’ve exactly been faithfully plugging away at Draft #2 of Seer… I keep getting distracted. On Journeys Bound is niggling away in my brain again and a deep philosophical conversation with the BFF about Whale and the Tree has gotten me thinking about another revision… which is a pretty clear sign I’m done querying it for now… which is sad but kind of okay I think… maybe? (Don’t worry. I’m gonna stop with the ellipses now.)

But I do quite like the revisions I’ve gotten in thus far, and I am almost finished with Chapter One and am completely determined to plow through this second draft. Just have to step up my game a bit is all. I can dooooo it! There are six check marks on tRLoHLA so far but there will soon be many more. Many more!! Raawwwwwwr!

Erm.

On a semi-related note, my cold-hearted villain scrounged up a spark of humanity in the scene I finished rewriting today. Made me kinda like him. Aw.

Also, after a horrible dearth of reading material during which I discovered that the Phoenix Public Library system has drastically cut back their hours (the branch near me isn’t even open on Mondays anymore 😦 ), I am happy to announce that my TBR pile is stacking up nicely. Just finished Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody, which was lovely even though I wasn’t *quite* satisfied with the ending, and am partway into The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein, When You Reach Me (this year’s Newberry award winner) by Rebecca Stead, and Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken are waiting in the wings. I know virtually nothing about any of these books—they’re all mostly recs from reliable internet sources—but it’s almost more fun that way. Excited to get into them!

And now for some links:

The controlled schizophrenia of writers (via inkygirl)
An interesting article on the theory of mind as applied to creating believable characters.

Hunger Mountain
The VCFA Journal of the Arts—I subbed a short story to them a while back and haven’t gotten a response yet (though I’m expecting one soon). I’m thinking of entering one of their writing contests, just have to figure out if I can tweak a story I’ve already got or if I need to write a new one! I have until June 30th to get my submission ready.

Omniglot
A thoroughly fascinating guide to the languages and writing systems of the world.

 And that will about do it for today’s Blog Post of Random Disconnected Stuff (BPoRDS).

Until next time!

Favorite Reads of 2009

There’s been lots of “Favorite Books of 2009” lists floating out there in the blog-o-sphere lately, so here’s my humble offering, in no particular order:

  1. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud
  2. Hunger Games and Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
  3. Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  5. The Claidi Journals, by Tanith Lee
  6. The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth E. Wein

What were your favorites?

In Which Joanna Explains What She’s Been Reading Lately (amongst other things)

Isn’t my new blog template shiny? *pets it* I spent waaaay too long fiddling with it the other day and absolutely adore it. 🙂

As you can see from my sidebar, I’m reading Around the World in Eighty Days, and am enjoying it thoroughly. It’s about this obsessive-compulsive British chap named Phileas Fogg who sets out to traverse the globe in—you guessed it—eighty days, because he bet a roomful of other British chaps that he could. 🙂 So far he’s still acting very mathematical and precise, but I’m fairly certain he has hidden depths. I’m expecting a hot air balloon to show up at some point; other than that I really don’t know what awaits me at the end. I’m certain it will be fabulous. Three cheers for classic books (and for Esther, who told me to read it! :-))!

When I’m finished jaunting round the world, I really want to read The Hunger Games, as pretty much every blog or comment regarding it gushes about its amazing-ness. I’m currently 37 out of 40 on the holds list at my library, though, so it looks like I might need to buy it if I expect to get my hands on a copy sometime this century. I also want to read The Forest of Hands and Teeth (even though I thoroughly expect it to freak me out), Skin Hunger (the dual storylines sound highy intriguing), and Enna Burning (because I adore Shannon Hale and haven’t actually read it yet). I’m finding that one of the side affects of following YA book blogs and message boards is discovering lots and lots of reading recommendations. Which is fine by me. 🙂

In other news, I saw the marvelous film Ponyo with Jenny on Saturday. It’s the latest from Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (who gave us Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and others which I’ve yet to see), and is basically a Japanese Little Mermaid, with lots and lots of heart. Gorgeous and completely adorable, I highly recommend it!

Also, I’m not sure I’ve yet gushed about Vienna Teng here, so let me do so at once. She is utterly amazing, and writes some of the most beautiful, melodic, piano-driven music I’ve ever heard.

On the writing front, still not a lot to report. I am making a little progress on revisions for Rose Queen, though I have yet to make it out of the first chapter. I’m adding a few new scenes, which is making me ponder whether or not to split the first chapter into two chapters, as it’s getting rather unweildly, though any split point that I’ve found so far would make the chapters really unbalanced in terms of length. If I do decide to go for two chapters, that leaves me with the task of coming up with a brand new chapter title, which won’t exactly be easy. Hmm. At any rate, I’m really proud of my revisions so far; I feel like my writing has matured a lot since Rose Queen was first penned, so I’m glad this puppy is getting an update.

Other than that, I’ve joined an online writer’s critique group! I’ve never been a part of one before, so I’m pretty excited about it. 🙂

And the full and partial requests? At five weeks and four weeks, respectively, still no news. But I’m not going to start stressing about jotting off status queries (brief, polite notes that basically say: “Ummmmm haveyoureadmybookyet’causeI’mgettingimpatient’kthxbye.”) for at least a few more weeks. Hopefully I’ll hear something by then.

Despairing ever hearing back from the remaining five outstanding queries. One of them is nearly eleven weeks old! Yikes.

UPDATE: As of this morning, I’ve received another rejection, leaving the outstanding query total at four. No word on anything else.

And that, folks, is that.

Fantastic Reads!

Today I give you a list (complete with mini reviews) of Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order). So, here you go:

Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order):

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine


I discovered this book at the library as a kid, and have reread it multiple times over the years. Unlike the movie version that shares the same name (the movie was sorta cute in its own way, but the book is about ten thousand times better and completely different), Ella Enchanted is a quirky, imaginative, and touching re-telling of the Cinderella story. Complete with fairies, curses, masked balls, adventure, and ridiculously-adorable-romance-by-letter.

Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith


An old favorite—pretty sure I could quote the entire thing from beginning to end. Originally published in two separate volumes (Crown Duel and Court Duel), this book chronicles the history of the spunky Meliara, Countess of Tlanth, from her role in a misguided war to her noble (but equally misguided) attempts at unraveling the multi-layred intrigue at the royal court. Complete with battles, dashing and mysterious members of the aristocracy (swoon), secret admirers, squee-worthy-Jane-Austen-esque-romance, and a fabulously satisfying ending.

Beauty: a Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, by Robin McKinley


Another old favorite, this gorgeous retelling of my favorite fairy tale is as touching as it is beautiful. Last time I re-read it, I got all teary, so you know it must be good. 🙂

Jackaroo, by Cynthia Voigt


Another old favorite, Jackaroo is not quite fantasy in the traditional sense, as it contains no magical elements, but in my mind it still totally counts. It’s a medieval-esque adventure-romance set in an invented land called simply “the kingdom,” and tells the story of Gwen, an innkeeper’s daughter, who happens upon the clothes of an infamous folk hero crammed in the back of a cupboard… Full of gritty details and touching realism, this story has a wonderful ending that you don’t quite expect.

East, by Edith Pattou


A more recent favorite, East is a retelling of the lesser-known fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which is sort of a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and the Cupid and Psyche myth. This is a gorgeous book, told in alternating first person points of view, which in some cases can be annoying, but in this case works marvelously. It’s about a girl named Rose, and a White Bear under an enchantment, and an evil Troll Queen, and an epic journey North… Beautiful and gripping; first time through I read it all in a day.

The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner


Another semi-recent discovery. I first read The Thief on the plane en route to Michigan for a friend’s wedding a few years ago, and devoured Queen and King shortly thereafter (I’ve read all three twice more since then). These are the kinds of books where the least amount of info you know going into them, the better you’ll enjoy them. Which makes them kinda hard to review. I’ll just leave it at:

  1. Well-drawn and realistic world inspired by ancient Greece
  2. Ridiculously intricate and clever plotting—with surprise twists and turns galore
  3. Fascinating characters
  4. Equally fascinating relationships.

Basically, read them NOW. You won’t be sorry.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones


Tragically enough, I didn’t discover this wonderful book until last December. I’ve already read it twice. Basically, Sophie works in a hat shop, gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, and becomes a cleaning lady for the heartless Wizard Howl. Filled with delightfully quirky characters, a rollicking (and complicated) plot, and deliciously amusing chapter titles (like “In Which Sophie Talks to Hats” and “In Which Howl Expresses His Feelings With Green Slime”). This is the kind of book that, once you get to the end, you want to turn back to page one and read all over again.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale


I know I mentioned this book a while back when I’d first read it, but it bears mentioning again! Based on a lesser-known fairy tale, Book of a Thousand Days tells the story of lady’s maid Dashti and her Lady Saren, who get shut up in a tower for seven years because Saren refuses to marry the suitor chosen for her. The prose is beautiful and rhythmic, the plot fascinating–and surprising!–and the characters well-drawn. A great, great book.

Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce


A very recent addition to my list of favorites, Curse Dark as Gold is a compelling reworking of Rumplestiltskin. It follows the story of Charlotte Miller, a young woman struggling to save her family’s mill. When she accepts the help of the mysterious Jack Spinner, who can spin straw into gold, she fights against the idea of the old family curse, afraid of what it might ultimately cost her. As well as the gorgeous prose, great characters, adorable romance, and chilling fantastical elements, one of the neat things about this book is the attention given to detail; it almost reads like historical fiction set during the industrial revolution, and one really gets the feel for life in a woolen mill. A fascinating and intriguing read.

*sings* "Monday, Monday…"

Okay, so I don’t actually know anymore of that song. I think it’s from the sixties? At any rate. This morning, for the third consecutive week, I got up Ridiculously Early (as in 6:20 AM) to meet my best bud Jenny for a Monday Morning Before Work Writing Session. Anyone who knows me understands this to be quite shocking. I am the furthest from a morning person anyone could possibly get–I loathe getting up as much as I despise onions and temperatures higher than 85 degrees. But somehow, working on one’s novel at seven in the morning on a Monday is a fantastic start to the week. And for all that griping about getting up, I do actually quite like being up early in the morning. Everything seems quieter, and the light is softer. So much possibility. Or something.

I finished editing Chapter Six of The Whale and the Tree this morning. Current word count is 108,940, nearly 5k more than the rough draft. I’m not sure how long this is going to end up being, as I already know I’ll be adding a lot, especially to the latter half of the book, which wound up really rushed as a result of hurrying to finish by the end of Nano, I mean November. I am cutting stuff, too, but nearly all the cut scenes are replaced by new scenes, so I’m definitely going to end up with more than I started. Aren’t novels supposed to get shorter when you edit them? Because mine definitely don’t.

Back in the day, when I was 15 or so, I went to a writing conference with a couple of friends. We were very definitely the youngest ones in the room, with at 30-60 year age gap between us and everyone else. I remember asking a question (in front of everyone in the room, which is no small feat if you happen to be an INFP and 15. Wow, I was brave. I hardly ever piped up in classes during college.), and the question was this: How in the world does one go about writing long stories? I’d written a number of short stories at that point, but how anyone could possibly ever write an entire novel was beyond me. I received this insightful reply: Get your characters into a lot of trouble. Then get them out. Then get them into trouble again. Repeat as necessary.

It took me a while to apply this useful principle, but it definitely seems to have worked. I’m quite certain all my characters hate me at this point, and I don’t exactly blame them, either. But really, who wants to read a story about lots of nice things happening to people? No one, that’s who.

*ahem* Anyways. Currently my love triangle is gearing up and will be firmly fixed into place during the next two chapters. The triangle becomes a square in Part Two, which of course makes things much more interesting. 🙂 No one has heard from the Countess for a while, she’s still up in the tower, and Talia is busy falling in love with Caiden, the elder brother of the guy she’s actually supposed to marry… This is one of the things I’m working with during the rewrite, building up their relationship more gradually and (hopefully) naturally. It’s much better this way. Kudos to Jenny (and I know there were more of you, too) who pointed this out to me. What would I do without those brave souls who read my first drafts?

So that’s what’s what on the writing front. Imrahil and I are working on Chopin’s Ballade No. 2–it’s nearly memorized now. *loves Chopin* Gotta get back to Ye Olde Beethoven soon. *shudders* That man was unusually cruel.

Currently reading: Myst (recommended by Danielle), Inkheart (rereading, ’cause it’s been too long and the third book and the movie are coming out in the fall), and The Princess Academy which I’ve barely started and just got at the library today. I’m also reading Danielle’s novel (which I haven’t forgotten about, promise!), and have A Passage to India out from the library as well. I’ve put myself on a strict no-buying-books-check-them-out-from-the-library ban until I start building up the fundage sacrificed for my dear Imrahil’s adoption. I never used to actually buy books until I *shudder* worked at Borders for six months. The only good thing about that job was the discount, which I put to good use. I have yet to recover from the actual experience of working there. Who knew that spending 8+ hours surrounded by books could be such acute torture?

Bed time. I was going to curl up with a book and read for a while, but I blogged instead. Lucky you.

Night all!

Gamwyn