Writing Updates March 2016

I keep thinking this is going to be a regular thing for me, and then I go several months with nothing.

Anyway, here’s what I’m working on now.

Since the end of February I’ve been working on edits for Becky, which I’ve been coming back to off and on for a little while now. I got some critiques back from my main Critique Partner, and also the critique group I recently joined, and I’ve been doing some partial rewrites and some slight rearranging. I was hoping to be done with it after this edit, but I’ve changed juuuuuuust enough that I’d like to get eyes on it one more time before I give it a final polish and then begin to query. Hopefully there are no more big changes I’m inspired to make…

I’ve also begun writing a rough draft for another middle grade fantasy story. I had a good luck with the first third/half, just writing like a fiend most days, but I’ve slowed up a little bit. I’m struggling a little bit with the direction the story’s going, which is normal, but I’m also getting worried that it’s not exciting/original enough, which I don’t think is a healthy thing to think about right now. It’s just a rough draft, after all, so it’s going to be 90% problems that I’ll have to fix, or rearrange, or remove altogether. Best to just get it done, and see what I have to work with after that.

I’m also getting the urge to go back and work on another work-in-progress of mine, a new adult (I think?) supernatural story. My feelings about this story are weird, where I feel like I want it to work out more than anything else I’ve ever written. So many things make me think of the story, music and movies and books, in a way that doesn’t always happen with other things I’m writing. The main character is super precious to me, and I’m extremely worried that I won’t portray her as wonderfully as I see her in my head. I’m also worried that the last portion of my plot doesn’t make sense, but that’s not nearly as important as getting this character perfect.

So that’s me, working on and thinking about too many things. But having all these projects swirling in my head gets me excited, and I actually spend more of my time writing and brainstorming because of it. I guess I’m just one of those people that functions better when there are multiple things to work on?

Kid Lit: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

“Most fish talk,” the fish said, “if you are willing to listen. One, of course, must want to hear.”

On the aWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lindvice of a recently freed goldfish, Minli decides to leave her poor village and find the Old Man in the Moon so she can ask him how to change her family’s fortune. She meets friends along the way, including a dragon who can’t fly and a buffalo boy with a celestial friend, on her long venture to the Man in the Moon’s home, Never-ending Mountain.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Throughout the book, Minli and other characters are told folk tales (which Min Li discovers to be true as she travels) that reveal certain things about the characters, and reveal how everything in Min Li’s world is interconnected. But the regular narration reads like this, too, like a well-loved tale that’s been told again and again, that made me want to read parts of it out loud to myself.

The hardcover I read is printed on thick paper, with beautiful, saturated color illustrations, and with colored line drawings to mark each new chapter.

And Minli is a great heroine. Even though she often needs help, she is not helpless, and figures her own way out of a lot of scrapes, like getting past some vicious monkeys.

As a writer, this book made me think back on a novel I wrote a few years back, but which I could never make work. I realize now that not only did I not get the tone right, but I gave him such a vague, esoteric motivation, so even though I’d plotted out the story and knew where to place him next, none of it ever felt important. Minli’s motivation was simple — to change her family’s fortune — but it gave her decisions weight, and gave readers a sense of where she should ultimately end up. If I ever go back to that story, I’m keeping this book in mind.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a story I’d love to read again, maybe someday in the future when I have a kid who’s old enough, and still wants me to read out loud.

Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings I’ve Read

This post is a part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme on The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their blog for other lists!

Cinder, Scarlett, and Cress by Stephanie Meyer. I started reading Cinder and the other books in this series last year, and I was immediately super impressed that Meyer follows the basic story of the fairy tales, while making it her own thing entirely. In particular she blew my mind with Cress, her retelling of Rapunzel, when she seamlessly integrated some elements that I had forgotten occurred in the fairy tale.

Dearskin by Robin McKinley. I first read this book, a retelling of Donkeyskin, in high school from my school library. Honestly, I think that book was in there by mistake, since a big part of the story involves incest and rape, but I’m so glad it was there. It’s an excellent, emotional book, and I’ve read it a couple of times since.

The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block. This is an anthology of fairy tale retellings.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. It’s Snow White, but figuring out which character is the princess, and which one is the evil stepmother, is part of the fun in this one.

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. Obviously this has to be on here.

There’s five for me! There are probably others that I’m forgetting, or others that I forgot/didn’t know were fairy tales to begin with.

What fairy tale retellings do you love? Let me know, and go to Broke and Bookish to add your list!

Books on My Summer To-Be-Read List

It’s been some time since I wrote a blog post! Partly because I have things going on in my life (I’m moving! Agh!) and partly because I’ve been in that awful I-don’t-know-what-to-write quagmire. I figured I’d use a Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish to get me back in the swing of things. Today: books on my summer to be read list.

  • 23899174In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. Judy Blume has a new book! I haven’t read any of her adult books before, but I started getting into a Judy Blume kick last year and I have heard good things about this one, and also it’s Judy Blume so let’s just do it.
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I’m fully aware this has been on lists before, but I’ve actually started reading it! It’s a thousand pages, though, so it’s going to take a chunk of my summer to get through.
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. This is one of those fantasy novels that came out a while ago that I’ve meant to read, but never have.
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer. A bonus book in the Lunar Chronicles series. After reading the first three back to back, I’ll need this to tide me over until Winter comes out.
  • Drawn & 22752444Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels. A collection of comics and essays about comics. Margaret Atwood writes an essay about Kate Beaton! Wow.
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I liked Wives and Daughters. This is shorter than that, so probably good for a summer read.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab. I don’t know much about this except that people I know seem to like it, and the cover looks cool.
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. See above.
  • Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett. Night Watch!

No children’s books, I know…right now I can’t think of a specific one I want to read, but rest assured, I will spend plenty of time reading books for twelve-year-olds this summer. =D

What do you all plan to read?

Books on My Spring To-Be-Read List

This is part of Top Ten Tuesday (yes, I know it’s Wednesday) on The Broke and the Bookish. This week: what books do I want to read this spring?

Men at Arms by Terry PratchettMen at Arms by Terry Pratchett. I’m reading Guards! Guards! right now, and I have read this book before, but I want to go through all the Watch books in order in my quest to finally read all of Sir Terry’s books.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Not a Discworld book! (I think?) But I’ve been meaning to grab it for a while.

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachman. I’m getting back into my middle grade story, so it’s time to read a bunch more middle grade books.

The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs. More middle grade lit! This is an older one, but it was a favorite of my husband’s when he was a kid.

The Sculptor, graphic novel by Scott McCloudThe Copernicus Legacy: The Serpant’s Curse by Tony Abbott. I…should have read this one already, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. I’ve got my library copy wasting away in my book basket.

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link. Short stories! Yes! This should be good.

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis. A new adult novel that sounds really fascinating (a girl gets abandoned in a store by her mother). So long as it doesn’t get depressing at the end.

Cress and Fairest by Marissa Meyer. I’m putting them both in the same spot because I just, just started Cress.

That’s me! I might actually get to these ones? We’ll see.

What about you? What do you plan on reading?

Fantasy Novels I Want to Read

For this list, I’m not talking children’s books or creepy magical realism. I mean hefty, high fantasy, the kind that are published in hardcovers that could be used as murder weapons and get reprinted in mass markets so thick that no matter how much you don’t want to crack the spine I’m sorry if you want to get through the middle you’re going to have to crack the spine.

After reading the Mistborn trilogy, and now finishing up Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson, I have a hankering not just for his books, but for fat fantasy in general. I used to gobble those books up as a teenager, with Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern and the first several volumes of Terry Brooks’ now seemingly-infinite Shanara books. There’s a lot that I want to get into, and a lot that I feel I’ve missed.

  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I just said that I love Sanderson now, so this should be obvious. Elantris is not as long as his other books (I’ve seen it side-by-side on the shelf) but it’s his first one, and also a stand-alone story, which would be nice to read.
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, two Sanderson books. But, this is the first of an epically long series that, currently, is only two books deep. They are monstrous books, but here’s a chance to get in at the beginning on something that could be big and wonderful.
  • Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn. Nothing particular drawing me to this book (except for dragons maybe), but I picked up this and its immediate sequel from the library when the fantasy section was going through a weed, so now those books are taking up a lovely little chunky space on my shelf. Like I’ve said, I need to get through the backlog, and I’ll probably love it besides.
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I feel like I did something wrong, having never once read anything by Robin Hobb. Am I missing out? Am I a bad fantasy fan? I want to amend this.
  • Something by Mercedes Lackey. I’m even more positive I’ve done something wrong by never reading a book by Mercedes Lackey. She’s written so many, I’m not even sure where to start. Any ideas?

If anyone reading this has any other suggestions for wonderful fantasy novels I may have missed, let me know — I am wide open for ideas. And if you have read anything on my list, please tell me, are they worth it?

This post was written as part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme on The Broke and the Bookish, where they asked if there were books in a certain genre you felt you needed to read. Do you have any books you want to get to, or feel like you’ve missed out on?

Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing This Year

This post is a part of Top Ten Tuesday, hosted on The Broke and the Bookish.

I have been quite the slacker with my blogging, but let’s try to get back in the swing of things with a nice little Christmas list. Some of these are books I’m sure I’m getting from someone or other, but others are likely not.

20701976Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo. I don’t always want to own art books, but this is such a wonderful and weirdly faceted show, I’m really excited to see early drawings and how the writers even manage to come up with things.

Nine Stories. I failed at reading Seymour, an Introduction, but I love Franny and Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye too much to not try more Salinger.

Alloy of Law. I’ve read a Brandon Sanderson blog post that he will be continuing the Mistborn universe with the characters introduced in this book, so I should get on it and read this one (though I’m still rather heartbroken over The Hero of Ages).

Elantris. Same thing, more Sanderson.

Hyperbole and a Half. I skimmed part of this when it passed through the library, why haven’t I read this yet? Why? It seems brilliant.

22078240Saga Deluxe Edition. I’ve already read everything in here, but I want to read it again. And what’s that, a hardcover collecting the first three volumes is out? Yes.

Cinder. I feel I need some new SciFi/Fantasy YA, and some of my friends and coworkers have rated this book highly.

I Shall Wear Midnight. I still haven’t gotten to reading this one, though I said I would. I just can’t imagine a world without more Tiffany Aching to look forward to.

The Maze Runner. Another popular, well-received YA I haven’t gotten to yet.

Show Your Work. I’ve read this from the library, and I bought Austin Kleon’s other creative advice book, Steal Like an Artist. But I want to own this book, so I can remind myself of some things, and also scribble all over it.

Of course, Barnes and Noble gift cards are always welcome.

Any books you want to see under your Christmas tree?

 

Middle Grade Novels: The Fourteenth Goldfish, The Greenglass House

I got back into reading children’s books again! As a should, since that’s what I’m trying to write. Here is a pair I recently read, and loved.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie has a hard time starting 6th grade. Her best friend, Brianna, has “found her passion” with the volleyball team and no longer seems to have time for her old buddy, and Ellie has trouble finding her own passion, something that she truly loves. Then her grandfather comes to live with her and her mother — except her grandfather is now 13 years old, having found a way to reverse age.

The science fiction element of the story is enough of a gimmick to snap up a reader’s attention, but Holm refrains from going whole-haul into the genre and allowing this to remain a story about Ellie, her maturity and growth as she understands that while there may be endings, there are also beginnings. Ellie is a fantastic heroine; her grandfather’s suddenly profound presence in her life ignites an unknown love of science (to her drama-teacher mother’s chagrin and begrudging acceptance) and she is actually the driving force behind the plot’s movement, figuring out how to retrieve her grandfather’s age-defying serum (a security guard mistook him for a trespasser) and deliberating on and bringing up the question: is this right? Should people live forever? I really appreciate the way Holm looks at science; right when I thought she was going to present a squeaky clean version of history, Ellie encounters the darker facts of science, like the effects of the atomic bomb and Marie Curie’s cancer brought on by her own research. It’s a balanced take on the pains and joys of moving on with your life, of dealing with loss, and even of science (Ellie clings to her new love of the subject even after learning of the darker side). And I have to admit, I have a tender spot for tales that involve the pain of growing apart from a very dear friend.

Greenglass HouseGreenglass House by Kate Milford

Milo’s adoptive parents own Greenglass House, an old house at the top of a hill in a smuggler’s town that they operate as an inn. Christmas break is usually a time free of guests, but then suddenly a whole handful of them show up at once. Each of these new comers seems to be seeking something within the house, which once belonged to infamous smuggler and town hero Doc Holyoak and holds more secrets and treasures than Milo or his parents imagined.

Milford’s writing is what drew me in initially, as she evokes clear, beautiful scenes of Milo relaxing in his house before all the trouble starts. Milo and the cook’s daughter (who he meets for the first time that day) Meddy decide to investigate the house and its surprise guests, in a unique way that Milford handles beautifully. Meddy convinces Milo to create an Odd Trails (think Dungeons & Dragons) character, and “play” as that character while he searches for clues. He creates the blackjack Negret, who is bolder, sneakier, and more observant than Milo, and he takes on the character fully as he plays, to the point where the third person narration refers to him as Negret, not Milo. Milo figures out some of the clues a tad too easily, with a few things left to chance (like overhearing a key conversation) but he also pieces things that he’s picked up from his increased observational skills as Negret, as well as the knowledge he holds as a lifetime resident of the house. I enjoyed the other characters as well, and would have gladly read a story about Clem and Georgie, but they never came out as clearly to me as Milo and Meddy, partly because there are so many of them, and they all have their own very involved story that doesn’t get told deeply enough. A pair of big twists at the end really did catch me by surprise; one in particular elevates the story and adds a nice bit of shock. Things get a bit too sappy at the end, and more is revealed to the wider population of the house than I feel was necessary, and there were some big things that are just left hanging, like the significance of the gate. Still despite the bumps and a bit of fizzle at the end this was a book I devoured with a few big bites.

Books on My Fall To-Be-Read List

Once again I’m taking a topic from Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and Bookish. This time, the books that I want to read this fall.

  • 20312458A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. I’ve been putting this off for a while, and I’m not even sure why. I think I’ve just been on a short book kick? And I never did finish rereading the whole series beforehand. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
  • Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. I’m currently reading this, but it’s danged long (though not as long as Dance) so this will take me a while to read this.
  • Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley. I have it, it’s sitting on my shelf, I’m gonna read it this week, I swear.
  • Extras by Scott Westerfeld. I’ve also been putting this one off, because I loved Tally and she’s not the main character here, as far as I can tell from the description. But I want to hand the whole book stack over to other people to read, so I’ve got to finish the series first.
  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan. Not only did I go to Lesley with Sara but her first book, If You Could Be Mine, was truly excellent. I can’t wait until this one comes out in a couple of weeks.
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I mentioned last week that I need to read more Sanderson. And I will. Perhaps on an upcoming plane trip…
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I also mentioned last week how much I want to read the next in her Raven Boys series. This also comes out in a couple of weeks. October is a good month this year.

Those are the books I plan to read this fall. will I get to all of them? Probably. Will I kick some out in favor of another one I decide I want to read more? Also probably. And obviously I’ll be filling in my months with more than that.

What books do you plan on reading this fall?

Animated Distractions: Steven Universe

When Cartoon Network started showing commercials for a cartoon featuring three lady warriors last year, I was certainly intrigued. With unique character designs and an art style not really similar to anything else on television, I thought, This could be great! Then a pudgy kid talking about a cheeseburger backpack ruined it for me. Here we go–another cartoon with a stupid main male character overshadowing the others. I should have had no hope. But then, two things sat me down for the premiere. First was the showrunner, not only an ex-Adventure Time team member (who wrote the best songs* and storyboarded some of my favorite episodes), but also the first woman to create a Cartoon Network show, Rebecca Sugar. Number two? A single line Steven and his dad said in the longer preview: “If every pork chop were perfect…” “…we wouldn’t have hot dogs!”

Okay.

So I sat through the premiere episodes, “Gem Glow” and “Laser Light Cannon”, and all the things that piqued my interest before hand — female characters, goofy lines — were there in wonderful full force and the scenes were beautiful, the backgrounds with a light, pinkish hue.. Every second fixed my eyes more firmly on the screen. And then, the Cookie Cat Rap happened.

Yeah. This is my kind of show.Read More »