Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Road Trip: Best Book This Month

YA Highway's question of the week is a fun one: What's the best book you've read this August?

I already mentioned this book a few posts ago, but this gives me an opportunity to sing its praises again, because I thought Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone was absolutely spectacular. Here's the description:

(From Goodreads) Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I had already read Laini Taylor's National Book Award-nominated Lips Touch: Three Times and was impressed with her beautiful writing and the wild inventiveness of her stories, so I was pretty excited when my CP brought me an ARC of her new book. And boy, I was sucked in from the first page. Karou is strong and mysterious, and the author doles out her background in little tidbits that make you want to read on as quickly as possible. And the writing, as expected, is gorgeous. It make me want to go to Prague and eat goulash, to wander through Marrakesh and haggle with shopkeepers. The originality of the story blew my mind--I've never read anything like this before. And the pieces of her puzzle fit together beautifully in the end, which is when you gnash your teeth and say Why can't I have written this book???

Daughter of Smoke & Bone comes out on September 27th, and if you like things that are awesome, I highly recommend you pick this one up. I know I'll be buying copies for friends and family. Laini Taylor is an author to keep on your radar.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

September Madness

My three-week traveling stint is in full swing, having started yesterday with an early flight north to the Company Mothership and a raging sore throat. Why do I always get sick on work trips? I'm not kidding--my coworkers must think I have no immune system. I'll fly home on Friday, but I've got two four-hour bus rides to look forward to between now and then. Yay.

Next week my husband and I are flying to Dubrovnik, Croatia--a journey that will take us through no less than five different airports--to attend the wedding of an old friend from our Germany days. And what's a trip to Europe in September without a pit stop in Munich on the way home to catch the first day of Oktoberfest? It will be my sixth time auf der Wiesn, and my husband's ninth. It's like being a repeat visitor to Mardi Gras, and I don't know why we still put ourselves through it. Must be the Steckerlfisch.

I love to travel, and I'm grateful that we're able to take these trips, but man alive am I hoping this is our last trip for the year. These next few weeks are going to put a hitch in my revisions, but one good thing about spending hours and hours in transit--it's great free time for plotting and brainstorming. Are you like me--do you plunge your mind into your imaginary worlds any time you find yourself sitting around with nothing to do?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recharge of the Week

This is where I was at last night--does this count as an artist's date?

deadmau5 at the Hollywood Palladium
Music that gets you jumping and shouting, masses of sweaty, happy people, a grinning DJ who seems as excited about sharing his music as you are to be listening to it. Tank refilled. Just in time, too, because tomorrow night I will be in full writing-cave mode while my husband goes back out to see this guy again.

Why did I not realize in my 20s that live music is a good thing?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Writer's Block

This week, the good ladies over at YA Highway have posed this question:

How do you beat writer's block?

I think this is a topic we all have something to say about, unless I suppose you're some sort of freak who never gets writer's block. WHO ARE YOU? WHAT IS YOUR SECRET?

I saw a funny tweet once (can't remember who) that said something like, Gangsters go to the mattresses--writers go to the showers. It's true, I've had a plotting breakthrough or two in the shower. Also while running, or cooking, or playing Attack Horses with my cat. 

Sometimes the key to beating writer's block is as simple as letting myself write a really crappy first sentence, using brute force to get that first awful paragraph down. Sometimes it involves a Google spreadsheet and a hundred cells of stream-of-consciousness notes. Picking up someone else's book and reading for a while can help untangle the brain snarl too.

Speaking of other people's books, this reminds me of another piece of advice that Laurie Halse Anderson shared at SCBWI LA (taken originally from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way): Make an artist's date once a month, if not once a week. This is a regularly scheduled time that you spend feeding your creativity, and there are countless ways you can do this. I found a good page here with some ideas, including flying a kite or coloring in a coloring book. I was thinking something more along the lines of going to a museum or listening to live music, but taking a pottery class sounds like a good idea too.

I don't usually think of myself as an artist when I'm writing, but when we're creating stories out of thin air, we really are. So I guess on top of your writer's block cure, I'm really curious about what you do to feed your creativity. Do you pursue anything artistic outside of writing?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are You WriteOnConning?

The new writing configuration, chez moi
Hey mes amis, are you checking out all the goodies at WriteOnCon this week? I was resistant, but my CP Liz talked me into joining the fun. Let me tell you, those forums are totally addictive. I even posted my query for critique, although because I am a big hairy chicken, I posted under a nickname. I'm not hard to find, though--I told you this nickname back in January, so if anyone is really that curious, then have at it, Encyclopedia Brown.

What else is going on? I'm slaving away at the final part of my revisions, i.e. the hard part. This is the point where the story kinda ran off the rails in the first draft, and while my characters are still headed in the same direction, I need them to take a route that's less...circuitous. I'm still planning to get my revisions done by the end of the month, but it's going to be tough, since this week I have houseguests (again!), and in two weeks I'm out on a business trip. Followed by a trip overseas. And then maybe some peace and quiet. In October. (Profanity follows...)

In the reading department, I read two ARCs recently that I really enjoyed--one was Legend by Marie Lu. Good world-building, very solid storytelling, and I loved the characters. Marie Lu shows no mercy. The other ARC was Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, which knocked my socks off. The story was unique and rich, and the whole thing was so original. I'm the kind of reader who likes to be carried along by a story--I don't try to guess endings--and to me this one was just about perfect.

I hope your weeks are going well, and I hope to see you in the WriteOnCon forums. Keep your eyes on this blog--I may have a little giveaway for you soon...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holy Moses It's Practically Halloween

How, may I ask, did a third of August already slip past? Has anyone noticed a recurring theme on this blog along the lines of, Where the heck did all my time go?

When I was a little girl, maybe around 2nd grade, I went through a phase where I couldn't fall asleep at night because I would just lay in bed and worry. I would worry about my parents, about my pets, about school, about just anything that had to do with the future and my minimal control over it. One night I remember sobbing to my sweet patient mom, after wandering downstairs in tears for the thousandth time, Mom, why does time go by so slowly?

Ha. I think my mom did actually choke back a laugh when she said, Don't worry, when you get older, time will go faster than you want it to. And I think about that conversation every time I find myself sweating over the passage of time.

I suppose I should mention that I survived SCBWI LA last weekend! It was awesome, and exhausting. I met the coolest people and had such a good time being in an environment where it just felt natural to talk about imaginary characters and world building and shiny ideas. I don't have a picture of myself en pajama for the 40 Winks Gala (does anyone? anyone?), but had some ridiculous fun. The keynote speakers were fabulous, some of them (I'm looking at you, Libba Bray and Jon Sciescka) made me laugh until I cried. And Gary Paulsen, my goodness--I don't know how many of us had ever heard of him beforehand, but we all left with our jaws dragging on the ground. That someone like that even exists!

The standout for me out of all the workshops was Laurie Halse Anderson's talk, The Nuts and Bolts of Crafting a Creative Life. I don't know how to explain it, but when she spoke to that small room, it didn't feel like a lecture, it felt like advice from a colleague and close friend. What she said wasn't revolutionary--nobody has enough time. That's nothing new. But her words hit home: We all waste time on things that don't matter. She advised us to write a list of the 5 things that matter most, and the 5 things we spend the most time on, and see if they line up. If not, make it so.

And stop farting around on that undeserving time vampire called The Internet.