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If they gave out Olympic medals for reading, I would make Michael Phelps’ epic medal collection look like chump change. Okay, I suppose it depends on my reading. I recently bought the first four books of the Game of Thrones, but it’s a bit of a slower read because over half my time is spent, “Now who is this person again? What’s going on? What’s happening? When is it going to get interesting?”—so I’m really hoping the HBO version is better. Adult fantasy books clearly aren’t my skill level.
But YA fantasy books totally are.
This weekend I read three fabulous YA novels, and the titles alone should intrigue you. They did me.
THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting reminds me a little of the Snow White fairy tale because there is an evil queen who doesn’t want to give up her power, a heroine who we find is destined to rule, and a black moment you knew was coming but wondered how is this story going to be saved? The men in this book—this heroine has THREE different guys you’ll end up rooting for—and yet you wonder, “Okay, which one is the good guy? Which one should she end up with?” Not in a love triangle sort of way, per se, but in a “Is the one she seems most drawn to really the best guy for her?” I found the author’s voice very readable; and it’s in first person—my favorite. Also, the setting for the dystopian world was filled in enough to feel interesting and new. A fast, entertaining read.
AS DEAD AS IT GETS by Katie Alender is actually the second in a series, which I was unaware of when I started. I think this made the story more interesting because much of the time, I was like, “What the hell happened before?” It was hinted at a lot and she did reveal enough details where you could piece it together, but at the same time, I want to go back and find the first book. It sounds too crazy to be believed. This story is about a teenage girl who can see dead people; and on top of it, one of the dead girls she can see happens to be a girl she helped kill. In the last book. I mean, it’s got a Christopher Pike theme going on in creep factor. But the heroine is quickly overshadowed by this quirky little detail when it becomes clear that a new ghost girl—someone she’s never met and never knew—is trying to kill her. And worse, she keeps killing off people the heroine knows and making it look like she did it. Nice. Talk about making a girl an outcast in her own school…and then there’s that stint in the mental hospital. And all the heroine is trying to do is make sure her younger sister is not affected by this. Yeah, good luck! Fortunately it all turns out right in the end, in case you were worried. You should give it a whirl—you’ll read it fast, I assure you!
WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED by Cat Hellisen is a debut book and the most original of the three, I thought. (Not that I was really comparing—they were all good reads.) But the setting is in a different place. Not really dystopian, but more like an alternate Victorian or Dickens era setting. In fact, one of the characters, Dash, reminds me of a Dickens character, and I haven’t actually read any Dickens novel. The heroine (Felicita) belongs to the privileged upper-class, but soon finds herself betrothed to someone she does not want to marry. And it’s not so much the fiancé as it is the way of life—women literally have no rights in the upper-classes and she can’t bear the boredom of it. On top of it, her best friend commits suicide to get out of a betrothal. So the heroine stages her own suicide in order to run away from home. She disappears into the seedy part of her world, a sort of lower London on the Thames sort of world. The world she belongs to is superstitious and full of magic; in fact she herself is capable of magic, which is part of her world status. The man who helps her in this new world—Dash—has his own agenda, and as she is pulled more and more into his plans, she has to make a decision if she will allow herself to be ruled by him or if she’ll follow her own beliefs? Dark but lyrical, I found this the most haunting of the three.
So what have you been reading lately? Let’s talk about the books which have captured our attention lately—anything lyrical or full of action?
January is a terrible time of year for resolutions. All that Christmas pudding and New Year’s champagne. You don’t want to commit to writing—you want to commit to Slim Fast and Insanity Workout. After all, what’s there to look forward to in January? Exactly. Bikini Season. And it’s here all too soon, isn’t it?
Now last week of July, that’s the time of the year to recommit to writing goals. You’ve come off the RWA Conference high: you’ve either been there or heard about it; you won or have friends who won; and the Golden Heart is right around the corner, just the perfect deadline before Thanksgiving. You’re not eating much anyway: it’s too hot and the bikini, after all. After a few months of tireless writing, you’ll need to eat your way through Thanksgiving through New Year’s to fatten up for your January resolutions.
But back to now, the end of July, your post-RWA high. It’s time. You need to dust off your AICHOK signs and write past the blank page. And by you, I mean me, but you’re welcome to join my post-RWA resolution.
Fortunately Sabrina will commandeer this whole thing and make sure we all report our weekly goals and award prizes at the end set-date (say Labor Day weekend), and that will gear us up for other favorite time of year, NaNoWriMo.
But back a second—it’s not enough to have a goal. You gotta have a dream. But it’s a medium dream—there are all sorts of dreams. Last night dreams when I thought I was eating worms (what is up with that?) and fifteen years from now dreams when I’m making millions of dollars and dreams that can occur about a year from now. That’s the dream I’m looking for here.
So here’s my dream: to go to the 2013 RWA Conference with a completed book to pitch. My supersonic dream is to have completed the book in time to enter it in the Golden Heart, but I don’t know if I want to be that crazy. Still. I should probably put it out there. And if the conference is my DREAM, then my goal is to get cracking on that book.
I’ve got about 70 pages of the book so far, but not enough scenes so far to have gotten to any turning points (which is actually more important than pages, if you think about it.) But it’s doable. Break that puppy into scenes and start cracking at scenes. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be written. You don’t need to know every bit about someone’s character, you just need to go with your instinct and let your fingers type. Don’t let the inner bastard edit. Seriously. Whatever you need to tune him out, do it.
So that’s my goal. I’m going to for the supersonic goal: complete book for Golden Heart. Which means I need like 300 pages, but let’s not worry about that. Don’t panic; just write. New motto.
What’s your dream for the next year and how are you going to go about achieving that? Sabrina is listening. Me, I’m plotting out scenes and trying not to break out in a cold sweat—though in this weather, sounds rather appealing.
P.S. Daddy-Pops has a doctor's appt for a checkup on his skin cancer (or to make sure his skin cancer is not growing into anything malignant)--I'll be out mostly, but will answer when I return. I promise. Have fun you guys and dream big!
I haven't been to RWA in three years. Last one I was at, in DC, Terri and I sat in a hallway, calling Hellie and Sin, gabbing about the hot firemen who'd been called in rather mysteriously, over and over for bogus fire alarms. The DC RWA was my fifth in a row and I've loved each and every one of them. Someday - maybe I'll go again. I went to three before I sold my first book to an editor I met at RWA.
But things come up and sometimes you just can't go. I hope Terri knows we'd all be there if we could. Maureen's gonna hafta be all of us - something I think she can handle.
Saturday night, I'll be watching the Olympics, but my thoughts will be in Anaheim and I'll be waiting to see what happens with Marnee and the rest.
Terri, if we were there, we'd carry you on our shoulders to the podium. True, we might be a little (okay a lot) drunk and slurry, but you wouldn't mind, would you?
And if the unthinkable happens (which it shouldn't, because it's UNTHINKABLE) we'd be there to make sure the person who won in your place, met with a little accident. Then you, being first runner up, would...oh, wait. I'm being told it doesn't work that way.
Good luck Terri! We'll be watching Facebook and cheering (or plotting to avenge you). And when you go to make your speech - don't be nervous - just picture the audience as undead pirates in their underwear.
There's a librarian who seems intent on making me feel old though he looks like he has a decade on me. My card is older than his. He's jealous. But being the 80s was when I got my library card and the 80s was when I discovered the author I'm going to talk about today, I thought, "Hey, some things really don't go out of style." Because I still love this author after all this time.
Now I admit, there was a few years in the 1990s, I didn't read her because she got a little odd. But I've now been rehooked with her new series and am happy to recommend her far and wide. I have my short list of must-reads from her 80s list: The Raider, The Awakening, Wishes, Mountain Laurel, and Eternity. And then we have the current list: Lavender Morning, Days of Gold, Scarlet Nights, The Scent of Jasmine, Heartwishes...etc. Jude Deveraux's newest release, Stranger in the Moonlight, is another perfect edition for the Edilean series.
When you thought about a Deveraux book in the 80s, you talked about the Montgomeries and the Taggerts. Those were the types of heroes. In the 10s, it's a town, Edilean, readers look for. There are some heroes intrinsic to the town, but Ms. Deveraux is willing to import as well. :)
In this story, STRANGER IN THE MOONLIGHT, the heroine, Kim, is the character intrinsic to the town, and her hero, Travis, is a friend from childhood who visited with her at an important time of her life--and his--and voila, it was destiny. This book is the second in a series within this series, about three friends. This book can easily stand alone though; however, I imagine you will seek out more stories in this series once you get started. This series features all the things I really love about Jude Deveraux books: compelling characters, unique voice (you know it's Ms. Deveraux in about 2 paragraphs), and entertaining story. Oh, and one of the things she does that I adore: she'll usually insert a character who isn't who he/she seems and you find out later, they were important. Good times.
The heroines are strong, but not...Lara Croft. They do interesting things: jewelry making, painting, research, opera singer--heck, even the little rich girls are entertaining because they always step up to the challenge. They can bring the banter to the hero, and I love to read the dialogue between them. It feels...well, like something Deerhunter and I would say. They're just my kind of people. I can even relate to the rich ones--and I don't even like rich people. I just hope Ms. Deveraux keeps writing this series because I want to keep reading it.
Are there any writers you're still reading 20 years later? (Or well, 25 years later to get back into the 80s as I was.) What makes these authors comfortable and satisfying to read? Has anyone else read this series (or other books by Ms. Deveraux)?
Oh, and yes, I was given this book by a publisher, but I hardly think that signifies since I've gotten several free books of other various authors and haven't written reviews on about half of them, because...well...I didn't care for that half. I write about what I want. The End. This book rocks. Go, Jude Deveraux!
But in my reading life, the more angst the better. My heart aches, my hands tingle, and I cry. I cry a lot. Ironically, these are my favorite books. I generally read near a box of tissues, in private so I'm not humiliated by the snuffling. Then I'll catch sight of myself in the mirror, all puffy-eyed and red-faced, and burst out laughing. It's a BOOK! And yet I can't wait to get back to it and cry even more.
I find the roller-coaster ride of angst-filled book to be exhilarating. I always have more energy when I set down a book then I did when I picked it up and started (which can be a problem when it's four am and I need to get some sleep).
So I'm curious . . . what do you find exhilarating and energizing when it comes to reading. Is it the angst? The sexiness? The humor? Does angst make you cry and humor make you laugh out loud? What's the best combination? Anyone love a perfect laugh-out-loud joke in the middle of a tear-inducing, angsty scene?
So instead maybe you can tell me what you've read lately that you want to brag and gush about? Build my TBR pile please!
Despite my amazing abilities to create analogies out of the most obscure things, I have yet to find a blog of how watching MAGIC MIKE can improve your writing. I mean, I'm sure there's a blog for that; I'm willing to watch the movie several more times to write that blog; but I haven't found the spark yet. Too busy staring at Channing's abs, I suppose.
Today, though, I took my nieces to see BRAVE, which has a better chance of finding something more meaningful for your writing. I like to watch movies for the Black Moment--to see how it's done and hopefully to incorporate it in my writing. The Black Moment is a fine line, isn't it? EVERYTHING is lost--you've had hope all this time. You're holding your breath that it can still work out, and nope, the very thing the hero or heroine wanted most is denied. Usually through a fault of their own, something like a too little too late and they know it.
In BRAVE, when the heroine tries to change her destiny, she makes a request through a witch for a spell to "change her mother." Only she's not real specific about it--and her mom gets turned into a bear. When I heard this, I had some doubts, but actually it's pretty good. They bonded as daughter and bear, much more than they bonded as mother and daughter. So when it comes to the BLACK MOMENT, which my oldest of the nieces said, "It's that Beauty and the Beast moment", we were all crying because like the heroine, we were all sorry this wasn't turning out despite all her hard work to change things.
Anyway, this all makes me think: what does my character want most? Why is this wrong for them? How can I show them that their "utmost desires" is in actual conflict with what they actually need? How can I make it bittersweet and funny too? What scenes can come of the complications that arise from them not getting exactly what they want--how do they make the best of it, and what do they learn? Then, in the end, how do I show the worst of all possible endings, but still save it in the end?
I think Disney movies especially are great for these sorts of arcs; and I think thinking about them can help you brainstorm in your initial storytelling and later in your revisions when you're thinking about how to strengthen your book with shadowing and deeper storytelling.
What are some of your favorite movies and their Black Moments? Do you think about them or try to figure out how to learn from them? (Or am I the only weirdo there?) Has anyone else seen BRAVE (or MAGIC MIKE)? Do you like Disney's Black-Black Moments?
Is that not very patriotic of me? Sorry, but my poor pups whine and cry for days as people set off loud fireworks, bang on pots and all other manner of craziness. Not to mention, who waits until 11 or 12 at night to set off fireworks? Oh right, drunk people.
Okay, now that I've probably driven everyone away with my mini-rant I want to relate what this day is really all about to our writing. July 4th for Americans is about Freedom and I think that's a wonderful word for writers to embrace.
I hope that putting those words on the page makes you feel like you can fly. That your mind is free to create and weave your inspiration into something you can't wait to share with the world.
As much as it sometimes takes everything we can muster to sit down and put words on the page, I'm tasking you to focus on how free you are to put any and all words you want down there. Think about that. You have absolute freedom over your story and characters. You are in control and the choices you have are infinite.
Embrace that freedom the next time you sit down to write. Let go of stress and expectations and just write with a refreshed sense of anything being possible.
I'm off to the beach for part of the day today, but later I'm going to attempt to make these amazing looking (and low fat/calorie!) no-bake cupcakes from Self Magazine.
What are your July 4th plans? Have any fun summer recipe links you can share with us? What about the feeling of total freedom in your writing - do you love that or is it a foreign idea to you? Again, I challenge you to focus on that the next time you sit down to write.
Happy Independence Day!
Ms. Hoyt was unique in that she wrote in an earlier time period than most of her historical contemporaries; however, it is her newest series, set even forty years before her last series that has really shined with her brilliance. She is skilled at blending the dark and the light, the gritty and the glitter, the poor and the rich--and weaving tales so heartbreaking, you want to go back in time and meet the characters in person. You know they're there, in St. Giles and the more habitable parts of London--and you know from reading you would never buy gin or you'd never buy cheap products knowing they're created off the backs of child labor.
THIEF OF SHADOWS, showcases Winter Makepeace, the quiet studious schoolmaster and manager of the orphanage where St. Giles' unfortunates find a safe place to stay. He also happens to be the Ghost of St. Giles, the masked Harlequin who scampers across rooftops at night and rights wrongs and saves those who are unable to save themselves. That is, until, he needs someone to save him, and Lady Isabel Beckinhall just happens to be the lady in the carriage who finds his passed out body in the middle of the road...and saves him.
If you like your heroes more on the reserved and quiet side, you will find Winter Makepeace one of the best heroes you'll read about this year. If you love well-endowed virgin heroes, then this is definitely the book of the year for you. I enjoyed him quite a bit, and though I'm not sure I would say this is my favorite book of the series (I didn't find the heroine as interesting as the previous three), Winter makes up by being pretty darned delightful. There's a scene where he comforts the heroine and she breaks down, and she says she doesn't want him to see her when she's ugly...and he says, well, just exactly the right thing. Move out of the way 50 Shades of Grey, THIS is the fantasy women really want: a man strong enough to hold her when she cries, comfort and caress her and not make it about sex, and then say she is the most beautiful, bravest woman he knows. Brilliant.
I cannot get enough of this series and I know I will be disappointed when Ms. Hoyt finally puts this setting to rest, but I know she will create and enchant us with another new part of London in a time period we don't know as well as we think we do, and win us again. Ms. Hoyt should be on your autobuy list. She's hot; she's emotional; she's historically accurate but not boring about it; her writing is gritty, sexy, and beautiful altogether. She writes the universal female fantasy for strong, caring, loving men who are flawed but beautiful where it counts, for sex that is as much about the mental and emotional as the physical, that isn't pretty but always satisfying, and for love that conquers class, poverty, and the hard realities of the world. And I'm very, very grateful she's usually able to provide two books a year.
Her next one cannot come fast enough.
Do you read Elizabeth Hoyt? Do you have a favorite series or book of hers? What book in a series are you most waiting for this year? (Does not have to be Ms. Hoyt!)
How to wind this down… I have a few questions for the crew… How have books you’ve read stack up against the movies/series? Have you discovered a writer through the dramatic interpretation of their work? Does anyone else collect lines from books that inspire you? Or do you find the idea intimidating? Anyone else see this series yet?