Monthly Archives: December 2013

At Year’s End

welcome-2014I’m not going to do a year in review.

It reminds me of those long-winded messages shoved into Christmas cards that go on and on about the Girl Scout cookies the kids sold over the year OR how many exciting trips the family took in the RV.

Don’t get me wrong. In moderation, I love those things. Heck, I’ve even written those things (a few weeks ago…in fact).

But not today.

I think I’ve had enough looking back at 2013 for now.

I’m also not going to be making any resolutions.

I consider myself a writer. A yet to be published writer, but a writer nonetheless.

You can figure out what I want to have happen next year without me making any proclamations.

Right?

What I do want to do with my last little bit of 2013 is to wish you a peaceful & joy filled 2014. I am hoping it will be a great year for us all.

And so I say WELCOME 2014!

It was nice knowing you 2013. Try not to kick up any dirt on your way out the door.

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DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver

HarperCollins 2011

DeliriumCover(I finished reading this on Christmas day. There is nothing that puts you in the mood for holiday cheer like a good dystopian government and their endless barbaric rules. Tra la la la la, la la la la.)

Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy is not your usual YA Dystopian Romance story set in the distant future. This Dystopian Romance is set in an alternate present (Slang and landmarks found in current day Portland, Maine are referenced and fit with the times). Circumstances have occurred sometime in our past that led the government to forbid love. Now this emotion is thought of as a disease that has caused all the suffering people have felt through the ages (umm…wait a minute. They might have a point there).

In this story poetry is banned and Romeo & Juliet is thought of as a cautionary tale. Regulators walk the streets to see if others might be holding hands or laughing to loud. Boys and girls are kept apart to save them from the crippling disease. Everyone is waiting until their eighteenth birthday so that they can be cured.

The cure for love is a medical procedure akin to a lobotomy. After you have it, you don’t care about anything. You move through your life one day at a time. You are neither happy or sad. Nor sympathetic or appreciative. You are just there. Existing.

The only emotion any cured people ever seem to express is fear and anger. The fear comes in the form of worrying about whether the regulators are going to accuse them of something. Punishment is swift and harsh. Anger is evident when an uncured or a sympathizer breaks the rules. The cured get vicious when they are trying to squelch love.

There were plenty of things to love about this book (see….they can’t stop me, just don’t tell any regulators). First, I love Lauren Oliver’s writing. It is like poetry in its elegance and style. She uses excellent descriptive words and really makes you see what she is describing. Plus there is symbolism for freedom all over the place in this story: the book of shhh, cows, birds, fences and running just to name a few.

Second, I love Lena our protagonist. She is a troubled girl who lost her mother to love. For her the cure is a way to save herself from the fate her mother endured. She works so hard not to have emotions. Lena just counts down the days until she can stop worrying. She thinks her life will begin once she is cured.

Third, I love Alex. He is the required romantic interest in a story about saving/destroying love. This boy is an outsider who is passing himself off as a cured person. His story and the depths he goes to let Lena do what is right for her moved me.

This is the first of a trilogy with other mini stories added to the mix. You can read more about Lauren Oliver, her books and follow her blog at http://www.laurenoliverbooks.com/

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Winter?

For all the bluster and bragging it did over the past couple of weeks, Winter certainly came in like a lamb.

The Winter Solstice was a balmy 60 degrees in the greater NYC area.

I could get used to weather like this…Happy Winter!

winter-solstice-tree

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Cutting It Close (or NOT Perfection)

Do you ever feel like pulling your hair out? Has your day ever weighed you down so that it seems like you’re swimming through molasses? Have you ever had a mini panic attack because time just keeps rolling along and you don’t see how you can accomplish everything that has to be done?

If you answered yes to any of those questions you know where I am coming from tonight.

My day-to-day job is centered around getting items out the door and into people’s hands in a timely manner. Now, for the most part people are pretty cool about when their orders arrive. Not right now. Right now they want everything yesterday. That is because it is eight days until Christmas. So…I have to scramble around packing, labeling, hauling and shipping boxes by 5:00 each day. That is when our Post Office closes.

Having a daily deadline can be a good thing. It makes me set my priorities on what needs to be done and when.  I like to relate it to the writing I do and I know it keeps me focused.

perfectionBut sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is like playing that game Perfection. You know the one. It’s this big puzzle where you have to fit all the pieces into the correct holes before the ticking timer runs out. There is a frantic dash to match shape with shape and if you don’t finish in time, the whole puzzle pops up into your face.

That is how I was feeling today. I was sure those pieces where going to hit me on the nose. I wasn’t beating the timer. It was beating me in the form of a jammed label maker. I ended up running out the door ten minutes before five and then sloshed through the snow to cross the threshold just before they locked the doors at the Post Office.

There is always a huge sense of relief when I get there in time even when I don’t think it’s possible. In fact I am notorious at the Post Office for coming in just under the wire. On the few occasions I arrive around 3:00 or 4:00, the people behind the counter always check the clock. It makes me laugh.

So here’s to cutting it close. I appreciate being able to flop down into my chair after a harrowing experience on the sidewalks. If I was never under stress I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the liberation that comes afterwards. It would be nice though if it didn’t happen everyday. Plus, my hair could stand a break from the constant pulling.

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GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

Harcourt, 2008

Graceling-coverI read this book a while ago and have been holding onto the recommendation. I can not really explain why I waited so long. All I can say is that I was worried my words would not be able to do the story justice. It is that good that I feel intimidated to even write a simple suggestion that you rush out and get this book (but go get it anyway!). 

Graceling is set in another time or another place where the wealthy live in castles and travel is on horseback. In this world a few rare people are born with often feared powers called graces. The special skill they have can be something unthreatening like swimming, baking, singing and even dancing. A grace can also be more of a supernatural skill worth fearing like the ability to read minds. The graced or gracelings, who can always be identified by the fact that they have two different colored eyes, often live solitary lives. Their skills cause so much anxiety that few are willing to get close to them.

The protagonist of this story is a graced teenage girl named Katsa. She is the niece of one of the seven kings in the region of nations mapped out in the book. Her skill was discovered when she was just a child living at her uncle’s court. A man she was distantly related to wouldn’t leave her alone so she hit him in the face. When it killed him the king wasted no time in using her talent to control the people around him. For years Katsa is forced to do his dirty work, often hurting and even killing people. Finally she stands up to him and sets out on an adventure where she will find out who or what she and her grace really are.

Basically this is a coming of age story, but I found it to be more unpredictable than some books I have read. I pride myself on knowing what’s going to happen in most stories or movies. This book had so many twists and turns that I kept finding myself surprised.

I also want to mention Kristin Cashore’s writing style. She uses very descriptive words, but they’re not flowery or overpowering. I found them to have a striking elegance which made reading this, her first novel, a pleasure. In fact, it moved me.

Graceling is the first book of a three part series. It is followed by first Fire and then Bitterblue. You can read more about the Graceling Series at http://www.gracelingrealm.com/index.html

Kristin Cashore’s personal blog is on blogspot:  http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/

She in herself is worth following.

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First Snow Day and Writing

snow dayToday we had our first real bit of snow of the season here in the northeast. There have been a couple of days where flakes fell from the sky before now, but nothing “stuck” until today. All told I would say it totaled a couple or so inches.

The weather people on the TV said it was going to start sometime around 7:00 in the morning and spend a good deal of the day turning everything white. That it did. Lovely, cool and pure.

I was trudging through the house at 5:30 this morning because I am a hair’s width away from finishing my novel that was started during NaNoWriMo. I should have had it done yesterday morning, but for some reason the alarm did not go off when I thought it would. There was only time to stuff my face with raisin bran and then sprint out the door to make it to the office before the mailman.

My work in progress is the second in a YA trilogy I’m writing. I have to say it is a real pleasure creating this one. It must be because I rushed through the rough draft during November that I am still in love with this story. There was no time to go back and question what I had written. I just pointed my finger forward and marched.

The first book is still in major revisions and that rough draft took me a whole year to write. It has the exact same characters and simply continues the story, but I am in a romance with this one that I did not feel for the first. I have to say though that I can’t wait to wrap the sequel’s rough draft so I can sink my hands back into its predecessor. I have to find the romance there too.

So, like I said before I got sidetracked to describe my writing saga, I was trudging through the house at 5:30 when my husband yells out that we need to leave the house at 6:30 to be ahead of the storm. When it comes to weather he is a “better safe than sorry” sort of person. You have no idea how many nights I have spent in the basement because it was winding outside.

I wanted to argue that this was not going to be a major storm, but it is hard to disagree with someone who has your best interest at heart. So, I roused the girl and gulped down some more raisin bran. We made it the office just before the snow started.

Finishing the novel this morning didn’t happen. Again. Work takes precedent.  My new plan is to tuck that story into bed early tomorrow morning. I am giggly just thinking about it. Wish me luck and that we are done with the snow for a while.

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FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

St. Martin’s Press, 2013
Word Count: 107994

(This is my first book recommendation since completing NaNoWriMo…YEAH! I CAN READ AGAIN!)

FANGIRL_CoverFangirl by Rainbow Rowell is the kind of book I didn’t think I wanted to read. The first real paragraph on the inside jacket said it was a story about a pair of twins who got through their mother leaving them to live with their father by writing fanfiction. This didn’t just reach out to grab and shake me around saying READ ME!

Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against fanfiction. I’ve even read a few stories online about the further happenings of Harry Potter. Plus I now know what else Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett have been up. Fanfiction is just a fun way to keep characters alive once the author finishes telling their story.

The reason I wasn’t sure I was interested in this book was because the girls’ mother left them. That’s sort of heavy. I don’t always want to tackle traumatic moments just before I fall asleep at night.

I am not too proud to admit that I was wrong on so many levels. The book did grab me and shake me around. Good and hard. It ended up yelling READ ME so loud I could hardly put it down. There was even one day at work that I barely got anything done because I kept sneaking breaks to read what was happening (It’s a good thing my husband and I have our own business).

Fangirl is told from the point of view of Cath, the introvert of the twin pairing with her sister Wren. After their mother left when they were eight, the two of them became engrossed in the fictitious world of Simon Snow. Now that they have graduated high school and are moving on to college, Wren wants to ditch that part of her life. Cath can’t. She is a highly successful fanfiction writer with followers hanging on her every word. This is her sanctuary; what she believes is her reason for being. It’s all she wants to do.

During her freshman year she learns a lot about herself. The cast of characters that support and trip her up along the way are charming, clever and work so hard to pull you into Cath’s story. It was these side players that kept me turning the pages to see what would ultimately happen with Cath, especially in the romance department (no spoilers).

Like so many others before me, I’m strongly recommending this book. I am glad I was able to listen to these suggestions instead of going with my gut instinct on this story. It was definitely worth my time.

You should also check out Rainbow Rowell’s website (rainbowrowell.com). It is also charming and clever…just like her characters.

On a side note, Rainbow Rowell first began this journey with Cath and friends during NaNoWriMo. That gave me such encouragement while I trudged away with my own NaNo novel. I had hope the whole month because something great really CAN be accomplished in just 30 days. Check out Rainbow Rowell’s NaNoWriMo Pep Talk. Maybe it will inspire you as well.

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IWSG Day in December

This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group is being hosted as always by Alex J. Cavanaugh. His comrades in arms are Julie Flanders, InsecureWritersSupportGroupHeather Gardner, Kim Van Sickler and Elsie is Writing! Thank you all for your effort.

The purpose of the IWSG is: “To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!”

After you’ve read my post, please Click here  to “hop” to another blog on the list to support and share with others.

As for me, I am still on a high from my early finish of the NaNoWriMo challenge. My rough draft is almost complete. I continue to wake each morning before the sun, trying to maintain my NaNo pace. After that is done I plan to take the rest of the month off and let the story simmer for a bit.

The question I have today for you writing veterans is on critique partners.

Where did you find yours?

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