Saturday, December 18, 2010

Revision Blues


If you're a new follower, you may not know the whole epic saga... basically, I had a phone call with an amazing literary agent and she loved my manuscript, but thought it needed more developing. She gave me lots to think about, and since every one of her editorial ideas was spot-on, I really want to please her. Of course, the improvements are what's best for the novel, too. I've been working on it for the past three months and today I'm hitting a rough spot.

Oh no, what if I don't weave in this teensy bit of information here? Does that through this other scene off-balance, into unbelievability territory? Does this POV character sound different enough from the other one? Will the whole thing suck if I don't find a place to develop this aspect of the character? *insert hair pulling and tears here*

I might just be nit-picking. The revisions I've done really are awesome, and all this stressing is just over throwing the manuscript into "phenomenal" territory. I really want her to read it again and think, "Whoa, this author hit it out of the park!"

Any tips? Anyone want to be a cheerleader?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is a meme hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

The question today is:

What do you consider most important in a story: the plot or the characters?

My answer: Definitely the characters! If the characters are lacking, the plot will be, too. Although you can't have a plotless book either. I define plot as "what happens to the characters," so basically as long as you have characters you're going to have plot... but I digress! Stellar characters are most important!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Books in 2010!

Everyone is doing a post like this, but I'm bored and procrastinating studying for my history exam tomorrow. I also just have a lot to say about the books I've read this year! I'm going to concentrate on books I read in 2010, not just books that were released this year. I got this survey from Audrey at holes in my brain.


Best Book of 2010: Wow, might as well smack me over the head with this question. I read so many amazing books this year, and 2010 isn't over yet. But I'm going to go ahead and give it to ICE by Sarah Beth Durst. This book took me by storm and is now one of my absolute favourites. I'm so sad that it's not more well-known.

Worst Book of 2010: There were a few books I didn't read all the way through because they just didn't click with me, but the one that I did finish that I thought was bad was HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick. Even though it was written by a fellow Becca, the anti-feminism, pro-rape plot developments in this book were, I thought, just offensive.

Most Disappointing Book of 2010: I'm going to get some hate mail over this one, but - MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins.

Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2010: This one's a tie between PAPER TOWNS by John Green and THE LUXE by Anna Godbersen. I discovered John Green this year, and I was totally unprepared for how hilarious and deep this book was. As I wrote in my review of THE LUXE yesterday, I completely underestimated this book by passing it off as just an old-fashioned Gossip Girl. It was so much more!

Most Recommended-to-Others Book of 2010: As it has been for a few years now, I AM THE MESSENGER and THE BOOK THIEF, both by Markus Zusak. I'm constantly pushing these books all over the place, I should be credited as Markus Zusak's publicist!

Best Series Discovered in 2010: Oooh... probably The Agency series by Y. S. Lee. They're so fresh and exciting, and have helped rekindle my love of mysteries. I literally shed a few tears last night when I found out the next one won't be out until 2012. 20-freaking-12!!!

Favourite New Authors Discovered in 2010: Perhaps Kody Keplinger, of THE DUFF fame. I think she's going to continue being a fixture on the YA lit scene for a long time. John Green, too. Anna Godbersen. Lauren Oliver. So many.

Most Hilarious Read of 2010: HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins. So very funny, and totally original!

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2010: THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams. I read it in a few hours, could NOT put it down.

Most Anticipated Book of 2010: MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins and ASCENDANT by Diana Peterfreund.

Favourite Cover of a Book read in 2010: Probably the cover of David Levithan's LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW, even though it makes me really sad to look at.

Most Memorable Character of 2010: For me it was Margo Roth Speigelman of PAPER TOWNS. I've never wanted to be a fictional character so bad!

Most Beautifully-Written Book of 2010: Wow. ICE. LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW. THE CHOSEN ONE. Take your pick. All of those were so beautiful it almost hurt to read.

Book that had the Greatest Impact on you in 2010: Again, wow. PAPER TOWNS perfectly captured some of the feelings I had about my graduation, and that really put things in perspective.

Book you can't believe you waited until 2010 to read: Haha! THE LUXE, hands-down! I can't believe I'd ever turned my nose up at it before.

There we have it! But 2010 isn't over yet, I still have plenty of books in my TBR pile that may change the above answers! ;)

Sometimes I'm not so good with the words...

My sister, Grace, is 12 years old and a fellow YA lit lover. I pass on everything I read to her, and often we'll sit on my bed late into the night and talk about books. Last night, after a particularly lively discussion about what might happen in Rachel Hawkins' upcoming DEMONGLASS, the following conversation took place:

Grace: Wow, we're nerds.

Me: Yeah, but better that than... lying outside. On the ground.

Grace: ...what?!

Me: I dunno, I was just trying to think of something worse than being a nerd.

Grace: And you came up with that?! You're a writer!

Me: Aww... writer fail.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thoughts on The Luxe

Yesterday I finished reading THE LUXE by Anna Godbersen. This book has been out for a while, I think it was published in 2007, and I'd seen it around on book store shelves but was always hesitant to pick it up. It was the cover - almost too beautiful. It had to be disguising an awful book, right?

Or so I thought. Last month I caved and bought the book to read while supervising my little sister's birthday party. I read the prologue and first chapter, and then set it down. I read it casually, here and there, for a few weeks until really getting into it last week.

And OMG. What a ride.
The adage "don't judge a book by its cover" goes both ways. Just because a book has the most gorgeous cover ever, don't assume it's only there to cover up a sloppy, awful book! Sometimes good books get amazing covers, too!

I was completely sucked in. THE LUXE is about two high-society sisters in turn-of-the-century Manhattan, Elizabeth and Diana Holland, who rule the social scene. Their father has recently passed away, and it's becoming ever more clear that to save their family financially, Elizabeth has to make a good marriage. The pressure is on.

I don't want to say much more than that - there's a lot I could spoil very easily. There's so much drama (New York rich girls, hello?), the tension makes the book impossible to put down. I'll admit that I wasn't really sold on it in the first quarter of the book, but let me say that this: once you make it 1/3 of the way in, THE LUXE will not let you go!!!

The characters are what make it so amazing. Writers and readers are always harping on about how the characters are the most essential component of a novel, yadda yadda, and I agree with them, but I never really got it until this book. The five main characters, Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope, Henry and Lina, are so incredible real. I loved all of them, but that's not to say they don't have flaws. They have huge flaws, but are unbelievably loveable because of those flaws. I feel the same way about these characters that I feel about my best friend - I don't like how she obsesses over her boyfriend and is never punctual, but I love her anyway. These characters lie, cheat, keep terrible secrets, but I love them because they're so real.

I care so deeply about what happens to them that I rushed out and bought the second book, RUMORS, yesterday... and I'm almost halfway through now. Why didn't I buy books 3 and 4, too?! How could I have been so stupid?!

I also have Anna Godbersen's brand new novel, BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, in my TBR pile, and I'm so, so much more excited for it now!

5/5, for shizz.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Songs on Saturday (6)

This week's song is a blast from the past. I've been listening to it basically since it came out in 1998, hearing it on the radio even now. But just recently I've noticed how profound it is, how much hope and solace are in that chorus.

It's been on repeat for me this week, and it corresponds so perfectly with the wistful, sad-but-hopeful ending I've been revising in my manuscript.

What songs have you been listening to on repeat this week?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!

Being absorbed in my revisions and unable to think of doing anything else, I decided to do a Teaser Tuesday for ya. I haven't done one in many moons!

This is from FAKE. So, in this excerpt, main character Jen's older sister Carrie is back from being a missionary in India. Since Carrie's been gone, Jen has realized that she is transsexual. She told her younger brother, John, this and was promptly disowned by him, so she's hesitating about telling her secret to her favourite sister.

“It’s so good to be home,” she says. “I missed you so much.”

We collapse in a heap on my bed, and rest in silence for a moment. I smile, breathing in her delicious Carrie-ness.

“I missed you, too,” I whisper. “How was the mission?”

“Fine,” she sighs, her eyes closed. “India is amazing, Jen, but I’m exhausted.”

We lay there, just listening to each other breathe. I’m so, so happy she’s here. I can’t take the smile off my face. Finally Carrie sits up, cross-legged.

“Tell me everything that’s happened since I left!”

I open my mouth but the words are like lead in my mouth. Not lead -- more like rusted iron keys. The big old-fashioned kind. And my heavy heart is the lock, and if I explain myself to her, give her the keys, she’ll open me up. I can’t do that. Not yet.

Remember what happened with John.

“You go first,” I say. “Dad sent you away because he caught you kissing a guy?”

“Oh, yeah.” She laughs, sweeping her voluminous hair over her shoulder. “It was kind of random. He was Marianne Helmsley’s cousin, just in town for a week, and we hit it off. Sucks that Dad caught us.”

Whoa, info-dump. I blink.

“So, you’re seeing this guy?”

“No way. I haven’t seen him since then. But there was this guy I met in India. He was also a missionary. But he’s Mormon.”

“Dad is going to murder you, you know that, right?”

“Well, not murder.”

“Near-fatal wounds, at the very least.”

She shrugs, leaning back against my pillows.

“I don’t really care,” she says. “It’s just for fun. Anyways, what have you been up to?”

Again, the rusted keys pile up behind my teeth. I can almost feel them clanging and bashing up against each other. I swallow hard, tasting blood.


“Pfft, yeah right! Look at your face! You’ve got a secret!”

That teasing tone has crept into her voice, just like when we were little. I wipe my face of all emotion and fake my innocence.

“No, seriously, nothing. Just the usual. School and stuff. Being violated by cameras in my own house. The usual.”

She narrows her eyes in suspicion, but she grins. I’m off the hook for now.

“Okay, whatever,” Carrie says. “Do you want to go have fun, then? Do something crazy?”

I drown in relief. Once an idea has taken over Carrie’s head, she’ll be distracted for a while.

Just for a while.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Line Battle!

After the cover and jacket blurb, the first thing we encounter with a book is the first line. Not all first lines are created equal - there are almost as many ways to start a story as there are stories to tell! So, because I was bored, I decided to grab two random books out of my gigantic TBR pile, read the first lines, and compare them. The reason I'm comparing the first lines of two books I have not yet read is so the judging is totally blind and I know nothing of the story other than the line I've read.

Competitor #1: Jane by April Lindner

Jacket copy: Forced to drop out an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing revelation from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

First line: "The chairs in the lobby of Discriminating Nannies, Inc., were less comfortable than they looked."

My reaction: Modern take on Jane Eyre? I am so there. No bells and whistles in this first sentence, but it sets the scene. You can pretty much picture exactly where the main character is, what she's doing (shifting around in the chair, trying to get comfortable?) and why she's there, all in one neat, tidy little sentence. When I first read it I thought it was lack-lustre. Nothing fancy happening, no shocking proclamations or anything. But after a little more thought... this is actually pretty genius for what it accomplishes in such few words.

Jacket copy: Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Gray escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star...

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined - and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for... and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall - together and apart.

First line: "It is easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer."

My reaction: Wow, is that line ever classy! For me it conjures an image of some beautiful woman, smoking a cigarette glamourously and telling us this scandalous story. That's my favourite thing about it, the retrospection of it. You can tell that this story will be told by someone who was a participant in the events, and that they are looking back on these events now with a lot more insight than they had at the time. This will (probably) set the tone for the way the whole story will be told. I love the word "effervescent," too. That word might feel really out-of-place in a lot of YA novels, but it totally fits the mood, tone, and time period of this book.

The winner: Bright Young Things

Although I love the instant setting Jane's first line gave us, I'm afraid I'm a sucker for the more intricate language and sophisticated tone of the first line of Bright Young Things. I'm still really excited to read both of these books, and will definitely be posted reviews when I've finished!

Friday, December 3, 2010

5 books that changed my life

Everybody has favourite books. Personally, I have hundreds of favourites. But then there are those books that are above and beyond the scope of the word "favourite." Those books that changed your life.

These are those books for me.

1. Harry Potter
Duh. But seriously, from my very first reading of the first book, I was transformed. I can't even begin to explain how - I can barely remember the years I spent without this book. Not only was I swept up in the amazing story and characters for a good 10+ years of my life, but I also found out what it felt like to be completely immersed in a world that somebody had written. I've never wanted to be a part of something so much as I've wanted to be a part of J. K. Rowling's world.

2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart confirmed what I had already believed my whole life: stories are a form of magic all on their own. This is a totally original book that inspired me to devoted my life to storytelling.

3. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Besides being an utterly sweet and heart-wrenching romance, Boy Meets Boy presented me with another world I wanted to be a part of: a world where everyone was accepted and loved. This really spoke to my 14-year-old oddball self. This is one of the books that made me want to write.

4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The first adult book to make this list! I read this when I was 17 and obsessed with superheroes. The characters are so human it's hard to believe that this isn't a biography. I loved how Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier's struggle for their American Dream wasn't glossed over - it was hard as hell for them to climb the ladder from poverty to affluence, from obscurity to comic book creator legends. I also loved the epic scope of this book, taking Sam and Joe from age 18 to well into their 30s. I think their long, hard struggle spoke to me on a writerly level - everyone feels like they're talentless hacks sometimes, even Sam and Joe, and they ended up at the top.

5. Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
L. M. Montgomery is better known for Anne of Green Gables, which I was never able to get into. But Emily - wow. Obsession. I discovered this book when I was 8 (same age as HP... this was a crucial literary year!). My best friend was reading it, and I was a bit of a follower so I picked it up too. WOW! The story of a poor little orphan writer girl really, really got to me. I was her age! I was a writer too! I was Emily! This is the first book series I ever read that had a romance in it, and I was hooked. I read that midnight kissing-in-the-graveyard scene over and over again. Over the course of three books, Emily goes from an 8 year old orphan to an 18 year old published novelist, and I was convinced that was going to be my path, too. It was after reading this book that I really started to write, and really picked that as my "destiny." I was so dramatic.

There you have it! These books are all highly, highly recommended.

And now, I want to know what books changed YOUR life!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Literary Debate of the Century (so far)

Today on Nathan Bransford's blog, his You Tell Me feature is taking on the debate of our generation: ebooks versus paper books.

Where am I in this debate? Firmly on the side of paper books, and I'll tell you why.

Paper books have been around for a very, very long time. They're one of the only things I can think of that have carried over from the Medieval Ages and earlier with barely a change at all. They are timeless. They smell incredibly good, and they can be oh-so-beautiful. For my high school graduation, my carpenter father made me two six-foot-tall bookshelves, stained to a rich, dark colour, and they are the central feature in my tiny bedroom (to my chagrin, they are almost full already - I foresee having to give away a lot of books soon...). These bookshelves, and the books in them, are without a doubt my most prized possessions.

I buy paper books (and a lot of them!) for more reasons than just the love of reading. For one, I love how they look on my shelves. The random heights and colours of the spines, the way I can stand in front of the shelves and look and them and think of the memories each book gave me. I also love how anyone who comes in my room and sees the shelves, and the piles of books stacked on my desk and floor and bed and chair, can see just how big a part of my life these books are. My friends, too, know they can come over any time and I'll be sure to have something they can borrow that they'll love. I'm like the book matchmaker.

There's also the sheer emotional connection you can make with a paper book. I have so many books that I just physically love, with their fancy-edged pages, gorgeous covers, and interesting textures. I am content to just look at some of these books for ages, just feeling them and flipping pages and just being with them. I probably sound kind of crazy but I don't care. Often these books just make me feel better.

You can't do that with ebooks. While I understand the argument that ebook readers save a ton of space, in my mind the space my books take up is well-used. I feel comfortable being surrounded by tons of books; if I didn't have books, what would my room look like? It would be cold and empty. I couldn't make that emotional connection with an ebook reader, either. Technology can never be as cozy and comforting as something real (I love my computer, don't get me wrong, but I do not see it as a friend the way I see my battered old copies of the Harry Potter series).

I know that a lot of people love their ebook readers, and I'm not knocking them for it. If it works for them, great. They'll probably have a much easier time adjusting to our increasingly digital world than I will. As much as I've embraced downloaded music and rarely buy CDs anymore, I just can't let technology consume my reading.

Paper books are holy, and I just can't let them go.

Where do you stand on the debate between paper and digital?