Thursday, December 31, 2009

My new year's resolutions for this year all revolve around my writing obsession. I'd like to lose ten pounds and run another marathon. I could probably stand to stop cursing, curb my Starbucks habit, and reduce the amount of time I waste on the interwebs.

But realistically, none of those things are entirely likely, nor will I be broken-hearted to find myself still a potty-mouthed, overly caffeinated size 6 come 2011.

What really matters to me is the writing, and so my resolutions all relate to this.

My goals:

  • Complete editing of SHARDS OF GLASS
  • Secure representation for SHARDS
  • Write rough draft and polish my new WIP, BODIE'S MEN
  • Complete NaNoWriMo in 2010 and do a rough draft of my YA fantasy, HONEY AND EARTH
  • Find literary homes for a few more poems and short stories
So that's the plan. I'll keep track of my progress here on the blog. Especially BODIE'S MEN.  My plan is to write at least 500 words a day, 5 days a week, for the first 34 weeks of the month. That should give me plenty of time to re-write before the end of the year, and have a finished draft. That would also allow me to participate in NaNoWriMo and, in an ideal world, write two rough drafts in one year. That's a pretty lofty goal, given how long it took me to get to a rough draft on SHARDS, but I'm really enthused to write both these stories.

Did you catch that, Muse? There is a plan, and you are going to like it.

More on BODIE'S MEN, the 2010 novel, tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Living Dead Girl

I am in love with my library today. I've really just begun using my new local library, after moving here this summer; it has a lovely online catalogue that makes it easy to make an online queue and just pick up my desired books at the library. Not that I can resist a little browsing, of course.

I read the first of the new YA books I picked up while waiting for dinner to cook last night, and it was... interesting. I read Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. I tried to avoid spoilers below, but there are definite clues to the ending (I can't review this one without including them) so please just be aware if this is on your reading list.

This is one of those books that is hard to process. While it is a YA novel, it's similar in vein to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, I think. Both are bleak stories, although in Sebold's book, the character dies in the beginning, while in Scott's book, the main character is waiting for death.

Kidnapped at the age of 10,  abused in every imaginable way, and forced to answer to the name "Alice", she just wants it all to end.  To do that, she thinks she is willing to kidnap another little girl for Ray, which is his new fantasy. She knows the previous Alice was murdered when she became too old to be attractive to Ray, and she is more than ready to be replaced as well.

This is a dark, dark book. I'm glad it's a very quick read, because reading about Alice's abuse is so psychologically painful. I think Scott masterfully portrays why Alice does not run away, even when she might have the opportunity to escape, which renders this story very believable. The way she is abused is vivid, although thankfully, she passes over the sexual scenes with hints of the abuse that are terrible enough.  The descriptions in this book - the things Alice goes through - are heart-crushing. And for the first 150 pages, I thought it might be unrelenting bleak.

This book does have a redeeming ending, though. Not a happy ending, per se, but it ends on a note of strength and hope.  Thank god for that.  This is the sort of book that leaves you feeling wrung-out, and I was relieved to be left with a semblence of relief for Alice, and the Alices that might have come after. 

Did I like this book? That I'm not quite sure about it. I do think it is very well-written.  I liked it better than I remember liking The Lovely Bones, which I might have to re-read now, in order to better understand what about The Lovely Bones did not work for me.  Living Dead Girl is just the kind of book that makes it hard to breathe, that makes your gut tighten.  If you're willing to be a little haunted, this might be something you'd want to read.

Added 1 February 2011: I have to say, at the end of 2010, this is a story that came to mind as one of the most memorable - and best- things I read all year. Probably not a book I'd ever re-read, but I am so glad I read it. I wanted to leave up my original feelings when the book was still fresh for me and I was a bit disturbed and conflicted, but I absolutely recommend it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I talk a lot about my novel, Shards of Glass.  That's to be expected, I guess, since this is a blog about writing in general and mine specifically. But what is this thing I'm always rattling on about? I thought it would be neat to share some excerpts. This is the opening.

Chapter One: Shrooms

    April killed her father while Mom was at a PTA meeting.
    Her teachers were probably saying great things about her. April was the kind of teenager who makes adults wish they could go back and try high school over again. She was (in order of ascending importance) intelligent, funny, athletic, beautiful and popular.
    And she was also, at the moment, searching for poisonous mushrooms.
    April stepped delicately over the splayed branches of a fallen tree, stopping to pull a puff mushroom out of the dark, moist innards of rotten wood. She thought about it for a second, brushing her light bangs out of her placid blue eyes. Then she dropped it on the ground and continued through the woods. Lot of people knew that “puff” mushrooms, or amanita phalloides, were poisonous, and they weren’t as easy as many poisonous mushrooms to confuse with edible ones. Just in case someone found her out, she didn’t want any doubt that this was purely accidental.
    She found what she was looking for at another downed tree; its trunk had become a farm for galerina mushrooms, whose deadly toxins quickly destroy your liver. Other edible fungi were spotted throughout the bunches of little brown mushrooms.  She plucked them all, dropping them into the white mixing bowl she had used throughout her childhood to collect blackberries from the woods behind their farmhouse.
    Tears blurred her vision as she worked, but it didn’t matter; she wanted a mixture of safe and deadly mushrooms, so it didn’t matter which ones she twisted off the dead tree.

    In the kitchen, she quickly sautéed the Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms together, then turned down the heat and left them simmering on the stove as she walked down the hall to her father’s room. She worried just leaving her toxic dish alone for a minute. It was unlikely anyone would wander into the house and taste-test, but the burden of one death was quite enough for her.
    “Daddy?” she asked, sticking her head in the door. He looked up and smiled when he saw her. His face was so thin now that his smile seemed too big, oddly jarring. But April smiled back, her wide smile the mirror image of what his had been.
    “Come on in, Princess,” he said, patting the bed besides him weakly. “Is dinner ready?”
    April nodded as she went to adjust the covers over him, fussing with the blue-and-white quilt on the transplanted hospital bed. “It’s ready. But are you sure you want to go through with this?”
    “I’m sure,” he said. “We’ve got a solid plan. I’m sure this will work.”
    With the sheets and quilt straightened, she made herself sit down, even though she was buzzing with nervous energy.  “Well. I must say I’m disappointed with you, Daddy. I always thought you were too much of a bastard to ever die.”
    “That hardly seems fair,” he said. “I’m nothing but proud of you. You’re gorgeous, very bright – despite that one incident with the toaster – and you grew into one tough young woman, to do this for me.”
    She got up, leaned to kiss him on top of the head. His thick sandy-blond hair had come out as easily as new grass, almost a year ago; it had been replaced with white puffs, dandelion seeds across his scalp.
    “I’ll get your dinner,” she said.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

All right, I am doing a few reading challenges in 2010. One is the 2010 Debut Author's Challenge, for which I will read at least a dozen YA novels written by new authors on the scene.

Another is the 2010 100+ Reading Challenge. Now that one I know is going to be a bit of a stretch. In the long free days of my youth, I averaged a book or two a day; the day job and school both sort of interfere with my reading these days, though. I *think* a book every 3 days is still manageable, though, assuming I avoid the thick non-fiction books (like the one on the history of eugenics in America that I'm working on now). As much as I love some brilliant non-fiction, I need more novels in my life anyway!

And, since I plan to make hearty use of my local library, I am also doing the 2010 Local Library Reading challenge, also hosted by J. Kaye. My goal is to check out and read at least 50 library books, so half of my 100+ reading challenge.

I'm updating this particular blog entry with the books I've read in 2010, and links to reviews as (if) I manage them.

Books read from the library:
Everyone Is Beautiful: A Novel  Reviewed here
The Life You Longed For: A Novel  Reviewed here
Exclusive: Reporters in Love...and War: A Novel Reviewed here
Liar Reviewed here
Going Too Far Review coming soon
Jacob Have I Loved Review coming soon
Some Girls Are Review coming someday
Shiver Review coming someday
The Fiction Class Reviewed here
Impossible  Review coming
Chasing Brooklyn  by Lisa Schroeder, Review coming soon
Switch by Carol Snow, Review coming soon
Story of a Girl  by Sara Zarr
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  by Jamie Ford
The Dark Divine  by Bree Despain
Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials  by Rosalind Wiseman
The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins
See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mylnowski, Farrin Jacobs
Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Novel of Jane Austen's Lady Susan  by Jane Rubino, Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
The Good Nanny: A Novel  by Benjamin Cheever
Hush, Hush  by Becca Fitzpatrick
Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)  by Suzanne Collins
Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones
House Rules: A Novel  by Jodi Picoult
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
Candor by Pam Bachorz
The Body Finder  by Kimberly Derting
Intertwined by Gena Showalter
Hex Hall (Book 1) by Rachel Hawkins
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Changeless by Gail Carriger
Be CentsAble: How to Cut Your Household Budget in Half by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee
Dead and Gone: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel  by Charlaine Harris
Adam by Ted Dekker
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
Before I Fall  by Lauren Oliver
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Every Last One: A Novel  by Anna Quindlen
The Shack by William P. Young
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
Scenes From A Holiday: The Eight Dates Of Hanukkah\Carrie Pilby's New Year's Resolution\Emma Townsend Saves Christmas (Red Dress Ink Novels) by Laurie Graff, Caren Lissner and Melanie Murray
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Silent to the Boneby E.L. Konigsburg
Godless  by Pete Hautman
Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster
My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black, or, a Culture-Up Manifesto  by Jen Lancaster
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libby Bray
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Graceling by Kristin Cashnore
The Rebel Angels by Libby Bray
The Sweet Far Thing by Libby Bray
Baby Proof  by Emily Griffin
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
A Bad For Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
Need by Carrie Jones
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend  by Emily Horner
Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by David Michael Kaplan
The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
The Mark by Jen Nadol

Books read from other sources:
Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish) (Write Great Fiction)
The Lightning Thief by Rich Riordan
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman
Larger Than Life by Adele Parks
A Dangerous Affair by Caro Peacock
Geek Charming by Robin Palmer
Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagan
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Get Lucky: A Novel by Katherine Center
Devilish by Maureen Jonhson
Please Excuse My Daughter  by Julie Klam
The Stolen Heart: A Novel of Suspense by Lauren Kelly
Paper Towns by John Green
Normal Girl: A Novel by Molly Jong-Fast
Peeps by Scott Westerfield
Girl Most Likely To by Poonam Sharma
Jack Absolute by C.C. Humpherys
The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman
Dead Until Dark (Original MM Art) (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)  by Charlaine Harris
Model Summer by Paulin Prizkova
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel by Ben Sherwood
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins
Blameless by Gail Carriger
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments)by Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare
City of Glass (Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare
Perilous  by Tamara Hart Heiner
Fallen by Lauren Kate
An Abundance of Katherines  by John Green
Wish by Alexandra Bullem

Final tally of 2010: 106 books so far