Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post, guys!  I know I've been out of the loop lately. Three weeks left to the semester, and then I'll have a bit more of my life back. Grad school will be done FOREVER by the end of next spring, which will be helpful for my writing career, to say the least...

Tomorrow is the start of NaNo! Who's doing it? Anyone want to help me pick my story?  I haven't made a decision yet! I have some outlining and character sketches done for both of these...

Option 1: Bodie's Men. After disappointing her parents since birth, Rachael Bodie finds one more way to infuriate them: by becoming a Marine Corps officer. As she falls for - and loses - her first love, leads the men in her platoon, and serves in combat, Bodie discovers she's so much more than just the unsatisfactory youngest daughter - even to her parents. Commercial fiction, I'd say?

Option 2: Bound. When sexy bad boy Cody saves Deirdre's life, she finds out magic is real, that words are filled with magic, and that he can teach her to control them. But as her mother falls suddenly ill, a strangely prophetic homeless man tells her not to trust Cody. Deirdre must figure out who to trust - and how to protect her family - in a strange new world she doesn't understand. YA paranormal.

To be honest, I failed NaNo last year under the crush of school - I hope I can make it through this year, because I love NaNo - it's a fun way to mix things up and cover a LOT of rough draft in a quick inspired time!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When I was thirteen, I was sitting on the steps of a local pizzeria, reading a book in the sunshine.  A cute, lanky dark-eyed boy  and his friend rode their bikes up to the pizzeria and dropped them on the sidewalk. After ordering, they came back out and stood nearby, throwing the occasional glance in my direction. Finally, the cute boy introduced himself and asked my name. I put my book down and we started chatting.

The two of us had a lively conversation and, when they called my name, I went in and got the pizza. He said, "I'd like to talk to you some more."

"Yeah, I'd like that," I said, balancing the hot pizza box on my hip so I could carry it with my book on top. "You can call me."

"I will," he promised. We exchanged numbers.  Then, right before I could walk away grinning like a fool, his eyes caught the book I'd laid aside to talk with him. "What are you reading?" he asked.

I don't remember what the book was, although I do remember that it was a weighty adult tome. I told him the title, and he asked, "For school?"

"No, just for something to read," I said.

"Oh." He gave me another cute grin and a little wave and walked back to his friend.

When I walked away, I overheard him say to his friend, "Nah. Too smart for me."  I knew he wasn't going to call.

For some reason, getting yet another rejection letter for a short story today reminded me of being a skinny, freckled, red-headed thirteen year old girl carrying a stupid pizza home on a hot summer day. :p

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

YA covers such a fascinatingly wide range, from paranormal romance to historical to sci-fi, but Tamara Hart Heiner's debut novel Perilous is something I haven't seen before: classic suspense for the YA crowd. Before I get into my review, here's the blurb for the back cover:
Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year: go to regionals with the track team, make the honor roll, and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who moved in a few months ago. What she doesn't plan for is catching a robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. They escape from his lair, only to find that he has spies and agents watching their path home, waiting to intercept them and take them back. Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.
Four girls go to the mall. They have a few little mishaps, and end up witnessing a robbery and being kidnapped - and Tamara Hart Heiner makes it believable. I was impressed with her ability to take somewhat crazy situations and convince you that a couple of fifteen- and fourteen-year-old girls can end up kidnapped, escaping, and trekking hundreds of miles through the woods to get home.  The characterization of Jaci and her friends was spot-on and convincing. 
What struck me most about this book, though, was the pace and tension. From the shocking first chapter on, it's hard to pull your head out of this book. For me, it was almost too much at times - I wanted the girls to find a safe place and trustworthy people, but their paranoia quickly becomes yours, and it was hard to breathe at times. I was definitely invested in these characters, especially Tamara quickly demonstrates she isn't so attached to her characters as to guarantee a perfectly happy ending! When the ending does come, though (and I finally got to breathe a little easier!) it's satisfying, while leaving some subplots open. Can we expect a sequel, Tamara? (I'll read it!)
Overall, this was a different read, but I really liked it. I thought it was interesting that there's actually an adult perspective in the book - the detective who is searching for the girls - but he and the girls never actually intersect. I thought that was an unusual and risky move for a YA novel. My minimal nitpicks? I thought there were a few HUGE coincidences that occured throughout the book, but Tamara laid the seeds for those so well that I was able to pretty much suspend my disbelief. The tone of the novel is a little formal (which I think is pretty common in debut novels) and serious (which is understandable, given the events and tension of the story) for my preferences, but Tamara's prose is clear and competent - I think her writing can only get better as time goes on.  And, since I have a few questions about what happens to the girls next, I'm hoping to see a follow-up ASAP!
Definitely recommended for all fans of YA and suspense. Be sure to check out Perilous on Amazon - and I'll even give you a $10 gift certificate for Amazon if you'll learn just a little more about Perilous and Tamara Hart Heiner.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PerilousTomorrow, I'm posting my review of Tamara Hart Heiner's debut novel, Perilous. But today? I have a giveaway. :)

I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky reader.  The rules for entering are pretty simple:

1. Follow This Is Not My Day Job,
2. Answer three questions correctly to celebrate the debut of Tamara's new novel!
  • What grade was Tamara in when she started writing Perilous?
  • What state does Tamara live in now?
  • What are the names of the four girls in Perilous?
They'll be easy to answer, I promise, but you'll find out a little more about this debut novel on the way!

Be sure to check back tomorrow night for my review, and enter before midnight on the 19th!

 And if you haven't entered yet, be sure to enter the Citrus Tree art print giveaway!

Monday, October 18, 2010

(Advice from someone who knows more than me)

In my writing class, we recently got into the business side of things.  The teacher has published a few dozen pieces in various literary magazines, as well as a volume of poetry, so I thought his advice might be interesting to the rest of you. :)

  • Do simultaneous submissions, but do them within a tier.
  • This means you need a tier list with about 8-10 journals or magazines in each. The top tier is the journals you'd love to be published in... even if they're long shots. The odds of getting into The New Yorker with an unsolicited manuscript is low, but if you're going to submit, do it in your top tier. This might also include journals like the Atlantic or Glimmer Train, or Poetry or other big journals. Or whatever your dream publication credits would be.
  • Then a mid-tier, and a third tier. He only went to three tiers, but you know me. I have five.
  • It's important to do your simultaneous subs within each tier before bumping down to the next. You don't want to submit to Joe's Basement Literary Journal and, say, Narrative, and have Narrative accept after Joe's - you'll already be obligated to Joe's.  So stick with one tier, and once (if) you've gotten 5 or 6 rejections in that one, move to the next tier.
  • When a piece does get accepted, politely notify the other journals where your story or poem is still under consideration that you are withdrawing your piece. Most places don't mind simultaneous subs these days (or at least, grudgingly accept them, for writers' lives are short and reading periods are long), but we still need to be courteous.
This advice got me excited about querying more of my short fiction and poetry. That excitement lasted through the creation of my tier list and fizzled out when I started actually preparing more submissions. :p Oh, and then I got a rejection back from my last batch that I sent out.  Booya.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"If you start with a real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen; and you don't have to know what before you begin. In fact, it may be better if you don't know what before you begin. You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If you don't, probably nobody else will."

-Flannery O'Connor

I read this quote today and loved it.  Sometimes as a story-starter, I write a story from the point-of-view of someone who completely opposes my perspective on the world... I never know if I'll find my way back to my perspective or end up "agreeing" with them.

It's a little bizarre not to know where we're going when we sit down at the keyboard, but the discovery's half the fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Has anyone else had terrific problems with Blogger lately? I had an admittedly (pleasantly) distracted weekend, but I did try to post a few times and it just would. not. work.  It was frustrating.

Other things that also irritate me:

1. Plagarism. There's a big blogger who copied some other content without crediting its source, which has been a big brou-ha-ha. That isn't actually what attracted my ire - I think it's wrong, but it's been addressed, moving right along. But there were people defending her by saying that a) plagiarism is not a big deal cause, well, it's the interwebs and copyright just isn't the same, wild west blah blah blah, or b) that it's ridiculous that bloggers have to cite sources like they are writing a reference paper. Erm, no.

2. Not having the satellite radio in my car working, because the guy who sold me the brand-new car is convinced that I do not have satellite radio. Even though it comes standard in the car. And the satellite radio is installed. But I need him to active my free three-month trial.  And he does not believe me.

3. The fact that I cannot fold sheets to save my life. Seriously, sheets are hard. I would happily pay someone to come in and fold my sheets for me. But I don't think that's a viable solution (anyone want to earn $10?), so no one will ever see the inside of my linen closet.

4. Good T.V. shows going bad. I've been disappointed by all my old standbys lately - Doctor Who, Glee, Fringe and Bones.  Like, there are only six hours of TV I want to watch each week. Could those hours be awesome?

5. My entire schedule. I finish grad school in the spring. Have I mentioned that lately?

However, the salted caramel hot chocolate at Starbucks makes me happy, I am loving the cool fall weather, and I had the chance to race golf carts around a golf course while drinking Miller Lights this weekend... so it all balances out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I had the chance to see Secretariat earlier this month, which opened today! So I wanted to take tell you all a little about this film, based on a true story about a horse named Secretariat and the woman who believed in him (and in herself). But first, the trailer:

I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. Horse racing holds little interest for me, to be honest, and I'm not sure how I feel about it from an animal rights standpoint. But despite a few little hiccups (a few cheesy lines and some dialogue that implied The William Shaltner School of Acting), this was a good film.

Penny Chenery, a housewife with four kids who grew up on a horse farm, finds out her mother has died, and returns home. There she finds the farm in disrepair, her father increasingly confused. She decides to stay on, and begins to make decisions about the horses - although her brother thinks a housewife shouldn't be making business decisions, and her husband wants her to return home.  Most of all, Penny believes in a horse - Secretariat - believes in him so much, in fact, that she believes he can win the Triple Crown. She assembles a motley crew around her - assistant, trainer, jockey.

I loved that Secretariat passed the Bechdel test with flying colors - women talk to each other about business and about their lives. I loved the representation of a strong woman who trusts herself to make the right decisons, and stays cool under disagreement from the menfolk (in 1973). And it's just a great story. I went into it knowing very little about Secretariat's history and if he won the Triple Crown or not, so I won't fill in any more of the details.  For a feel-good, family-friendly sports flick with an unusual amount of feminism, though, I'd definitely recommend Secretariat - if you don't mind a little bit of unapologetic sentimentality.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Six years ago, I walked into a friend's apartment to watch a crappy horror movie, and walked out with a handsome, funny man I'd spent the night arguing politics with.

A few months later, we confessed our love to each other while highly intoxicated and agreed over pancakes the next morning that we meant it, even sober.

Five years ago, a few weeks after graduating college, I packed my car with everything I owned and cried when I kissed him goodbye.

Two weeks after that, we agreed we'd rather be seperated from each other than with anyone else.

Four years ago, we moved to California, to begin a new life together.

Three years ago, we married on a sunny beach in Cali.

Four months later, I boarded a plane for Iraq - a year spent keeping our relationship alive by phone and letter. I came home, and we moved back across the country, starting life together over again. A year ago, we bought our first house together.

And the adventure continues - for the next fifty or so years. "Marriage is finding that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life." Happy anniversary, babe.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Barbie Doll & VehicleI just got home from my writing class, and since it's 1015pm and I want to sleep, I will be brief.  :)

Today I was the primary critiquer on another student's non-fiction piece and a flash fiction short. I loved the criticism I got on the first few chapters of THE GODDESS OF VENGEANCE WORE PINK GALOSHES (more on that later) so I really want to do a good job of critiquing when it was my job, too. But I felt like my comments were too specific, not broad enough, and not necessarily well-organized or explained.  Hopefully it came across better than I think, but man.

Critiquing seems so much harder to me than writing. Maybe that's why even revising my own work is hard for me!

I'll still be providing comments on everyone else's writing the rest of the semester, just not as the primary critic, so if you have any suggestions or hints for me, I'd love to hear them!

P.S. Does anyone else remember the "Math is hard" Barbie scandal from back in the day?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I just finished reading the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer story anthology, volume 1 (I have a cat named Buffy; obviously, I couldn't resist something Buffy related).  It was fun reading, and I couldn't help but think it would be fun writing.  In a geekier past (let's pretend), I also loved the Star Wars spin-off novels, like the adventures of young Han Solo.  And maybe the Indiana Jones books, too.

Obviously, the professionally licensed fan-fic is a little bit different; it's considered canon, but there's also a certain level of writing quality guaranteed.  When I go looking for Veronica Mars fan-fic on the web, on the other hand, because I need to know that Logan and Veronica eventually get back together, what I find is sometimes find are great imaginative storylines without the technical writing skills to back them up.

And, I'm reluctant to write my own fan-fic because I don't generally write for my eyes alone. Although I write for myself first, I want to share my work with readers. I guess I could writer something for the interwebs, but that's out of my usual lane.

Do any of you write fan-fic? Or read it? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This weekend I bought my first brand new car. I'll always love my first car, a geriatric gold Saturn station wagon that was so far from cool it was actually hip (that's what I believed, anyway).  After a lot of pondering about what constituted a "Guin car", I bought myself a green Subaru Outback. It can carry two bikes, two kayaks and my camping gear, it can tow a small boat or a cart for home project supplies, it gets good gas milage, and it it also has the all-important luxury of heated front seats.
All my musing about what kind of car fit not just my lifestyle, but my personality (VW Bug convertible? A big SUV like the Honda Pilot? A Mini-Cooper?) made me think about the wheels our favorite characters drive. 

It's just one more of the little details that help define who our characters are and what's important to them. James Bond drives an Aston-Martin. Jace Waylander in The Mortal Instruments series occasionally hops onboard a demon bike. There's Bella's truck in the Twilight series and all the sports cars of the Cullen brood.  My protoganist, Lauren, in The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes drives a Honda Fit; in Shards of Glass, April drives a Ford Thunderbird. And that's important, because April is flashy and wild, and Lauren is practical and sweet.

It's not like cars define our characters (or us), but as writers we should try to use a rich detail rather than a bland one whenever possible. And as readers, we appreciate details that are specific rather than vague. What does your favorite character have for wheels?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My blog tends to get back-burnered with everything else going on during the school term, but I saw NaBloWriMo (National Blog Writing Month) and thought it'd be fun attempt that prior to NaNoWriMo in November. I also have a goal of commenting on at least five blogs a day.  I tend to be bad about commenting when I'm busy (especially since I can't blog from work), but I miss you guys when I don't manage to visit. :)

Not book related, but I wanted to share this fun giveaway - Envy My Cooking is giving away a $40 gift certificate to Pursenickety.... go here to enter. Or not, because I really want this:

Friday, October 1, 2010

I love Etsy. Who doesn't? As artists ourselves - in one way or another - I think it's cool to support other artists.  But I have a special place in my heart for writing-related art...

...especially this fine art print, UNBLOCKED, from Citrus Tree:

Love this too much... I'm buying one for me (or maybe four... I have a couple of favorite prints. Like this one... and this one. And this one gets my imagination going crazy). But you all get to enter to win your very own copy of this great print!

The fine print: This contest is open to new and old followers in the U.S. and Canada, but if you're a vintage international follower, you're welcome to enter too - I'd be happy to pay the extra shipping for my international friends. :) Giveaway ends 19 November (extended!).

Click here to enter...