Thursday, December 30, 2010

But I hope 2011 is even better. :)

I read 106 books. I'll spare you the list, but you can see it on my Reads page. Not nearly enough of those were read in the tub, and too many were read in airports waiting for business trips, but hey.

One of those - Alexandra Bullen's Wish - was even read on my new Christmas kindle. :)

I've been thinking about what books I remember best, that I read earlier this year.
  • Best romance: It's hard to pick one, but I will. Emily Horner's A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend. Emily Horner's debut novel covers heavy topics like bullying, homosexuality, death and grief, but without pulling any punches she manages to weave in some real humor and a beautiful story of friendship and romance. 
  • Runner up:  Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols. This is one of the first books I read this year and not only do I remember it well, but I'm dying to re-read it. Snarky, strong MC, hot bad-boy cop love interest, handcuffs. It's everything I need in a romance.
  • Best fairy tale: Nancy Werlin's Impossible. Beautifully written take-off on the song Scarborough Fair in a contemporary setting, with a strong MC, involved parents (such a rarity to see in YA!) and a compelling love story. It really stood out as unique this year.
  • Best male love interest: Jace in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. I love these books, but I'll probably re-read just for Jace. How does Cassandra Clare make someone on the written page so HOT?
  • Best female love interest: John Green's Looking For Alaska. John Green writes bigger-than-life, funny, awesome, deeply troubled female love interests, and I adore him for it.
  • Best humor: Debut novelist Chelsea M. Campbell in The Rise of Renegade X. I often sit next to my husband on the couch and laugh out loud in a distracting, sometimes alarming, fashion while I'm reading, but this book was the most distracting, alarming thing all year. I even sent Chelsea Campbell a fan-girl email, that's how much I loved it (and she was nice enough to send me an email back, which I thought was pretty awesome).
  • Most disturbing: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. OMG. This story - of a girl kidnapped and held by a pedophile for years - was the most heartbreaking, emotionally devastating novel I've read. But Elizabeth Scott finds a believable way to end it, while tragically, on a note of hope and courage.
  • Most thought-provoking: I'm going to go with Suzzane Collins' Mockingjay,. This is the book that launched a hundred discussions, about everything from how Collins portrayed war to whether Mockingjay's conclusion was really satisfying - from philosophy to craft.
I read a lot of awesome books in 2010, these were just especially memorable. Also, I have to give a nod to my favorite cookbooks of the year, Artisinal Bread In Five Minutes A Day and Glorious One Pot Meals, for helping me stay fed while I read obssesively.  Fresh-baked bread and easy, nommy food.

And in terms of my books ever seeing print themselves - well.  I finished the rough draft of The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes and started work on revisions. I learned to think of revisions in a whole new way - as an important part of the creative process instead of just being clean-up. I took a fantastic writing class, sponsored by the National Endowment For the Arts. I sent out 20 submissions for short stories and poetry to lit journals (no love yet).

In some ways, I feel like I didn't make any forward progress this year. No agent. No new publication credits. I don't even have anything done that I'm ready to query yet, although I hope to be there soon.

But I learned a lot. And I read a lot. I think I'm growing as a writer every day, and I'm excited about the craft. So maybe that's enough forward motion for me, for this year.

We'll see what 2011 holds.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The other night I dreamed that someone gave me a puppy.

Now, I would love to have a puppy. If MJ gave me a puppy, I would love him forever and ever (I know he thinks he is entitled to Forever and Ever anyway, but all I promised in our wedding vows was Til Death Do We Part. Forever and Ever is the kind of crazy romantic love that leads to, like, Wuthering Heights and YA paranormals).

But in my dream, I was a little distressed. You see, I've been volunteering for pet rescues for years. I am a firm believer that Adoption Should Be Your First Option.

And I grew up with big dogs - labs, golden retrievers, huskies, rottweilers.  I like to have 90 lbs of dog on my side if a passing burgular decides he wants my TV, soda maker and seal-shaped lamp (I have a sense of style like no other). I like to have 90 lbs of dog climbing onto my lap when I'm trying to watch Bridezillas on the couch and disrupting my breathing with a big blocky head on my chest.  I like big dogs.

But while I had been dreaming of an older, less "adoptable", big dog from a rescue - the wiggling puppy in my arms was a pet-store small dog. Not what I'd expected at all! And in my dream, I debated giving him back for a dog who needed me.

I couldn't, though. Because that puppy was looking at me with big sad brown eyes like he did need me. Needed a home. And damn it he was my puppy.

I have the same thing lately with a story. I had a plan for December and January:
  2. Rough draft what is now imaginatively titled YA MYSTERY1.
Then, as I was painting my office, I had an idea for a short story. YA post-apocalyptic. Feminism and zombies. A teenage girl caught between two guys - who are willing to fight for her, but never ask her what she wants.

Quick and simple. After I finished (and washed the paint out of my hair) I sat down to write. I knew it would be a longer short story for me, probably around 5k. But I knew I could bang it out in a day or two.

Folks,  we're now around 15k. Things keep happening. Characters keep popping up.

"Oh, hai, I'm the brother, I'm going to do something interesting now!"

"I'm the dad. Did you seriously think you were going to write about the patriarchy without the patriarch getting a say?"

"I'm the random zombie who is supposed to stay off-screen, your MC's unspoken fear. But yeah. I want to eat her brains. So I'm in it to win it, beotch."

*Bangs head into keyboard*

This is not the story I wanted, not when I wanted it. But like the puppy in my dream, it's here, and I just can't give up on it.

So if I'm not around  much, it's because I'm experimenting with vegan gluten-free cookie baking (food allergies are a PITA), entertaining a motley collection of relatives, and writing my little heart out as fast as I can so I can get back to my plan!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How'd your 2010 resolutions go?

Yeah. Well, it's almost 2011. 2010 resolutions are gone. So yesterday.

In fact, resolutions themselves are just so 2010.

Now, the cool kids are all about action.

Check out my guest post about making it happen in 2011 on Life in the Pitts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm posting for the Be Jolly By Golly blogfest a bit early; tomorrow is going to be a bit crazy and I have another special post in the evening, too.  I can't wait for the virtual holiday party, anyway!

So come on in... it's our first year having Christmas in our own house (with both sides of the family visiting, which sounds like the start of a joke... "What happens when two atheists, two evangelicals, a tarot-card reading spiritualist and whatever my sister-in-law is get togther to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus?" We have our first big tree:
You probably can't see, but there is a lot of pink and orange in that tree. Thank you also, Baby Jesus, that my husband is color blind.

Here's our side board in the dining room with sparkling icicles and little purple-and-bronze Christmas trees:
Yeah, photography is not my day job. Also, I am pretty sure the Grinch snuck into my house and stole my camera just to up my Christmas Stress, so I took those with my iPhone.

Would you like some hot chocolate? It's my favorite drink during winter. This is my favorite recipe to use:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons HERSHEY'S unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
As the milk heats, combine dry ingredients. Add hot milk to the cocoa and sugar, then add a splash of vanilla. And some marshmallows. Maybe whipped cream. And sprinkles or chocolate shavings. Maybe a little chocolate syrup.

You know. However overboard you want to go. 'Tis the season, after all.

It's almost impossible to pick a favorite Christmas cookie, so I'm just going to go with the beloved and Most Traditional - the Spritz Christmas Tree. My grandmother made them, my mother made them, and now I don my little retro apron and make them. But not yet this year. I borrowed this image from IPB living:
Best eaten while hot and soft off the cookie sheet, in my opinion. Go ahead.

You need a cookie press for this one, of course, but the recipe itself is pretty simple:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few drops of green food coloring to desired color
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add vanilla and eggs and mix well. Add flour slowly until well mixed. Then add food coloring to get the desired Christmas-y green. Refrigerate at least two hours and then fill cookie press.  After pressing out the Christmas Trees, decorate with sprinkles and colored sugar (my favorite part when I was seven and still now that I'm twenty-seven). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

OMG, I was into my old journals this weekend looking for an excerpt from a letter to use in a story. I'm still searching for the excerpt.  But I've found lots of other comedic gold.  Dialogue has always been my favorite part of writing, and I faithfully recorded dialogue in my journal whenever I found it sufficiently entertaining. There's a YA novel in the making, right here...

Ex-boyfriend to me: "You're not a drama queen. Drama queens take small things  and turn them into huge things. You just... create huge things."
Me: "I've never been attracted to a guy who wasn't a shithead."
Nora (one of my best friends, on right in photo)): "Well, what guy isn't?"
Zach (Nora's boyfriend) has been attempting his usual mix of psychoanalysis and romantic fixing. You've got to give it to the boy, he's brave. He wanted to know why I'm not dating Jordan. He went through the list of positives, and then demanded, "Give me one reason why not?"

"Because!" I said. "That's not how you decide to love someone. I can't see any reason not to date you, so what the hell..."

"Oh, and what do you base your decisions off?" Zach asked. "Physical chemistry? Pheremones?"

I explained that, as great as Jordan is, I just don't feel it. I like MJ, but that's because of who he is, not because I have a position to fill. Since Zach just kept pushing, eventually I admitted, "I like the drama."

"You enjoy the whole process," Zach said. "You know what you should do? You should exclusively date guys with girlfriends. In fact, you could do even better - you should exclusively date guys with BOYFRIENDS."
But, what's a blog post without photos? And on the subject of awkwardness...
 I'll just let you leave that up to your imagination.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

J.M. Tohline has a fantastic blog post up about the biggest mistakes writers make in queries. He asked, fifty agents answered.

It's definitely worth checking out if you're querying (or will be). Some of it is common sense, some of it specific to different agents, and it's all worth reading, just to be sure. We spend so long on the damn novels themselves, might as well take the time to write a perfect query since that novel only gets one shot in the front of any given agent!

Here's a teaser borrowed from J.M's post:
As for further thoughts on vagueness, Michelle Wolfson had this to say: I think the biggest mistake people make is not telling me what their book is about. They give an overview of the book in flowery writing that really doesn't say much, or they talk about the genre or the main characters etc., but they never tell me what the book is actually about and there's no way for me to judge whether or not I'm going to be interested in the story. Tell me who the main character is, what conflict s/he faces and what's at stake. You'd be surprised how many people don't do this.

Now, go read the whole thing!

Hope you guys are having an awesome weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I saw this on Quinn's blog and thought it would make a fun blog post:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.


• Copy this list.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety. 
• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible I've certainly read all the interesting parts - but there are geneaology bits in there that just are no fun for anyone.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte I actually just started this one!
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare Dude, ALL of them? Not yet. I've read all the romantic comedies, Romeo and Juliet, and a Midsummer Night's Dream. Maybe someday...
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger 
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini I just bought this book at the thrift store last week, am looking forward to reading it soon...
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez I have this one out from the library right now.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

So, I've read more than a few of those. More than six, anyway. The list seems a bit random to me, though.  Some classics, some contemporary, a disproportionate amount of Shakespeare, lots of Austen, a little chick lit, one or two novels that I think are, in fact, really bad, and some wonderful children's books.  There are also quite a few books I'd still like to read!

How many of the books on the BBC list have you read? And what books do you think should be on there?  I'm going to update later with part two - my top 100 books - and I'd love to know what you think everyone should read. Feel free to do the same if you'd like. I think it's interesting to see what we all think the most (important? interesting? relevant?) something books are we think everyone should try. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I am such a grinch, y'all.

I saw It's A Wonderful Life this past weekend and I thought it was lame. No matter how many times I'm told it's the quintessential American Christmas story, I just want to grab George Bailey and tell him, "Stop being a martyr! Sell the Building & Loan and fix your life!"  As a result, it's painful for me to watch 90 minutes worth of him being miserable... especially since the tension he experiences, since it doesn't seem necessary, doesn't feel relevant to me.

Apparently, I'm one of a tiny percentage of people who feel that way, since everyone loves Jimmy Stewart. I guess I'm a Christmas Fail. :p But, I thought it was interesting to think about why the movie didn't work for me. As I'm hip-deep right now in revisions on The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes, I'm trying up the tension in a lot of scenes . But  I want it to feel natural and evolved, not forced on a character in order to create the story I have to tell.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go tell some kids there is no Santa Claus.

Are there any uber-hyped books or movies - new or classics - that just don't work for you? Why, if I may ask?

Friday, December 3, 2010

I recently dug up my old blog that I had in college.  And it just the gold mine I thought it would be - angsty poetry, awkward photos, and a bubbly take on underage drinking, over-scheduling and varsity sports. Basically, me now, only with spikes and Smirnoff Ice and never-ending boy drama.

I thought it might be a fun thing to recycle some of these old posts... like this one with an untitled poem:

Despite the things you say
your eyes always give you away
when I catch you watching me
and your gaze pulls away
sweeping across the room--
sweeping me with you.

So go ahead and say one more time
that you'd never want to be my boy
and push me away when I put my arms
around you and say that I missed you
and when I rest my chin on your shoulder
and when I put my hand on your cheek.

You can say everything you want to say
and you can try and stop me when I touch you
Try to save your precious masculine dignity
I know my affection is blatantly obvious
but yours is too, knowing where to look
which is why I always stare back.

I think I wrote that one for Unrequited Love That Made Me Act All Emo For A Season, but I might have written it for MJ in the tumultuous early days of our, erm, "courtship". And look how it turned out! Why so angsty, Young Me?  Stop worrying... you could put that time to better use in revisions!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.  Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end? 

I'm working on a review for this book that I should have posted later today or tomorrow, but in the meantime... go check out Talli's book!  

Anyone can read the release for Kindle by downloading the appropriate app for your phone or computer... so I want to give one of my readers a chance to read it on me. Just leave a comment on this post with your e-mail address. For another entry, post this on Twitter or your blog. 

I'll be back tonight at 9pm to pick a winner and hop on Amazon to send the winner THE HATING GAME as an elecronic gift! (Isn't this a much better use of the interwebs than Farmville?)
Update! Thanks to the random number generator (normally played by Randomizer, but today by my husband MJ) we have a winner for a free copy of The Hating Game (if you didn't already buy it!). Shelley!
Update #2: Shelley already has her copy! Let me try again... Old Kitty?