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Thursday, December 30, 2010

A little bloggerly clean up

I can't believe I'm doing this, but *sigh* I am. I've read posts on various sites over the past few months about professionalism in the writing industry, and one idea that comes up repeatedly is how to handle the issue of book reviews and such. Keep in mind that I don't necessarily believe in the old saying, "if you don't have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all" when it comes to books. I think authors should expect to get both good and bad reviews and judge their worth accordingly. But as a writer (and hopefully a professional one someday), I've come to the conclusion that it could be bad business to rate a book and then expect to sit next to that same author during a conference or such.

Let me say that this isn't easy. I do love talking about books, especially what worked for me and what didn't, and I love it when someone reads a book I've recommended and adds their own stamp of approval. But it's a step towards becoming a professional writer that I feel is necessary to take. Granted, I'm not published yet, but it seems good to get into the practice now. So *takes a deep breath* I've erased all my book reviews and ratings. Yep, that's right. I've taken that tab off my blog. Now if you look up there, you'll notice that I still have an addictive books list. I thought it would be okay to at least list the books that I absolutely loved and hopefully someone will peek at them from time to time. I've also kept up my lists of all the books I've read the past two years because I find it highly motivating to watch the lists grow. But you're not going to see any star ratings anymore. Unfortunately, this leaves me with one less feature on my blog, which means that I'll have to find more interesting things to talk about. I'm thinking I'll have to beef up my posts on writing in general and try to come up with some good topics that my readers will find entertaining. And maybe next year I'll start doing teasers again. I should have a new WIP going by February. We'll see.

Coming up tomorrow: More about resolutions!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Wrap Up

I love making New Years resolutions, partly because I tend to think of myself as successful even if I only get halfway (or a quarter of the way) to my goal. This is the optimist in me shining through, and this year is no different.

What I accomplished this year:
1. I wrote and revised (3 times) my first novel, Nikki's Wish. It's currently in the polishing phase and should be ready to query in January. Go me!!
2. I read 76 books. This exceeds last year's tally by 50%!! See that optimism, folks. Blinding isn't it?
3. I actually pushed myself to do some volunteer work at the local high school, which may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me because it means that I'm actually considering changing my career path. It's kind of scary to think about quitting something you've put 13 years into and spent a small fortune being trained for. I still don't know if being a teacher is the right path, but at least I had the guts to take the first step.
4. I started ice skating again! No, I'm no good at it, but it's fun bonding time with the kids and we have an ice rink just a block from our house. Plus, exercise! My thighs forgot what that was about.
5. I finally figured out how to the get soap scum off my bathtub walls. Think circular motion, folks. Wax on, wax off, wax on...
6. I guess I should conclude by saying that I did get a patent for a transgene construct I made. It's not likely to do anything except spiff up my resume a bit, but hey, it's a patent.

I don't want to leave you thinking that my life is all rosy because it's not. I spent many days this year feeling the stress of being a mother of three with a full time job and a desire to get published. I wiped  up many tears and wished that I had a different job or that I could be a SAHM. I had arguments with the spouse that I'd rather take back. But like I said, I'm eternally optimistic. I hate dwelling on the negative.

So how about you? What did you accomplish this year? Don't hold back on me, folks. I think it's important to celebrate even your little accomplishments. Life's too short to get down on yourself all the time. And if you don't believe me, trust Calvin and Hobbes:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Reading list summary

I'm fairly certain that I won't have time to knock off one more book this year, so I've decided to go ahead and do a summary of the 76 books I read for 2010. Didn't quite reach my goal of 100 books, but since I did reach another more important goal (that I'll talk about later in the week), I'm still feeling pretty good about this number.

So here's the rundown:
Of the books I read, 51 could be classified as young adult, 25 as children's or middle grade (see the complete list here). I didn't read any adult books this year. That's right, ZERO ADULT BOOKS. I'm quite certain this will change in 2011 as I have one adult book that will be released in March that I'm really looking forward to. But aside from that, I'd like to note the one adult book I tried to read, Anne Rice's Angel Time, I couldn't get into! That's right. I just couldn't get engaged in it, which is really weird considering how much I've loved Anne Rice in the past.

More categories:
Paranormal/Fantasy  - 26
Dystopian - 4
Historical - 4
Contemporary - 42

After looking at this list, I'm actually shocked. I write paranormal, so what's up with all the contemporary?? Obviously my tastes have changed of late, not sure if my writing preference ever will but it's something to think about.

Most read authors:
1. Rick Riordan -8
2. Laurie Halse Anderson -5
3. Sarah Dessen - 4
I had many doubles listed and I'm sure that I'll be picking up more of their books in the future. Of particular  note are Jaclyn Moriarty, Melina Marchetta, Courtney Summers and Meg Rosoff. In the children's category I'd love to pick up another book by Patricia Riley Giff.

Books with serious issues that are highly recommended:
1. Smack by Melvin Burgess - drug addiction
2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson - anorexia
3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher - suicide
4. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen - rape

Best of:
Best paranormal (for concept) Peeps by Scot Westerfeld
Best paranormal (for writing) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Best contemporary (most moving) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Best off-beat contemporary - Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

Strongest female protagonist - Nya from Blue Fire by Janice Hardy
Male crush - Mason from Lighter Side of Life and Death by CK Kelly Martin
Favorite female character - Emily from Dreaming of Amelia and The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Best overall YA (too addictive to put down) - City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. It is really necessary to read the first two in this series to get to the third. I found the second to be kind of slow, but it's worth it to get to the last book in this series.

Best overall Middle Grade/Children's - The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan. I chose this one because I think it's most attractive to kids, but Holes by Louis Sachar comes in a close second.

I can't leave this post without declaring my goal for next year. Since I may be taking classes in the spring, I'm going to have to trim my reading down a bit. I'll be happy if I manage to read 50 books, though I'm going to hope for more of course. Hope this post gives you some ideas to put on your own reading list for 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And the winner is....

First I'd like to thank everyone for following along with me over the past year, and I'd also like to welcome all of my new followers. Can't promise anything spectacular, but I hope you'll stop by once in a while to see what's up.

And now, the winner of the blogversary contest is.....


Congratulations KO (otherwise known as the insect collector - she's cool, trust me). I'll be contacting you shortly about your prize.

I'm hoping to get another blog post in before Christmas eve, but I've got lots to do between then now - there's still a little shopping, and baking cookies, and then coming back into work in the middle of the night, and somewhere in there I'm going to finish The Lost Hero, and I'm going to clean up all my telling words in the manuscript (I never knew I had so many until I started hunting them down). Anywho, lots to do over the next two days. So if I don't get another post in,


Hmm...maybe the green and red was going a little overboard. No?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm joining the Aussie YA book challenge!!

Little story: When I was in second grade, we had this foreign exchange family move into our town from Australia, and the kids rode our bus. I LOVED talking to these two, their accents, the cool way they dressed, even their toys were different and neat. Me, being from small town Minnesota, population 407, had only ever traveled over the river to Prescott, WI. Although I can't recall the names of my new friends from down under, I distinctly remember getting off the bus pretending that I had an Aussie accent. Yes, it faded within an hour, but it was good, I tell you.

It's no surprise then that I've gotten so addicted to books from Australian authors, although I do have my good friend, Nomes, to thank for most of the gentle nudges. I have a long list of Aussie books that I want to read, and since I've been following her blog (and you have too of course, right?) I'm thinking, why not take the Aussie YA book Challenge? The idea comes from Nic over at Irresistible reads and encourages readers to read 6-12 YA Aussie books for the year 2011. Sounds easy, right? I thought so too, so here's a little sneak peek at some of the books I'm planning to read:

1. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
Goodreads blurb:
The Association of Teenagers" is coming down pretty hard on Elizabeth Clarry. What is she to do when her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the refrigerator? And now, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the "Joy of the Envelope" in the "Age of the Internet," a complete and utter stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some big changes. She is about to outgrow a friend, discover a great new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon. Who needs "The Association of Teenagers" anyway?!

I've read a few Jaclyn Moriarty books now and I've been meaning to get around to this one. I love her quirky characters and epistolary style. I can't wait for this one!!

2. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager

Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing ... and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago. Then she meets Ryan and Carly has to decide ... Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?

I've heard such good things about this book. And that cover. Gosh, I'd buy it for that alone. 

3. Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong--their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision--run and hide, give themselves up and be with
their families, or fight back. 

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read this one yet. The premise sounds so cool and it's so very popular in Australia right now what with the movie out. Please forgive me my Aussie friends!

4. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.

And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

My god, if you don't love that cover, then what is wrong with you??? I've read the prequel to this called, Saving Francesca, and loved it. Melina Marchetta is apparently one of the best Australian YA writers out there, and I believe it too! I've read Jellicoe Road and I'm really looking forward to this one.

5. Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eager

For Jamie Mackie, summer holidays in the coastal town of Rocky Head mean surfing, making money, and good times at the local music festival. But this year, vampires are on the festival’s line-up … fulfilling a pact made on the wreck of the Batavia, four hundred years ago. If their plans succeed, nobody in Rocky Head will survive to see out the new year.

It's been a long time since I've read anything with "real" vampires in it and the australian twist makes this one to die for. The book cover reminds me of the movie, The Lost Boys, which I was addicted to as a pre-teen. RIP Cory Haim.

6. Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.
Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the nononsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.

I've been told that this one is classic YA Aussie and is on recommended reading lists in Australian schools. It is definitely a must.

So what do you think of my list? I hope that I'll be able to read a few more than these six in the next year, but this will definitely cover the challenge. If you're looking to join the challenge, hop over to Nic's blog to check out it out. Then visit Inkcrush where Nomes lives - she's been doing a mini blog series interviewing other Aussie friends for their recommendations. I've been told that if you sign up before January 25th, you might just win something!! Go now, mates!

AND if you haven't entered my blogversary contest, do so now!! You've only got about a week left, folks!*

* I shall cease and desist with the exclamation points now. NOT!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Monday!!

In truth, I hate Mondays, there's never anything to do at work and after a long weekend of sitting in the house I tend to drag my feet. Today was/is worse in many respects, but I shall try to stay positive (hence the word happy in the title).

My weekend in a nutshell:

1. I'm almost done with the first round of tightening of Nikki's Wish. It's been two weeks and I've cut 8500 words! Yay! My goal (as you can see by the little meter bar to the left) was 10K, but I figure 8500 for a first read-through is pretty good. At 350 pages, I can easily snip off another 1500 words, cuz that's only 5 words per page, dude! See? Positive attitude here. I'm a teensy weensy bit stuck at the moment because I thought of a different way to word some dialogue in the climax scene and I need to work that out, but hopefully I should get that done tonight. Then it's time for another read through, more tightening, another read through... you get the picture. Everyone keeps asking me, when are you going to query this thing??? And all I can say is, I'm getting there. And guys I so appreciate the support. THANK YOU!! *big hugs to everyone*

2. Snow!! Minnesota had a blizzard over the weekend and in St. Paul, where I live, we got 15 inches. It's not so bad when it's all spread out, but once the plows come through and everyone clears their driveways, it starts to look pretty scary. I went to Target on Sunday and driving around the lot I felt like a rat caught in a maze. I never knew when the road would end or what was around the next corner. And let me tell you, they didn't plow that lot very well. Add to that my astigmatism which makes it hard to see anyway, and I was sure I was going to wind up with a fender-bender. I came home and told my husband I wasn't going there again this winter. But *sigh* I have to go sometime this week to stock up on medical stuff for my flex money. Grrr...

3. My reading has been really slow the past 3 weeks since I've been focusing on editing. I'm currently reading Octavius Nothing by M.T. Anderson, which I'm enjoying btw, but I've been going at about 20x slower than my normal reading pace. Let me tell you, historical writers impress me. I don't know how they manage to pull off dialogue that no one speaks anymore, but then when they start to write in a style that's not done anymore I become truly awestruck. I could never write historical. I know, never say never...

4. Been feeling a little sad, realizing that the kids are growing too fast. Case in point, my son has been obsessed with puzzles, and not in a good way. His "game" is to dump out all the puzzles at once and wade through them! Yes, it's a little irritating, but at the same time, I look at him and think, I've got to take a picture of this. He's only going to be three and half once in his life, you know.

So what was your weekend like? Get any writing done? Reading? Have any special moments to share? I'm all ears.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Blogversary!!!

Happy Blogversary to me. Happy Blogversary to me. Happy Blogversary to me-eee. Happy Blogversary to me!

Okay, hope you read that with the Happy Birthday song  in your head. If not - REPEAT!!!!

Yes, folks, it's been a year since I started blogging about my writing journey, and while I could torture you all with memories of my fabulous posts, I won't. *waits as everyone breathes a sigh of relief*. Instead, I'm going to do what all reliable blog hosts do and have a contest!

I'm keeping things simple this time 'round. Just leave a comment below with your name and email. Following is not necessary, but if you do sign up to follow, give yourself an extra entry. And if you're an old follower, give yourself 2 extra entries. Add up your entries for me please. Total possible = 3.

The prize!! Yeah, I suppose I should tell you what you're going to win. The winner will receive a 25$ gift card from the bookseller of their choice. (, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Half-price books, etc).

If you're an international contestant, then I'll let you choose two books from the Book Depository (for some reason they don't have gift cards, go figure). Contest ends on the 21st.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Top 100 YA books of all time

I thank Nomes for giving me today's topic. Below is the list of 100 top YA books of all time as polled by Persnickety Snark. I indicated in pink those that I've read and my rating (1-5 stars) for each.

1.The Hunger Games*****
Suzanne Collins
2.Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone*****
J.K. Rowling
3.To Kill a Mockingbird*****
Harper Lee
Laurie Halse Anderson
5.Northern Lights
Philip Pullman
6.The Truth About Forever****
Sarah Dessen
7.The Book Thief*****
Markus Zusak
8.The Outsiders*****
S.E. Hinton
Stephenie Meyer
10.This Lullaby***
Sarah Dessen
11.Looking for Alaska*****
John Green
12.Just Listen*****
Sarah Dessen
13.Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows*****
J.K. Rowling
14.Little Women****
Louisa May Alcott
15.City of Bones****
Cassandra Clare
16.On the Jellicoe Road*****
Melina Marchetta
17.The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger
18.Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban*****
J.K. Rowling
19.The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
20.Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
Maggie Stiefvater
22.Vampire Academy
Richelle Mead
Kristin Cashore
24.Thirteen Reasons Why*****
Jay Asher
25.Sloppy Firsts
Megan McCafferty
26.The Lord of the Rings****
J.R.R. Tolkien
27.Alanna: The First Adventure
Tamora Pierce
28.Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card
29.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince*****
J.K. Rowling
Scott Westerfeld
31.A Great and Terrible Beauty
Libba Bray
32.Tomorrow, When the War Began
John Marsden
33.The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart
34.Pride and Prejudice****
Jane Austen
35.The Westing Game
Ellen Raskin
36.Paper Towns****
John Green
37.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire****
J.K. Rowling
38.Catching Fire*****
Suzanne Collins
39.A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
Betty Smith
40.The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian*****
Sherman Alexie
41.Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
42.The Amber Spyglass
Philip Pullman
Claudia Gray
Garth Nix
45.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix*****
J.K. Rowling
46.Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
Judy Blume
48.I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith
49.Ella Enchanted
Gail Carson Levine
50.The Princess Diaries
Meg Cabot
Jerry Spinelli
52.Howl's Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones
53.The Dark is Rising
Susan Cooper
54.Hush, Hush***
Becca Fitzpatrick
55.Saving Francesca*****
Melina Marchetta
56.Second Helpings
Megan McCafferty
Sarah Dessen
Stephenie Meyer
59.Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
Kristin Cashore
61.The Chocolate War
Robert Cormier
62.Weetzie Bat
Francesca Lia Block
63.The Diary of a Young Girl****
Anne Frank
64.Looking for Alibrandi
Melina Marchetta
65.How I Live Now*****
Meg Rosoff
66.City of Glass*****
Cassandra Clare
67.Keeping the Moon
Sarah Dessen
68.Breaking Dawn****
Stephenie Meyer
69.Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Louise Rennison
70.If I Stay*****
Gayle Forman
71.The King of Attolia
Megan Whalen Turner
Laurie Halse Anderson
73.Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Robin McKinley
74.The Blue Sword
Robin McKinley
M.T. Anderson
76.The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
Ann Brashares
77.Go Ask Alice
78.Wicked Lovely*****
Melissa Marr
79.Lord of the Flies*****
William Golding
80.Someone Like You
Sarah Dessen
81.The Forest of Hands and Teeth*****
Carrie Ryan
82.Jacob Have I Loved****
Katherine Paterson
83.The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness
84.Poison Study
Maria V. Snyder
85.Shadow Kiss
Richelle Mead
86.The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
87.An Abundance of Katherines****
John Green
88.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Mark Haddon
89.A Ring of Endless Light
Madeleine L'Engle
90.Glass Houses
Rachel Caine
91.The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Partycurrent read
M.T. Anderson
92.Walk Two Moons
Sharon Creech
93.Whale Talk
Chris Crutcher
94.Perfect Chemistry
Simone Elkeles
95.Going Too Far
Jennifer Echols
96.The Last Song
Nicholas Sparks
97.Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
Gary Paulsen
99.The Pigman
Paul Zindel
100.The Hero and the Crown
Robin McKinley

My tallies:
read 16 of the top 20
read 45 of the total list

Interestingly, one of the books, Hatchet, my son just read for his 4th grade class! Guess I'll have to read it now too. :) What surprises me most, as others have said is the number of Sarah Dessen books. I like Sarah Dessen, she's a reliable author that I'll always pick up when I see her on sale, but I don't eagerly await each one. So again, kind of surprising. I like this list as it shows me what I'm really missing. Will definitely pick up Northern Lights and Perks of being a Wallflower. There are a lot of others that I've been meaning to read as well. What a great list to go from!

On a different note, I didn't quite make it to 5K this weekend - was 200 words shy of my goal. I was just too tired last night, my eyes were falling asleep and when you're reading and realize that you've gone three pages without cutting a single thing it means either you haven't been paying attention or you're just that good. I know it's not the latter, so I put the manuscript away and will get back to it tonight. I'm fairly confident that I can get through the entire manuscript without deleting any actual scenes because I've cut 5000 words so far and I'm halfway through the manuscript, so it should work out exactly perfect. It amazes me how much tighter it is (and I know it can probably be even tighter). It also amazes me just how long it takes. I cut 3000 words this weekend in about 20 hours - that's 150 words an hour!! My goal now is to get that second 5K done by next Sunday. Hey, it could happen. :)

What did you do this weekend? And what do you think of the list? Share!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quick blogging tip.

Nothing, NOTHING, will drive me away from a blog faster than a pop up song. I do a lot of my internet surfing while at work, as I'm sure MANY people do, and when you're in an shared office or cubicle (in my case a laboratory) with 30 other people, you don't want them to suddenly hear music coming from your computer. The instant I hear music, I close the browser never to return. This isn't an uncommon occurrence. In fact it happened to me last week. Now I could turn the volume off on my computer, but then when I get home (I have a laptop) I'd have to remember to turn it on again, and that's inconvenient. I won't do it just to accommodate websites that feel they have to entertain my eardrums. Really folks, if you want to share your love of a song, then put it as a link to a picture or something. You want people to listen to you, not a song. So put the tunes away for another time.

That is all. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Random winterly observations

1. When the weather turns bitterly cold, toddlers CAN and WILL take their own sweet time getting out of the car.
2. The Christmas spirit is contagious and will cause you to buy gaudy decorations from Pier 1 even though you know you'll throw them out in two year's time.
3. December is the time to look back on your New Year's resolutions and go "oh shit! I only have 29 days left to get this done!". My advice, particularly when it comes to writing, is to not look at how you haven't met your goal but how far you've come towards that goal. Except you know, if you haven't made any progress at all. Then by all means do the headslam thing.
4. Ice skating is fun for the whole family, but remember you're a lot taller now and that ice is going to hurt a lot more. Tread with caution.
5. Keep plenty of hot cocoa on hand.
6. Don't buy toddler gloves with the flappable mitten. It takes FOREVER to get their little fingers in the right grooves. (You'd think I'd know this by now, having three kids, but noooo....)
7. Getting a remote starter for your car means you've gone soft. I shall resist until I'm forty.
8. Never tell your husband/significant other that you're not going to spend much this year. It'll come back to bite you in the ass.
9. Elf on the Shelf. Cool concept. Would never work with my kids - Ethan had the whole Santa Claus deal figured out when he was five.
10. This is important!!!! For those using flex money for their medical supplies, know that next year you can't claim anything that doesn't have a prescription. Worse, anything you buy after January 1st will not be eligible for 2010's flex dollars (usually you have until march 15th). This SUCKS!!! Sorry for the rant, all you non-US citizen's. :)
11. Why do they always change the design of mop sponges? Now I'm stuck with a big stick and no sponge that'll fit it. I should just go back to the old ragamuffin mop.
12. Tooth Fairy, the movie. Okay, I didn't watch the whole thing, just enough to laugh at Dwayne Johnson in a tutu. And Julie Andrews??? What gives?
13. Speaking of movies, every year I have to watch all the Christmas classics - Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer, and my favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. When I was kid, these shows weren't on videotape so we had to wait around for them to actually be SHOWN on tv and it was always a huge popularity thing where I lived. "Did you get to watch so and so last night. I loved...."
14. Yes, you're probably shaking your head at that last one, but hey, I was seven!
15. Another childhood memory - we used to play outside ALL DAY LONG when it was winter and my parents never checked on us to make sure we weren't frostbit, etc. I remember licking icicles off the roof and wandering out onto the lake without even asking if it was safe. With my kids though, I have to stand in front of the door watching them play in the snow or else I would never hear the end of it from my husband. Are they eating the snow? Putting it in the other one's hood? Are you sure they're not too cold? Sometimes my husband gives the term party pooper new meaning.
16. Totally off topic, but I have glitter all over my laptop. Where did it come from?????????????????
17. I've read 73 books so far this year!! At an average of 6 hours per book that's.... wait, I don't want to know that statistic, do I?
18. I started blogging my household diary. It's pretty bare bones so far, but I figure it'll be a good way to keep track of the all the cute things the kids say and do. The title: Taming of the Crew.
19. Bugger, I knew that I'd never be able to knock of 5K in three days, but in my defense, it's hard to get back in the groove after a four day break, and there was a dentist appointment in there, and... and...
20. I shall make it to 5K by this weekend. Right after I redo this one scene (and add 500 words). :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Trimming the Fat

Did you have a good holiday weekend? I did. Did you eat lots of turkey and gravy and stuffing and feel like you'd just swallowed the Titanic? I did. Did you gain three pounds for your efforts and don't regret it a single bit? I did!!!

But hey, this blog is supposed to be about writing, not turkey. Fortunately the connection is readily apparent. If you've been keeping tabs (and if you have you're one devoted friend!) then you'll know that recently I've been adding scenes and dialogue to draw out the character of Nikki's sister. Well, this actually went quite well - I got inspired by the photographs I posted here and I also became inspired just by starting a new WIP. How did that happen, you ask? Well, I came up with this idea for a MG novel and just started writing it one day last week. BUT I felt guilty for cheating on Nik and Sam, so that prompted me to write a bit in Nikki's Wish. I figured, one thousand words in the new, one scene in the old, and so on. And wouldn't you know, it worked! I somehow managed to get all of those revisions done. I even went through and re-read the whole manuscript on Saturday!! I'm feeling the rosy-posy happiness of accomplishment here folks, but now for the sad part. THE MANUSCRIPT IS CURRENTLY AT 100,000 WORDS!!!

Ack! How did that happen? So along with trimming my turkey fat (six flights of stairs three times a day ought to do the trick), I now have to trim some of my writing fat. I've already taken notes on what can go and what should stay. This is big, revision-type trimming folks (think liposuction and you'll get the idea). My goal is to have 5K of it gone by Wednesday, December 1st. If that happens then I'll spend the next two weeks tightening. Let's see, two weeks, 5K words, that's about 360 words each day. That's not so much. And then, it'll be query and synopsis and then I WILL start putting this thing out by early January.

I'm running off now to find a little meter gadget that I can stick on my blog - there must be one somewhere right? Oh, and did I forget to mention that I already have 1K of that 5K done?? I feel like I'm on a role here!! But uh...don't expect me to add an actual poundage scale anywhere.  :)

What about you? Do you have some fat trim? Real or literary, either way, leave a comment and let me know!!

Also - kitty update! My husband agreed to the plan for where to put the litterbox, but now I'm cleaning up the clutter in the house because I feel like adding another being to the domestic sphere demands it. Also, my hubby is going to Malaysia in January and somehow I think it'll be better if I don't have to deal with new kitty stuff until after he gets back (also cat in the christmas tree? I wants to avoid that for now). So, the plan for now is to get the kitten in February.  Thanks everyone for the great suggestions!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I need to have my head examined.

So it happened. Never thought it would, but it happened. The hubby has agreed to get a cat!!

Here was the conversation (via email):

me: Blah, blah, blah (it was about what to get the kids for christmas, we'd initially agreed not to go overboard on presents, but I got to internet window shopping, and you know how that goes).

OR we could get a kitten!!

the hub: I wasn't really planning not to get them anything.. just more well thought out stuff.. quality instead of quantity.

me: Kittens are high quality presents. :)

the hub: I guess we can discuss.  Need to figure out the logistics first...

Later that night:

the hub: so you want to get a cat?

me: eyes wide open, speechless and nodding.

the hub: well, first you have to figure out who's going to take care of it cuz you know how the kids are.

me:  (Instantly) I will.

the hub: okay, where are you going to put the litterbox? Our house is pretty small you know.

me: ????
Five minutes of dead silence follows as Angie tries to figure out where to put the litterbox.

me: Well, I'll figure it out and let you know.

Yep, I've lost my head. I've wanted a cat for soooo long, and with the hub always saying no, I was getting kind of mad, like I'm 36 frickin' years old. If I want a cat, then I'm going to get a cat!! BUT he has a good point. Where would we put the stupid litterbox? Not the kitchen - no space, and ew.. Not the dining room. Same reason. Not the bathroom - our bathroom is so small you can't have two people in there without tripping over each other. Not the kids' closets because although they're full of junk right now, they'll eventually be used for clothes and I don't want Carissa to be upset in 8 years when her clothes closet smells like TidyCat. Not the front hall closet, you can barely open it now. And... not the basement because our basement door is right when you come into the house (about two feet from the back door) and it can't be left open because it's too dangerous. So that leaves what???? Then I look around our house and see the tons and tons and tons of paper strewn across the dining room table and the toys everywhere and the mountains of socks thrown all over the floor (what is it with boys and throwing socks??). And... now I'm starting to see why the hub doesn't want another pet. I'm beginning to wonder if it was just the idea that he wouldn't agree to it that was driving the need because now that he's finally said yes (or maybe), I'm not as excited as I was. What gives?

I'm up for ideas on where to put a litterbox if anyone has them. Or tips on how to keep the house clean because I'm getting rather tired of it. Every weekend is the same thing - clean clean clean. And by Monday evening it's a huge mess again. I don't know how my mother did it. Then again she didn't work and she LOVED cleaning. Me? NOT!!

I promise I'll post on something actually writing related next time. I did have a post going, but I need to think it out some more, and babbling is my specialty. Have a good weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

RTW - something completely crazy

I don't normally participate in RTW - just got too much stuff to do, but for a copy of Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin, I'd do anything, even share my crazy moment. So for those who don't know, RTW (road trip wednesday) is a weekly meme over on YA highway, and this week they're letting those who participate get an extra entry for the Like Mandarin giveaway. This book sounds so good, a bad girl influencing a good girl to do something crazy like run away? I gots to have it.

So here's my crazy moment: When I was a freshman in college, I met a guy online. We talked like crazy for two months and became real good friends, but we both thought it could be something more. So that spring he decided to visit me at my dorm. Spent a whole weekend with me and yeah, became my boyfriend. So that probably wasn't the crazy part. The craziness came when I decided to spend the summer with him in Florida after having met him in person only once. I didn't have much money - heck neither of us did. And I didn't have a job either, but I was planning on going back to MN in the fall to start school. I thought, well it's just a vacation. I did get a job there and we did go on a lot of trips - Disneyland, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, we even took a 4 day road trip to Washington DC for his friend's wedding. But when fall came around I was too sad to leave. I had fallen for him, big time, and after a failed two weeks of living on my own in Minneapolis, I canceled all my classes and hopped back on the plane for Florida. We got married four months later on January 5th, 1994. And yes, we're still together.

So, that's my moment (or months maybe) of craziness. What about you??

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blog award and snow!!!

Snow! Yes, folks we got hit by a snowstorm here in Saint Paul, so I'm sharing photos of the mess. It's started to melt already and that's caused ice build up everywhere. Although I'm not as upset as my neighbors probably are - they started re-roofing their house on Friday before the storm hit and I'm pretty sure they didn't get it done. In all we got about 7 inches, but other parts of the metro got dumped on and lost power. We did lose our internet connection for most of Saturday night, and I felt a little lost, but it gave me time to read. I finished Twenty Boy Summer and Blue Fire - both really good. As far as writing is concerned, I did manage to read through NW in its entirety and marked up places where I need to add things. And my pictures that I showed on my last blog post did the trick (somewhat) I got a few ideas for scenes that I'll be adding over the next couple weeks.

But on to more fun stuff - blog awards!! I got this one from my blogger/writer friend, Joann. I'm supposed to tell you ten things about myself and given the title of the award, I'm thinking they all have to be true (as Nikki would say, Bugger!). So here we go:

1. I was a big crybaby in elementary school. I cried almost every single day of Kindergarten and all the kids made fun of me. I think that's where my initial shyness came from and it's taken me a long time to get over that. Even now at 36, I still get really cold feet when it comes to some social situations.

2. My sister gave me the nickname Annie Kae when I was little and I hated it!!! Maybe that explains why I scribbled all over her track ribbons. Revenge is so sweet when you're six.

3. I have two sisters who I love dearly and one brother who I haven't seen for nearly ten years. He cut himself off from the family for reasons none of us understand, and I only hear about him when he calls my mom, which he only does once a year.

4. I've had pets all my life, but since our dog died 18 months ago this has been the longest that I've gone without a pet. I'm trying to convince my husband to get a cat, and if it doesn't happen soon...well, I don't know who's going to be more unhappy, him or me.

5. I have three beautiful kids who each have a Chinese name, the first part of which is the same: Jiaji, JiaMei, and JiaXiang. Jia = home. And their grandmother gave them their Chinese names.

6. I got married on January 5th, 1994, but we didn't have our wedding until December of 1995. And no, it wasn't a shotgun deal, we just didn't have the money. :)

7. When I was about 8 years old I was convinced I was going to go to hell because I hadn't been baptized, and I asked my mother for Christmas if they would please, please baptize me. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

8. I prefer pie to cake. Preferably something tart like mixed berry.

9. I haven't had a tv show that I've been seriously into for about two years now, and honestly I don't miss it at all.

10. Being that this is the last thing on the list, I thought I'd do a run-down of my addictions:

b. Writing
c. daytrading, though I haven't done it for about two years now. I really seriously have an addiction here - I had to put a sticky on my computer that said DO NOT DAYTRADE  in big letters and for those first few weeks it was really hard to resist. And it's kind of like drinking or gambling, once you take that one trade, you feel like you have to keep doing it until you fall over drunk (er...until the market closes).

d. Bengal Spice tea from Celestial Seasonings - I'm out of it right now and I'm having serious withdrawal issues.
e. my flat iron - this addiction started this summer when I finally realized how well it works. I hate my wavy hair. It gets all frizzy and looks horrible, but since the flat iron epiphany I've been hair happy!! I won't even travel without it now.
 f. daydreaming - this has been a long standing addiction. Either making up stories and daydreaming or just thinking about the future, I've always, always been a big daydreamer. I've come to realize it's an addiction, but not one I'm likely to give up now that I've found an outlet for it in writing. :)

KO, Cheyenne, and Marieke - tag, you're it!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Characters - my new obsession

When I started writing Nikki's Wish over a year ago, I wasn't all that interested in characters. I was interested in plot. Something unique was going to happen - a guy jumping off a skyscraper and surviving is kind of unique (or at least I hope it is). Then I went about crafting how I was going to explain that and before long a story was born with a girl, a genie, an evil master and a few other supporting cast members. I wrote the story. I had a few people read it, and in the meantime I was reading a lot more myself. I got comments back, and one of those really stood out to me. It was Nomes who picked apart my characters one at a time and made me realize just how important the characters are to a story, and yes, I've been obsessing about that ever since.

I don't want to write a book that's just about plot. I want my characters to stand out, for people to remember them. I've read a lot this year and I can tell you that the books that have really stood out to me are those that made me cry a little. I have this fantasy now that I can make my readers burst into tears, and by far the best way to do that is through character development. I've spent the past 4 months working on this, but folks, I've gotten stuck!! I fixed Nikki's mother - she's not quite so much the helicopter mom now. I gave Kay some perky new lines and I deleted one character that didn't stand out at all. And yes, I even gave the wicked witch of the Gin some empathy. But now comes the biggie. The sis. Shani. Shani is dead and that makes her character far more challenging than the rest. All of her lines come from imagined conversations between her and Nikki, and some of those don't necessarily showcase Shani's true thoughts or feelings. They're in Nikki's voice, in her head, and given that Nikki's harboring a bit of guilt over her sister's death, she's not going to be entirely reliable. But getting back to this whole "I want to make the reader" cry bit, it's this relationship between Nikki and Shani where I really need to hit my reader in the gut. I need to incorporate sweet remembrances with beautiful writing so when Nikki finally starts to deal with her grief, the reader will feel it. And this friends, is where I'm stuck. I try to imagine these scenes, I try to think of words exchanged with my own siblings to make this relationship come to life, but I'm just not there yet. I can't see it.

Now I'm not saying that what I have so far is bad. It isn't. I just don't think it's tear-worthy and that's the goal I'm striving for. So I've been thinking to myself, maybe if I do some character profiles and flip through some really great photography, then inspiration will hit me. So the character profiles will be forth coming in the next week, but this is a quick flip through some photographs I found.

I love the girls reading together here. 
My older sister used to read to me ALL the time.

 This one just feels fun to me.

Anything with the beach is noteworthy.

This is just too cute.

 I love the offbeat feeling to this. I'm not sure about the girl in the background, 
but I could totally see Nikki knocking around with a guitar.

Secrets! Secrets! Secrets!

I feel like a prince is about to ride through that 
forest any minute now. Sam? Where are you??

I can totally see Nikki and Shani doing this, especially
with the stocking caps. Minnesota = Brrr...

This feels straight out of the book with the lake and all.

 I LOVE this one. I have a feeling it's illegal to put it up here 
(see that little name at the bottom??), or even that it might be from a movie???
But yeah, I can totally see the sisters talking it out in the bathtub.

This one freaked me out when I first saw it. 
The girl on the right looks like a ghost, which is sooo perfect for the story.
 I just keep looking at it, trying to figure out how the photographer did that. Photoshop?
Anyway, it's gorgeous.

That's all for now. Have a good weekend!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review - Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Goodreads review: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers. 

First, the characters: 

Hannah. Oh my. If there were ever a dislikeable character it's Hannah. I mean she's already dead, her classmates are probably reeling from her suicide, and then she goes and lays the blame on others, thirteen others to be exact. How would you feel if you were one of the "lucky" thirteen? Me? I would have retreated to my bedroom for weeks. And then I would have gotten mad. Who the hell does Hannah think she is to blame other people for her personal problems? I tell you guys, I had a huge knot in my stomach the whole time I was reading Thirteen Reasons Why because in some sense you do get to feel what it's like to be that person. Hannah is not a strong character, folks. She makes us hate her. First for dishing on my man, Clay, but more importantly because she's a quitter. Everyone loves a hero. No one likes a quitter.  Especially not a quitter who blames others for their quitting. Now, if you're a person who has to like your characters in order to like the story itself, this book may not be for you. No, wait, did I say that? My bad. What I meant to say is that this book IS for you. The unlikeable character has popped up in some of the best books I've read - Speak from Laurie Halse Anderson and Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers to name a few. If you're avoiding books like these because of the unlikeable character, then you're missing out. Let's face it, no one is 100% likeable, but everyone has a story to tell (or at least characters in stories do). When we read stories like these we start to think that we can understand people, even those people we don't like, and that is so, so important.  So don't turn your head from this book because of Hannah's character. Read it anyway and see if you don't come to the same conclusion that I did, that this story is amazing

Clay - Clay's character was essential to this book. Because Hannah is so unlikeable and because the subject matter of teen suicide is so depressing, readers will tend to shy away from this story. But the addition of Clay as one of the thirteen was pure brilliance on writer, Jay Asher's, part. There's an immediate set up here where we see a normal guy who thinks he's got no reason to be on that list, and the reader becomes immediately curious, wondering what the heck he did. I kept thinking to myself, no way is anyone that nice. Clay must have done something really bad and he just doesn't want to admit it. And then I'd think, no it was just a mistake. He doesn't really belong on the list. As the misdeeds of the thirteen become more and more deviant, (not sure if that's the right word here) I became more anxious to see where Clay fit in. I won't tell you what he actually did, but take note my fellow writers - this is a brilliant way to hook the reader.

The other twelve - they're sitting around you, gossiping in the lunchroom, bragging at their lockers. Or if you're past that stage, maybe they're the ones sucking up to the boss, making a fuss over a wrong order at Starbucks or just generally reminding you that sometimes people really suck. Think I'm being snarky? Well, I'm not. These characters could be the person sitting next to you, they could be you. Okay, maybe not you, you. All of my readers are very sweet, generous people. :) I'm sure none of you are as bad as #11 or #4 on Hannah's list, but the idea is that even the little things people do can have a huge impact on someone else's life. You never know how something you say or do might affect someone else. It's a little telling that I've forgotten the names of the other twelve accusees because ultimately who they were wasn't all that important. It was who they represented - everyone.

Some may say that Thirteen Reasons Why is kind of preachy, and yes, there is definitely a message there, but it's delivered in an engaging manner. It's also a very important message. I was speaking to a neighbor just the other day and learned that a young girl, just 14 years old, committed suicide in our neighborhood. I didn't know the family, but it made me so sad that someone could be so depressed at that age. My neighbor has daughters of her own and so I recommended this book for her girls. I don't think that it will help them to recognize the signs of severe depression. This isn't exactly that type of book, and there are websites for that (see below). But I think it will help them, and hopefully other readers, to see that just being nice to people can have a huge impact. I think every young adult can handle that reminder. Heck, I think every adult can handle that reminder, and that's why I'm giving Thirteen Reasons Why 5 stars.

Other things to love/hate about the book:

1. The writing is very dry, cut-to-the-chase style writing. There were no real moments where I paused to reflect on the beauty of the prose. Which is fine because it's the story and the message that really carries the book.

2. Along with not liking Hannah's character, there was one part of the book that I felt went a little over the top, as if Asher felt he had to add just one more reason why Hannah would do what she did. I thought it was unnecessary for two reasons: 1. the delivery just wasn't there. It didn't make me understand Hannah better and the way the scene was done didn't invoke the right feeling that it should have. 2. Sometimes it's not these big things that lead one down that road. Teens and adults can commit suicide for reasons that appear very minor to the rest of us. Part of the story as a whole was how things built up and up in Hannah's head/world. Losing that final thing wouldn't have made Hannah's ordeal any less significant, at least in my opinion. Sorry if I'm going off on a tangent here, but once you read it I think you'll know what I'm talking about.

3. My edition has an interview with Asher in the back where he talks about how he got the idea for Thirteen Reasons and why he added certain things, like using old-fashioned audio tapes instead of CDs for the actual recording of Hannah's voice. He talks about how when you use outdated objects in a contemporary novel how that negates the concept of "dating". I really liked this idea - although I probably won't turn Sam's Aston Martin into a '69 Cadillac. Just so you know. :)

Jay Asher's website:
National Suicide Hotline 1-800- SUICIDE
Signs of severe depression in teens
Facts about teen suicide and prevention

I haven't read any other books on teen suicide since I've began my foray into YA, but if you have any recommendations, let me know and I'll add a link!!



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