Saturday, December 31, 2011

My favorite books read in 2011

Check out my top ten list to see which book features a character similar to this eye-candy shot of Ben Barnes in Victorian gear... that I'd happily travel back in time for!

There's no better way for this book lover to close out 2011 with a list of her favorite books read this year. 62 books is a new record for me and a big pool to choose from. 

Here's my top ten list, and there's another more creative list after that!

10. Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier (YA historical fantasy)

Not just a fairytale retelling, this is fairytale fusion set in historical Transylvania. Rich with tension between two worlds and a double love story.

9. Changeless, Gail Carriger (Steampunk)

A worthy sequel to Soulless, with an indomitable Victorian heroine and more delightfully wicked repartee between Alexia and Lord Maccon. I found the picture of Ben Barnes as Lord Maccon, your not so typical Scottish werewolf gentleman,  on a Pinterest wall devoted to this series. I will definitely be reading the rest of the books. The series is Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless (comes out in 2012).

8. Wings / Spells / Illusions, Aprilynne Pike (YA paranormal)

I usually only read one series book a year, even when they are available. This one was a rule-breaker. It's a love triangle, human/human/faery (with a pretty weird/awesome twist on faeries) and I am sooooo Team Tamani. Anxious for next and final book.

7. Iron King, Iron Daughter, Iron Queen, Iron Knight - by Julie Kagawa

Okay, I lied. This is another rule-breaker series, and another one, strangely enough, about faeries. But in this case it's the world-building that won me over with the stark contrast between the steampunkish iron fey and the sinister beauty of the summer/winter fey.

6. Unearthly, Cynthia Hand (YA paranormal)
Very memorable characters that keep you guessing, based on an angel mythology with a realistic feel, and set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (wow). Will definitely read sequels.

5. Beauty, Robin McKinley (YA fantasy)

A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, written in the 70's, but an enduring classic. Disney, you sure stole a lot of Robin's great ideas for your movie! But the romance is even more wonderful in the book, and there are a lot more magical details.

4. A Northern Light, Jennifer CDonnelly (YA historical)

A sophisticated and gripping emotional arc set alongside a murder mystery. Superbly layered subplots. A fantastic array of characters, and it left me with a new appreciation for dictionaries and "word wars."

The last three are a tie, I really can't pick which was my favorite - and all three of them go on my all time favorites list. The really interesting thing is that my top three aren't YA (which is my usual favorite, if you couldn't tell from the list above). Another bizarre fact: I absolutely LOVE love stories but my top three weren't love stories. I surprise myself.

1, 2 or 3: The Help, Kathryn Stockett (Literary)

Two black maids from the 1960s, Aibileen and Minnie, and the white girl, Skeeter who wants to tell their stories. Oh, the stories! 

1, 2 or 3: Holes, Louis Sachar (MG)

The most unusual, scary, and satisfying summer camp-for-kids story ever. The way everything comes together at the end makes you want to stand up and cheer.

1, 2 or 3: Pegasus, Robin McKinley (MG fantasy)

A best friend with wings, amazing world-building, clash between cultures. Slow pace, but I savored every moment because it's loaded with interesting details, insight and lots of heart. Desperate for the sequel! (I gushed out almost 2000 words in my Goodreads review of this book!)

Here's my second list, (the idea shamelessly stolen from Sophia Richardson's list) which gives me the opportunity to list some great runner-ups. 

Most Envy-Inducing Plot: Starcrossed, Josephine Angelini (YA paranormal)
Deliciously unrequited love and beautiful superpowers with a great modern twist on ancient Greek myths and a humorous twist on the kryptonite idea. Will read sequel. And I LOOOVVVVVVEEEEEEE this cover!

Most Wonderful World-Building: Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (YA steampunk)
Two kids on different sides of a alternative history steampunk war have to rely on each other to survive. Plus a bunch of amazingly creative creatures and machines.Will read sequels.

Scariest World: Divergent, Veronica Roth (YA dystopian)
Do you have to be violent to prove your bravery? Tris discovers that ordinary acts of bravery are the greatest of all in this riveting futuristic tale with lots of hair-raising jumping off buildings and trains.

Loveliest Prose: Lady in Waiting, Susan Meissner (Christian)
There are actually two ladies in waiting: present day Jane, waiting for her husband to return, and Lady Jane Grey,  who sat on the throne of England in the 1500's for all of nine days before being de-throned. The parallel stories are beautifully framed with symbols and prose and plenty of page-turning tension.

Best First Line: Daddy said, “Let mom go first.”
Across the Universe, Beth Revis (YA SF)
Exquisitely plotted book with an eerie trapped-in-a-space ship setting.

Most Dynamic Main Character(s): From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (MG)
It's classic, it's funny, it's set in the after hours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Claudia and James are clever but vulnerable, a great brother/sister love/hate pair.

Best new paranormal creature: Shifting, Bethany Wiggins (YA paranormal)
Navajo skinwalkers. Maggie can shift into a cheetah - how cool is that? And other things as well - you gotta see what happens when she tries to shift into a mythical creature!

Most enticing time to travel back to: To Ride the God's Own Stallion, Diane Lee Wilson (MG)
Set in ancient Assyria -  Oh my gosh the lion hunts!  - destined to become a classic horse story for kids.

Most Jaw-Dropping Finale Falling Under, Gwen Hayes (YA paranormal)
End with an unexpected twist that make you go, "No way!!! How is that going to work????" but yet it DOES work. So very well. This book also rates HIGH for great non-cliche characters and heart-pounding romantic tension. 

Most Heartbreaking Scene: I Am Number Four, Pitticus Lore (YA SF/paranormal)
A teenage Superman, his mentor, and alien conspiracies. One of the best scenes I have EVER read. The protagonist is recalling violent memories of his people being destroyed, juxtaposed with his mentor/protector describing his wife and the reasons why he loved her so much. Powerful.

Most anticipated 2012 release: The Archived, Victoria Schwab. Oh wait, I have to wait until 2013???
A teenage girl must return the restless, ghost-like Histories of the dead to their rightful place in a labyrinthine supernatural library known as the Archive. When more Histories begin to wake and escape, she must stop the doors between the worlds of the living and dead from breaking open, all without falling victim to a beguiling History who is more human – and more disarmingly attractive – than the others.

What were your favorite reads of 2011?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A mythical creature Christmas

I love stories about mythical creatures, and I love Christmas. So as I was brainstorming to share something about Christmas that doesn't sound trite or oft-repeated, I tried one of the new tricks in my creative bag - take something ordinary and familiar (Christmas is certainly familiar, though maybe not so ordinary when you consider the source of it) and something not-so-ordinary... mythical creatures. 

So here's some Christmas fun I came up with when I threw some mythical creatures into the mix:

~ A stable full of mythical creatures instead of farm animals. Replace the cattle with gryffins, donkeys with pegasi, sheep with sphinx, and doves with a pair of phoenix. Imagine the surprise of the wise men and shepherds when they arrive! But no dragons, please: a stable is too flammable

~ a werewolf that changes into a flying were-deer on Christmas eve

~ a vampire whose skin turns shimmery when he's caught out in the open on Christmas day. Instead of shimmering like diamonds, he's multi-colored like a Christmas tree

~ a light-up unicorn horn for a tree-topper

~ sirens singing Christmas Carols and enchanting hordes of holiday shoppers

~ mermaids slurping eggnog

~ Rumplestiltskin spinning straw into endless Christmas presents, complete with wrapping and bows

I love all the old fashioned traditions of Christmas too. My kids and I make Christmas cookies ever year, get pictures with Santa, open advent calendars together, re-watch all the great old (and new) Christmas movies, and always go to a candlelight Christmas service. I love how you can point all the old traditions (even Santa/Father Christmas in a round-about way) back to the source of it all: Jesus becoming a man, coming to earth not as a king but as baby born in a humble stable, to grow up among us and live as we do. 

But isn't it fun to add new twists to old beloved traditions, too? What mythical creature would you add to your holiday season for fun?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 debut authors and why I picked them to read

Here's a list of the 2011 debut authors this year that I read, and what made me pick them to read. I'm really curious what draws people to books by authors they aren't familiar with. I know a lot of it is recommendations, but when a first time author's book comes out, personal recommendations take a while to accumulate. None of these books had personal recommendations by anyone I know (other than general blog buzz in some cases). 

12 out of 14 of them are young adult titles (I'm writing YA right now), and a majority are paranormal or SF which are the genres I write in, so that was part of my motivation. But here's some more specific reasons why I picked them:

1. Unearthly, Cynthia Hand (YA Paranormal)
Set in Wyoming, my home state - this always makes me curious. Also it had very high ratings on the Goodreads 2011 Debut Books list. 

2. Falling Under, by Gwen Hays (YA paranormal)
Amazing first chapter with a strong voice, I discovered it while researching an agent.

3. Starcrossed, Josephine Angelini (YA paranormal)
Couldn't resist when it was billed as Percy Jackson for the YA world.

4. Divergent, Veronica Roth. (YA dystopian)
Blog buzz, high ratings. First chapter had similar voice to the Hunger Games.

5. Across the Universe, Beth Revis. (YA dystopian)
Blog buzz, high ratings. First chapter TOTALLY hooked me.

6. Fairer Than Morning, Rosslyn Elliot (Christian historical)
Love her blog and her comments so I wanted to support her. The book's premise did not intrigue me initially, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. 

7. Shifting, Bethany Wiggins (YA paranormal).
Interesting premise (have always loved shapeshifters), plus she was one of the first to comment on my blog. Never underestimate the power of a positive comment!

8. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever., Medeia Sharif (YA contemporary)
Interesting premise in a culture I haven't read about before. A prolific blogger, commenter, and reader - another case where I wanted to support the author. 

9. Possession, Elana Johnson  (YA dystopian)
A prolific blogger and she does does SO MUCH for others, so this was a small thing to do in return, and well worth it for the entertainment. I lucked out getting an ARC but if I hadn't I would have bought it anyway. 

10. Like Mandarin, Kristen Hubbard (YA contemporary)
Tempted me because it is set in Wyoming, my home state, and the premise (good girl/bad girl friendship) resonated with me.

11. The Near Witch, Victoria Schwab (YA paranormal).
Free e-galley. It had a slow start and I wouldn't have finished it, but a blogger buddy said it was worth finishing. I guess this is one case where I did get a personal recommendation, but not initially. Anyway, she was right. It had a riveting ending and I am definitely buying the author's next book even though it's not a sequel. 

12. Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, Nathan Bransford (MG)
Admired his blog very much. He asked his blog readers to buy his book as a return favor if they got a lot of useful stuff from his blog (which I did) (boy did his request raise some controversy though!).

13. Timeless, Alexandra Monir (YA with time twist - not sure if that qualifies it as paranormal or historical or what!)
I pretty much can't resist anything with a time twist!

14. XVI, Julia Karr (YA dystopian)
Blog buzz, controversial premise, and strong first chapter.

Of these 14 books, 10 of them I enjoyed so much I'll definitely read more books by that author.

Though these were actually 2010 debuts, I also wanted to mention Eldala by Michele Gregory  (high fantasy) and Life, Liberty and Pursuit by Susan Kaye Quinn (YA contemporary). I bought these to support two blogging friends, but I will definitely buy more books by these authors - the books were very enjoyable. (Susan just published her second book - Open Minds).
2011 debut authors I'm still planning to read:

Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi (YA dystopian)
Blog buzz and unusual first chapter. Surprisingly low on the Goodreads 2011 Debut list after all the hype. Admired her funny, honest, heart-felt blog posts, so that helped too. Hope she gets back to posting regularly. 

Legend, Marie Lu. (YA dystopian)
Interesting premise, combined with one of my favorite plots: enemies cross paths and discover reasons not to hate each other after all. Highly recommended by blogging friend Elizabeth Briggs.

Clockwise, Elle Strauss (YA paranormal)
Interesting premise, blog buzz. Can't resist time travel, and it had GREAT logline: A teenage time traveler accidentally takes her secret crush back in time. Awkward.

Die for Me, Amy Plum (YA paranormal)
Interesting premise (sort of a take-off on guardian angels but with a dark twist), high anticipation and high ratings. Doesn't hurt that its set in Paris.

Saving Redwind, Kris Yankee (MG)
Interesting premise (discovering a world within the wallpaper of a kid's room), blog buzz

The Latte Rebelllion, Sarah Jamila Stevenson (YA contemporary)
Won in a contest but I would have picked it up anyway based on its premise: a girl starts a movement in support of mixed race students which gets out of control.

Screwing up Time, C.M. Keller.
Interesting premise (a girl from the Middle Ages kidnaps a present-day high school senior back in time with her). The author is a blogging friend. 

Coming soon: my Top 10 reads from 2011 (a couple of these debut books made the list!)

So, I'm really curious. What reasons tempt you to try out a brand new author without a track record?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu: How Writers Found their Voice

DL Hammond, Katie Mills (Creepy Query Girl), Lydia Kang, and Nicole Ducleroir team up to bring you the Deja Vu blogfest, where 160 of us (at last count) will re-post their favorite blog offering, or one that never received the exposure it should have.

Mine received fairly good exposure, actually I was surprised that most of my commenters back in  August of 2010 are still around, and we are still faithfully visiting each other! This one is simply one of my most favorite posts. I had so much fun putting it together, and learned a lot in the process. Without further ado, I present:

How writers found their voice: real examples

I've been collecting any articles I find on voice because of all the aspects of writing craft, this one is the most mysterious to me. (12/16/11 update: yes, it's still mysterious to me. My voice shows up occasionally, but I'm not sure where it comes from, or how genuine it is).

Here's an excerpt from agent Rachelle Gardner's What is writer's voice?:

Your writer's voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It's that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It's the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.... It's a process of peeling away the layers of your false self, your trying-to-be-something-you're-not self, your copycat self, your trying-to-sound-a-certain-way self, your spent-my-life-watching-television self.
Rachelle asked "what are some ways you find your unique writer's voice?" From the comments, I found some patterns pop out with the methods that people use. Here's what I learned. I hope it's okay to reprint some of the comments (attributed, of course) and to give them my own labels!

The brute force method:
Finding your voice is a lot...(a LOT) of really, really, really bad free-writing and first drafts. (Kellye Parish)
Write. Everyday, all the time. Write about the weather, the funny man on the corner, your boss. Write about that idea where people's heads turn into eggplants. Write articles, diaries, fiction, poetry. (Mesmerix)

The "go back to your roots" method:
When I reach back to the unique events that defined me, my voice comes roaring back. Because I'm already so familiar with what happened, I can use this writing to push my voice to the forefront. This allows me to go back to work with my voice all warmed up. (Ida M. Olson)

The "love that feeling" method:
As my husband or critique partner read my manuscript, I notice when they love certain chapters or sections of the story and when they don't love certain sections as much. And when I go back through those sections, I realize that those chapters sound like... well, me. This goes for blogging as well. I think the blog posts that are an honest portrayal of me and my passions, I hear my own voice. The trick, now, is to make sure that passion and self comes out in everything I write not just certain sections of it. (Heather Sunseri)

I know that I have found my voice when I re-read what I have written and it makes me laugh, cry, or feel some sort of emotion. (Teenage Bride)

The "experimental" method:
One thing that helped me find the voice I didn't know I had was writing in a different tense. When I switched to present tense, what a difference! For other writers, it might be a change of genre that brings out their voice. I think it might be like using a different filter in photography. Sometimes the one you use the least can make the colors pop. (Debbie Maxwell Allen)

The "find your vision/view" method:
Voice... is about two things: your vision of the world (that is, what's outside of you), and your ability to communicate that vision in language. You can find your vision of the world by doing a lot of writing, even more reading--and by thinking about how you see things. (Barbara Baig)

If we describe our mind's view in words, then we have found our voice. (David Amburgey)

The "non-conformist" method:
We all have a somewhat unique voice, but for it to be unique enough to stand out comes from the attitude of the author. If you want a unique voice you’ve got to blow everyone else off and be a nonconformist. (Timothy Fish)

Here's a bunch of other articles on voice I've collected over the past few months.

the Write Power: Finding your voice Helpful variations of the ones described above.

Livia Blackburne: Voice finding techniques. More suggestions.

Janice Hardy (Storyflip): some simple help for voice. This one helps you strengthen voice while you are editing.

Chip MacGregor: Finding your writing voice. Suggests imitating others to start with (though most will tell you NOT to do this!)

Men with Pens: Finding your writing voice. Includes nine different exercises to try! I'm slowly working my way through them.

Nathan Bransford: How to craft great voice. In response to one of the comments, Nathan also gives good advice on how you know WHEN you've found your voice: "I think voice is there when it's adjustable. Can you dial up or down certain elements? Can you hear it in your head? In other words, is it enough of an entity that you can think of it apart from the elements it's describing?"

So now that I've regurgitated all sorts of information I've discovered, here's my one teeny tiny experience with searching for voice that actually resulted in success.


Go back and read the stuff you never intended for anyone to read. The parts where I'm venting about something are the best, and likewise when my character is venting about something that's when I get the strongest voice.

Ha ha, not sure what that says about me as a person? Never mind. In my next writing session, I'm going to VENT!

And if that doesn't work, I'm going to over-caffeinate myself into hyperactivity and then strap myself to my chair and see what happens if there is a keyboard close enough to reach. I like to think that's how T.H. Mafi developed her voice.

8/11/10 update - TH Mafi just posted on voice! I knew she felt my desperate call at some deep inner level. 

12/16/11 update:  a few more excellent posts on voice I've collected in the past year. 
Got YA: the A HA moment with voice
Ingrid Sundberg: Your voice is your voice: keeping it real
Alexandra Sokoloff: That elusive voice
The Bookself Muse: Voice tips from the pros
Shrinking Violets Promotions: Your wild and precious voice and More about story voice and Speaking your voice in your writing
Zen Habits: finding your voice - from an unusual source
Children's Literature Network: many different sources on voice
Kristen Lamb: Ways to develop your unique writing voice

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creative Process - Board Game Style


Go ahead and click on this image to see it full size, because reading all the tiny signs is half the fun.

But if straining to read small print isn't your cup of tea, here are the highlights:

You are the red truck in the image, with your idea strapped into the bed of the truck.

From the START position, you have three choices:

1. the Express Route: a short-cut to success if you have natural talent. If not, then hit a brick wall

2. the Self Doubt route: immediate crash and burn

3. the Scenic Route:

On the Scenic Route, first you have to ask yourself, Has this been done before? ("Who cares" is an option, but it goes into an underground tunnel, from which there is no apparent route back to the surface).

Next you pass obstacles like the Internet, and signs like Lazy.

Then you have to get past the turn off for "Comparing Yourself to Others". If you go that route, you end up in an infinite loop.

You have to go through a long, winding journey of Reconsider, Rework, Rewrite, Revise and Rethink, and remember to stop at the Motivation gas station along the way to Refill.

Then you have to go over the Bridge of Critics.

From here it's easy to get off on the Ramp of Overthinking, which will take  you into a dizzying death spiral.

Or you could drop your work off at Self Storage for a while, because Maybe You'll Just Revisit this later.

But if you get past those, now finally you are in the homestretch. You pass the bleachers where Friend and Family cheer you on, and another bleacher for Peer Support, where there is only one person sitting, not terribly enthusiastic.

You arrive at the end, where your creative project is on DISPLAY for the whole world to see.

Did you notice the "what a piece of crap" guy? (one out of seven).

So the blogger who posted this image had some other good thoughts on creativity, and one of the commenters came up with something very quotable:

Thermodynamics of Creativity: creativity is like gas, it’s random thoughts whizzing around. You put some structure around it and it becomes a fluid. It’s useful. You can do something with it. But don’t get bogged down in rules and formulas, then you cool the whole momma down and you’re left with this big solid institution. Stay fluid. Done.
Here's another quote that made me pause and think. This one is from Twelve Things You Were Never Taught in School About Creative Thinking.

Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.

What would you add to the creative process board game? 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hobbit holes, reveals, and revision quotes

Things that struck me this week (no bruises, fortunately):

1) In response to  my last post about highly desirable writing/reading nooks, Angelica Jackson left a comment with a link to a bunch more great images of dreamy writing spaces collected by Kate Hart. Here's an adorable converted closet I could almost afford to do on my own! Slightly less affordable, but still very enticing to writers, there's a company that builds hobbit holes in Britain, starting at a mere 8000 pounds.

2) Refreshing what you know is a good thing. If you've been working on your writing craft for a while, it's easy to think you've got all the basics covered. Really? Janice Hardy reminds us how much we all need refreshing.

3) Writers are sort of like stri*pers. 
Okay, revealers is probably a better term. I came to this conclusion after reading this great Moody Writing post. Here's a snippet (but read the whole thing for a great example - he makes such an excellent point!).

Your job is NOT to write how that character deals with that situation. Your job is to write how that character deals with that situation in a way that reveals who they are to the reader.

4) How to write more efficiently and enthusiastically. This has been all over the web (I found it at Erica and Christy's first), but it's still worth mentioning. I still highly doubt I could ever achieve writing 10,000 words in one day, but this article makes me at least want to try!

5) How does Laura Marcella do it? She keeps turning up amazingly relevant quotes. This week's batch is  revision. quotes. Here's my favorite.

I love revisions. Where else in life can spilled milk be transformed into ice cream?
{Katherine Paterson}

6) I took my twin girls to Arthur Christmas for their 5th birthday. I might have loved the movie more than them. I think of it sort of as "Santa Claus meets Star Trek". Or maybe Mission Impossible. Either way, you have to see it to find out what Santa does when stranded in the Serengeti. FIVE STARS. It switched my bah humbug mood into Merry Christmas mood.

Are you feeling bah humbug during this over-commercialized season, or are you merrying your way along?

Oh, and Janet Sumner Johnson has a great Christmas controversy going: The Grinch vs. The Christmas Carol. Go vote!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Magical Revolving Writing (or Reading) Chair

 I love when people post pictures of their writing spaces. It makes me feel creative just seeing other places where people write, what they surround themselves with for inspiration, motivation or practical use. I've never posted pictures of my space, because my laptop, Lizzie, and I move around a lot - I don't have a desk or a favorite place. I collect everything that inspires me, motivates me and helps me right here on my blog.

If I did have a favorite writing or reading place, it would be a magical revolving chair (inspired by Laura Pauling's magical traveling beach house). I'd press a button on the armrest and it would spin around (not too fast, because I wouldn't want to lose hold of my laptop or my book) and transport me to anyone of these locations:

A loft full of books and light (source)
A cozy place under the stairs (source)

A window seat with a beautiful garden outside (source)

Or a conservatory (source) like this one or just about any place that turns up when I google "images conservatory"

Or a by a luxurious fireplace like this one (source)

Or a hobbit hole - this is for real! - some one actually built this! (source)

 The inside of the hobbit hole:

And since it's a magical chair, it could even transport me to a fantasy world just like the one I'm writing or reading about - like this one! (source)

Which one is your favorite? Or what setting would you add?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How powerful the written word

Someday I want to be one of those writers that writes pep-talks for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). They are my trail of breadcrumbs that I follow through the month of November. They are a legit reason to open my browser and pause from writing for a while, because they always end with that gentle nudge (or not so gentle push) - okay, you've had your break, now get back to writing.

Okay, I admit, I open my browser lots of other times during writing. Last night, with 2000 words still to write and only four hours before midnight of November 30, a reference to an amoeba appeared in my writing and prompted a 10 minute break on Wikipedia to read up on amoebas (all to make sure the ONE sentence that had the word amoeba in it was a good analogy).

But, I made it! I wrote 50,228 words in November, and a story that started as a dream when I was teenager has now finally become a book. (Well, a first draft, at any rate). Update: here in 2011 my WIP was called "Seeing Through Dreams"). About a year later the title changed to Star Tripped.

But it's real now. It was just a bunch of images in my head and now it's taken on flesh and blood. Actually something even more permanent than flesh and blood, because isn't it FREAKY how powerful written words are? Some of them have lasted for millennium and are STILL being read.

Back to pep-talks (sorry, my brain is a bit fried from the past month and jumping all over the place). I want to share a couple quotes from my favorite pep talk this year, by an author named Chris Cleave. I've discovered several great authors via NaNoWriMo pep-talks. Never heard of this guy before but I'll be heading to the library shortly (it's been forbidden territory during November) and looking for his book, Little Bee (but probably not his other book, Incendiary. I'm not sure, as a mom, if I could handle that one).

Great NaNoWriMo writing quotes from Chris Cleave (you can read his full pep-talk here). 

The good [writing] days are when you perform; the slow days are when you learn to perform better. The only bad days as a writer are the ones when you are too cowardly or too lazy to sit down at the keyboard and give it everything you have.

We live in an age when the war for hearts and minds is considered just as vital as the war for territory on the battlefield. In a world where ideas hold so much power, a writer is on civilization’s front line. To become a writer, therefore, is a serious business. It requires a commitment to move from passively absorbing your cultural tradition to informing it. That’s a significant transformation...

Unless you have more natural talent than I do, then it’s not necessarily enough time [one month] to produce a perfected novel. But if you write out of your skin every day then it is enough time to learn your own mental geography and to make the jump to a new way of writing. 
Oh, the map geek in me just went wild! He speaks of mental geography! Oh, my Romeo! (whoa there, middle-aged momma)

Here's another paragraph I just about swooned over:
It doesn’t matter what genre you write in. All literature is transformative. To make people laugh; to tell a light-hearted romantic story; to let intelligent readers forget their troubles for an hour in the absence of the politicians and the money men who make our lives hell – these are some of the hardest feats to accomplish as a writer, and some of the most serious political acts you can perform. You don’t have to be a Serious Writer to be a serious writer. I once read a beautiful paragraph about teenage vampires – teenage vampires, for goodness’ sake – that moved me more than all of Hemingway. You don’t need to be trying to change the world in order to change someone’s world. What you need is to be seriously committed to your work. 
This one made me laugh:
A novel is a living thing and it resists containment within the structures we erect for it. Even worse, the novel has intelligence and it will inevitably turn against its creator. Think of it like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. The problem is that a good character in a novel will reach a point of maturity where he or she is not necessarily biddable.

In which Chris confirms he's a panster, not a plotter (but I forgive him, and might even partially admit he's right):
...The job of a novelist is to explore human emotion and motivation. You learn more about your protagonists as you write them. If you are not very often forced by your characters to bin your masterplan, then you are a wooden and a formulaic writer indeed.So, better than having a planned structure is to begin with a character or two, and a theme you intend to explore, and an initial direction you plan to start exploring in. 
I've had that perfectly plotted outline get tromped all over by my characters taking off in rebel directions, too. What do you think? Confine your character to the plot, or let them go?


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