June 12, 2012

Summertime, and the Living Is Hectic

I have a lot going on in the next couple of months, and I want to cram as much work on my novel as possible between all the distractions. For that reason, I'm taking this blog off my list of priorities for the summer.

I still expect to post at random intervals. To be honest, you probably won't even notice a difference from my usual sporadic posting, but trust me, it makes a difference for me to let myself off the hook in this way.

This week marks two years since my first post. I guess I wouldn't bother keeping a blog if it didn't fulfill my own creative needs, but I also wouldn't do it if I didn't imagine all you out there waiting to read what I have to say. Thank you once again for following along with my adventures in reading, writing, and revising.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Amanda Nelson at Book Riot confesses, I Say Awkward Things to Authors: "I don't hero-worship writers, but I do try to think of something to say other than, 'gee-whiz, your book was great, by golly.' I imagine they get bored of having that conversation over and over, so I try to come up with something else. This is my hubris. This is my doom." (Thanks, Josh Christie!)

→ On the #amwriting blog, Jason Black asks, Is your manuscript complete, or is it finished?: "The other day I finished one of Michael Crichton's lesser-known works, Pirate Latitudes.... It's one of his lesser-known works for a couple of different reasons. One, it was published after he died in 2008. Two, honestly, it’s not very good. As we'll see, though, those are the actually same reason just in different guises."

June 8, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Friday is the day for collections of random unrelated topics, right?

→ As I get further into my current storyline, I'm very excited to discover that I'm coming up with a lot of subplots and character details that will flesh out this slightly lacking story without requiring much change to its main plot. This seems like it will make revision easier. We'll see how that goes.

→ I love that when I muse about a research question on the internet, my friends take it upon themselves to look into it and pass on facts and sources. I have the very best kind of friends. Oh and by the way, I wonder how I would find a medical text designed for laypeople that was written in the 50s or 60s.

→ Lots of people in the book world spent this week at Book Expo America, so I spent the week daydreaming about being an author who gets to appear at BEA. This was a nice break from my usual daydreams of being interviewed on NPR.

→ Sometimes it takes an hour to write two paragraphs. Sometimes it takes half an hour to write an emotional moment, and then you decide to remove it from the scene. Other times, it's as if you actually know what you're doing.

→ There is totally no law that requires a list to include five items. I checked.

That's the latest dispatch from the word mines. Have a good weekend!

Good Stuff Out There:

→ At The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog, Ryan Bloom discusses What the First Line of "The Stranger" Should Be: "[The] first sentence of 'The Stranger' is so elementary that even a schoolboy with a base knowledge of French could adequately translate it. So why do the pros keep getting it wrong?" (Thanks, The Millions!)

June 5, 2012

May Reading Recap

I did pretty well on my reading plan for May:

GATHERING OF WATERS by Bernice L. McFadden - What I knew about this book going in is that it includes the murder of Emmett Till, the young black man who was killed in 1955 in Money, Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. The second half of the book focuses on the event and its consequences, but interestingly, the story begins decades earlier and tracks the lives of several (fictional) families who live in Money. Ghosts also play a role and contribute to the theme of evil and good deeds propagating through the generations. I enjoyed the story and the characters, and I'm interested to read more of McFadden's many novels.

SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal - I found this book as fun and charming as Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, once I finally read it, and I mention that because SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY is modeled on Austen's work. It's written in the same style, with the same kind of humor, a wealthy society setting, carefully selected period language, and a plot that revolves around who will marry whom. Kowal's clever reproduction of Austen adds one new element, the existence of an inventive form of magic.

The magic in Kowal's world is called "glamour", and it's mainly a skill practiced by women -- like needlepoint or watercolor -- for the purpose of beautifying a home or providing drawing room entertainment. This story offers some glimpses into more powerful uses of glamour, and I believe the second book in the series, GLAMOUR IN GLASS, explores this more. Throughout the book, skill with glamour and the use of glamour are important parts of the plot, so the magical element is definitely not just tacked on.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Austen. Even if you're skeptical about the magic, give it a try. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel. You can even start with the sequel -- Kowal wrote a great essay about how she designed the second book to work on its own.

GONE, GONE, GONE by Hannah Moskowitz - Last year I read INVINCIBLE SUMMER, Moskowitz's latest novel at the time, and I loved the writing, which captured the narrator's emotions in a real, raw way. GONE, GONE, GONE is even more about emotions and how powerful and largely unpleasant they are at age fifteen. The narration alternates between two boys who are tentatively falling in love but hindered by the fact that one of them is still in love with the boy who broke his heart. Or whose heart he broke. The characters are all discovering that life is complicated and uncertain that way.

The story takes place in the Washington D.C. suburbs soon after the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when snipers terrorized the region with several weeks of random shootings. This creates a harrowing backdrop of fear for the boys' confused romantic feelings. It's an angsty book for sure, but I don't consider that a bad thing. GONE, GONE, GONE is a beautifully written story, and I recommend it.

THE LEGEND OF PRADEEP MATHEW by Shehan Karunatilaka - I've read about a quarter of this novel and will post more about it when I'm finished. So far, it's an entertaining read on a topic I wouldn't normally seek out: the world of professional cricket. The narrator is a retired Sri Lankan sportswriter and a raging alcoholic, and he becomes obsessed with tracking down one of his country's greatest cricket players. The book is the next selection for the Bookrageous book club, and I'm eager to hear the discussion.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Nick Moran at The Millions crunches numbers to answer the question, Are eReaders Really Green?: "Is total eBook adoption -- that is: elimination of the print book -- really an ecologically responsible goal?"