Mix-Tape Mondays: Mama’s Got a Brand New Meme

I scoured the web for book-blog memes to replace the now too-repetitive Top Ten Tuesdays, but none struck my fancy. So I decided to make up my own in order to do what I like to do and write what I like to write:
cassette-tape-convert

I’m sure that elsewhere on the web there is a meme so-named that does something slightly different, but on my Mix-Tape Mondays I intend to put forth a soundtrack of 5-10 songs (possibly more if I get inspired) for a specific novel. The lucky novel selected for my very first Mix-Tape Monday?

Continue reading

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Books of 2012: A Year in Review

2012-end-of-year-survey

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)ender

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (and I read a lot of good ones).

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Though it had many elements I was drawn to, it never quite gelled for me.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012? 

Summer by Edith Wharton. I was just surprised by how much I enjoyed it, being a short romance with an often frustratingly willful main character.

 4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?The_Scorpio_Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

 5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

Divergent by Veronica Roth. I recommended this one quite a bit as well, and I’m excited to see where Roth takes it in the third installment. I really enjoy the concept around which she has based her utopia.

 6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

David Levithan. I first found him through his collaboration with John Green (will grayson, will grayson) and then read his Every You, Every Me. His characters have such vivid, unique voice. Nina LaCour, author of The Disenchantments, another one with strong voice. My review of that novel is here. Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars. I loved everything about that book, and can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?9961796

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. I don’t read a lot of romance in any genre, and I had reasons for avoiding Perkins’ other novel, but this was getting so many good reviews I gave it a shot. A sweet, fun read.

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

The three books that kept me up reading through the night: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and Duma Key by Stephen King.

 9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:

Shadows Cast by Stars. It’s on my list to buy in hardcover.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

I hated the book but I still think the cover is lovely and alluring:

the_selection_book_cover

Well designed, Harper Teen.

11. Most memorable character in 2012? 

Dink Meeker from Ender’s Game (not least because I see him as my personal reaction to the situation Ender finds himself in).

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012? 

Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I have not quite finished it yet, but I’ve been looking into a lot of philosophical theories in the past few years and its invigorating to come across one that closely mimics my own views. This book was given to me by the proprietor of a bookstore in South Dakota, when he spotted it in my pile he told me it was on the house!

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read? 

Aside from Ender’s Game, which people have been recommending to me for an age? Probably Grapes of Wrath (which I have not finished).

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012? 0619f_dumakey

“At one point during my interview with Mary Ire, she said
discovering in my middle age that I could paint with the best
of them must have been like having someone give me the
keys to a souped-up muscle car—a Roadrunner or a GTO. I
said yes, it was like that. At another point she said it must
have been like having someone give me the keys to a fully
furnished house. A mansion, really. I said yes, like that, too.
And if she had gone on? Said it must have been like
inheriting a million shares of Microsoft stock, or being
elected ruler for life of some oil-rich (and peaceful) emirate
in the mideast? I would have said yeah, sure, you bet. To
soothe her. Because those questions were about her. I
could see the longing look in her eyes when she asked
them. They were the eyes of a kid who knows the closest
she’s ever going to get to realizing her dream of the high
trapeze is sitting on the bleachers at the Saturday matinee
performance. She was a critic, and lots of critics who aren’t
called to do what they write about grow jealous and mean
and small in their disappointment. Mary wasn’t like that.
Mary still loved it all. She drank whiskey from a water-glass
and wanted to know what it was like when Tinker Bell flew
out of nowhere and tapped you on the shoulder and you
discovered that, even though you were on the wrinkle-neck
side of fifty, you had suddenly gained the ability to fly past
the face of the moon. So even though it wasn’t like having a
fast car or being handed the keys to a fully furnished house,
I told her it was. Because you can’t tell anyone what it’s like.
You can only talk around it until everyone’s exhausted and it’s time to go to sleep.
But Elizabeth had known what it was like.
It was in her drawings, then in her paintings.
It was like being given a tongue when you had been
mute.
And more. Better. It was like being given back your
memory, and a person’s memory is everything, really.
Memory is identity. It’s you.”

– Stephen King, Duma Key

 16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?

Longest: Duma Key (though I am currently reading Anna Karenina, which is longer).

Shortest: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller, or any of the picture books I read with K-3rd classes I subbed for this year.

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

I feel that way about every book I read! It’s why I have a blog, that desire to discuss what I’ve read. It’s also why I appreciate each and every person who comments here on Ink so much 🙂

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).shadows cast by stars

Edgar Freemantle and Wireman in Duma Key. King can write male friendship like no other. The budding romance between Blue and Adam in The Raven Boys and the strained but loving sibling relationship between Cassandra and Paul in Shadows Cast by Stars were also up there.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously

In the interest of not naming the same books over and over, I will go with The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s a promising start to her new series The Raven Cycle.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:audrey

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. I knew nothing about it other than that I had read one good review, but I picked it up when I recognized the cover at the library and loved it.

 Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2012 (optional)

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2012? 

Probably The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Sssh. We have different taste in books, but I always enjoy reading her thoughtful perspective. I won my copies of Life as We Knew It and Ender’s Game in a giveaway on her site!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2012? The_Maze_Runner_cover

Probably The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I like whenever I am able to pinpoint why I didn’t like something, rather than just saying “Hurr hurr, it sucked”.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

There were some strong reactions (including an entire opposing review) in my review of How I Paid for College: a Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater by Mark Acito. I appreciated the discourse.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?Katniss

I enjoyed Ginny Tonic’s discussion of Katniss Everdeen as a feminist role model on The Charlie Tonic Hour. I found it when she linked to my entry on the subject.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

My second NaNoWriMo and the Top Ten Tuesdays I wrote this year.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?

Developing stronger relationships with other bloggers who write fiction in addition to their blogs. Their support has kept me motivated.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?Joan_Holloway

Top Ten Books I’d Like to See Made into Movies, by far. It gets at least a few hits each day thanks to the picture of Christina Hendricks (I now know what her name looks like in Arabic).

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

All of them, but especially the reviews. I love to hear people’s thoughts on books I have also read, even if we disagree.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Uhhh, uhhh…discovering that my local library will let me renew my books online?

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I finished half of the ten books I chose for my Top Ten Tuesdays Summer Reading List, but I didn’t really set any reading goals. I play it by ear and try to alternate classics with popular contemporary fiction, and I did that again this year.

Looking Ahead…

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2012 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013?Sweetly Cover

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce. I really enjoyed Sisters Red, and I only have lukewarm feelings toward the story of Red Riding Hood. Very excited to see what she did with one of my favorites.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013?

The second book of The Raven Cycle

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?

Review more regularly. I read a lot of books and sometimes I am at a busy moment in my life or what I want to say about a book isn’t immediately clear to me on finishing. I’d like to get into the habit of writing a few posts when I have a few posts worth of reviews stored up and spacing them out rather than posting all at once, so that when I’m having a bit of a dry spell I don’t go months without a single review (I don’t think I’ve posted a review since my niece was here in October).

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

I had cruised over here along the interwebs with the intent of posting something entirely different, and found that I have been nominated for a blog award! AGAIN. It looks like fun so I’m going to participate for today, and schedule the post I was planning on writing for tomorrow. I know, schedule it. For real. What is happening to me?!

It’s the cookies. I am motivated by cookies and I have a delicious bag of them from The Cookie Shoppe to nom while I write. Heaven.

Anyway.

liebster-blog-award

          Rules

1. When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)

3. You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.

4. You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog!

5. You paste the award picture into your blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them!)

Eleven Random Things About Moi

1. In my game of Harvest Moon: Magical Melody on Wii, I have five chickens. They are named Chuckles, Wubby, Lou, Pickle, and Butt. I named Butt when I was angry at passing out from watering my crops.

chicken

2.  In my high school’s Women’s Choir I sang Soprano II in three-part arrangements, and Alto I in four-part.

3. I think making a gingerbread house using a kit is cheating.

4. I don’t like diamonds. I prefer emeralds, aquamarine, and moonstones.

5. During college I worked at a costume shop, and we were required to wear costumes to work each day. When pressed for time I would use a bruise make-up kit to give myself a black eye and a few other choice contusions, then get on the bus to go to work. Sometimes I combined the bruises with a bobby-sox costume.

6. I also frequently wore a 1930’s gangster costume to that job, and my friend bestowed the gangster name “Suzy Trashmouth” upon me because I “talk a lot of trash”.

7. In my husband’s wedding vows, he said he loved me because I make him sandwiches and talk a lot of trash when we play video games. I did not know those things were in his vows beforehand.

8. I cannot bear to eat pumpkin pie for two reasons: the texture and the nutmeg. Both make me nauseated…but I like taste of pumpkin.

9. A homeless man once tried to set me up on a date with a fellow passenger on the bus.

10. When I was born, my head was in the 98th percentile for circumference measurement. When I learned to sit up, I would sometimes rest it on the ground when it grew too heavy.

11. I have created an unfinished animated short entitled “Stephen and the Devil”, based on a drawing made by the teenaged son of my ex-Dungeon Master.

Now to answer Kristen’s questions:France 633

    1. What is your favorite holiday gift of all time? My Cookie Monster slippers. I wore those things out, holes all the way through. My husband gave me a very nice set of travel watercolors this year, and I quite like those as well. They were in my stocking, and I know that because we were bad again this year and exchanged gifts early.
    2. Which is your favorite holiday special: Charlie Brown’s Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life? I have actually never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, and I probably should since I once carved and printed the image at right. Charlie Brown by default, but I actually do watch Charlie Brown every year (and do the Peanuts gang dances with my brother). Watching A Christmas Story is my personal Christmas tradition, and in recent years I’ve added Love, Actually.
    3. What is your beverage of choice: Eggnog, mulled wine, or hot chocolate? Eggnog, non-alcoholic and mixed with milk.
    4. What is your favorite holiday song? “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” …though not necessarily the version below.

5. Who are you going to kiss under the mistletoe this year? My husband, of course!

6. What was your best holiday bonus from a job? A free flu shot (which I never got, actually, because the nurse had to cancel the day of)

7. What is your best holiday memory? Christmas in Mexico when I was six or seven. One of my cousins and my grandma came with us on a driving trip, and we were camped out on Christmas Eve near San Felipe. My sister played Christmas carols on her flute by the fire and my grandma made hot chocolate. In the morning we smashed a pig pinata my sister had made. It was supposed to be a panther but it turned out too round, so she went with it. She had glued the papier maché with my dad’s very first attempt at making gravy, from Thanksgiving. It had been so thick we turned the gravy boat upside down and none dripped out. The pinata was too tough for us kids to break so my dad had to pull it down and kick it open for us.

8. What was the kindest holiday gesture ever made by a stranger? I don’t know that a stranger has ever made a kind holiday gesture.

9. What’s on your wish list this year? Not a lot, there’s not much that I want, really. A stoneware pie plate, Pixar movies like The Incredibles and Toy Story, and a press.

10. If you could spend your holiday anywhere in the world just by snapping your fingers, where would you be? New Zealand, where it’s warm and I could run through sets from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

11. Who would you take with you? My friend Tammi, she could use a very geeky vacation right about now, my husband, and my friend Bryan (we once had a lengthy discussion about living in hobbit holes and scouted locations).

And my questions for my nominees:

1. What is your favorite kind of cookie?

2. Which member of The Breakfast Club do/did you identify with most?The_Breakfast_Club

3. If the world were really going to end on Saturday, what would you do tomorrow?

4. If you were the god (or spirit) of something, what would it be?

5. If you could play any musical instrument with little practice and great skill, what would it be?

6. Do you like fruity candy or chocolate candy better?

7. What makes Ewan McGregor so cute?

8. What is your favorite fairy tale?

9. What is your favorite holiday (or special occasion) food?

10.  What is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you?

11. Think of a nightmare for an introvert. What did you come up with?

My nominees are:

T.L. Albright at Hyperboles in Motion

Tara at The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Sssh

Beth at White Elephant in the Room

J. Keller Ford

On the Homefront

A Random Flood of Words 

Books, j’adore

both of the readers at Two Readers Writing

The Infinite Curio

Canonball Read IV

On Knowing What Victory Looks Like

Just as some infinities are larger than others, victories are not one-size fits all.

Earlier this week I was reading this hilarious and bittersweet account of the history of the television show Freaks and Geeks, published by Vanity Fair in a special one-off comedy issue. For the uninitiated, Freaks and Geeks was a high-school “dramedy” that aired from 1999-2000, which put it in competition with melodramatic pretty-people teen fare like Dawson’s Creek. The show had HBO-quality writing, with painfully real characters and long-term arcs.

They looked like real public school kids, too.

They looked like real public school kids, too.

That was its downfall.

I only watched two episodes of Freaks and Geeks when it originally aired, for the same reason my husband still won’t watch Roseanne: it was too real. I was a sophomore in high school at the time and the episodes I watched (“Tricks and Treats” and “We’ve Got Spirit”) made me laugh out loud but also felt all too familiar. Plus, it aired on Saturday night. Even I, a sort of amalgam between Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy’s Breakfast Club characters (or Bill Haverchuck and Ken Miller), had things to do on Saturday night. Like attending Star Trek parties.

In the Vanity Fair article, creator Paul Feig and Producer Judd Apatow recall their horror when their network head went from an on-board public school attendee to a clueless product of prep school and the ivy league. Someone experientially incapable of “getting” the show, arriving just before it launched. They also recall a push from the network to give the kids “more victories”, a sentiment that grew among the execs as the season progressed.

There were victories, it’s just that a non-nerd or a non-freak might have a harder time recognizing them.

  • When Bill Haverchuck caught a fly ball after maneuvering his way to the infield of a P.E.-class baseball game, that was a victory. It didn’t matter that jocks-on-base were tagging home while he celebrated with his team of disenfranchised nerds. He got to play shortstop. He caught the ball. Victory.
  • When ne’er-do-well Freak Daniel Desario allowed himself to be uncool and finished his first Dungeons and Dragons campaign as Carlos the dwarf, stumping his dungeon master, it was a victory. Not just for him, but for each of the self-doubting geeks at the table who felt just a little more accepted for having the wannabe-James-Dean on their team.
  • When Ken Miller was brave enough to drop the sarcasm and got to make out with Tuba Girl at the laser light show, victory.
  • When the Freaks showed up to cheer on Lindsay Weir at her Mathletes competition. Victory.
  • When Millie and Lindsay reconnected as friends during a night of babysitting, when Bill explained the convoluted plot of Dallas to his gym-teacher/mom’s boyfriend, when bully Alan admitted to a hospitalized Bill that he’d always envied Bill’s self-acceptance and social-life: victory, victory, victory.

There are more possible victories than winning Prom Queen, kissing the hottie of your dreams, or being carried off the football field to thunderous applause. Freaks and Geeks understood that: its victories were personal, unique to each of its characters, and more meaningful for it. The writers even had the guts to show that sometimes the things we have been conditioned to believe are victories do not actually feel all that victorious (Sam discovering that dream-girl Cindy Sanders was not much fun as a girlfriend, Neal’s experience as a guest at the popular crowd’s makeout party). As an adult I have watched the entire series multiple times, cringing and cheering for its characters and remembering how it all felt from the safety of adulthood. It was a triumph of writing ahead of its time, a fact noted by creators who can point to present-day programs of similar craftsmanship like Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Do you know what victory looks like for your characters?

Like a Creature Naive and Indued

It’s to be a drowning, then.ophelia02

This morning I opened my inbox to two e-mails from Pitch Wars coaches. One was a straight-across not-for-me from coach Nazarea, which is of course fine. Each to their own taste. The second was this considerate and constructive piece of feedback from coach Sharon (my wild-card, if you recall):

Hi,
 
Thank you so much for submitting to me. I thought the premise sounded cool, but the pitch lacked a bit if substance for me. This is classified as NA Light Fantasy, but no where in the pitch does it give me any clue as to what the fantasy elements are. That’s important. I also found the numbering in the prologue confusing. There’s also some errors – incorrect dialogue formatting (dfdds,” He said – should be a little ‘h'”for example) and you should have it more polished than this for a query.
 
I thought I would let you know that Entangled are looking for NA submissions and you might want to consider pitching to them after you’ve done some revision on your query pitch and manuscript.
 
I wish you all the best.
 
Sharon


My main struggle writing my pitch was to make it clear that it was fantasy, without giving away the entire story as the fantasy elements come into play late in the narrative. I had hoped the Pied Piper reference would help with that, but I agree that the pitch was a bit light and generic. Longtime readers will know that I cannot punctuate dialogue correctly, even with a style guide right by my side. Pretty bad, considering how much dialogue I write. I need an in-person lesson so I can ask all my questions. I appreciated Sharon’s suggestion of a publisher seeking submissions, and when I asked her permission to post her e-mail she offered to promote the entry on her Twitter. What a nice lady. I have good instincts.


What I did not have was an e-mail from my first choice coach, Summer. I still don’t. Optimistically, I hoped that this meant she had chosen me so I went over to Brenda Lee Drake’s website to check out the list of announced teams. No dice.


So what did I do after I discovered all of this? I thanked both coaches for their feedback. I thought about my manuscript and the contest. I knew when I wrote The Grove that it would be a hard sell. It takes some familiar story elements and make different choices with them. It is not straight up fantasy, and some of the choices I made in the plot are not what the average YA reader might expect, or what the average YA/NA publisher would be comfortable publishing. It doesn’t vomit all of the characters and the plot up in the first five pages, which is what bombarded agents and editors will look at to decide whether or not they give the whole thing a shot.


What I did not do: cry, yell, throw things, delete my manuscript, or look into getting a job in a cubicle.


After thinking about my manuscript, what I liked about it and what made it unique, I thought about what it had in common with other books I had read recently. Ones I had really enjoyed. Then I thought about who had written those books, and I looked up who had published them. This was my list:


Little, Brown
Knopf
Flux
Dutton
Scholastic


One or two of those publishers are the kind one doesn’t really get a crack at without proven success (Scholastic). The others are smaller or newer houses that take risks with their YA and NA. Some have given opportunities to high-concept novels, or those with challenging themes or non-traditional formats. You won’t find me submitting to Stephanie Perkins’ agent (though I have enjoyed her books)!


I also thought about Createspace, and using my free copies as a NaNoWriMo winner to get my book published and out to readers. I have a feeling that what it needs most is good word-of-mouth.  It is entirely possible to get copies printed up and send them out to other book bloggers and my teenaged/new adult relatives to pass amongst their friends, selling them via PayPal here on Ink and at our local indie bookstores. One of the blessings of non-traditional publishing is not having a committee suggesting that you change characters’s names because of other popular books, or tone down events to make them more palatable to a wide audience.


I wrote the book I wanted to read. When I was editing, I still wanted to read it (it was kind of a problem, I would forget I was editing and just start reading along). I still believe that there are other readers out there like me who will want to read it. There is a vacancy in the market for a book like mine: one that starts with a failure and ends with a tragedy but smiles the whole way there,  and I will find a way to get it to those who can relate.

…and in other news

A few things I forgot to mention while I was working myself into a tizzy over Pitch Wars:

Giant Squid Print Makers

1. I currently have some prints showing in Arcata, CA as part of a larger show featuring the work of my artist’s collective, Giant Squid Printmakers. The collective is made up of many people I went to school with and, though I have moved away, they invited me to send some pieces for the show. There are some great prints on display, and everything is for sale so I highly recommend taking a spin through the exhibition website if you can’t physically make it to the gallery. My alma mater used one of my prints for the press release, and it gave me a squee-crossed-with-vapors moment to think of the thousands of students, faculty, and alumni who were seeing it.

2. My Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo has asked me to become her co-ML next year. I could not be more stoked about the idea, our region’s participation was unreasonably low considering our numbers. I am a planner and a party-thrower, and next November is going to be awesome!

3. My ML also offered me a coupon for 8 free books from the used bookstore where she works. Um, yes?! Pleaseandthankyou.

4. Some of you might be wondering where Top Ten Tuesdays have gotten off to, as it’s been two weeks since I posted one. Well, gorgeous reader, I am in the market for a new meme. A list of ten books is difficult to assemble each week, more difficult still to not repeat the same books over and over…and if repeating, to come up with something new to say about the book you’ve already mentioned five times. Some of the categories were getting a bit repetitive, and with participation so high (in the three hundreds, now) it wasn’t really generating page views the way it once did. Books take time to read, and 520 unique books each year? I don’t think I’m up to that. If you’ve seen a meme that you think would be great for this blog, please tell me in the comments. I’m hoping for something that combines music and literature, or maybe even art.

5. I’m making turkey stew? Not that you needed to know that, but I felt like there should be five things on this list.

And now, a Christmas carol. Because Muppets, that’s why.


And CeeLo Green. Love CeeLo.