Mix-Tape Mondays: This Time With More Guitars

I’m sorry I’ve left you waiting so long, but never fear

cassette-tape-convert

are here!

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Mix-Tape Mondays: Songs for the Nonexistent

This is going to be one weird instance of

cassette-tape-convert

I’ve posted songs for an unpublished book before, but this time I bring you tunes for a book that does not yet exist in its entirety!

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Moi?

The lovely Kirsten over at A Scenic Route has tagged me for the Next Big Thing meme! Now that I am done preening, I’m ready to answer ten questions about my unpublished manuscript.

1. What is the book’s title?

Grove. I am on the fence about whether or not it needs a definite article.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I had this other book, a dating/personality-type book (I love those things, I will read them and decide what my friends are all day long), called Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur: A Mythological Dating Guide. Being a happily married lady, I read this book and contented myself with assigning types to my friends’ boyfriends and my ex-boyfriends. It seemed very clear to me that one of my ex-boyfriends qualified as a certain type…which led me to think: what if he were actually a mythological creature? Around that time I had also made a woodcut for a calendar of prints, influenced by a classic fairy-tale. I always felt really sad for one of the characters in that story, who is really nothing more than a messenger for the people who are supposed to be “learning a lesson”.

Around the time that these two thoughts were percolating in my brain, I also had a friend posting constantly about NaNoWriMo on Facebook and I happened to read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved that book, and Stiefvater’s posts on it in regard to “writing the book you want to read“. So on October 31st of last year, with nothing more than the last scene in my head, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. By December 1st I had 52,000 words, give or take.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Is New Adult Suburban (Light) Fantasy a real genre? It is now. I just invented it.

4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For Silas, there can be no one but Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He has the right kind of humor, the sexiness, the look. That sinewy grace. Ideally J.R.M. ten years ago. Autumn could be played by Kat Dennings or Mae Whitman.

Emily I see as an Emma Watson or Mia Wasikowska type, Mia probably has the edge in terms of acting. Josh Peck would make an acceptable Duan, with teenaged John Cho on reserve.

Eila needs Kate Hudson (or even better, Goldie Hawn) in her early twenties.

5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh. I have yet to do this in an interesting fashion without giving away the ending. Autumn returns from college to her suburban hometown to begin a soul-crushing job at the local hardware store, and finds herself and her sister swept up in a strange social circle that she never imagined existed.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have absolutely no idea. I was surprised enough that I wrote a book, double-surprised that people liked it, and now I am trying to figure out how to make it the best version of itself. I imagine that when I feel it’s ready I will try to find an agent for some period of time, perhaps a year, and if nothing happens then I will self-publish.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One month. I started just after midnight on November 1st and finished early in the evening November 30th. About three days in I lost everything I had written, and had to re-write it all. About four scenes, including the first scene and the ending.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well…I kind of wrote it because I hadn’t read anything else like it, and it was something I wanted to see. It is sort of thematically related to books like Catherine Knutsson’s Shadows Cast by Stars or Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Francesca Lia Block’s dating life, an ex-boyfriend, the Print Club Calendar, Greek Myth, Celtic lore, Druidry and other pagan belief systems, my experiences working at a big-box hardware chain, love for my hometown/region, and my relationships with people in my family.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

You might get a sweet idea for an awesome (if somewhat weird by today’s standards) party! I flatter myself that this book is funny and that I am good at writing dialogue! The scenes at the big-box store might motivate you to go to/stay in college!

Now for the moment in which I become the end of the line. I am supposed to tag other writing-type folks with manuscripts who might be the next big thing. However, the only one I know is the person who tagged me. Should I gain friends who qualify in future, I promise to nominate them here.

Look

I’ve been tagged! The latest meme making the rounds of the writerly blogs is all about looks. The tagged must post the first instance of the word “look” in their manuscript (and the paragraph around it). Unfortunately I have already posted the (unedited) prologue of my manuscript here previously, which contains the word in question. To keep things fresh, I’m going to post the first instance of that word in my first chapter:

“No promises.” He gave me half a smile, swinging the cart around to head back. He looked a little silly, six feet four inches of gangly guy slouching behind a cart designed for a woman a full foot shorter. Everyone I had talked to had a reason for working here, nobody planned on making a career out of it. Dozens of people working their way through school, part-timing it to get a discount while they renovated their homes, kids straight out of high school just trying to stay afloat until they found something better.  I wondered what brought Silas to my neck of the woods.

A big thank you to Kristen at A Scenic Route for thinking of me! 

I don’t know too many writers I can tag, other than Kristen, but I’d love to see something from:

T.L. Albright

I know that most of the other writers whose blogs I frequent have already done this one, so I guess I will leave it at that. If any of my readers happen to be writers and would like to participate, let me know in the comments and I will properly tag you!

 

 

Random Review: The Selection

Stucco palace.

Just think about that phrase for a moment. Hold it in your mind. Turn it over, consider the implications. It has a lot to do with this review.

The Selection by Kiera Cass, 327 Pages

I was really excited about this book, I really wanted to like it. I am not immune to the lure of a beautiful cover featuring a beautiful girl in a gorgeous dress. A dust-jacket featuring a svelte redhead in endless ruffles of turquoise tulle reflected back in different poses by a bank of water-spotted mirrors, wrapped around a Tiffany-blue hardback stamped with a silver tiara. Despite my disdain for bodice-ripping romances I can enjoy a made-for-TV romantic comedy or an episode of The Bachelor while I’m cooking dinner, so I was game to give the YA dystopian fantasy a shot.

This is a book that tries to bridge the gap between The Hunger Games and Twilight. Someone was bound to try soon enough, those two incredibly popular series combined would seem like a golden ticket to publication. On the one hand, we have a highly regulated society in which many are starving and it is very difficult to move across the government’s dividing lines, hosting a competition to publicly elevate one of its number above the rest. On the other we have a novel completely centered around a love triangle, with a heroine who is a bit of a Mary Sue.

America Singer is a tri-lingual, naturally beautiful musician with a secret boyfriend of a lower caste. Being a Five is not so great, it is an artisan class with sporadic work that leaves her family perpetually short on food, but her boyfriend Aspen has it worse as a Six in the servant class. She has the big-time hots for this boy and they have two years worth of treehouse trysts backed up, creating an incredible pressure that they’d like to relieve post-marriage (pre-marital sex is ground for imprisonment). Big no-no, America’s momma is hoping she will use her pretty face to marry up at least two castes. When a Cinderella-esque invitation arrives exhorting America to enter a lottery for a chance to win a place in a competition to win the hand of the crown-prince of Illéa, becoming a One in the process, her mother is practically foaming at the mouth and even secret-boytoy Aspen doesn’t want her to pass up the opportunity.

She is persuaded to enter, and of course she is selected.

Many blogs have already likened this novel to The Bachelor, and I would have to say that it actually reads like Bachelor fan-fiction with a prince subbed for the schmuck. America is incredibly judgmental of the other Selected, often based on a single visual impression or line of dialogue, yet these judgements are never false. The sexy brunette is seductive and conniving, the bubbly blonde is sweet as pie. Everything plays out as exactly as you might guess, in the most clichéd manner possible. The palace is repeatedly attacked by mysterious rebels with no definite purpose in scenes that fail to thrill. The book is light on both dialogue and description, propelled by endless stated actions and sentiments “I walked downstairs and then sat in a chair and then ate dinner. It was delicious. I felt full.” There were several paragraphs in which every sentence began with “I”. The scant dialogue all sounds the same, though the novel depicts characters from a range of social classes and geographic locations. I wouldn’t even know if I split an infinitive, but there were many glaring errors in mechanics, as though someone printed their fan-fiction straight from the computer and had it bound. Unfortunate dialogue tags abound, everyone “sings” everything. At one point I wondered if this book were supposed to be a musical.

The heroine herself comes across as inconsistent and disingenuous. She is home-schooled and plays the victim of incomprehensible feminine politics, but makes unerring judgements of her fellow ladies and presumes to give Maxon advice on interacting with them. At one point she states that she wants nothing more than to be alone with a violin, on the next page she is alone in her room with a selection of instruments and says she can’t “be bothered” with them. She claims to be madly in love with Aspen but only seems to think or feel anything about him when he is directly in her line of sight. She performs actions that are inconsistent with the reader’s knowledge if her character, simply because they seem to be on the author’s checklist of princessly characteristics.

The romance is pretty dull. With America and Aspen it is a lot of forbidden horny leg-rubbing; America and Maxon engage in slightly more interesting conversation about why he sucks (America is a real charmer).

This is not the worst of it, you guys, and I’m sorry for rambling on. I’m almost done.

The worst failure of this novel is a failure of the imagination. I could deal with a stupid plot and two-dimensional characters if I got some great poetic language, engaging world-building, or sumptuous descriptions of luxurious locales and fashion. The author seems to have an obsession with cap-sleeves, everything America wears has them! I’m not sure if it was a deliberate choice to make her seem demure or a lack of creativity. The sumptuous cuisine? Bacon, eggs, and pancakes; or vanilla ice cream with fruit. Literally dozens of female characters have names but no physical descriptions or personalities, even when they have speaking parts. COME. ON. The palace is made of stucco (but has marble floors). Stucco, you guys. It was described in a way that made me picture the mansion they always use on The Bachelor, but it is somehow big enough to house more than two hundred people, forty or so with their own rooms and enormous individual bathrooms. Magic.

I am disappoint. This could have had real potential if a tougher editor had entered the picture.

So now that I have ripped this poor book to shreds, I am giving it away. Whether it’s morbid curiosity or a genuine belief that this might be just the story for you, I encourage you to enter.

Chair Rating:

Pretty and girly on the outside, bizarre on the inside. If you find it a good fit, you might be crazy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY

To enter my giveaway for a hardcover copy of Kiera Cass’s The Selection all I ask is that you post a comment featuring:

1. A picture of what you would wear to meet and woo royalty

OR

2. A description of the most incredible meal you can imagine

If you choose to do both, I will count it as two entries. I will randomly choose a winner on Wednesday, May 2nd at midnight PST. This giveaway is limited to the continental United States and Canada (I’ve seen a few canucks pop up on the map). Spread the word!

Apropos of Nothing

Anything that adds a little magic back to the world is fine by me, be it a Claes Oldenburg sculpture rising from a grimy city block or verdant hill, or this cupcake ATM at Sprinkles in Los Angeles:

Some people describe these kinds of things as whimsical, and they are, but I find that the word whimsy is often used to belittle or demean something that adds delight to life. What could be more meaningful than something that brings people joy?

This idea of enchantment and magic gone missing from everyday life is important to the narrative of Grove, it’s one of the things I am focusing on in my edits. Contrasting the dreary nature of a society centered on service to corporations with the natural abundance that is our birthright as citizens of Earth. The way in which our systematic elimination of the spiritual, intangible aspects of life robs us of some of its most basic pleasures.

The idea that it is not wrong to be pleased.