Monday, January 18, 2010

Painting Again

So, I haven't touched my painting of "The Storm" (which my great-grandmother had painted a reproduction of, and I'd always loved staring at as a kid) since 2007. It's been sitting around gathering dust with the two figurines briefly painted out in blocks. Until a few days ago, when I decided I needed a project to distract me until classes start this week. So here's about where I left off two years ago:
And here's where I've gotten in the past few days. I figure, if I get thier faces done, I'll be inspired to finish up the rest and get it finished.

His face is still wonky, but I'm too tired to fix it tonight.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Heather's Best Reads of 2009

Okay, I officially need to get the hell out of my own head and stop overanalyzing things to death. SO! The post about my best reads of 2009! that I've been planning on writing since about August =) Beware, these are almost all young adult titles. I'm a giant nerd, and I keep a spreadsheet of all the books I read. I know this is extreme nerd behavior, and I wish there were adult merit badges, because that's the giddy sense of glee and accomplishment I felt everytime I added a book to the list. I read 133 books last year, and I'm pretty sure that's an all time high, except for maybe somewhere in seventh and eighth grade where I was an antisocial acne-covered hermit. Ahem. I digress. To the list!

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (I knew I was going to love this book right when I read the title. I think this is my vote for Best Title of the Year. It's about a zombie postapacolyptic future. I don't love the zombie genre, but I loved this. In a year of fluff books, this one stuck in my mind. I like the cover too =)

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GRACELING & FIRE by Kristin Cashore These are two separate novels, only loosely connected, and the best damn books I read this year. They are high fantasy, which is not popular, but the characterization, themes, intelligence--I seriously can't say enough about how much I loved these books. Crappy covers though! Why coudln't they get better covers??? The UK cover for each book is a million times better.

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WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson - there is no more lyrical YA writer of this generation. This is a book about girls with eating disorders. And it is the most beautifully written (as in, the poetry of language) book I read all year. Her book SPEAK is also one of my all time favorites.

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WAKE & FADE by Lisa McMann - Two books in three book series, I think, and a fabulous read. As far as sit down and read in one sitting, good writing, exciting stories--these two books are tops. Grounded in gritty reality with supernatural elements and sexy love. Good covers too. I'm excited to read the last book that comes out this Feb!

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PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles - as far as straight, great hot sexy, teen love stories, I'd say this is the best and hottest I've come across. It's a lot smarter than it looks, with a Romeo & Juliet theme about two people from different worlds attracted to each other. Lots of good characterization, and my favorite element of all: melodrama. Cover, eh, okay. Oh, and I also read LEAVING PARADISE by her, and I really, really enjoyed it too.

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SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater - Okay, I almost bought this book for its cover alone. Then I read the flap - human/werewolf love melodrama. Oh yeah, ch-ching, and I was walking out the door with it. There's a lot of crap in the YA supernatural themed department. I'd know - I've read a ton of it! But this was intelligent, good writing, good story. I'm looking forward to the sequel out next year.

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THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher - This book I'd heard a lot about before I read and was skeptical of. Girl leaves tapes after suicide, hence the titular "reasons why". I don't know - it sounded kitschy and over-sentimental. Turns out I was totally wrong. It was amazing - a story that has stayed with me and stuck out in my mind. Fabulous story, great narration by teenaged male protagonist, very real feeling characters, another thing that's often off in YA lit. It was great. If the time-line aspect of it bothered me a bit, the rest made up for it. I'm not a fan of the cover.

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Has it become aparent yet that I ALWAYS JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER?!?!

So here are some where that bit me in the ass. In the category of Best Cover That Seemed So Promising And Stuck In My Mind So Much That I Bought An Illicit Advanced Read Copy Off Ebay:

Hush, Hush

Isn't it beautiful?! Doesn't it tell you exactly what kind of book it is and make you want to snap it up and salivate over the story late into the night?!? Tragically, the insides didn't live up. The male love interest (i.e. cover fallen angel dude) is a bastard, creepier than Edward from Twilight with the stalking and the almost killing the wimpy female protagonist.

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's move on.

THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary Pearson - again with the Fabulous Title. The cover drew me (at least for the hardcover, they just released a softcover version with different cover, and I think it's total crap compared to the first one. I'll post both below). Anyway - great storytelling, fabulous idea, slight dystopia which I always love. It stuck with me.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson: Book Cover and then crappy softcover Product Details

but then, I really don't like white backgrounds on book covers. My preference: Black, simple concept covers, and matte, NOT glossy.

THE DARK DIVINE by Bree Despain. Another of my very few good finds for urban fantasy YA, which is the uber trend now, but rarely done well. I was drawn in by the cover, hooked by the flap. I liked the characters who didn't feel weakly drawn. Good story.

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And now for my other big discovery of the year: Terry Goodkind and the SWORD OF TRUTH Series. I read all eleven books, but the first is still my favorite.

WIZARD'S FIRST RULE - I only read these because of how much I LOVE the show Legend of the Seeker in all of it's fantasy melodrama deliciousness. Usually I can't stomach male fantasy writers - it's all battles and crap with no sexy love. Goodkind amazes me with balancing both. I mean, everything about Wizard's First Rule (other than what I consider a dumb title) is absolutely flabergasting. This guy seriously affectected the way I think about writing, good storytelling, strong noble characters, beauty, and the surprising ability to keep the same characters interesting for the duration of a 11 book series, which I've never encountered before. Unfortunatly at the same time, some of the later books did get a little preachy with his obvious love for Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy, but just when I thought I'd throw in the towel, the next book in the series would blow me away again. But I'm still grumpy about what I consider a crap last book - I was fine with the ending for my beloved characters, but it meandered and wasted so much time without giving the proper page space to character's I'd grown close to and spent useless time on dumb shit. But I digress. Best books of the series, Books 1, 6, 9, 10

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I still think about these characters and re-read portions from the books. That's how much I heart them.

And to finish off a post that's probably already too long, here's some more books I'll put in the category:
DON'T BE FOOLED BY THIER COVERS! i.e., they weren't nearly as good as I'd hoped they'd be. Beautiful Creatures was the best, but just didn't live up to the too high expectations I had before reading it.

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsI promptly resold each on Ebay.

Happy Reading in 2010!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Split Desires

All right, I know I said I wouldn't get all giddy and excited this time around with the novel, but here I am doing it anyway. Because I just sent out my first query letter and feel like several things are significantly different this time around. First off, the query letter was much easier to write, not just because I've got more experience at it now, but because I wasn't trying SO hard to make the query letter marketable -- because the novel itself is marketable. I don't have to find some magic query letter hook sentence. I just wrote the query letter in the voice of the book - the query letter itself presents what it is selling, which is: an interesting idea and a protagonist with strong voice. Also, the first ten pages I'm including - much more accessable, because again, the book, in present day first person, is just so much more relatable and easy to drop into.

Another thing very different - when I finished the final draft this time, editing is a short phase. Because as I was writing it this time, I spent more time and thought on the actual text, so "editing" finally doesn't mean "completely rewriting half the book"! This feels like writerly growth.

So I will zip my lip before I let out excited positive declarations about the future of the book, but at the same time, when I'm in it, like I have been these past few weeks, all my other dreams and goals fade far into the distance. This is what I want to be doing, much more than doing academic research and chasing a Ph.D. I feel split in two with these two divergent futures potentially in front of me. When I'm in school, all I can see is the academic future. But right now, all I want is the writing one. Well, all I ever want is the writerly future, but I know there's no real choice until I get a bite on a novel--that I have to return my focus back to school and writing conference papers and establish my credentials there so I can get into a Ph.D program. But for a little while longer I'll bask in the estatic delight of living as a writer and editing the end of the book.