Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Discovering Laini Taylor

Don’t you love when you discover an author so talented that you devour her/his work and want to tell everyone you know about it?

Two words. Laini Taylor.

The story of how I discovered Laini isn’t extraordinary. I had heard her name before, seen pictures of her distinctive pink hair, and read rave reviews of her novel Lips Touch: Three Times on some of the blogs that I visit. I’ll admit, sometimes it takes me a while to catch on and picking up this book to read was no exception. In fact, I knew that my library owned it. As I browsed the YA shelves seeking new reading material, many times I’d find Laini’s book, slide it off the shelf, gaze at the beautiful cover and put it back. “Maybe another day,” I’d say. Why? Sometimes because I already had 3 books in my arms, but mostly because of my own preconceived judgments, I’m embarrassed to admit.

Preconceived judgment #1 – It’s 3 separate short stories, not one novel, so I won’t really get into it. I’m not really in the mood for YA short stories. I want to get completely drawn into a novel and really get to know the main character. I just can’t do that with a short story.

Wrong. There are 3 separate stories but they have a common theme. And Laini’s gorgeous prose pulls you right in from the introduction of each story. Here’s an excerpt from the first page:

"There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps?

Them.” (Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, p. 13)

Preconceived judgment #2 – The cover is intriguing but with a title like Lips Touch, it must be about kissing and I’m not really into novels heavy in the romance department.

Wrong, again (except for the cover and inside illustrations being gorgeous). Each story has a supernatural element and involves a kiss that is pivotal to the main character and the dilemma/consequences that may occur.

So why did I finally decide to stop in the middle of reading Going Bovine to check Lips Touch from the library? Laini's latest novel, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was released this week. It has received terrific reviews from bloggers who have read Advanced Copies and my curiosity started getting the best of me. But that’s not what made me jump in my car on a busy Saturday soccer morning to check the book out from my library [which was totally worth it for 2 reasons. 1 –They had the book, and 2 – I had a great conversation w/ the YA librarian about teen lit and authors we liked].

The night before, I visited the website of an independent bookstore in my area, Wellesley Books, to see if there were any upcoming author visits. It's been a while since I checked. Last year, I was lucky enough to meet Laurie Halse Anderson here. Guess who’s coming there this Friday? Laini! I decided right then and there to check out her book so I'd be familiar with her work. If all goes well, I'll be at Laini's book signing Friday night *crosses fingers*.

Simply put, Laini is an incredible storyteller. She weaves imaginative descriptions, intriguing characters, fantasy, and emotion together to create stories that you won’t want to put down. I'm really looking forward to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and plan to read her other works.

Have you read any of Laini Taylor's books? Are there any other books you can't wait to read?

Monday, September 19, 2011

September Evening

I was missing from blogworld this past week as I try and adjust to my new schedule. My hope is that I'll be able to post once or twice a week. However, I'm trying to schedule writing into the little free time that I now have. Blogging may have to take backseat for a while. The only writing I was able to do last week was this piece below. I thought I'd share it with you.

Tonight is one of the last summer-like evenings of the season. The sun was strong and hot on this September day, but cool days and chilly evenings return later this week. This will be my last night to sit on the front steps and enjoy the sights and sounds of a warm summer evening. I sit comfortably without a sweatshirt, *my feet resting in flip flops.

The difference from my other front stoop observations is that I’m sitting in the dark, though it’s only 7:30pm. I’m jotting down my reflections, not even sure if I’ll be able to decipher my writing in the light. But my senses are heightened and I’m determined to capture and absorb these remainders of summer. Perhaps they'll sustain me through the long, bitter cold months of winter.

It’s peaceful but by no means quiet. A chorus of various insects is performing tonight. I’m unsure of their names, and so I call them all crickets. Layers of sounds blend together: a rhythmic background melody, a back and forth of louder chirps, repetitive clicking insects. Their cadence soothes my thoughts, helps me to unwind, releases the tension from work, school, and another season of chaotic responsibilities.

I’m hidden in the evening shade, an invisible observer. A lone jogger keeps a slow pace on the street across from me. Headlights shine on the black pavement, cutting through the dark for a brief second as they drive past. A car slows across from where my street and the other connects, and my neighbor pulls into his driveway. I watch his rear lights as their red glow is extinguished. A person exits the driver’s side of the vehicle first, then another from the passenger’s side. Only their silhouettes are visible. One thin boyish figure tosses the jingling keys to the larger figure. Derek can drive? Wasn’t he just playing Pokemon with my son on their Game Boys on this very same porch?

Although I can't feel it, there is a gentle breeze. Against the twilight blue sky, the top of a large dark mass, which I know to be a maple in the daylight, sways slowly. A flag hanging in front of another neighbor's house gently flutters back and forth. Most likely hung to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

I know it's getting late. My youngest needs to get ready for bed. And yet leaving these steps means leaving summer behind and I'm not ready to let go - just a few more minutes. I'm glad I had one more night to say goodbye to my favorite season of the year.

*Flip flops were not the best choice of footwear on a muggy evening. The only thing I won't miss about the summer...MOSQUITOES! I got four bites!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Love, Love, Love

I always struggle to put my feelings about September 11th, 2001 into words. Fortunately, there are those who can and do so eloquently. One such person is my friend, Donna Hosie, at Musings of A Penniless Writer. You rock, my friend.

Another is author Meg Cabot's personal account of what she experienced living in NYC that day.

Some of you know that I've been a U2 fan for over 20 years. When I heard that they would be perfoming at the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show I was pumped beyond belief. But what I wasn't prepared for was U2's powerful, moving tribute to those who lost their lives that day. There are moments when tears and smiles co-exist and can express what's in our hearts better than words. This was one such moment for me.

I will never forget.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Only A First Draft Mantra

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of awesome author/blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh. From Alex's blog, the purpose of the IWSG is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

I've mentioned before that I don't sign up for many blogfests, but this is one I wanted to participate in right away. Why? Because we all could use a little support now and then. And who understands the insecurities that writers face better than the writing community?

And so here's my contribution this month.

One of the writing ailments I suffered from when I first started writing 3 years ago was the need to make my first draft perfect. I agonized over every sentence, every adjective, every image, scene, dialogue exchange. And while there's nothing wrong with setting the bar high it My first two novel attempts lead to frustration when I reached a point of no return in my first draft. Perfectionism wasn't the only contributor. There were other reasons they met an early demise - poor planning, no direction, plot jam after plot jam.

With the novel I'm working on now, a third attempt, I'm trying to let go and let it flow. Taking an idea and running with it. Not caring if it sounds crappy. Not stopping even when a voice in the back of my head whispers, "This rots, you know." Some days I can shut off that voice, but other days it paralyzes my writing because I start to believe it. First drafts are hard for me and I get down on myself for not being able to finish one yet. I've been working on my current ms for over a year now but I'm determined to finish it.

Some days when I'm in that zone - you know the one - when every word, sentence, scene comes pouring out faster than I can scribble it down, writing is a joy. The satisfaction that comes from being in that zone is why I write. But other days when scenes feel forced, sentences sound choppy, and my MC is bland and boring I need to remember that it's only a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect. That's what revisions are for.

Training my brain not to focus on the suckiness of my ms is hard. But what I've learned is that it's normal. Every writer experiences this at some point, even the published authors we look up to. The first draft is supposed to be craptastic. And so when I find myself loathing every word I write and wondering if it's all worth it, I use this little mantra to settle myself down. I put down my pencil, take a deep breath, and say to myself...

It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft.

Are first drafts easy for you?

To visit other participants in the Insecure Writer's Support Group, click the above link to Alex's blog and scroll down.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Do I Frighten You?

Gee, I hope not. I’m really not that scary except when I don’t get my coffee in the morning. Trust me, you don’t want to be there. Or when I spent two days in a row of torturous back to school shopping...but I won’t bore you with those details.

The lovely Donna Weaver over at Weaving A Tale or Two tagged me which means you get to learn all kinds of fun, but let’s face it, useless information about me. Which might come in handy if you’re playing a trivia game sometime and someone asks, "What’s Suzie F’s favorite flavor of jello?" Except you wouldn’t know that answer since I didn’t mention it below. See, I have to share 10 facts about myself that won’t scare my followers away. And if they learned that my favorite flavor is (blank) they may scamper off in fear. Anyway, this game of tag is called...

Here's my list:

1. I’ve stayed the same weight give or take 5 lbs. since I was 16 (except while pregnant).
2. Same height too.
3. Scraping a popsicle stick against my teeth gives me the chills (like nails on a blackboard for me)
4. My favorite cartoon character is Daffy Duck.
5. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon.
6. Steven Tyler walked by me with his entourage during a Cheap Trick concert. Later he appeared on stage to perform as a guest.
7. The first concert I went to was to see Amy Grant.
8. I’ve gone to 3 Harry Potter midnight book releases/parties.
9. The writing bug first bit me in the 4th grade when my teacher submitted my poem to Jack and Jill magazine. My first rejection, but what mattered to me was that Miss D loved it.
10. Writing lists about myself make me squirm with embarrassment.

Are you still here? Good. Now for the really scary part.
Tag! You're it...

Shelley Sly at Stories in the Ordinary
Suz Korb at Bang Out the Prose
Bethany Elizabeth at Ink-Splattered
Magan at The Punching Bag Fights Back

Please visit the tagees above. I just met them all recently and look forward to getting to know them better.

*To the tagees - No pressure to play. Sometimes if the the timing is wrong, these awards/tag games can bog you down. Just wanted to give your blogs some recognition :) If you do decide to play, list 10 facts about yourself that won't frighten your followers away. Then tag as many bloggers as you'd like. I followed Donna W.'s lead and tagged 4.

Anyone care to guess what my favorite flavor of jello is?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Karen G.'s Fabulous 2nd Annual BBQ Get to Know Other Bloggers Party

I think that may be the longest blog title I've written to date.

Hi and welcome! If you’re already a regular follower or visitor, nice to see you again and help yourself to the cooler. If you’re hopping over from Karen G’s BBQ for the first time and/or a new blogger, feel free to look around, pull up a lawn chair, and introduce yourself.

I thought I’d take a break from a regular post so that we can get to know one another. A little about myself...I love kid lit and currently I've been working on the first draft of an upper MG ms for a while. Okay, over a year. My goal is to make this the first first draft I complete, revise, and query. (I started 2 previous novels but didn’t finish them). Are you a writer and what do you write?

I thought it would be fun to play a little get to know each other game. Below are some questions to get to know each other. Feel free to copy/paste the list at the bottom of this post and to answer as many or as few as you’d like. No pressure.

I like to call this the What’s Your Favorite (blank) This Week Quiz? Yesiree, I thought that title up all by myself. Quite a writer, eh? Basically, it’s hard to narrow down one favorite in some categories. For instance, I would never be able to name my favorite song unless I only liked one song, there are just too many. So instead, name your most recent favorite or favorite this week in the comments below after you introduce yourself. Simple enough, right? Okay, here we go.

What’s Your Favorite...This Week

bbq’d food – sausages (smothered with peppers and onions)
treat - eclairs
color – midnight blue crayola crayon
pair of shoes – my cushy slippers
game - Yahtzee
book – This year so far, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
celebrity – Audrey Hepburn (always)
song – most recent fave: What the Water Gave Me by Florence and the Machine. For your listening pleasure...

Oh, and don’t forget to leave a link to your blog so that I can visit you. Thanks for playing and a special thank you to Karen G over at Coming Down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog for hosting such an easygoing get together. Hope to see you back!

bbq’d food
pair of shoes