Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gryffindor vs Slytherin: The Battle of the Scarves

I spent most of my weekend working on a belated Christmas present for my husband's sister.

She is a Gryffindor, you see, and she happened to be lacking the appropriate cold weather gear to properly represent her House.

I made her a scarf. And, because I had leftover yarn, I made a matching hat. Perhaps its not Harry Potter-approved, but it had a pom-pom, so it's cool.

This is her in Gryffindor Ninja mode:

Gryffindor ninja

Well, it just so happens that my husband belongs to Slytherin.

As she was opening her gift, my husband sneakily pulled on his Slytherin scarf, and the moment she had the scarf on, he attacked yelling, "Filthy Gryffindor!"

It was pretty funny.

Sadly, I didn't have a camera handy to commemorate the event, so instead you're getting two phone-quality photos of the siblings in their House gear.

Here's Nigel:

Slytherin scarf, suspicious

He is suspicious.

But, really, you should be suspicious of him.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Links: Blog Traffic, Fun with Words and Diversity

I enjoyed a few articles I read recently, so I'm sharing them in this week's post.

Blog Optimization!


adorable little girl writing
I'm not nearly this adorable when I write, so I've gotta find ways to compensate.

I'm not very good at blogging. I post regularly, which I hear is smart, but to keep from going crazy I only post once a week which is bad form, you know.

I was reading through Chuck Sambuchino's (editor of Guide to Literary Agents and Writer's Digest staffer) blog post about blog traffic. One of the comments led me to this nifty link to check out my blog's SEO (search engine optimization).

traffic in a city
Traffic - like blog "traffic". Get it? I'm so clever.

I put my blog site in and learned that my title wasn't long enough, my pictures needed "ALT text" (text to describe a photo), and I needed a blog description.

That's why I did a slight overhaul on my blog. I'm not sure the headline's the best, but, hey, it's apparently the right length.


For Fun and Literature


You can always get a bad review. No matter what you've written, there are people out there who are going to hate it. It's a fact of life. Well, here's a few highlights from bad reviews of classics novels.

Pixar's La Luna, row boat and moon
From Pixar's La Luna by NASA APPEL

Nobody likes a long description. Here's the Pixar movies in 140 characters or less, à la Twitter.

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most respected science fiction and fantasy authors out there. That's why in 2004, the Sci Fi Channel that was (it's now the SyFy Channel) turned her much-loved Earthsea series into a TV Mini-series. They also turned her very diverse world into a very white world, which pissed her off. And, what the hell, while I'm at it, here's Chris Rock's take on what it means to be black in Hollywood.

Amon, Avatar villain from Legend of Korra
Awesome cosplay of Amon, the villain from The Legend of Korra

While I'm discussing diversity, here's an article on the last episode of The Legend of Korra, a very diverse cartoon with a ton of kick-ass women. Incidentally, Korra was preceded by a TV show called Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was a big hit. Its movie, however, was plagued by white-washing the title character (and much of the rest of the cast) and, apparently, a pretty crappy script. The movie was a total flop.

Also, this homemade picture book on etsy is adorable.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I've Been Reading

I'm a conflicted reader. I don't think I'd want to be a writer if I didn't love reading too, but the truth of it is that it's not always easy to find the time to read. And when I've been writing like crazy, sometimes I get just a little bit sick of the written word. And then, when I make the time to read, I've got a whole host of genres pulling me in different directions.

Here are some of the ways I've been spending my reading time this year.

Middle Grade Books

You've got to read it to write it. That's the common consensus. Weirdly enough, I love writing MG, but I don't always love reading it. But I can't be That Sort of Person, so I make some time. I probably read some other MG books in the last year, but the ones I remember reading were:

Flora and Ulysses
Photo by Schu

Castle
Photo by Etrusia UK

I especially loved Flora and Ulysses (this year's Newberry Award winner - it's not one of those depressing ones). Actually, from this list, the only one I struggled through was The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Until I made this list, I didn't actually realize I'd managed to read so many MG books this year. Yeah for me!

Non-fiction

Patti Smith
Patti Smith by August Brill

Just Kids kicked me off on non-fiction with Patti Smith's autobiography of the NYC music scene in the 70s. I've never been a big fan of non-fiction before, but it was a very interesting and beautifully written book. Not for kids, though. Not by a long shot.

glowing Eiffel Tower
Photo by Moyan Brenn

I learned some interesting things about the way others live from these books. I ought to read more of them, but . . .  as you can see, the theme of this post is that I don't have enough time to read everything!

YA Books

This category is easier for me because I naturally gravitate towards it, and I also enjoy writing it (so, I'm supposed to read it). I love a good, light-hearted YA. I'll cover a few of the highlights below.

John Green

John Green books
Photo by RiveraNotario

This year I finally sank my teeth into John Green (the phenomenon who authored The Fault in Our Stars, amongst other much-loved YA books). My personal fav of his (co-authored by David Levithan) was Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Cassandra Clare

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Photo by Kaitlin Kühn

And I finally, finally, finally read City of Bones (of the Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare. I had tried to read it before, but got irritated by the love triangle, and abandoned it. This time around I finally gave it a real go, and I will say it was an action-packed read. I enjoyed it, but I still gave it a bit of a mixed review on Goodreads.

Stephanie Perkins

Oh, and I finally read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I think that was this year. It might've been a little more, though.

To be perfectly honest, I think the title was holding me back from diving in, but once I did, I had the pleasure of reading some good, light-hearted fun. I'm always a sucker for romance, and I enjoyed it's sequel (of sorts), Lola and the Boy Next Door even more. Although I might like to have a good chat with the people who title these books. I would be way less embarrassed to be seen with a book that had a slightly more, uh, grown-up title. Of course, these books are meant for YA, which by definition is not for adults, so I guess that's more on me than the Titler.

Other

There are a few things that fit into this category. First is the:

Guilty Pleasures

This is Nigel & I in Venice.
We are an adorable couple, of course.

A guilty pleasure typically means adult romance for me. If I'm really sick of everything else (TV, reading, writing, chores) I can breeze through a romance in a day. I've found myself less and less likely to do that this past year, partly because I've devoted so much time to writing, and partly because I'm just a bit less interested in romances this year than in other years.

However, Nalini Singh is always a great go-to for me. She writes the Guild Hunter series. It has fantastic world building and a kick-ass heroine. It's perhaps more of an urban fantasy than a romance, but she's got a few steamy scenes, so be warned.

Recommendations

Actually, Until Tuesday was a coworker's recommendation, but it's already been categorized. So what I really mean here is: Books My Husband Thinks I Should Read.

Fancy old book
Photo from Stéfan

Nigel found out I'd never read a Jules Verne (I got half way through Around the World in Eighty Days and got side-tracked) and he threatened not to give me my Christmas present until I read one.

We are compromising in that I will eventually finish Verne (but not before Christmas), and I will finish The Name of the Wind by Dec. 25. Or my present will be held hostage. The Name of the Wind is a somewhat recent adult fantasy that happens to be one of my hubby's favorite books ever. I'm enjoying it, but not as swept away as he was.

I'm sure there's more that fits into this category, but I think this post is long enough as it is, don't you?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When I'm Not Writing

laundry in Venice
Laundry Day in Venice
I thought this photo from O Palsson was cool and sort of appropriate.

This weekend, I did the following: three loads of laundry, raked leaves, spent half a day sorting old files (something I’ve been meaning to do for over a year), and finally ordered actual, physical photos from my Italy trip.

I also watched a ton of TV, but that is neither productive nor something that I can't do on a regular basis (I like to watch TV while I put away laundry and cook and when I'm taking a break from writing).

Since I finished my re-write of my MG Fantasy, Dragon Bait (yea!!) I was taking a break from writing to (hopefully) clear my head, rest my brain, and give myself enough distance to get into critical, editing mode. As it turns out, writing takes up a lot of my time.  Or, if I'm being honest, writing and telling myself I ought to write take a lot of time.

birch fall forest
Photo by Barbara

Of course, if you noticed, I was still raking my leaves in December, which does tell you what sort of things I put off in order to write. (To be fair my husband had raked at the beginning of November. We just have a ton of trees, and they dropped more leaves after that.)

this way to Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts photo from Scott Smith

This weekend I also did a little pre-editing prep. I re-read Rue's last scene in The Hunger Games in order to read exactly how Suzanne Collins approached it. I outlined my book. I watched Goonies (It'd been ages since I'd seen it, and I was told it had great characterizations of middle school aged kids. It did. And it was awesome.) And I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I am in love with Rowling's descriptions, and that is one of my biggest weaknesses. I'm hoping some of her magic wears off on me (and I'll actually look at how she writes her descriptions too).

So that was my weekend.

I'm way too antsy to keep away from my book much longer, no matter how much head clearing I ought to do. So next weekend I'll be back at it - AND finally watching Mockingjay: Part I (not related, but fun).

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In Which I Tell You Three Things

Sarah in Venice at Night
Yep. This is me, hanging out above a Venetian canal. As you do.
(It was super awesome.)

One: I'm Done!

Happy December! National Novel Writing Month is over, and I finished my NaNo goal - I completed my re-write of my MG Fantasy, Dragon Bait. Here were my last stats:

NaNoWriMo

The fact I actually managed 1,249 words/day made me quite proud.

Unfortunately, this puts my new draft of Dragon Bait at 71k. And since it's intended to be an upper MG novel, that is way too long (Although, I will take this opportunity to point out that the first Harry Potter, which was not crazy long, is 77k).

So next comes the Ruthless Edits. I just hope I can stand to be ruthless enough. I should probably take a bit of a break so I can be a little more objective, but I get antsy when I don't have a writing project, and I'm not certain I can stand to put Dragon Bait away when I've got so much momentum going. I guess we'll see.

Two: Coolest Summary Evar

rocket blast off

I was surfing through my Netflix account when I came across the following Summary:
When a stunt pilot stumbles across an experimental Nazi jet pack, he becomes a target for mobsters, spies, FBI agents and millionaire Howard Hughes.
That is just the coolest summary ever. It makes me want to hear this story. I am really hoping I can come up with something that sounds even half as cool when I need to write my query letters.

The movie, by the way, is Disney's The Rocketeer, which is now on my Instant Stream List. I didn't have the time to watch it this weekend, but that summary really sold me, so now I have to make time to watch it.

A Third, Dorky Thing

fancy mantis
Mantis by Mike

I felt like this was a very list-like sort of post, so I wanted a third topic to make it more listy. I could have come up with something cool and writerly. Instead I shall tell you something random.

My husband has nagged me into playing Magic: The Gathering. It is the dorkiest card game known to man. I think that's a pretty good description.

You have two dueling decks, mana, creature cards that attack each other, and spells you can cast. See? Dorky.

Well, the dorky thing I am going to tell you is this: my current favorite card is the Mantis Rider. It's a blue/white/red flying mantis. With haste and vigilance! This actually means things if you play the game. That is how dorky this game is.