Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Favorite Books: The Honorable Mentions

These books weren't originally on my list of all time fav's but as I scanned my shelves, they called out to me (saying, "Sarah, did you forget about me? Don't you love me any more?"). I have very needy books.

As I'd mentioned in my last post, these are pretty much all picture books (except one). I just . . . I couldn't leave them out.

This is me "reading" Sabriel - the number one book from my last post about my 5 Fav Books.
This is actually me pretending to read while I take a selfie.

In no particular order, here are my Honorable Mentions:

  • Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede This is the story of a princess (Cimorene of Lindwall) who does not want to marry a handsome, brainless prince. She'd much rather live with dragons and learn to cook chocolate mousse. I think I got this book through the Scholastic Book Club. You know, those odd circulars that let Scholastic sell awesome books through our public school system? Maybe they don't do that any more. I'm not sure. But when Mom finally let me pick out a book, it sure was exciting.

  • The Very Little Girl by Phyllis Krasilovsky This was the first book I remember loving. I'm not actually certain why I loved this book above all other books when I was very small. Perhaps because I was a very little girl. Kids love books where they see themselves in the pages. And I loved watching the little girl grow. Oh, and Pat the Bunny. I loved that one too. It's my tactile nature. But it doesn't stand up to the test of time quite as well as the Little Girl. I shall include a picture from inside the book below, so you can see just how beautiful the Little Girl illustrations are.

Here I am, looking suspiciously over the top of my awesome book.

I love the minimalist colors and drawings in this book.
It's so pretty. And you can see it was well-loved too.

  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson This story is about a boy who can just draw himself whatever he wants. That would be so cool! Below you can see Harold drawing himself a boat and then climbing right in. He also draws himself some pies to eat. I loved this book so much when I was little.

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak This one's a no brainer. In my twenties, I had to ask for this book for a few different holidays before I was finally given it. Now it is mine, all mine.

  • Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, pictures by Lillian Hoban Really, any of the Frances books would do. Frances and I have a lot in common. Namely, we like to make up ridiculous little songs about our day-to-day lives. I believe that in the below book, Frances ponders why anyone would want to eat anything other than bread and jam in her very own catchy little song. And then, later, she sings a sad little song about how she's rather sick of bread and jam. It tugs at the heart-strings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Five Favorite Books (Plus a few more)

I had no idea what to write this week, and my self-imposed Wednesday morning deadline was closing in fast, so I was inspired to raid my shelves for a Top Five list.

my books
This is my stack of books, pre-photo shoot.

Here I am, looking like a crazed idiot with my books:
me and my favorite books

Fair or not, I did notice that I read every single one of these books before I was out of high school (and some pre-elementary school). Sorry, new and wonderful books, apparently I'm a sucker for nostalgia. And kids' books. I don't read my picture books very much, but I've still got a shelf full, and I will NEVER give them up! (No matter how overstuffed our shelves get or how seldom I read them. I will defend them to the death!)

I'd just like to note that I really didn't intend for this blog post to turn into a photo shoot with my books, but somehow that's exactly what happened. (Which also turned a "quick" post into one that took a little longer than anticipated.) So. Here they are:

My Five Favorite Books

1. Sabriel by Garth Nix I've already mentioned this book a few different times. So I won't belabor the point. This book is awesome. The end.
Sabriel by Garth Nix

2. Eloise by Kay Thompson, Pictures by Hilary Knight (And, honestly, without the pictures, you just would not have the funny, spunky, and maybe just a little bit bratty Eloise that I know and love.)
Eloise books, Kay Thompson, Hilary Knight

3. The Horse And His Boy by C.S. Lewis Perhaps it's not the most famous of the Narnia series, but I do believe it's the only one that takes place entirely in Narnia's world. I loved the back and forth between the two main characters (Shasta and Aravis) and the Talking Horses (Mostly Bree, although whatshername was nice too - she was The Voice of Reason. No wonder I don't remember her name). For a quite a few years running, I read this book once a year.
The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Oops. Looks like I don't have this one on my shelves. I've got Emma and a well-loved Sense and Sensibility but no P&P. To be fair, I believe the last time I read it, I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg. (A great big shout-out to the wonderful people at Project Gutenburg. Thank you!)

5. One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey I loved the life out of these books. The top one is an old library reject (like quite a few other books of mine) because my dad was a librarian, and I wasn't about to turn my nose up at a book just because it wasn't fit for library circulation any more. I love these illustrations. They're gorgeous. And it probably helped that Sal looked a little bit like me at that age, so I saw myself in the book's pages.
One Morning in Maine, Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey, Sal

I fully intended to include a small section on my "Honorable Mentions" - the other books that I picked up as I was searching for my original Fav Five. But that's going to have to wait until next week. Sorry, people, but it's my bedtime. You can guess what I'll be reading tonight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Painting My Own Magic Card

In this post, I mentioned that my husband had me playing Magic: The Gathering (the dorkiest card game known to man).

Well, apparently, re-painting the cards to make them look cool is a thing. (These cards are known as "Alters" because you have altered the card from its original state - this game has all kinds of its own lingo).

I wanted to show off my repainted Abzan Guide:

Magic Abzan Guide on lion

Note that the guide lady is now riding a lion. That is way cooler than the original creature she was riding that didn't have a head:

Magic Abzan Guide

I noted the lack of head and decided we needed to resolve this issue. Animals without heads are really quite sad.

And if I want to stretch the writing theme of this blog, I will say that Magic: The Gathering has a ton of really complex story lines. After the first few sets apparently they ("they" being the company Wizards of the Coast) started putting out books that correspond to the stories. These people do some serious world building.

Also, my lion reminds me of Aslan, and it doesn't get much cooler than that.

My husband painted an Abzan Guide too, which I figured I'd share. I sketched out the lion for him, but he painted it. I actually kind of like his colors better than mine. They're more vibrant:

Magic Abzan Guide Alter

His lion reminds me of the Cowardly Lion (perhaps he's a bit of an Eeyore too). Definitely got that sad old man look.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Everything About Writing Takes Forever

I don't know. Maybe there are people out there who managed to write their first draft in about three months, have it be miraculously wonderful, and sell it in about a month, but if they do exist they are few and far between.

Even those people who manage to have a lucrative writing career in their twenties usually started writing when they were about eight.

Harry Potter
Awesome illustration by karly nuñez

J.K. Rowling (mentioned because of the ridiculous amounts of money her books made) didn't have Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone published until she was almost 32, and that run was only for 500 copies.

As for me, I've written somewhere around six or seven books (I'd have to sit down and count them to know for sure). I started writing in grad school, which is really lamentably late to the scene. That was about six or seven years ago.

The seasons. Photos by (from top left, clockwise):

The current book (Dragon Bait), I've spent even more time on than usual. I started it around two years ago, edited it about three or four times, decided it was ready, was proven wrong. Then I paid for a critique by someone who really knows their stuff back in July. That was . . . discouraging but helpful.

winter snow
Photo by Jono Hey

It took a few weeks to determine to do it, but then I re-wrote the book in fairly quick order, finishing using the incentive of NaNoWriMo in November. I edited as I wrote, but, realistically, I knew the book still needed another going over.

I spent December reducing the book down from 71k to 63k. It took some pretty ruthless editing, but I like to think the pace is significantly improved. And, oh yeah, I finished it just this weekend!

spring robin
Photo by Barbara

After the euphoric high of (re-)finishing the book, I realized I still need other eyes on it to know what OTHER people think might be wrong with it (writing in a vacuum is a bad idea). Then I need to incorporate their suggestions. Then I need to revise my query letter and send it out to agents. And send it out again when that first letter doesn't work.

Let's say agents like the book. They'll take a while with my partial or full. A month or two. Tick, tick.

summer flowers
Photo by Rachel Kramer

If I do manage to sign with an agent, it'll be time for submissions to publishers. If I'm ridiculously lucky that will take a month. If I'm more normal, that will take a while, and then I might not actually manage to get the first book sold.

The lovely and talented anonymous writer, Authoress, of the well-known writing site has had an agent for a while, but dystopian science fiction (her genre of choice) is "out" right now, and she hasn't actually been able to sell any of her books to publishers, even with an agent.

It's a hard knock life out there.

autumn leaf
Photo by Grant MacDonald

Anyway, I'm just being a little doomy and gloomy (although, actually "realistic" might be a better word choice) about my chances these days. I've learned so much about the ins and outs of writing in the last few years, but, if I'm very lucky Dragon Bait will be my book that lands me an agent and a publishing contract. But, if not, I guess about two years from now I might have another polished book out on the streets.