Monthly Archives: December 2013

Top 5 Reads of 2013: Part of My Library for All Time

End of the year retrospective in list form?  Hell, why not—everyone else is doing it and I feel left out.  But a list of what?  Top 5 Best Breaths Inhaled During 2013?  Top 5 Attempt to Cook Dinner (That Didn’t Result in Setting the Kitchen on Fire)?  Top 5 Epic Faceplants (From Tripping Over My Own Feet)?  Or the Top 5 ‘Oh Shit’ Moments (Snicker If You Must)?

No, self, no.  I’m all about the words after all, and while I could count down the Top 5 Works I’ve Written in 2013, no one else would know what the hell I’m talking about, so I went with the next best thing.

These, my friends, are my Top 5 Reads of 2013.  They are not necessarily new releases—in fact, only two debuted during the past year.  But they’re the books I read and loved, the ones that struck a chord and will stay with me forever, in my memory, in my gut, and in my library.

So now, in no particular order and without a drumroll…

 

 

Cari’s Top 5 Reads of 2013

 

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1.  Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
This is one of those ‘question everything, think for yourself, and question everything again books, but Letters to a Young Contrarian surpass anything I’ve read in the genre.  I can’t really describe the effect—a sucker punch, perhaps—but the book definitely makes an impact, and I’m of the opinion it should be mandatory reading.  Not for teenagers who are naturally rebellious, I don’t think most teenagers have the maturity to truly absorb the work, but mandatory reading for adults who have achieved the full ability to think critically (even if they choose not to do so) and may have become complacent.  Go.  Read it now.  It’s short; I’ll wait.

 

 

curiosities
2.  The Curiosities:  A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Graton
My Review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/560975040

Oh.  Oh my word.  I’m not one for anthologies but I am a helpless flailing Maggie Stiefvater fangirl, so I took a risk and read The Curiosities despite my usual aversion to compilations.  One of the alluring aspects for us writerly types lies in the margin notes from all three authors, scribbles pointing out excellent bits and giving more technical opinions on the word play and writing itself.  Many of these I found quite useful, while others I enjoyed in that “Hee!  I heart snark!” kind of way.  The best aspect, however, is the quality within these pages:  the stories are sometimes polished, sometimes raw, but always of high quality.  Do not be turned off by the idea you’re reading work from writers who write for the young adult/teen audiences, for these pieces transcend that and a few of the short stories will stick in your brain long past the time you’ve put the book back on the shelf.  There are no forced happy endings; in fact there are very few truly happy endings and very few flat out unhappy endings.  Bittersweet is the best way to describe the work within The Curiosities.

 

 

sirthomas
3.  Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin
My Review:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17568126-sir-thomas-the-hesitant-and-the-table-of-less-valued-knights

Liam Perrin’s Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights was my Awesome Accidental Find of 2013.  I first stumbled upon it thanks to the GoodReads giveaway page but was too late to enter the contest for an advanced copy.  Thinking the cover simultaneously silly and adorable, I read the synopsis and thought it sounded cute, and when a day or two later I found myself a few dollars short of free shipping on Amazon, this became my “Hell, Why Not?” addition to the cart.  No regrets.  This is a fun read, one I completed relatively quickly thanks to a ‘reading when I should’ve been doing other productive adult things’ approach, and I happy sighed so hard at the end.  Perrin is one of those self-published authors who are damn good but a reader must sort through the mountains of muck to find, and he is well worth the effort.

 

 

 

fiend
4.  Fiend by Peter Stenson
My Review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/664106799

Zombies.  Meth heads.  Meth heads fighting zombies.  That’s all that remains in the world and, assuming you’re not one to clutch your pearls, it’s pretty fucking awesome.  This is more literary than you might expect, certainly not of the same ilk as the churned out, burned out zombie crap that’s been flooding the market lately.  Stenson’s writing style is a bit different but excellent for the story he’s telling, although I’ll admit that some quotation marks would’ve been nice.  I don’t have anything to say on a literary critique level, only that I really enjoyed this and loved the ‘fuck that nonsense’ ending.

 

 

 

peterwendynotmerely
5.  Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie / not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them by Jenny Boully

Okay, so a two-for-one entry is cheating but hear me out:  I read one to better absorb the other.  First came Jenny Boully’s work, a deeply weird and poetic version of J.M. Barrie’s classic story, much darker with threatening undertones running throughout.  Boully’s writing style is eerie and beautiful and, unfortunately, rather difficult to follow unless you know the source material.  I read not merely… the first time, understood it but didn’t really get it, and because I’m nothing if not an obsessive reader, I hopped online to order a copy of Peter and Wendy.  (The original, not the Disney-fied, abridged for younger children version.)  It came as a bit of a shock to me that I’d never read it before, Peter and Wendy is freakin’ classic lit for goodness sakes, so how did I miss it?  That’s what I get for being uppity as a young’un and having a reading level far above my age.  So I read Barrie’s original and was moved by it, by how shady it really is, how different from the Disney movie and the faint feeling of dread that permeates the text, tones one only picks up on as an adult.  And then I went back and reread Boully’s novella and really got it, was in fact disturbed by it while simultaneously pretty damn impressed.  These definitely stick out in my mind amongst the 77 books I read this past year, and in my memory they will be forever linked.  Hence my two-for-one cheat.

 

 

Now go forth, my lovelies, and embark upon a new year.  May 2014 treat you well!

 

 

 


Ménage à Trois: The Temptation of Multiple Works-in-Progress

Writer brain suffers.  Writer brain hurts.  Writer brain throws hissy fits because it wants to write ALL the words and I won’t allow it.  Writer brain does not understand, and writer brain hates me for it.

Can writers write two separate projects simultaneously?  Absolutely.

Can writers write two separate projects simultaneously and get at least one of them finished?  That, my friends, is where the danger lurks.

I’m wrestling with the temptation to do this right now:  begin a new novel while still writing my work-in-progress.  My work-in-progress is going well, moving along rather smoothly, I just need to put the words down on paper.  (Ha!  I say ‘just’ as if it’s that easy.)  But there’s this other story waiting to be written, an idea that’s been in my head for months and has finally started to coalesce into something actually resembling a narrative.  More scenes, more coherent lines, more defined character voices…and the feeling is there, the one that makes it resonate with me and starts my fingers tingling with the urge to write it down.

And my God, diving into that story would feel amazing.  But…

…if I give into the urge to jump into the deep end, I run the risk of never finishing the work-in-progress.  Even worse, I run the risk of not finishing either project because I’m spreading myself too thin.

But I want to, damn it!  I want to have my cake (WIP) and eat it too (new novel).  I’m greedy, and I’ve never been known for my patience.

I’m trying to hold myself back.  I’ve written multiple stories at the same time before, that’s all I did throughout my teenage years and early twenties, and I don’t have a damn thing novel-wise to show for it.  I never finished any of them.  Granted, none of them were particularly noteworthy, most were downright bad, but the point is that I attempted, failed, and left them to rot.

I know of writers—both published well-known names and plenty of people like me, toiling away because it’s fun and not because anyone is necessarily reading their words—who juggle more than one project.  I’m in awe of and more than a little jealous of that ability because they write, they write well, and they get things completed.  They get to type the end (or just sign and date it, such as is my preference) on both and sit back, all justifiably smug and pleased with themselves before immersing themselves in something brand new.  I hate them because I want to be them.

Making it even more difficult to resist is that both of these stories have a similar gritty feel, something that induces my brain to slide back and forth from one to the other without any difficulty.  Saving me from crumbling and giving into the urge to write more is the key difference between them, aside from wildly different plots:  one is gritty and dangerous while the other is gritty, much more emotional, and full of that painful yearning sensation that hits everyone now and again and rips the breath from the lungs.  That wouldn’t overlap well, and it’s the most rational reason, based in technical writing common sense, the thing that’s helping hold me back.

But I want to, damn it!

Are you one of those people who can handle two+ projects at once and get at least something finished?  And not just juggle them but smoothly transition back and forth?  If so please gift me with your wisdom, tell me how the hell you manage to do it.

Because I’ve got a hitman of the non-human variety demanding all of my time while a trio of half-wild fae whisper glamour in my ear.

A little help here?


Words on Words

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”

Seamus Heaney


NaNoWriMo Chronicles: A Look Back (The Final Post!)

50,269 words.

82 pages.

28 chapters.

4.5 pages of outline completed.

1 bottle of Aleve (for the arthritis in my hands), 1 brace to combat carpal tunnel, and 2 magnetic therapy bracelets.

7 bags of coffee.

Countless frustrated hissy fits and spiteful ‘I should be writing but fuck words’ naps.

Above is a numerical summary of my NaNoWriMo 2013 experience, an impressive listing if I do say so myself.  (And I do.  My blog and all that.)  But NaNoWriMo isn’t about the numbers, is it?  NaNoWriMo is about the words.

So how did the writing go?

The writing went well enough to win but the words came with much more difficulty than I’d anticipated.  2011 was a breeze:  the words came like an avalanche, I won the month, and I went on to complete the novel, which just so happens to be Book 1 to this year’s Book 2.  2012:  my only trouble came from running out of story and having to pad it with a couple thousand words to meet 50,000, which I did without any problem.  But this year?  This year was hard.

I was cocky.  I was naïve.  I thought, “Hey, since this is a sequel, this ought to flow smoothly from the beginning!  After all, I’m just picking up where I left off.  All of this is outlined and I know the character better than I know myself, so this is gonna be easy!”  And lo, the writing gods did heartily laugh before making me regret said thought.

This was a sequel; I spent the past couple years consistently writing this character, so his voice is still very much second nature to me.  And yet getting started proved painful, I just couldn’t find any sort of flow.  Three false starts before I finally found a shallow groove, and the first 30,000 words felt like pulling teeth—my own teeth, no anesthetic.  Timelines just wouldn’t come together; the character voice was shaky.  So what happened?

My poor little brain took quite a while to figure out the problem, and when it did I wept, for the problem wasn’t something I could wave a red pen at and fix.  I’d reached the writer’s equivalent of a boss level.  What escaped my understanding at first was that meshing the second book with the first proved much more difficult than I thought, while adding in the need to do all the prep work and setup for the third added complexity, ravaging my brain and ultimately requiring extensive editing while writing—a big no, no during NaNoWriMo.  But what choice did I have?

None.  I had no choice.  So I tore at my hair, rent my garments, and threw myself back into the fray.

And standing here at the finish line, I wave a banner of 50,269 words.  They’re not good words nor are they coherent after the 40,000 mark, but they’re words and they’re mine.  I’ve got a long way to go on the novel itself:  my outline is 9 pages long and I only made it through 4.5 of those pages during November.  I’ve got a damn fine start on what will one day, after lots of editing, be a damn fine story.

That, my friends, is what National Novel Writing Month is all about.  Until next year!  (Or at least the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions!)


NaNoWriMo Chronicles: The End of Days

November 30th:  it may not be the apocalypse but it’s certainly the end of days.

The last day of the month, the day all WriMos dream of, strive toward, and alternately fear and love.  If we’ve done it right (or even done it badly but miraculously managed to get out the necessary words despite that), we hold 50,000 words in our hands at midnight on this, the last night.  Some victors can hold a sheaf of papers above their heads and cry, “Lo!  I have a completed novel!”  Other winners can point proudly to their words and say, “I’ve got a pretty damn good start, with my 50,000!”  And still others triumphed word-wise and then quietly burned the results, too bad to even contemplate continuing that hot mess of a story.  This time I am a member of the second group:  50,269 words but the novel is only about a third of the way completed.

Without exception, however, we all verify our word count and then, upon seeing that beautiful purple winner’s bar, promptly collapse into a pile of whimpering, tears, exhaustion, and aching fingers.

I have a wrap-up post planned, an overall look at the NaNoWriMo experience, so I won’t gush here.  Here I shall just post my victory pages from my Chronicles notebook, because a girl needs to brag without any need for coherence.

Consider yourselves warned:  much of this is merely me squeeing in ecstasy at having finally crossed the finish line.  Less a pat on the back, more of me bragging and waving my metaphorical dick around because I’m a writing bad ass.

theend1

Because damn it, the official NaNoWriMo winner badges don’t tell me I’m awesome enough! More dancing! More bad ass-ery! More victory arms! AND MORE DANCING!

theend2

A slightly more coherent declaration of my win, also explaining the benefits of writing a few hundred extra words before midnight. And see what I did with the dashes there? Ha ha, I crack myself up.

And now a mini Q&A session to finish this off:

Did I write 50,000 words and thus ‘win’ NaNoWriMo?  Yes.

Is the novel actually finished?  No.

Do I still have a lot of work to do?  Hell Yes.


To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids

Re-blogged from a lovely woman who said it far more than my sputtering, frustrated self ever could.

Because if you hear the words “You’ll change your mind” enough times, your head actually explodes when someone gets that ‘oh, how cute, but I know better than you’ smirk just before they actually say the words. To women who choose to be mothers, I say thank you, because the world needs great, amazing women (and men!) raising amazing children. I wouldn’t be here without one of those great, amazing women after all. But the world also needs great, amazing people who recognize they don’t want to be parents BEFORE they become parents. Everyone finds fulfillment in different ways. For many women (and men), it’s raising children. For many of us, however, our focus is not (and never will be) in that area, and not getting the smirky, judgmental middle finger from the rest of the world for it would be nice. Ah, a girl can dream…

Thought Catalog

To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say: thank you.

You probably don’t hear it enough. In fact, you probably don’t hear it at all. What you do hear is an array of pro-childbearing responses, such as, “You’ll change your mind someday,” or, “Doesn’t your mother want grandkids?” or, “You’ll never find a husband if you never want to have kids.”

All things considered, “thank you” is probably on the opposite end of what you hear.

But seriously: thank you. Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn’t for you and being true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.

Thank you for not succumbing to the societal pressures. I’ve known far too many parents who had kids because that’s what was expected of them. Working in…

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NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Week Four (Part Two)

And lo, we’ve arrived at NaNoWriMo’s formidable Week Four (Part Two)!  Rejoice, my friends, for we’re almost at the finish line!  Soon the frazzled explosion of words will be over—not to mention these image-laden posts will finally come to the end.  (I suspect no one is heartbroken at the thought.)

week4k

45,000 words! So hard to believe I’m here, so close to 50k. So exciting to reach this point, the thrill is unbelievable when the counter flips over to 45k, and at this point you know you’re going to make it, even if you cross the line a stumbling, stuttering, wordless mess.

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And then of course something has to go a little bit wrong. This is in fact a major scene, although placing it where it needs to be (despite my original outline) wasn’t as big of a deal as my initial reaction implied.

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A few thoughts of the new depth I discovered in two other O’Shaughnessys: Anna (the main character’s mother) and Shannon (his younger brother). They truly surprised me in some ways, especially Anna. A great writing session, even if I was sitting there screaming at Anna to stop being a sympathetic human being.

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A list of those discovered depths in Anna’s character, because I was that shocked by her as I wrote.

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If you ask Jesse, he’d tell you he doesn’t have mommy or daddy issues. If you take one look at his life, you’d know he’s so fucked up he doesn’t even know he’s fucked up.

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Thanksgiving + writing is somewhat difficult, but that’s what wine is for.

week4q

I have all day to write before heading out for an important, long-awaited discussion, so what do I do? Not a damn thing, not until it’s almost time for me to walk out the door. I? Am a moron sometimes. Procrastination is great but only up to a point.

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Writing is greater than ALL THE THINGS. Consider “writerly panic” appropriately cued.

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Just a little bit of truth about Jesse Mother Fucking O’Shaughnessy.

And there, the end of Week Four!  The only thing left is the final day and yes, that mythical 50,000 words.


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