Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Weekly Progress Report (a new feature of this blog)

I must apologize to anyone still paying attention to me and my blog. I have not been able to make it back to your blogs in the manner that I am accustomed and feel is your due. This hurts my heart. I am missing you all but I have a million living things IRL that are calling for my attention.

My excuse is my urban farm. Do you want to see a picture?

Picture Goes Here 
(true to form I couldn't get my hubby's camera to save the picture or email it to myself so, as per usual, I have nothing to show for it. Like my book, the garden is a total mess. Take my word for it.)

Here is an illustration of some of the urban livestock experiencing life as we know it.

But come to The Practice Room and you get tons of attention from me (and a bunch of other cool folks!!!). It seems to be a system working for everyone (who comes that is. I am a firm believer that not all processes are created equal! So this is a plug for those that have been on the fence!). Find the schedule and The Practice Room space through the door to the right.

Now to the Report!
About The book (FYI):
Heather(my MC, I knew her way before I met the illustrious Heather Kelly) is homeless, as well as hopeless. That is why she and her mother and brother are staying at St. Jude Shelter for Hopeless Causes. And although, Jude, the shelter's director, is not the saint the shelter was named after, he is the next best thing, because he hands out dollar bills and candybars. But what do all the messages really mean? Can Heather learn what she needs to know in order to save her family from Jude's influence and find something to hope for?

Donald Maass' question: If I stopped writing this novel right now, why would it matter?

And the correct answer cannot be:
Because then I would have wasted all this time fussing with it for the past 3 years of my life(and then some), not only writing the damn thing but also telling every one that I know that I'm doing so.

But of course that is the first thing that flew into my head. Unbidden. Unwanted. Lordy!

And so I am questioning everything, like is it time to put it aside. Am I just not passionate enough? Are my ideas stupid, too complicated or a fatal combination of the two?

But, here are the things that I love about the book:
1. The hair: messages sent via hair-do. It is a quirk of my protagonist that I didn't see coming and decided to go with. Along with the hair comes a myriad of magic as ephemeral as faith.
2. The lessons Heather learns. They are important and worthy and ones that everyone needs to know. Including myself.
3. Much of the book is true, well-written and profound. There are things about homelessness and growing up that everyone even with a home and full grown can understand.  And should understand.

I know that I have to throw myself at it full force. I know that there is no looking back. And that this is a crisis of faith. It is not the book itself that I question, but myself. The book is great. It is the person writing it that is faulty. Oh, it is now that I need the muse in the corner (Dena, is that you?). As god is my witness, I will belt this thing out.

Do I have to write it? I think I am past that point. At this point it is all craft and craziness. I alternate between the two.

So what's your answer to Donald Maass' question?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

WG, WG and Love

Mademoiselle M.(I introduced my favorite book recommend-er here) told me that both Will Graysons were whiny. She was right, as usual! They are.  But it didn’t bother me one bit. In fact I loved the book more for the Will Grayson whiny-ness. And I love MM more for saying it.

So if you don’t know Will Grayson, I will take a moment to explain it to you. Written in alternating chapters by the great John Green and a lesser known man to me, but one I have come to love, Levithan (his character was my darling when he collaborated Rachel Cohen on Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist).  John Green’s Will Grayson is the straight best friend of the very big, in all ways except in a name, Tiny Cooper and Levithan’s undercase Will Grayson is terribly whiny, gay, and as of yet, unknown to them.

But like I said it made me love my MM more. She is the kind of friend that never would have abominable second guessings of friendship as the properly grammarizing Will Grayson did of his with the fabulous Tiny. My MM does not tread lightly nor feel sorry for herself. In the world, MM blasts full force with purpose and intentions, unlike the Will Grasons. Thank goodness because it is soon to change our world for the better.

If you want to make brilliant characters you should study how the wonderful pair of Levithan and JG created Tiny Cooper, unlike the straight WG, I was pretty sure I would love to have him as my friend. I’m pretty sure I would have stopped reading the book with out him. Maybe I should adjust the above statement. If you are interested in making characters that I love, you should study the building of Tiny Cooper. Because I really loved him. I couldn’t help thinking of Jonathon as I read this. And not because he was so much like him (In J’s own words, he doesn’t relate to Tiny at all) but because he had recommended Will Grayson, Will Grayson so highly, and because the things that I love about Tiny are the same things I love about J (exuberance, love, and honesty)!

And to contradict what J is saying right now about WG,WG at his blog, the book is a regular love fest. Boy on boy love. Boy on girl love. Friend on friend love. Mother on son love. Father on son. Platonic love. Romantic love. Gay love. Straight love. Gay loving straights. Straights loving gays. Me loving the book. It is extremely representative, although no, I do not think inappropriate(I might have made it sound otherwise but it is just hype).

Also, the collaboration of this book made me love both authors more(and I couldn't help but think of J). I had half expected a book where two halves were mushed together. Loosely connected stories that sold books with names but not effort. But I was wrong. The characters played off each other beautifully and the authors let the story unfold, using each others' chapters to reveal more. It was a beauty of a collaboration that I had to return to the library, so I do not have evidence to back me up. Just take my words for it.

And everything I learned of collaborating, I have learned from J and H. I would love to take a Tiny Cooper moment here to sing their praises. Like Tiny Cooper, my girl Mademoiselle M. they blast full fource with purpose and intention and you must love and admire that. I do. How can I do it more authentically show it than with The Sound of Music? The Alps, Julie Andrews, and this video does it all, but you only have to watch a little of the following clip to get the full effect.

I appreciate you, Jonathon Arntson and Heather Kelly! Let's do something like Will Grayson, Will Grayson someday. Maybe with less whining.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet a great title of a piece by Douglas Adams written in 1999 (The title is right up there with Miranda July's art project-Learning to Love You More). Do you remember who Douglas Adams is? The guy who wrote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Here is Wikipedia's version of him.

I am cutting and pasting a quote from the above book right here because I loved it so much. I found it through Where else do I find anything? Jason Kottke has some very fine things to say about this "evergreen piece of wisdom" himself, but he keeps it at a minimum (I so admire him). So read it if you want. Or just read the quote here:

So people complain that there's a lot of rubbish online, or that it's dominated by Americans, or that you can't necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can't 'trust' what people tell you on the web anymore than you can 'trust' what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can't easily answer back -- like newspapers, television or granite. Hence 'carved in stone.' What should concern us is not that we can't take what we read on the internet on trust -- of course you can't, it's just people talking -- but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV -- a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no 'them' out there. It's just an awful lot of 'us'.

I do so love that last line. Because it is so true. There is an awful lot of US here, blabbering and communing. If you want to find me, I'll be at WIBIJ tomorrow (Wednesday). It is game day (starting time 1pm Eastern). We will be doing a lot of the aforementioned blabbering and communing(and glittering--not mentioned) as WIBIJ is my version of a megaphone (we hand them out at the tent, come use yours too). And there will be another book to give away. We don't know for whom or for what and even when, we are just trusting that we will when we see it. I do hope you will join US!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Will WIBIJ Do?

Can you folks help me figure something out? We are considering signing up WIBIJ as a Amazon Affiliate. Things that are attractive about this: We will be able to continue to give our readers books as fodder for playing. Continue to support the lovely authors that provide stops for our games. And make it easy for you to buy the books that we feature. We would love for our game to continue to provide books as winnings.  And if you love our game it seems like a win-win way to support it.

The second consideration to that is the three of us care deeply for our local independent book stores. But as we live in different parts of the world from each other, our common denominator is WIBIJ and other sorts of Internet commonalities. Therefore, Amazon is a little bit local, all things considered.

So I went hunting for information and here are some of the things that I found.

I had heard of Indiebound but had not really known that it had it's own affiliateness. I like that there are options out there for folks who would rather shop independent. Here is my local independent bookstore on Indiebound. Here is a blog that describes a shopping experience with Indiebound vs. Amazon. 

Seemed like a great option, but I did wonder, would it really provide as much commission as Amazon? Because of the familiarity, ease of it's online model and recognition, my guess was that most people would quickly click through to buy a book from Amazon but hesitate before they did the same at Indiebound. With further googling I found this post of a Twitter conversation that seems to indicate just that. Blogger affiliates make money (enough to buy the books to give away on their blog and pay postage) with Amazon but not Indiebound, at least according to this convo.

So after my google forays for information, here is my idea for what wibij should do:

Become affiliates to both Indiebound and Amazon. Link books to both sites, listing the Indiebound link first. State clearly on the blog that we are both Indiebound and Amazon affiliate, we want to support local independent book sellers, but we also care that our blog game participants, readers and general cheerers-on keep coming back for more of the good stuff we provide, as such we provide options for their ease or philosophy as the case may be. And each purchase made through said links will go to support the game, our awards, and any other fees we may incur over the making of our game.

The reason I post my thought process here is not only to make it transparent, but also to enlist your help. I would love your thoughts on this matter. What have I naively left out? Do you have your own sage advice? What would you, lovely blogger, do?

UPDATE: more linkage: wordpress explanations

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Read About Me: at Jon's request

I was tagged in a Meme by Jon. The answers are short, but sweet I think. And for sure there is something Jon does not yet know about me.
Where were you five years ago?

1.) not writing
2.) not doing yoga
3.) sad
4.) worried
5.) fat

Where would you like to be five years from now?

1.) here but with more confidence
2.) at a Unpluggage Convention Writer's Retreat (in person) of our own design
3.) working on my fourth novel
4.) agented
5.) edited

What is on your to-do list today?

1.) the recap
2.) dinner
3.) fold the laundry
4.) dishes
The Practice Room at 11pm EASTERN (be there or be square)

What five snacks to you enjoy?

1.) popcorn (popped in oil with nutritional yeast and salt OR truffle salt)
2.) wine (it IS totally a snack! and if you serve it with popcorn it can be dinner as well)
3.) pizza
4.) pizza
5.) pizza

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
(...and not necessarily in this order)

1.) buy books for every single round of wibij
2.) airline tickets
3.) conferences
buy new pants
5.) pay for you all to go to above conference(practice room folk and those of you that as of yet have not tried it---you know who you are)

Now it's time I 'tag' 5 more people!!!
And I am not up for it! 

No tagging for me. 

Although there are bunches and bunches of you I'd like to know more about.

Off the top of my head, I already read Marisa's and Dena's, Jon's, I will get to read Heather's and Kris's and Anita's and Kelly's and Casey's. I'd love to read Laura, and Paul G. and The Rejectionist's lists. Elana. What about Tracy and PMM and MG who has not been around? Becka, my sister. My other sisters without blogs. How about those folks that play wibij, Jeff and Crystal, and Sarah and Sheri? And a whole bunches of other new folk. See there is no way to limit this list.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spreading the Awesome to Swati Avasthi

If you have found me on this round-robin brilliance of Elana Johnson than you have arrived from author Dawn Metcalf's striking blog where she hugged  A.S. King (Dust of 100 Dogs).

Now you arrived here:

I am hugging Swati Avashti and her new book SPLIT!

First: her son and my son played soccer together a couple of years ago and our daughters ran up and down the sidelines while we sat on the grass and talked shop. That is where I first met her. Since I have discovered many connections between us and she can write a book in half the time I can! But she is generous and supportive to me and everyone she encounters. For example: I saw her this weekend at The Loft's Children's and Young Adult Literature Conference, even at lunch she was wisdom and lessons and I saw her lean in and give my table-mate some tips. It made me want to abandon my roast beef for a pen. She is smart about a lot of things, but especially voice. Her book is evidence of these skills--here we go:

I highly recommend this book because:
1) This main character has just done the unthinkable and stood up to his abusive father, but there is something else. Jace is hiding something that only his ex-girlfriend knows. It is tearing him apart. Swati has made Jace compellingly vulnerable for someone so tough. You will care about this kid, despite his complications.

2. Swati's spare and uncomplicated narrative drives you into the book. There is a lot at stake for Jace our main character and you won't want to stop until you find out what happens to him. Swati pulls no punches, this is a story about the cycle of abuse and Jace teeters the edge of control and self-loathing.

3. At the conference this weekend, the subject of boy books came up--I am sure more than once, but when I was there the argument was made that this whole concern of boy's not reading books is in some respects the industries-self fulfilling prophecy. So I say: Read "boy" books in order to buzz them. Debunk that myth that there are no good boy books out there. This book fits the bill, the stereotype of boy book with high interest, intense plot. But not only does it fit that stereotype, it also confounds it with authentic emotional content that will have you reeling because of its complicated truthfulness.

Go check her out.

Teenreads review of Split.
Here's an interview with Swati.
Here's Swati's website.

And last but not least, the link to Elana's recommended reads page.

Continue your tour of Awesomeness with the fabulous Bethany Wiggins hugging author Lindsey Leavitt (Princess for Hire)!