Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I don't know why I didn't just post last month that I was going on a blogging hiatus, but I guess I wasn't really sure then.  Life was way too busy and something had to give (and it's always the good stuff that ends up being sacrificed, right?).  I am such an all or nothing person and so when I thought to myself that I really didn't have time to blog, read blogs, Tweet, follow Twitter, and write (so sad), instead of just scaling back or picking one or two of those things to eliminate- I shut it all off like a faucet.  And I miss it (and all of you bloggies and twitterers), but I'm not ready to come back yet.  My husband talked me out of taking down my blog completely (I believe his words were "dramatic" and "extreme"), so I'll just put it out there- I am unfortunately and officially on hiatus.  If anyone out there in the world (other than my mother, sister, and mother-in-law) cares, fear not- I do intend to ramble on about books and writing again one day.  Hopefully I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just some things

Hello and welcome to the end of March- the month that brought 80 degree temperatures followed by a hard freeze (I love when the weather guy says that- makes me giggle), lots of basketball and St. Patrick's Day merriment, and my dog Boston pooping on the floor.  In sum, a pretty crazy month.

As usual, I have been found lacking on the blogging front, but I as I take a break in the midst of a long work day, I wanted to share a few random tidbits.
1.  I have been a voracious re-reader this month (which is hurting my 2012 book reading goal, but that can't be helped).  For whatever reason I have been seeking comfort in past loves rather than looking for new ones.  In the last two weeks alone I have re-read THE HUNGER GAMES (twice), CATCHING FIRE, and MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins, all five GALLAGHER GIRLS books by Ally Carter, SON OF NEPTUNE and THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan, GRACELING by Kristin Cashore, and BORN AT MIDNIGHT by C.C. Hunter.  You should have read all of those books already- they are wonderful.  Also, I am too lazy to link to all of those Goodreads profiles.
Bitterblue (The Seven Kingdoms, #3) 
2.  The book I am most anticipating this entire year is BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore and it's release is only a little over a month away.

3.  The lovely and talented Jenny S. Morris of Jenny's Imaginary World (my first critique partner) is staring a group blog (Falling for Fiction) with her critique group and it launches on April 1!  Read her blog post about it and make sure to look for it next week.  All of these ladies are amazing and I know it will be a funny stop with tons of useful information, motivation, and games (yay for games!).

4. Is anyone else just dying about the sheer amazingness of The Secret Circle (Thursdays at 9:00 on The CW)?  I mean, dying.

5.  The Hunger Games film was so wonderful that my eyes hurt from trying not to blink and miss something.  Opening night is always a gamble given my two pet peeves (and I mean serious pet peeves) of talking in the movie theater and clapping during or after movies, but those two things were thankfully held to a minimum.  I am SICK about the subsequent revelation of racist and disgusting tweets, posts, etc. about some of the casting and so I'll not even mention it except I just did so I'll also say, bigotry is an enemy of imagination, progress, and all things wonderful.

That's all my brain can handle for now.  XXOO.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Top O' the Hoppin' to Ya!

Are you O'Hoppin?  In honor of St. Patrick's Day, please join me in hopping around Mark Koopmans "Got Green?" Blog Hop.  The quest? Tell a tale o' the Irish in 333 words or less, or just share an Irish tale or memory.

Click here to go to Mark's blog and get the full list of participants so you can read everyone's entries!

My story will take readers back to the days of yore... err... last August, when I visited Ireland on a family vacation.  My husband and I traveled with my sister and brother-in-law before gathering with my parents and extended family for a wedding.  Many wonderful and amazing things occurred on that trip.  For example, we saw this:
Inis Oirr, the smallest of the three Aran Islands
And this:
Thomond Park, Limerick- The Munster Rugby Stadium
But we had our troubles.  My sister and her (now) husband caught the craziest flu that any of us has ever seen.  We stayed in one Bed &  Breakfast where the bathrooms were so small you couldn't turn around- if you wanted to use the toilet you had to back in through the doorway.  And then the Budget Rental Car Debacle of 2011.  Told through photos and quotes below.

Me: "It's eleven in the morning on a Tuesday.  Can they really be closed?"
Pilot Walking Through Airport:  "Hello!  Looking for your car?  He'll probably be asleep now won't he?  We'll have someone give him a call."
Us:  "..."

One Hour Later
Awakened Budget Employee:  "Your reservation was cancelled in the UK last week."
Me:  "I did not cancel the reservation and I do not know anyone in the UK, so certainly I did not instruct anyone there to cancel."
ABE: [yawns]
Me:  "What are my options, here?"
ABE: "Options?"
Me:  "Yes.  I still need a car.  What are my options.  Do you have another one we could rent?"
ABE: "No."
Me: [turning very red and taking very deep breaths]
ABE: "You could go to our office in Galway and see if there is a car there for you."
Me:  "Go back to Galway, where we just were before we took a taxi here to the airport to get our car that I reserved two months ago?"
ABE:  "Yes."

Two Hours Later
[We met some very nice people at the central Galway Budget office who got us a car and a nice discount.  We walked to the garage where the rental cars are housed and located our vehicle by going through four levels of garage and reading the license plates.]
Me:  "I don't understand.  You can't get the emergency brake off?"
Husband:  "You're not helping."
Brother-in-law:  "It's stuck or something."
Sister:  "Push the button and pull at the same time."
Brother-in-law:  "Yes I had thought of that.  It's stuck."
Me:  "Are you doing it right?"
Husband:  "Megan, you are still really not helping."

They do say driving abroad is difficult!  [We did get it eventually.]

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Happy "Go Green!" Blog O'Hop!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's your March Madness?

I know not everyone is a college basketball fan.  I don't know why, but I know some folks must get  jazzed up about other things in March.  This is my favorite sports-related event of the year (I am talking about the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for those of you who REALLY aren't college basketball fans), but here are some other things I'm excited about right now.
Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls, #5)1. The release of Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter.  This is happening  TODAY and I am heading to pick it up at the bookstore as soon as I finish watching the suddenly nail-biting Western Kentucky/ Mississippi Valley State game.  I can 92% guarantee that I'll read the whole thing tonight.  The Gallagher Girls are the best.
2. Being able to say "Beware the Ides of March" in two days, my favorite Shakespeare quote to toss out.  I have yet to say it to anyone (other than my mom, who says it too) who gets the reference.  I guess I need more cultured friends?  (To my friends- just kidding :)).

3. Spring weather!! Today was SEVENTY degrees.  Sunlight makes me so happy.

Tell me, what are you excited for this March?  If you are a b-ball fan, who are your final four teams?  Mine are Kentucky, Missouri, Florida State, Kansas.  Sadly my beloved BC team had a tough rebuilding year and are not dancing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

For the love of bookstores

Want to see something cool?  You can help build an amazing children's bookstore in Decatur, Georgia with children's book artist R.Gregory Christie.  This project was featured in a Publisher's Weekly story earlier this week.

You know what I love?  Bookstores.  When I saw this project on Kickstarter, I knew I wanted to be a supporter.  Check out the video and if you can, contribute a couple of dollars.  Doesn't it seem doable to find 1,000 people to donate $23 each?  $23 is such a reachable number and there are such a huge number of book lovers and bookstore lovers out there.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Where are you (re)writing?

I tried something completely new over the weekend- I took my computer down to my local library and set up shop. It didn't work out quite the way I had hoped.  My motive for the change of scenery was that while my writing space (my husband let me turn our office into a library/ writing lounge and it's awesome) works for writing, it hasn't been working for revisions.  I don't know why, but I'm not getting the same inspiration as when I create.  So, enter the scene with me at the library.  I had three free hours before I was heading to see The Lorax with my husband (more on that later), and thought even with travel and unpacking time, I would have a solid 2.5 hours of working on my novel (the excruciating change to first person on AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM).

Here's a little sample of how that went:
10:30:  Arrive at Stoneham Public Library
10:33:  Get caught in weird conversation with circulation desk worker about automatic doors that I can't seem to end
10:40:  Finally get to the upstairs carrels and pick one
10:41-10:50: Set up my stuff and get situated- coat off, scarf off, computer and note cards unpacked, phone silenced, note cards arranged on desk, computer plugged in and turned on
10:5:1  Realize outlet has no power and that battery only has half hour of juice left
10:52-11:00:  Repeat procedure at new carrel
11:01:  Open document
11:02:  Woman asks me where the new YA books are- get into a discussion about why the library needs a separate section for new YA books
11:15:  Get back to document
12:00:  Realize I spent 45 minutes on the prologue, which really didn't need work, and I changed about three words and one comma
Aaaand the experience went downhill from there.  I am still adrift on my revisions and would love to know where other people write and if that same space works for revisions or editing.

Oh, and PS- see The Lorax; it's amazing!  My husband was embarrassed because I cried.  I'm not made out of stone!

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Annual National Critique Partner Appreciation Day

Hey- have you heard about the new holiday coming up this Friday March 2?  No?  That's because I've just invented it.  It's National Critique Partner Appreciation Day!  So send your CPs lots of encouragement, love, and lavish gifts. 
Today I received a package in the mail with a completely unexpected present from my mother-in-law and a card saying she decided to create National Daughter-In-Law Appreciation Day.  LOVED it!  In honor of her awesomeness, I decided to pass it on.
Soo, spread the word and let me know what you decide to gift to your Critique Partner this Friday.  I would have created a logo, but I'm not very artistic even with a computer.  If anyone does create one, send me a link.
Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A rut, seriously dirty glasses, late love scenes, and general procrastination

Well, piss!  I have been terribly negligent in my blogging duties and I have no real excuse except that I've been in a rut.  A funk.  A dithering blue period of lazy.  I have not been working on my revisions, I haven't been tweeting or blogging, and I have definately not been going to the gym or clearing our streets of crime.  But my friends, President's Day is upon is and this is as good a time as any to snap myself right on out of this rut.  Hence: this post, which will be an assortment of odds and ends, but beggars can't be choosers and all that.

First:  My husband took this relatively disturbing photo the other day when I asked him to grab my glasses for me.  To be fair, I only wear my glasses once and a while (I usually wear contacts), but still- this is really, really disgusting.  He was laughing so hard I thought he would pass out.  Yes, they are dirty and I don't know how I could see. 

Second:  Recently it was Valentine's Day (hopefully you can cast your memory back to last week and remember) and many lovely people hosted blog hops and contests relating to love scenes or romantic short stories.  I, unfortunately, was in the rut mentioned above and did not participate, so here is my very late contribution.  This is a scene from AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM that occurs relatively late in the novel and is still from the third person perspective as I'm only on chapter 3 (kill me now) of my revisions.
A soft knock on her door sent her sprinting out of the bathroom back into her bedroom.  She had nearly reached the door when it opened silently.  Eiden stepped through the door and shut it behind him.  They stood a few feet apart and Ava just stared at him, studying the perfection.  He smiled, a shyer look than Ava had ever seen from him.  “Hello, Love,” he said.  Ava forgot to breathe.  Her heart stopped beating every time he said that word.  Her body was alive with electricity.  Tingles were pulsating out from her center.  “We must talk,” Eiden said.
“Later,” she said.  And she moved towards him with warrior speed.  He picked her up and she wrapped her legs around him as their lips met.  He was strong enough to only need one arm to support her, the other was tangled in her hair.  Their first kisses were urgent and greedy; all Ava could think was that she needed to be closer to him.  She crushed herself against his chest and clutched him tighter with her arms.  Her entire body felt like it was on fire from the heat of Eiden’s kisses.  He lifted her off him and turned her, so she was standing with her back against the wall.  He looked at her with such intense passion that Ava was afraid her clothes would burst into flame.  He kissed her slowly as he held her face, brushing his thumb along her cheekbone.
Too soon, he stopped and stared at her again.  He smiled, not shy this time, but with a radiance that showed his dimples.  Ava melted.  “I have to leave, Ava.  I wish I did not, but I should not be in here.  I just had to- well, I needed to see you.”
Ava took his hand and kissed his palm slowly.  “I love you, Eiden,” she said softly. 
            Eiden closed his eyes.  “I have been waiting a lifetime to hear you say that,” he whispered.

Finally:  I did work on some revisions today (finally) although I certainly ran through every possible form of procrastination first.  One was going through 900 photos from my sister's wedding and ordering prints.  Here's me making my toast and looking kind of crazy.
And, that's all I've got today.  Hope everyone has a great week!  Oh- I lied!  I have one more thing, a huge THANK YOU to both Rena and Jenny for the awards.  You guys are the best. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Prologues and Patriots

While watching (no joke) five hours of Super Bowl pregame coverage today, I have been catching up on blog posts and read this one on prologues from David Powers King.  I liked his take on it- he likes good prologues and raises a great point about many first chapters really being long prologues in disguise.  I am interested in this because AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM has a prologue and I love it.  I would have an incredibly difficult time cutting it if ever asked to and I think it makes the story so much stronger.  It's not an infodump and it allows me to introduce a really integral background feature, a fairytale written by Ava' grandpa.

And since my game is getting close and I have no time to compose a brilliant, thoughtful, deep, and effortlessly witty post, I am just going to share my prologue.  I hope you find it intriguing.  GO PATS!!

Arthur Knight read the same very short story to his daughter nearly every night until she was twelve.  Although they both had long committed the words to memory, he always read straight from the pages.  The handwritten prose and drawings were done in his father’s hand and to see them brought on a thousand different memories that Arthur hoped never to forget.  His father had not lived to see his granddaughter but she had grown to love him through this story. 
Arthur found the grey cloth-bound book in a box of his father’s things just before his daughter’s first birthday.  He had not recognized the tiny book, he was certain he had not seen it before, but the identity of the author was immediately clear.  The back of title page was inscribed “For A” in his father’s distinct handwriting and Arthur imagined his father had written it for him, but for one reason or another had never gotten around to sharing it.  His daughter Ava listened to the familiar story and imagined that her grandfather had somehow written it for her.
The Warrior Princess
Long enough ago that time has lost the names of places and folk,
a Kingdom sat high on a mountain before a valley.
Peace had come easily to the Kingdom and lasted long enough
to make the King complacent and forgetful.
Many years earlier, when he was a young Prince,
the King had offended the ruler of a neighboring land.
That ruler had a long memory and he waited,
biding his time for the day he would seek his revenge.
In the passing years, the King had six sons
on whom he doted, making them fat and lazy.
His youngest child was a daughter, but the King had little use for girls,
and the Princess was left to herself.
Unlike her brothers, the Princess thirsted for knowledge
and could never sit idle.
She spent her days learning the long history of her Kingdom
and playing with the palace guards.
When at last the offended neighbor attacked,
war found the Kingdom unprepared.
With no strong leader to rally them,
the palace guard were quickly outmatched.
High in a tower, the King and his sons
looked down upon the slain guards and prayed for salvation.
The people of the Kingdom ran from their burning homes
to the palace crying, “Who will help us?”.
Far below the tower where her father and brothers hid,
 the Princess stood alone holding a sword.
She was very afraid of the invading force,
but she was more frightened of having her people enslaved.
In her strongest voice, which was still quite small,
the Princess proclaimed, “I will”.
Her bravery called to the long ago gods of her people
and they imbued her with their power.
And lo down the mountain she ran, bathed in a fierce violet light,
and headed into battle.
When she reached the valley the enemy lay slain
and her people were free.

So, what do you think about prologues?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Call me unsophisticated, but I LIKE happy endings!

When did stories that end happily become the literary (or cinematic) equivalent of drinking wine from a box?

I really love stories; I am in awe of great storytellers, regardless of the medium, and I respect a storyteller's right to have that story take whatever direction suits his or her fancy.  I count many stories that end sadly among my favorites, but to be perfectly clear, I completely prefer happy endings.  I like the couple to get together, the sick person to recover, the goal to be reached.  Good stories can and do end this way.  So, why is it that stories that don't end in sadness, heartbreak, or confusion (as in "wait, what just happened?") are often dismissed as commercial (although I still don't totally understand what is wrong with appealing to consumers) or worse, as unrealistic?  Nice things DO happen you know.

Here is an example:  I was lucky enough to be able to see an incredible film that just played at Sundance at a special screening (I won't spoil the film in any way by naming it).  Afterwards there was a Q&A session with one of the writers and the director.  An audience member asked if any drafts of the screenplay had the lead characters ending up together and the writer explained that no, the ending was the first scene written and it never changed.  He said he and his co-writer felt that this ending was more realistic.  The other people in the theater loudly applauded.  I was so confused- why were they applauding?  Yes, this was the best ending for these writers, but why were people applauding that the sad ending was more realistic?  The crowd was an artsy one and I could feel the judgment oozing out of our neighbors as my sister and I discussed that we liked the film but still wished the ending had been a happier one (and you should have seen the sneers that question-asker was getting- brutal!).

I don't think all films or all books should have feel-good endings, but I also don't see why stories that end nicely attract so much automatic derision as if they could never be as good as their gloomy counterparts.  Readers, what do you think?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This is so hard

Changing the perspective of my novel from third to first-person POV is so incredibly difficult.  I knew it would be more than a "find and replace" of all "her"s with "I"s, but I had no idea that every single sentence would need a complete rewrite.  I am feeling a bit deflated. 
But, I know in the end it will make AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM so much better.  I'll keep repeating that.  And chugging Diet Coke.
In the meantime, I am incapable of thinking of anything to post about today so here are the one-sentence reviews for some of the most recent books I've read.  They were all fabulous and I recommend them highly.  (I remain a staunch over-recommender; it's a fault of which I'm well aware.)

The Fault in Our Stars   by John Green
Not one, but two boxes of tissues were necessary to mop up my tears.

Across the Universe   by Beth Revis
Beth Revis makes great use of alternating perspectives and excellent writing to give an almost contemporary feel to this science fiction journey.

Howl's Moving Castle   by Diana Wynne Jones
The word that best describes my mood upon finishing Howl's Moving Castle is blissful- the tone of the story reminds me of the fairytale books I loved most as a child, filled with whimsy, humor, intrigue, and misunderstandings.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns    by Rae Carson
Gorgeous description and a heroine who learns her strength along the way make this beautiful novel unforgettable.

Shatter Me   by Tahereh Mafi
I am insanely jealous of Ms. Mafi's writing- the utter gorgeousness of this book defies description.

Has anyone else ever changed POV after the fact?  How did it go for you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two hours of sobbing that were well worth it

First- I have been interviewed (I know! I feel so fancy!) by my truly lovely Critique Partner Jenny S. Morris.  Please check out the interview on her blog and stay a while to read some of Jenny's great writing. 

The title of this post refers to the actual TWO HOURS I spent in bed last night bawling while reading the beautiful THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.   It was so great that I don't have adequate words to express it yet, but I had to put something out in the universe about how amazing it is.  I have enjoyed all of John Green's books and while this is the least quirky, it is also the first one in a girl's POV and so maybe this made me feel closer to the story somehow.  Perhaps someday soon I will have something much more coherent and important to say, but for now- loved it.  Below is the summary from Goodreads:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Has anyone else read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS yet?  Did you love it?  More importantly, did you cry your eyes right out?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

One From the Vaults

You know, I never think of myself as a weird kid, but I am having to reconsider that classification.  My mom and dad are selling the house I grew up in and so we've spent the past few weekends clearing it out.  I found boxes of stories that I wrote between second and seventh grade.  As everyone else painted and scrubbed, I sat and sifted through my childhood and laughed so hard that I was crying hysterical can't-breathe tears.  Here is a fun example from second grade:

If I Were a Turkey by Megan Dolan (age 7)
Once upon a time there was a turkey and her name was Nicole.  There was another turkey.  Her name was Megan.  She was very nice and I mean nice.  But one day she heard a gunshot.  Nicole was dead.  My little sister turkey said, "I am scared."  I wanted to say shut-up but I didn't.  She was crying.  The End.

In addition to the sudden switch from third-person to first-person POV (an egregious error) this story seems to show that I had it in for someone named Nicole.  There was no one named Nicole in my class so I'm not sure who that bullet was meant for, but I am surprised my teacher chose only to give me a "Good Job!" accompanied by a smiley face.

In addition to huge amounts of literary gold from young Megan Dolan, great books I read over the past two weeks include LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Dianna Wynne Jones, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, and THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson.  Of course I have already made my thoughts on the amazing SHATTER ME clear.  See this post. I love good books, don't you?  Anyone have some early writing they'd like to share? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- The Writing Retreat of My Dreams

This week the mission from YA Highway was to describe the ultimate writing retreat- where I would go, what I would bring, who would come with me, etc. I love this assignment! It would be a DREAM to take a week, a month, or three months to do nothing but write (and drink Diet Coke and read good books).

So, here is my answer:
Front Courtyard
I would rent a cottage in the French countryside (France won out over Scotland for weather reasons only).  The cottage would have a huge bathtub and a lot of hot water.
I would bring brand new writing supplies (this is a dream, right?)- new desktop Mac (I like them better than laptops), big whiteboards and corkboards, lots of colored index cards.  I would have an endless supply of American Diet Cokes (I learned the hard way last summer that Diet Coke is not the same in Europe) in cans as well as someone who would do the grocery shopping for me.  If I was there for more than two weeks, I would have periodic visits from my husband and dogs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Is it too early to start the best of 2012 list?

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

Because I just read SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi and oh WOW [takes cold shower].  This book is incredible.  Ms. Mafi weaves an amazing story- I dare you to not read this in one sitting- while employing the most gorgeous language and writing style.  Her slightly unorthodox style grabbed me right from the beginning and lines like this one made me catch my breath:

"His voice hugs the letters in my name so softly I die 5 times in that second."

I mean.... wow.  You must read this book!  Here is the summary from Goodreads:

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Did you catch that this is a DEBUT novel?  I am agog. I am awed. I am impressed. I hope some of her brilliance rubs off on me! 

Have you read SHATTER ME already? Did you have a similar reaction (i.e. instant love)?