Archive for August, 2009

No, I’m not dead!

Simply maimed.  Or my laptop is, at least.  My shiny, 17″ HP g60-230US has… died on me.  After seven months of ownership.  My hard drive is completely fried, and I am… sad.

Thankfully almost all of my writing is safe.  The laptop was backed up until the beginning of July, and I have a habit (thankfully!) of emailing myself or close friends bits of my manuscript, or the whole thing, as I go along.

And HP is being nice and sending me a new hard drive, since this one is still considerably under warranty, but still I am, understandably frustrated.  My brand new Samsung camera started malfunctioning a few weeks ago, and now my laptop is dead!

In short, technology hates me and/or is doing its best to try my patience.  Hello, library computer.  I’m glad you’re here, at least!

So yes, until I get my new hard drive and get everything fixed up nicely, updates here will be rare.  I’ll be updating The Hollow Tree, though, so look there—coming this week, Cyn Balog’s Fairy Tale and a Myths & Legends 101 on Banshees!

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Fun Book Meme!

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1) What author do you own the most books by?

Easily (if not slightly embarrassingly) Melinda Metz, someone I’m sure very few of you have even heard of. I have all ten Roswell High books (that would be the series the WB show was based off of), plus doubles of at least four of them, and all seven of the Fingerprints novels, her second and vastly better YA book series.  If it were coming out now it’d probably be a hit, but it was sadly before it’s time.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?

I really only have doubles of anything… Little Women, Little Men, and Jane Eyre, definitely. At one point I had something like four copies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I’m pretty sure I gave at least two of those away.

3) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Secretly? That strikes out quite a few, doesn’t it? Um… Anthony Fascinelli, from the aforementioned Fingerprints series. Expressively so. And then Dicken, from The Secret Garden, and probably Finn from The Books of Bayern, by Shannon Hale.  Not so secretly – Mr. Rochester, Darcy, Gilbert Blythe, Captain Wentworth, Rhett Butler, and Ron Weasley.  What?

4) What book have you read more than any other?

Jane Eyre. That book is like breathing clean air for me. I reread books a lot, but Jane Eyre takes the cake there.  As you can see on my sidebar, I’m rereading it now. 🙂

5) What was your favorite book when you were 10-years-old?

The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. Frances Hodgson Burnett pretty much owned me at that age!

6) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

Probably I’d have to say The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum. But most of the books I’ve been reading this past year have been rereads of favorites or ones I’d been waiting some time for, so it didn’t have much of a chance.

7) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Like I said, almost half of the books I’ve read this past year have been rereads. But of new books? Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull. I really cannot speak highly enough of this series. It’s the best high fantasy series of the “talking dragons and fairies” that I’ve ever read. Really. Not that I read a lot of them, because I have trouble taking them seriously. This has never been a problem with Fablehaven.

8 ) If you could tell everyone you know to read one book, what would it be?

I’m going to be predictable here and say I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg. It is just so much about triumph, and basically a true story. Fictionalized autobiography. One of the few books that I’ve ever read that literally makes me feel like a better person for having read it.

9) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

Most difficult… possible Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  I simply don’t care for books that are more about ideas than people.  There have been a few others of similar cases in my college career, but the others are all fairly obscure, so I don’t actually remember their titles.

10) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

The Russians. I love reading Russian literature. Dostoevsky, Lermontov, Pushkin? Yes, please. I should read more French, though.  I’m not half as familiar with them.

11) Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?

That is not an effective question. It’s like asking whether you prefer water or oxygen—not in the life-or-death view of it, but in the fact that they’re three things that are essentially huge in the English language, and you can’t just pick between them, because they’re really not that similar. Milton is like… reading genius. You just know that he was one of the smartest men to have ever lived. Chaucer is similar, but I get bored with the bawdiness of it. I do not get bored of reading Middle English, though. The best thing to do with any of these authors is to just read them aloud, until you understand them. But on a day-to-day basis? Shakespeare, of course. There’s so much variety in his works, and just so many amazing characters.

12) Austen or Eliot?

Oh Austen, easily. But then I did read every single word of Middlemarch (which is almost the length of all six Austen novels combined) and was surprised at how much I loved it. Consequently, I’m surprised this question isn’t Austen or Brontë! That’s what you see most often, and it’s pretty unfair, considering how different the works are. Eliot is much closer to Austen’s feel, definitely.

13) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

Oh almost anything contemporary that isn’t YA. I’m pretty awful in that I’m either stuck in the past or stuck in high school. Nonfiction, too. I almost never read nonfiction, though I think maybe I’m almost to the point where I’ll start seeking it out.

14) What is your favorite novel?

Jane Eyre, or Persuasion. Or possibly Little Women. But I haven’t read that last in ages, (it’s next in line to read after Jane Eyre!) so I’m interested in seeing how my view of it might have changed?

15) Play?

Oh… I’m going to cheat here and say The Oresteia. Which is actually three plays. But almost any Greek tragedy. I love Antigone, and Prometheus Bound, and just all of it. The Oresteia is just overwhelming, though.  Clytemnestra is just terrifying and awesome and somehow still sympathetic, and Orestes is just trying so hard to be good! I have a flair for the dramatic, what?

16) Poem?

Oh impossible to pick just one. Emily Dickinson—oh just pick one, they’re all brilliant, and I really don’t want to point you to an overly-familiar one just because it’s the one I can remember off the top of my head. That woman was just so smart. And if you think she’s depressing you’ve probably only read the four poems they assign in high school lit, and you should really read more. She is just impeccably smart. I love Sharon Olds, too, though, and one that comes to mind is from Billy Collins—”Marginalia” is sweet, and just a perfect poem.

I didn’t really mean for both of those links to refer back to Emily Dickinson, but it’s just as well that they do. Don’t get distracted by the seemingly random capitalization and punctuation… focus on the words. She knew her words better than anyone else I have ever seen. There are so many gorgeous poets, though. Whitman, Elizabeth Barret Browning. Longfellow, my old favorite. Poetry is kind of a secret passion with me, one I forget about and then it flares up in sudden, unstoppable waves.

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Very quickly here, a meme


You Are Realistic Fiction


You are an outgoing person and very interested in others. You have many relationships that are important to you.

You are always willing to lend an ear to a friend with a problem. And you’re even pretty good at giving advice!

Some may accuse you of loving drama, but you just seem to find yourself in the middle of it.

You are a true people person. You find the lives of others to be fascinating. You’re up for hearing anyone’s life story.

What Kind of Book Are You?
I think most of my friends got Science Fiction on this, but I’ll admit this probably hits my mark pretty well.  Especially that last bit.  I love listening to someone tell a good story. 😉

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Step into the Hollow Tree…

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My friend Isabelle Santiago and I have been thinking for a long time about a big gap in the blogosphere—a centralized location for people to discuss, theorize, and basically REVEL in the wonderful and ever-expanding world that is Young Adult Fantasy.

We finally decided to just go ahead and create it ourselves, but then she had to finish edits for an ebook she had sold, and then I’ve been traveling and moving the past year, and she had a baby, so the plan got put on hold for a bit. But we’ve both finally gotten to the point in our lives where we can really invest in this, and so we’re going ahead and doing it. And we are SO excited!

We will be posting on a daily schedule M-F, including book reviews, books we’re looking forward to, the translation from the page to the silver screen, and even a section called Mythology 101, where we’ll have mini lessons on some of the fantastic stories and legends that have been enthralling the human mind for thousands of years! Hopefully in the future we will also be including author chats, interviews and giveaways!

Oh, and before I forget, Isabelle and I will also be offering mini free reads twice monthly, to keep those creative juices alive. 😉

The blog is called Tales from the Hollow Tree, and there’s an introductory post up right now, so go have a look!

We’ll be dealing with almost anything that can constitute as Young Adult Fantasy, from paranormal to urban to high fantasy. We’ll probably dip into children’s fantasy once in a while, too—so long as it’s really, really good. We’re really hoping that this will be a blog where readers feel comfortable to interact, too, to tell us what YOU want to see forthcoming.

So come slip into The Hollow Tree! We’re looking forward to meeting you, and you never know what you might find. 😉

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Organic Pop-Tarts, etc.

This:

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is what I’m eating right now.  For dinner.  More specifically, I’m eating the Brown Sugar/Maple Syrup variety, but the CherryPom is waiting to be tried as well.  This is sort of how my new life in Utah is going at the moment.  Not that I’m so poor that I can only buy pop-tarts (though that’s close-ish to the truth) but my life here seems to constitute of simpler things, including simpler meals.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to die of scurvy or starvation.  At least I don’t think.

It’s very odd to go from nearly a year of traveling and working around the clock to suddenly having an open schedule in a small, slow-paced town in northern Utah.  I have doubled the size of my manuscript in the two weeks I’ve been here.  Okay, really all that means is that I’ve gone from 4000 something words to 8000 something, but still.  And I’m currently finishing about a chapter a week.  I’m decided to keep this pace up.   I’m also looking into a short-story submission Isabelle Santiago has made me aware of, which I am certainly interested in.  Stick around and we just might have some announcements about some other things, too.   😉

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Book catch-up!

I’m way behind in chonicling my books, and I’m not going to be giving a full review for all twelve that I’ve missed thus far, but I’ll certainly tell you about a couple of them.

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

I really wanted to like this—I loved The Looking Glass Wars, and Beddor’s spin on the hows and whys Charles Dodgson was “wrong” about what Wonderland is really like.  The sequel though… I just didn’t enjoy it.  Beddor seems all-too taken with his own villains, and he enjoyed writing their scenes much more than I enjoyed reading them.  I found them to be a fairly sickening bunch, not even the type that are particularly enjoyable to hate, just plain vile.  They also seemed to occupy more than half of the novel, so the glimpses of the heroes that I really did enjoy… well they were still wonderful, but just not enough to counteract the bad taste the baddies were constantly leaving in my mouth.

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black

Another disappointment.  I really didn’t know what to expect going into this novel—I came by the series at a big discount sale and decided to try it, and while it was a fairly quick read… I just didn’t enjoy it much.  The faerie world was evocative and somewhat seducing, but the human world the main character was a part of… well that seemed almost as much fantasy as the other.  Her human friends came off as bad caricatures of 90s punks, and while I know that kids can be pretty hard-boiled about some things, I just didn’t buy it.  Also there are just some things played into here that do not appeal to me.  One of the main characters is obviously on a path towards… well, something that I don’t particularly care to see.  I may finish the series, since I already bought it, but it doesn’t come highly recommended from me.

Emma by Jane Austen

I’ve already mentioned that this one was a struggle for me this go around.  I don’t think it’s the book’s fault, I’m just not in a place in my life at the moment to have much patience with Miss Woodhouse.  Which is odd, because before reading this, I would have told you that it was (because it really is) one of my favorite Austen novels.  I’m starting to wonder, though, if I could enjoy it again.  The first time you read Emma is fabulous, because you follow along with her thoughts and (if you haven’t seen the film adaptations or paid too much attention to them) you more or less think like she does, expect her to be right about things, and then you’re taken by surprise by how things turn out, just as she is.  The second time is always fun, too, because then you can pinpoint all the things she’s missing as she misses them.  The third time, though… it just didn’t seem quite as fun.  I knew all the steps a bit too well.  I did love Jane Fairfax more than I have previously.  I wish, though, that I hadn’t watched both the films (Gwyneth and Kate) right before starting this.  Maybe that was a factor.

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Just delicious.  I really can’t remember half of these books, so reading them again, a little older and able to appreciate more than just Gilbert Blythe (though I do still appreciate him quite a bit) is really a lovely experience.  I wound up copying down half the things Miss Lavender said to write them up in my quote book.  People don’t talk like this anymore… they can’t even really get away with it in fiction, which is a little unfortunate.

Lexi James and the Council of Girlfriends by Melissa Jacobs

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this.  The first third of it seemed mind-numbing chick-lit, with far too much detail about what every single character was wearing every single time they showed up on the scene… but it had a sweet, heartwarming, and nicely empowering ending.  Good stuff.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (audio, read by Jim Dale)

I had never listened to Harry Potter on audio—I very much like hearing the actors’ voices in my head when I read voices—but my brother and I were setting off on a long roadtrip, and he wanted to freshen up his memory of the fifth book before seeing the sixth movie, and it was a lot of fun to listen to in the car.  I still prefer reading the books on my own, but as a group activity, the books on tape are lots of fun.

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Magnum

Sadly another disappointment.  This is being hailed all over as being “better than Twilight,” but I’m afraid that is just ridiculous.  I really wish I could say it was better than Twilight, because it’d be nice to see a college-bound multi-tasking, smart, responsible girl knock down Bella Swan and all her willingness to basically give up her life before she hits the age of twenty.  But while we keep being told that the main character is this fantastic, special, smart, strong girl… we really don’t see it at all.  I have some more nit-picky opinions about this novel concerning understudies and legendary artists and whatnot… but they’re a bit spoilery, so I’ll just leave it at that.

So yes, my reading of late has sadly not been of the most inspiring type, but I’m very much enjoying what I’m reading at the moment.  I’m continuing with Anne, of course, in Anne of the Island, and I’ve moved from Jane Austen to Jane Eyre, a revisitation to what really probably is my favorite book of all time… though Persuasion likes to vie for position.  I’ve also started (finally, finally) to read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, which all my friends rave about, because I’d really like to finish it before I see the film.  And while I’m only a couple of chapters in, it really is delicious.  Every line.

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Highlights

Hello, internet!  It’s taken a while, but I am now all moved and settled in.  My new home is a far cry from the San Diego suburb where I grew up, but this quiet little town is maybe just what the doctor ordered for my hectic, self-made schedule.  Since I’ve been here I’ve already made some headway in my alternate personality as a purveyor of fine handbound journals and notebooks, and I’ve done a good amount of writing, which brings me close to 7000 words on my young adult paranormal.

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Life here is… well, like I said, quiet.  My brother and I drove through hours of hot dessert, and still hot mountain terrain to get to a surprisingly hot Utah valley.  I knew, cognitively, that it gets hot in Utah, but driving from Southern California, you sort of assume you’re headed to a cooler climate.  Or at the very least, that once you get out of the desert, things will start to cool down.

But I really didn’t mind much.  Driving through this country (as I’ve done a lot) of over the past year, you really get a feel for just how big it is, just how much open land and sky is out there.  It makes goals seem that much more reachable, somehow.  If there’s so much world out  there, there has to be a place for everybody, yes?

Anyhow, this is what I’ve been thinking.

I hope you all have been doing well.   It’s starting to cool off here in Utah now, and while we may have a few more hot days, for the most part the temperature will drop, drop, drop, from here on out.  I’ll be back to my routine book reviews and such now that I’m settled in, so keep an eye out.  Glad to be back, too!

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