Thursday, June 23, 2011

in which i finally talk about books.

Perhaps I should talk about books? I think the very fact that I posted about my laptop festering in cat poop is further proof of the non-existence of my brain these past few days. This has been the first cold I've ever had to escalate into an ear infection. Yes, including childhood. It's quite bizarre (now that it's no longer SO painful). Thanks to these ear drops, everything has two (annoyingly dissonant) pitches. It's fascinating to hear myself talk (ha!), but it's HORRIBLE for listening to music. Eek. [And here is where I pause to realize that, much like the cat poop, you guys probably don't actually want to know about this.]

Which is why I've decided to talk about books today. Ahem. So, back in the day (also known as: this past winter), I was all about reading lots of books and blogging about them. This was before I had really come to terms with wanting to blog about writing. It was also before the Hunger Games casting, before I started putting myself out there and actually making blogger friends (hi, friends!), and before I was even close to finishing that good ol' rough draft of yore. Thus, I have not blogged about my reading list in a long time.

Okay, so I talked about worlds on May 16. That sort-of counts. Yay me. Other than that, all I remember posting about is HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. MmmMmmMmm. So, here are the books I've encounter since Howl (some which I've already mentioned, so bear with me), and a few sentences about them:

FALLEN by Lauren Kate. Not my cup of tea. The setting was the best part. There were definite merits, and I don't like to book-bash, knowing how hard it is to put everything together, but... sigh. Just... not my cup of tea. And that's okay! If the whole brooding fallen angel thing *is* your cup of tea, by all means. Don't let me stop you.

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano. Much more my cup of tea. This book is weird and twisted, dystopian without feeling dystopian, gothic romance without the romance you would expect. Not perfect (sort of lacking in the climax department), but heck, who's perfect? I really enjoyed this book. Thoroughly creepy.

THE TRUTH ABOUT UNICORNS by Bonnie Jones Reynolds. The only non-YA book I've read in a long time. Creepy and long and... kind of grown-up in parts, if you catch my drift, but ultimately a great read. But be warned... it's really weird.

RED GLOVE by Holly Black. Very good. I'm not really on the whole Better-than-White-Cat Bandwagon, but I did enjoy it. Middle books are hard, I'm told, but this one was brilliant. I will say, I was a teensy let down by some things, but not enough to boot this book out of favorite standings. The WORST part about this book is its cover, which makes absolutely no sense once you've read it. What were they thinking?

ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson. I wanted to read this book because of two things: it's written in verse, and it's set in Japan. Anyone read OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse? I adore that book, and it was the first novel in verse I ever read. ORCHARDS was much simpler; it was almost an embarrassingly quick read. But there's lots of good stuff inside, about family, dealing with suicide, coming to terms with your heritage. What's not to appreciate?

THE CHAOS WALKING TRILOGY by Patrick Ness. Shoo. These books are amazing, exhausting, challenging. I was dazed by the end of it all. I still am. Can't find any more words. Still recovering.

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White. I know. What took me so long, right? Meh, just me being stupid. I was pleasantly surprised, though. I loved Evie more than I thought I would. I loved her world. I even (gasp) loved Reth. Okay, not love loved, but I thought his character was great. All the Fey. Horrifying and totally cool. Lend was okay. Blasphemy! (Just kidding, I loved him, too... I guess.)

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth. Ah. Now, this is a book I could talk about for days. Perhaps that's because it's so fresh on my mind. I really loved these characters. The factions are brilliant and scary. I would so have ended up in Candor, with my mouth. Or Amity. Or maybe Dauntless, were I insane. If you know much about me, you know that I tend to be picky with romance, and this is one that I really liked. The plot was stellar. Lots of twisting, but never beyond the reaches of what worked for the story. I loved Tris. I celebrated with her, grieved with her. Mm. Great stuff. Do read this one, if you haven't.

Okie dokie. Those are the books I've read since April. I'm halfway to my goal of 60, and, appropriately, just over halfway through the year (is that hard to believe or what?) (the year, not my reading progress). Tune in when I am no longer sick for something more interesting. Yippee!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

what did the cat poop on, again?

Last week, I counseled at a summer camp. Yeah yeah, you guys already knew that. Well. 'Round about Friday afternoon, it occurred to me, "Geezdang, I am probably going to lose my voice." Premonitions for the win! But it wasn't just my voice that went. This has been a legit cold (however, not legit enough to keep me from going to the library. I would have to be dying). There's a certain kind of madness that befalls me when I'm sick. I guess this is called being delirious, but it could also be called "having no common sense," and/or "failure to anticipate consequences." Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, it was this past Sunday, and I was in Louisville. I felt minorly gross and majorly ready to be back with my husband. So, I piled the cat into the car (my parents had watched him all week), and headed home. Usually, we put the seats of our Fit down in the back when carting animals, but I was not in the mood to readjust. The litter box went on the floorboard behind the driver's seat (another good reason to keep the windows rolled down). Before leaving Louisville, I had lunch with a friend. I cracked the windows, you know, so the cat wouldn't die, and thought, hm, it's probably going to rain before I come back. Premonitions ftw x2!

I came back to my car post-lunch, and wouldn't you know. I had, like a genius, left my LAPTOP on the passenger's seat, which had been properly rained-upon. Great. Then, furthermore like a genius, I chucked it into the backseat. Because that fixes everything.

I drove the four hours home to Rockford. I came inside. I crashed on the couch. I moved to the bed because it was still too light outside, and I was in cranky-vampire mode. My husband came home not long after, and brought all of my things inside for me. What a champ.

Then, I heard him ask from the next room, "Uh... Julie? Is there a reason your computer was in the litter box? I think Oliver pooped on it."

Oh yes. Awesome. In my feverish haste, I had tossed my laptop, the device on which I intend to compose masterpieces, into the USED cat box. WHERE IT REMAINED FOR FOUR HOURS IN A HOT CAR.

Kind of like this, except this one's actually a cake.
Well. It's a good thing my husband is fantastic and was not also going out of his mind that day. He rescued my MacBook from the cat poop (and, yes, Oliver had defecated directly upon it, the weasel). He cleaned it shiny-new, inside and out, with Lysol bathroom cleaner. Aren't you glad?

And now, if I ever become a published author, you all will know my secret: Feline Pine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

i came home from camp today.

I came home from camp today. I left three hours later than I meant to because I couldn't stop talking to people. This happens sometimes, you know.

From Loucon's website.
Probably not actually taken in the middle of January.
On the drive to Louisville (because goodness knows I was not going to make it all the way to Knoxville), I discovered that the AC in my car is kaput. Like, roll-down-the-windows-even-though-it's-as-hot-outside-as-it-is-in-the-car kaput.

There was a traffic jam on the Gene Snyder, and I had to get off ten miles too soon and then wade all the way up through the city to get to my parents' house (I hyperbolize, but you get the picture).

Upon arrival, I wanted nothing more than to melt away in the bathtub. Instead, I dove for my laptop, and here I have remained for the better part of three hours.

I thought a lot at camp, which should come as no surprise. Loucon does not lend itself well to frivolous, in-and-out excursions. This week was a surprise for me; it was not on my original docket. Because of this (well, because of my struggles with introversion and attitude, really) it took me a little while to warm up to my time there. It's not that I wasn't enjoying it. It was just... exhausting. Anyone who has worked a summer camp can attest to this. And this one was a music camp, with a performance to do at the end of the week, so... doubly stressful. But it got better. I calmed down and opened up, even if no one saw a difference but me (boy howdy, can I put on a face. I have a degree in it).

A problem I have with camp is that every time I go, I leave wishing I could find a way to be on staff there again. It has been a pattern throughout my entire experience. Life is fine, I'm kind of in a funk, but that's okay. Then, I go to camp. My eyes open. I realize that this is the place for me. I see both my weaknesses and my strengths, clear as day, and I accept them. Desire to learn from them and grow. Life is awesome. Then the summer ends. Life is not the same. Life is lacking because life is not summer camp. This fades around November, both as a defense mechanism (I will drive myself into a depression if I'm not careful), and out of laziness for bettering my August-to-May life. I build up callouses, especially now that I'm married and live in a different state and, frankly, just can't spend 100% of my summers in there anymore. Then, eventually... life is fine. Maybe I'm in a funk, maybe I'm not. Then I go to camp, and my life changes all over again. And I wish I could just stay there, both literally and figuratively.

Open Air Chapel.
Not sure where this image originally came from,
but I have quite a few similar photos.
It is so hard not to be dependent on camp, but I am. Or, maybe not dependent on it but... profoundly enriched by it. This place, this ministry, has my heart and it always will. But it does hurt to be in a constant back and forth, especially when, like in the past, it makes me feel so inadequate in my August-to-May life.

On an up-note, because I know how folks love up-notes, something was a little different this time. Of course, I still had to stretch myself, I still had to let myself grow (which is the whole point of Loucon). It's good that I have three more weeks to be there, starting a week from tomorrow (!). But, for once, I didn't feel... how do I say it? I didn't feel like I was losing it in my August-to-May life, the way I had when I was in college. My August-to-May life is not perfect, by any means, but I feel like I'm taking the right steps, for once. Does that make sense?

This is pretty much my longwinded way of saying: I was worried that camp was going to make me feel like I shouldn't be writing, but instead I felt encouraged in it. Or... at least not discouraged. As I said, I still have half the remaining summer to spend there, growing and trying to better myself. One thing is for sure, though.

I'm going to take extensive notes this time.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

about louisville and jennifer.

There is a lump in my throat the size of... I don't know... a gerbil, probably. Not in an emotional way so much as a nervous way. Why, you ask? Well. Because the extras casting for, uh, Artemis, looks like it's moving on to finding people for the Capitol. And, you know. I'd really, really like to be a part of that. They've got my info. I guess I just have to wait... again. Sigh.

In other, moderately related news, being home in Louisville is fun because Jennifer Lawrence is a big deal to everyone, not just folks who follow The Hunger Games. And, let's be honest, those folks are a little scant in Knoxville (no matter how much we supposedly read). I went to see X-Men last night with a friend, Dani, who used to babysit Jennifer, and when James McAvoy kissed her on the cheek, Dani leaned over to me and stage-whispered, "JAMES MCAVOY JUST KISSED HER!" Another friend from church growing up, Matt (we'll call him Matt W, because I have a lot of Matts in my life), was there with his girlfriend, and we sat and talked about what Jennifer was like as a kid all through the credits. We kept talking until the lights came back on, and then talked some more in the hallway. One highlight was Matt W saying, "That's not Mystique. That's... ... ... ... ... Jennifer."

I can't imagine how strange and exciting seeing her as Katniss is going to be.


And if you're wondering if I'm blatantly name-dropping for the fun of it, I guess I am.
But, hey. It's legit. :)

In other news, I turned 26 yesterday, I still have a hundred pages left of Monsters of Men, and I'm going to be starting my first week at camp on Monday. This is going to be a good summer.

[but pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease pick me for filming in August]

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

another round of blog awards.

Lots of thanks and a hearty hug (one of my specialties) to Jenna over at Finding the Write Way for this Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!

I want to eat it. I want to eat-it-up-yum.

I feel so... loved! So... is anyone really that interested in learning seven more things about me? Yeah... 

1. I had my first pedicure this weekend. I know. It took me almost 26 years (well, probably not all 26. I don't think small children really get pedicures), but I finally got one. Want to see my post-pedi toes? Of course you do. They're blue with flowers.

I mean, why not, right?
2. Speaking of firsts, I finally got my nose pierced today. I'd been wanting to this since I was 19. It was good to finally let myself.

My face (and left hand)(and nostril bling).
3. I was born with a head full of jet black hair, which turned blond when I was a toddler, then got, like, white blond when I was 4-6 years old, then started turning dirty again when I was about 12. Now it's just... brownish (see above). Fascinating. A friend in college called this "mood hair."

Okay, that's absolutely enough about my appearance. Let's talk about books!

4. I didn't start reading Harry Potter until after the first movie came out. I didn't start reading Lord of the Rings until after the first TWO movies were out. I'm ashamed, but it turned out okay.

5. My favorite book in 5th grade was Shiloh.

The weirdest thing that ever happened to me:

6. Once upon a time in college, I came home to my apartment from an exhausting day of classes and promptly crashed on the couch. I was so tired, I could hardly keep my eyes open when my roommate, Katie, came in and started microwaving some popcorn. I was so wiped out, but I kept telling myself, "At least say hi so she knows I'm not 100% asleep." Katie poured the popcorn into a green, plastic bowl and sat down in the chair beside me. I willed myself to wake up and eat popcorn with her I sat up. I rubbed my face and turned to her. I said, "Hey Katie..."

But she was not in the chair. She was not in my apartment at all.
Some people call this hallucinating. Yup.

7. I'm not the biggest fan of dark colas. I like Sprite and her clear-syrupped cousins fairly well (I *heart* Ale-8), but the only darker soda I really like is root beer.

And NOW you KNOW!

Alrighty, who here is irrisistibly sweet... thinking thinking...

Zzzzzripph! Jeigh Meredith, come on now, girl. You know you make my heart sing. (You also bring out the weirdest sides of me. Sheesh.)

Jenna Cooper! Oh, drat. You're the one who awarded me. Well... consider it mutual.

How about those new writer friends of mine?

Kristen Simmons! Check out her fabulous new website, and get pumped about Article 5!

Courtney Potter! Seriously, Court, you are such an inspiration to me.

I have been so blessed, recently. Especially by other people. So let's all show some love!

Monday, June 6, 2011

oh, a blogfest!

Hello, all. It's June 6th, and this is going down:

" ...the rules for joining are simple:

1. Sign up
  (did it!)
2. Follow my blog (one of my favorites)
3. On June 6, 2011, post two things:

        a) What your current WIP looks like

        b) What your writing goals are for the summer

4. Go around to the other blogs to encourage -- together we can make it through the lazy months!"

So, here we go.
What my WIP looks like right now, quite literally:


And now you know the ENTIRE PLOT of my draft. (No, seriously, did I make it too obvious?) Don't you just love visual aids? As you can read in green on the left side of the image, "told you it was a mess."

You see that tiny box just under and to the right of the word "rawr?" That is where I thought all the action of the story would be. Imagine my surprise! You can barely see it!

So, here comes part two. My goals for the summer.

1. Summer has a built-in priority for me, and it's called Camp Loucon. I'll be spending at least three weeks there before the end of July, and one of my goals, truly, is to enjoy camp and let myself be there fully. Working there is HARD, and it takes a lot of patience and energy and boldness and sunscreen. I don't want to miss out because my mind is elsewhere. I do, however, plan to bring my notebook, just in case I find some time to write.

2. When not at camp, my main goal will be to... pretty much tear up the draft I just finished, rework it, outline a new draft, and start writing that. *Start* being the operative word. I don't expect myself to finish it until the fall or winter. I'm going to try to move a little faster on this one, say, five months instead of eight. But, yeah. Definitely not two. 

3. To be more specific, I do need to start playing around with opening scenes. In my rough draft, they sort of just pick up and go, because I knew they had to get there, but the motivations of the characters didn't come clear to me until I was halfway through the story. Oh, believe. I was so tempted to scrap what I had and start over right then, but I didn't (my husband wouldn't let me, the genius). I don't regret that at all (shoo, I wouldn't have finished for another year, probably, if I'd kept doing stuff like that), but now, I feel like I need to explore those motivations that I discovered for a little while. Otherwise, I don't think I'll be able to really make an outline that I'll be able to use.

4. Really enjoy my writing buddies. Think long and hard about joining SCBWI. Possibly, do that.

5. Exercise regularly. It's been a part of my routine for about a week now, and I'm really hoping to keep it up.

6. Also keep up with my reading goals. Way back at the beginning of the year, I decided that I would try to read 60 books in 2011. I'm getting there, slowly, but I'm also glad I decided to go for 60, and not the original 100. I know how I get. Readreadreadreadreadreadread... wait, shouldn't I be writing or blogging or something? Blogblogblogblogblog... Or, worse, TVTVTVTVTVTVTVTVTVTVTVTV. Netflix will be be the death of me.

6a. Watch less TV.

7. Just get my elbows into it and clean out this house until it shines. THIS will be the most difficult one for me.

So... I sort of strayed from the writing part of my summer goals, but they're all important. To my life, health, marriage, beliefs and mental well-being.

I hope everyone will stay tuned! Tomorrow, I have another blog award to share!
(I know. That was fast.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

overwhelmed, but in a good way.

Perhaps I should write something? I've got that pesky, "phoo, I'm too boring to blog," thing going on. I don't know what the problem is. Not knowing where to start? I believe that's it. I just don't know where to start. Maybe I'll make a list (and some lists within that list).

1. I am now officially a library volunteer! Perks include: name tag; discount at cafe when donning said name tag; being asked questions (no, really, today was my FIRST DAY, and I was approached twice, by two different people, regarding two separate things I knew nothing about, but it was great [extension perk of the name tag]); rolling seat, if you're in a sit-and-shelve mood; free schedule; abundance of books. Today, I spied: a book by the real Allison Dubois, which was incredibly timely, since Joshua and I are currently obsessed with watching Medium on Netflix; the very copy of Patrick Ness's The Ask and The Answer that I had just turned in (ha!); a copy of Winter's Bone; and the bizarre discovery that this library shelves the Harry Potter books (at least #s 6 and 7) in adult fiction instead of YA. Hrm. Same went for Susan Beth Pfeffer's The Dead and The Gone, which was one of my favorite reads of last summer. Weird, right? Speaking of, I had to giggle when the woman who was training me pointed out where the YA section was. Believe me, if I know any section of this library backwards and forwards, it's that one.

2. I am about halfway through Ness's Monsters of Men, the conclusion to Chaos Walking, and I've gotta say, I am AFRAID to finish it. Not necessarily because I don't feel like it will end well, but because I'll miss it so much. This hasn't happened since... since... I don't know. Mockingjay, probably.

3. Remember when I recently admitted that I am mildly in love with anime? Well. Turns out that was a dangerous conclusion for me to make, because now I feel like I have to watch ALL OF IT. Tsk, tsk. It'll still be there tomorrow, self. And... is it really benefitting me, anyway? Sometimes splurging is fun, but only sometimes.

4. The Big Thing going on in my life right now, I suppose, is that I've recently connected with two new writer friends who have been incredibly encouraging to me. The funny part is that I knew both of these writers in real life, without even knowing that they wrote, let alone that they wrote YA, until recently. One is being published this winter, the other is on submission and an active member of SCBWI, and I... pretty much want to be just like them. [You know who you are.]

It's amazing to me how certain chapters in my life unfold. Sometimes I hold back, doubt myself, want to give up, but then the Lord blesses me with all these little nudges in the right direction, and, if not open doors, at least a cracked window with a nice breeze blowing through. It's a really good feeling. And something tells me that I'm going to need it, because I'm going in for round two, real, real soon.

5. I'm sore, but exercising regularly again is worth it.

6. It's June?

7. I think this is the end of my list. Til next time!