Monday, December 19, 2011

The Great Road Trip Audio Book Collection

Hi, gang.

First, thank you. I started this blog back in April for the A-Z challenge and figured it would be a minor miracle if I kept it through the summer. Lo and behold, here I am. There is so much yet to learn and many more mistakes to make, but if you're reading this, it means you decided to come along for the ride. So I thank you.

Second, this will be my last post before the holidays. I have a few days to get my act together before I leave and when I return, I am sequestering myself and finishing my NaNo story. I might have a blog in there somewhere, but I'll be back in business for certain after the New Year. It's okay to cry. :)

Oh! Speaking of crying (sorry, this is a TOTAL tangent), I had my first writerly moment the other day: I cried while writing a scene. 

Has that ever happened to you before? I wasn't sure if I should walk away from something that so clearly upset me, or if I should mine those tears and emotions for literary gold. I stayed in the "cry zone" for about 10 minutes before I had to end the scene. It was strange and amazing and somehow reassuring all at the same time.

Back to the holidays...

I hit the road on Thursday for an 11-hour road trip down to southern Illinois. This year's trek will be quite enjoyable with my stash of audio books. Check 'em out!

  1. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld
  2. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
  3. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
  4. Feed, M.T. Anderson

Any recommendations of other amazing audio books? Please let me know as I'm always looking for more, though I prefer books that are no longer than ~7 hrs. The librarian told me Friday that the new Stephen King audio book had something like 35 discs. Seriously? Who will listen to that? Um, no thank you. 7-8 hrs is my limit before I tune out and stop caring.

And finally, for your viewing enjoyment, a young TL Conway family photo. Did anyone else's dad make you look somewhere else OTHER than the camera for family pictures? Every time I see this, I crack up. Maybe it's the matching outfits for my mom and I, or my brother's prep school casual pose, or knowing the curses my dad would mutter when he realized he (again!) set the camera too low and it cut off the top of his head. I'm not sure. But right now, I miss my dad, so I'm sharing this with you.

Happy holidays, blogging world. 
I wish you happy family memories, safe travels, and smiles. 
See you in 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing group vs Critique group

How does your writing group work?
Okay, blogosphere. I have a question for you.

Last winter, I met with three other writers every two weeks. We met for approx two hours to discuss the writing we handed out at the previous meeting. By the end of April, we read each others NaNos and had some great conversations about things that worked vs things we found confusing.

It looks like we will meet this winter to again swap NaNo chapters (Caveat: this is purely to enjoy the stories and get used to reading and commenting. We realize they are nowhere near "final" stages.), but I have heard requests for more substance to these meetings.

One request is for dedicated writing time. Another is for someone to bring a "lesson" of sorts for each meeting. I feel the group's hunger to learn more and I absolutely applaud it.


As the ad hoc "leader" of our group, I feel conflicted. Reading, sharing, and learning through experience is one thing. But preparing lessons, incorporating free writes, readings, and scene rewrites? This feels a bit much for a 2 hour group.

And the nagging question in my head that I continue to to ignore because I don't know how to deal with is: have our needs and expectations outgrown our group?

The success of last year's group was due largely in part to four people all making the same commitment. This year, one person's work schedule has dramatically changed, another has just returned from a semester abroad and likely hasn't written anything, and I feel like I'm ready to put my 2011 NaNo on the back burner so I can get to my 2010 story. But all the while, no one wants to break up the group.

Ignoring our schedules for a moment, those of you who participate in writing groups, how do you manage writing time versus critique/discussion time? Is it possible to incorporate both, or should they be two separate meetings?

I would love to hear how any of you approach writing/crit groups.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Special Thursday surprise: guest post

I know, I don't normally post on Thursdays. But, this is a special circumstance.

See, my blog mentor/guru friend, Sommer Leigh, invited me to write a guest post on editing on her blog, Tell Great Stories.

Please hop over and check it out! Look, I have cupcakes--they're even Red Velvet! (Play along; bribery always works!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Last January, author Beth Revis's debut book, Across the Universe hit shelves. Twelve months later, yours truly finally encountered the perfect storm: no current books to finish, no NaNo deadline, no life/work/travel deadlines, and most importantly--no wait list from the library! 

I was finally able to read this book and since some of you asked for my thoughts, here you go: My very first book review!

Title/Author: Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Date Published: January 11, 2011
Pages: 398
Genre: YA science fiction/fantasy

Here's the synopsis as taken from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Okay, so let's get to business.

1. Artwork
I have purchased books before simply on the cover design and this book gave me the same feeling. I find the cover art simply stunning. I've been trying to figure out if it's the space image, the colors used, or the two faces that make this cover really sing and I'm not sure. Maybe it's because the purple and pink colors of the cosmos remind me of my Mac's desktop picture or maybe it's because I just love space. Also, the two faces remind me a bit of Swati Avasthi's Split, another cover I really enjoyed.

2. The science
As suggested by the synopsis above, one of the main characters is placed in a cryogenic state. The book begins at this point, introducing the reader to the experience. Revis shows us Amy's mother going through the process first, followed by her father. These chapters were beautifully written and I felt they did a great job of conveying both fear and bravery.

I thought the author did a wonderful job of bringing in enough futuristic science to make the plot line plausible, but without overwhelming the readers. We learn of more advanced technology further in the story such as an inner ear communications system and a floppy-disk meets tablet meets flimsy screen kind of concoction. I'm not doing it justice, but some characters had access to a futuristic tablet which also seemed to fit nicely with the advanced technology on the ship.

Other technologies such as the screens in the Recorder Hall and the water system were also very nicely established. One of the beautiful things about this book was understanding how some of these inventions aren't that far out of our reach, for better or for worse.

3. POV
I will be very honest--at first, I didn't like the two main characters told from a first person present perspective. One character in a FPP perspective is tricky for me, but two felt too confusing at first.


When I was in a reading groove, the POVs didn't bother me. And when I finished the book, it dawned on me that this was actually a very smart decision. Revis gives her readers two characters stuck on a ship in the middle of space and does a great job of carrying the feeling of claustrophobia all the way through the book. So when I finished, I realized the POV only enhanced that panic feeling. For the reader, there really is no place to escape. You're stuck on the ship with Elder and Amy. There's no hope for freedom for anyone.

4. Understanding Godspeed
So, speaking of the ship, Godspeed is pretty amazing, but I struggled to understand the size. How was it big enough to hold approx 2,000 people AND have farming lands? Since I'm a more visual learner, I couldn't create a mental layout of the ship. It wasn't until I finished the book and was looking around on the author's website that I found a ship schematic. Duh! Why didn't I think to go to the book's page, first? I will absolutely head back to the layout (you can find it all here!) when the next book, A Million Suns comes out.

5. Few minor hiccups
I stopped to re-read only two passages for clarification. One minor example was that at one point, a character is able to bypass a locking system to enter a hatch. I thought it was strange he could do this on a ship so tightly controlled by thumbprint access, but it wasn't a big enough deal to really worry about it. I was too busy reading and flipping to the next page, eager to figure out what happened and frankly, I'd rather be excited about the next page then worry about a locking system.

6. Final thoughts
Beth Revis has done a very nice job of managing her brand. Her website and book site blend seamlessly together and they dovetail directly into the artistic themes of her books. Furthermore, the author actively interacts with her readers through her Tumblr and Twitter feeds, which makes her feel "real" (as opposed to the Mythical Magical Author I see her as in my head!).

I also really liked how the author tied up some loose ends, but left the readers with more questions. It was a nice "cliffhanger" that made me think of future ramifications on the ship based on Elder's decisions. The only downside is that I have to wait a few more weeks to read the next installment as A Million Suns isn't released until January 10, 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My holiday request to you

I don't want to use my blog for a social message, but I feel like I need to get this out. To tell this story just in case you might be able to relate and help someone. This is longer than I'd like; my apologies in advance.

I live in a very blue collar neighborhood outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. It's the kind of place where not everyone speaks the same language, but everyone looks out for each other. Your neighbors help you haul furniture, other neighbors help fix your roof, and other neighbors plow your sidewalk and/or driveway simply because they like to fire up their snowblower. (Yes, all of these neighborly situations have happened to me and I am eternally grateful.)

One neighbor, a Korean War vet--we'll call him L, helps everyone almost to the point of being TOO nice. So two years ago, when the woman down the street broke her leg and needed someone to take her oldest daughter to the food store, L stepped in, happy to help.

I watched this summer as the oldest daughter continued to use L for rides at all hours of the day. He took her downtown with her friends, he put her on his cell phone plan, and he even "borrowed" her money, thinking he would get it back.

When I asked my other neighbor about it, she advised I not get involved. "What if she slices your tires or throws rocks through your windows?" she asked. I was appalled that A) she thinks our neighborhood is THAT bad, and B) that she thought I'd care. I have insurance. Go ahead, smash my windows. I need new ones anyway. Bring it on, 16 year old punk. I'm not afraid of you....

A few weeks ago, L told me the whole story. When he recently tried to put an end to giving money, the daughter and her friends bullied him and pushed him down on the sidewalk. He continued to give her money out of fear.

Guys, this girl lives ON MY BLOCK. Oh, hell no. My hackles go up just THINKING about what I would've done if I had seen a 16-yr old girl push down a 75+yr old man!

L told me how over the past year, he hocked his gold Shriner's ring and sold his old pick up, along with any other valuables he had, and took a loan against his house. As a result of giving this girl so much money, he was unable to pay for his property taxes, food, gas, or dog food.

Today, I took L a loaf of banana bread and a tin of holiday cookies, something I do every year to say thanks for all the snowblowing he does. He stood in his doorway and cried as he told me he finally had some money to put toward his property taxes. He told me how the local sheriff personally calls him every week or two just to make sure he's okay.

So why am I telling all of you about this?

I have a simple holiday request that stands year-round:  If you have any reason to believe that someone you care about or an elderly member of your community is in need of help, or is being swindled or bullied, do something.

It doesn't have to be anything drastic. Call your local police station and ask for a wellness check. Or look online. I know my county has a confidential line specifically set up for calls related to elder abuse.

Knowing this girl in our neighborhood took advantage of L, an innocent older man, makes me livid. L now has a restraining order against her and hasn't had any problems in the past month or so. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this is behind us.

If you've read this far, thank you. I promise to be back on Wed with something a bit more writerly-related and less depressing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Five--Dr. Who, gaming systems, and more!

(Thanks to Jessica Love for the Friday Five idea. You can check out her blog here!)

I spent an hour last night putting together my blog for today and when I logged on this morning--it wasn't there. This results in me being both sad and incredibly annoyed.

I don't have an hour to give to this today, unfortunately, but there were questions I really wanted answered! So here's a significantly reduced recap. Unfortunately, without all the pics I had loaded last night.

1. How to do Dr. Who
I would really like to start watching this series, but it's been on for ages and I'm not sure where to start. I'd hate for you to recommend the beginning as that gives me almost 20 years of shows, right? Is there a safe place for a newbie to jump right in?

2. Xbox360 vs PS3
I have an incredible urge to buy a gaming system. I've never owned one so I'm not sure where to start. Is it really just a matter of preference, like Mac vs PC? I really just want to play Lara Croft games. I'm not sure why, but they look like so much fun. So I ask my gaming friends--is one really "better" than the other?

3. Across the Universe
Last night, before Blogger at my blog post (nope, I'm not bitter--why do you ask?), I finished Beth Revis' Across the Universe. I'm not sure if a book review blog is really necessary since it's been out for almost a year, but I will say this: I really wish I had known about the ship schematics on the book's website. That would have made it much easier to understand the various levels. Oh well, at least I know about it now and can use it for A Million Suns, which comes out Jan 10, 2012!

Maybe I will do a review/what I learned from the book. We'll see. There is a lot to say about it, most of it very good...

4. To catch a Book Thief
Advice, please. I loaned my copy of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, easily one of my top 5 books EVER, to my boss many months ago. He read it, loved it, and passed it on to his wife. She started it, put it down, and... well, I don't know what happened. See, it's been almost a year and I haven't gotten it back yet. How do you ask someone--your boss--for your book back?

Wow, that sounds really lame. I should just ask him. But I have this God-awful Minnesota Nice complex and keep telling myself, "He'll return it when they're done reading it. Be patient."

5. I've been thinking...
Between reading of friends' successes with WriteOnCon and watching the agent feeding frenzy over at the Bakers Dozen earlier this week, it's put me in a rather introspective mood, which has resulted in me making a calendar of sorts. It's like a switch was flipped in my brain and I'm starting to think seriously about how to polish my story. Oh, the amount of editing and fixing and work that would need to happen absolutely makes my brain hurt, but I think this one story really has the potential. As in, it will be worth the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears that have to go in.

I don't know what this means, exactly. For now, it means that I'm taking myself a bit more seriously than I was a week ago. I guess this is my small step toward a big dream.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 in books. And 2012.

(Totally off-topic, but were any of you following along on the Baker's Dozen agent request frenzy over at Miss Snark's First Victim? SO FASCINATING. If you want to know more, check out the blog! Anyway, on to my post...)

Hi, my name is Tricia/TL. And I have a confession to make. (Here's where you say, "Hi, Trish.")

I did a horrible job of reading books this year. *hands over I wanna be a writer card* I know, I know. That's like rule number one: Writers read other writers. This is super important and I had great intentions, I really did. Look up there, do you see the link for my 2011 books read? Check it out. I was golden back in winter/spring!

But then the snow melted and the pavement called. Instead of reading or writing, I was running. I was playing. I met with my crit group. I soaked up sunshine like it was my last summer on Earth. I got out of my house. I tried new things, met new people. But didn't really pick up a book for a solid three or four months and when I did, it was Game of Freakin' Thrones! *head desk*

This is why Caitlin Nicoll's 2012 reading challenge over at Logically is perfect for me! Caitlin is challenging everyone (yes, that includes YOU!) to either a Science Fiction challenge (read about it here) or Fantasy challenge (read about that one here).

Um, Cait? HOW IS A GIRL TO CHOOSE? I thought 30 books this year would be a great goal, just over 2 books a month. Should be completely doable. However, in order to improve upon my dismal track record in either category, I'm signing up for 15 in each one.

So, for the Sci Fi challenge, I'm signing up as an Alien Cyborg (awesome. You shall now refer to me as Six). And for the Fantasy challenge, I'm signing up as a Vampire Slayer (my new official name is now Buffy Six. I win the internet.).

We can sign up with a Goodreads account but I'm going to hold off on that. For now. You see, if I introduce one more form of social networking into my life, my head will explode. Or I will be laid off. Or both. I'm still getting a hang of Twitter. And when I say "getting a hang of," you know I mean "obsessively playing," right?

How about you? What are your reading goals for 2012? Are you participating in any reading challenges? Any books you know off the top of your head that you *have to* read next year? Please share your recommendations!

Monday, December 5, 2011

So now what?

I'm experiencing a post-Ireland, post-Thanksgiving, post-mom visit, post-NaNo hangover. Anyone else in the same boat?

As promised (to myself), I had a beautiful weekend. I caught up on some shows, started reading Beth Revis' Across the Universe, picked out and hauled in BY MYSELF my very own Christmas tree, fixed my garage door, shoveled, and baked two banana breads. I also made Watergate salad. Why didn't anyone tell me how delicious pistachio pudding, cool whip, marshmallows, and pineapple were? OMG!

Unfortunately, I also paid $200 for the honor of someone to come and fix my washing machine. You'd think for $200 they'd at least make it look like a significant fix. Nope, he walked in with a small, plastic bag no more than 2x3 inches. Though on principle I refuse to go to my local hardware store to verify, my gut tells me the piece was $5 or $7 bucks and I got hosed.

Anyway, all of that has nothing to do with writing. To be honest, I'm not sure what writing project to work on next. My NaNo story still needs an ending and I really do want to know what happens to my characters. (Yes I'm a plotter and yes, there's a quasi-outline, but I've been going off script lately.) And I have plans to swap NaNos with my writing group in January, so I really do need to polish it before then.

On the other hand, I have my 2010 NaNo that I'm really eager to pick up. It has been waiting patiently in the back of my mind through all of November and now that we're into a new month, it's getting a little insistent. The book is a middle grade adventure story that I think could be really amazing with some more dedication on my behalf. A lot more.

Decisions, decisions. I would also like to take a bit of a breather from writing and actually read, but reading hasn't really been the same for me ever since I started taking my writing more seriously. Has this happened to anyone else? And if so, how'd you get around it? Because I have a TON of books that I want to read!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend and if you have any advice for my post-November hangover, I'm all ears!
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