Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Learning to Fangirl: Confessions of a Part-Time Vulcan

Announcement: Today is the four year anniversary of Cait’s lovely blog, Paper Fury. And if you haven’t already checked it out, I recommend that you visit immediately. Like, what are you still doing here?

I bet there are hundreds of cancer/illness memoires chronicling poignant stories and touching lessons garnered through hardship. So I realize it’s a bit cheesy to share with you what I learned through the cold I had last week. But hey, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Tuesday night I could feel it coming on—those, ominous tell-tale symptoms. Tired and frustrated, I threw a mini pity party (without cake, though, which was depressing). I realized it was somewhat my fault because I know I don’t get as much sleep as I should (why sleep when you could be getting stuff done, I ask you?), but I had so much that I wanted to accomplish. Among other things, I had books to read, classes to wrap up, and a novel to edit. (See, no time for sleep.) And I’d been doing so well—up until that point, I don’t think I’d suffered any sickness for maybe eight to twelve months. I was on a roll.

Come Wednesday morning, despite my tight schedule, I knew I needed to relax and lie low, at least for the next twenty-four hours. My brain felt thick and slow, like a piano with molasses between the keys. It demanded rest. So after I finished last week’s blog post, I lay in bed watching movies, reading books, and drinking far too much coke—basically wasting precious hours of my short life span (yeah, this is how my mind works—it’s not pretty in here).

In many ways, if you ignore the fever and the aching limbs and the pounding headache, it was an ideal vacation. I had time to nap, to catch up on reading other people’s blogs, and to contemplate my existence (not that I don’t do that anyway). It was the break I needed but wouldn’t let myself take until I had that final push.

But it’s the kind of thing that normally drives me nuts. I would rather be doing “important” stuff. Even when I classify it as writing related, I still struggle to justify reading for pleasure. I love reading, don’t get me wrong. Yet sometimes I feel a little selfish claiming the alone time—the down time—I need. And the hard task master in my brain yells at me that I need to write, Write, WRITE! Basically, if what I’m doing won’t benefit someone or earn me money sooner or later, then I feel guilty for “wasting” my time. So when my cold claimed almost an entire week of writing, I got a little discouraged—not to mention antsy, as I’m the sort of person who needs to write every day just to keep from going insane.

I realize I sound like a spoiled brat. I mean, seriously, I had a whole week to read and laze around and make a nuisance of myself. Instead I’m like, “Oh goodness, I have it so easy—how awful!” Feel free to smack me or throw rotten tomatoes at my face.

Without trying to sound like a lollypop or anything, I have decided that this cold was more of a blessing than a curse (cue inspirational music). When I have a fever, I get more emotional, and I’ve found that this is not always a bad thing, since I tend to be as emotional as a piece of old leather. I can watch tragic movies without batting an eyelash; I can read sad books without shedding a tear. My appreciation for any given story is more objective than anything. I enjoy the artistry and the rhythm and the depth, I really do—I can even get super excited. I just don’t let these things touch me beyond a certain point.

Recently I’d started noticing how involved some people get with the books they love—and how vehement they can be about the books they hate. And it gave me pause. It wasn’t until I got sick, though, that I realized exactly what I’ve been missing. As I plowed through my towering pile of unread novels, I found myself more able to connect with the characters, to sympathize with them, and to care about them. I let myself feel instead of locking all powerful emotions away where they couldn’t affect me.

Now that I’m on the mend, I’ve resumed my normal editing routine. My brain is—mostly—back to normal. So I may not cry when I read sad books—I have enough real stuff to cry about. And I may never engage with the stories I love as much as others seem to. More than anything, it’s a personality trait. As an introvert, I just don’t come out of my shell like that. But I did start to understand and appreciate those who do allow themselves to feel. And perhaps, over time, I will let myself loosen up a little.

What I realized, though, is that it’s not about changing, and it’s not about who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong. Everyone reacts differently—to stories, to others, to life. That’s okay. But as a writer, and as a human (what am I saying? I’m totally Vulcan), it’s vital that I value others for their differences, as well as their similarities. We have a lot to learn from each other.

So thank you to all the people who aren’t ashamed to show how much they feel. You touched my cold, dark heart.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Cake Tag

Confession time—I wasn’t actually tagged for this thread, but I decided to do it anyway because Heather’s post looked fun, and also because I like cake. So there.

Flour—A book that started slowly but ended amazingly


(First off, I understand that many people are afraid of the classics, so I’m going to try to mix things up and not include too many in this list, although that’s a little hard since half of my reading diet consists of older books. )

In JANE EYRE, Charlotte Brontë spent so much time telling about Jane’s childhood, I started to wonder if I was ever going to get to the good stuff. Or if there was any good stuff. Fortunately, I’d seen one or two film adaptations (I’ve watched so many versions since, it’s hard to keep track), so I knew what to look forward to. Seriously though, the movies gloss over the beginning while the book takes the long way around. But once you get past the first seventy pages or thereabouts, the story comes into its own (I mean: secrets, jealousy, and an insane woman thrown in for good measure—sign me up!).

Butter—A book with a detailed, complex, and rich plot


My top pick for this would be J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but since most people are familiar with it already, I don’t feel the need to go into detail.

So instead I’m going to highlight the Bower’s Files series by Steven James. As of yet, I’ve only read the first four installments (THE PAWN, THE ROOK, THE KNIGHT, and THE BISHOP), and I’ve loved them all. (Be forewarned though—if you have even a somewhat squeamish stomach, this series probably isn’t for you.)

In these fast-paced, deeply psychological thrillers, James deals honestly with issues of doubt, evil, and grief. (Also, he includes at least one psychopath per book, which make him almost my favorite author.)

Eggs—A book that didn’t look appealing but turned out to be wonderful
(Actually, I eat eggs all the time—both raw and cooked—so this heading is misleading in my case.)


When I first read the summary for Marissa Meyer’s CINDER, I wasn’t too excited about the idea (I believe Heather is familiar with this feeling). Either I was too tired to pay full attention, or someone neglected to tell me it was a sci-fi fairytale. So when I saw it in the bookstore, I waffled a bit before buying it. However, the first chapter won me over right off the bat. I mean, Linh Cinder (Cinderella) is a cyborg, for crying out loud! And I’m a sucker for any story featuring plague.

Sugar—A book so sweet it might give you cavities


As a general rule, I don’t read happy, sappy, sweet stories. I mean, all that cheese is bound to make me fat. And maybe I’m a heartless monster, but I’m just not moved by romance. I’m Vulcan like that. And I’m never sure I buy into the love birds’ connection with each other.

But when I met Heather Hepler, I decided to give her books a shot, and I really liked them (I’m not just saying that because I know her, either). Also LOVE? MAYBE and THE CUPCAKE QUEEN, both tie in thematically with the sweet-tooth portion of this tag, so there. Another plus is that Hepler’s novels deal with heavier elements like divorce and disillusion, so they won’t leave you needing to visit the dentist.

Icing—One of those rare novels that fulfills nearly all of my exacting requirements
(This is another misleading heading, as I usually don’t eat the icing, unless it’s chocolate or cream cheese.)


In case none of my lovely readers have picked up on this yet, Ray Bradbury is basically my writing hero. I am so, so picky when it comes to stories—not just style and content but mood and feel. And oh dearest me—FAHRENHEIT 451 is beautiful. Just imagine a world where novels are outlawed, firemen burn buildings, motorists run down pedestrians for fun, and people learn to lip-read so they won’t have to remove the radios in their ears. Oh, and if you’re wondering, Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper catches fire and burns. Now go read this book—please, I would bribe you if I had the money, but I’ll just have to settle for giving you these puppy eyes instead. @__@


Honorable Mention: THE KILLER ANGELS by Michael Shaara is also spectacular.

Sprinkles—A book that never fails to cheer me up


While Richard Adams’s WATERSHIP DOWN is a novel about rabbits, don’t imagine for one moment that it’s a happy frolic in the meadow. Oh no, this story is dark, and our bunny protagonists face peril at every turn. But more than that, the world feels palpable and sinister. I understood the characters—their terror, their exhaustion, their desires. (And I wouldn’t recommend reading this to little children—it’s not really a kid’s book.) Yet despite the frightening undertones, the pages of this novel are so full of pleasant memories for me, I can’t help but smile when I pick it up.

Baking Powder—An essential addition to every reader’s library


I hesitate to insist that people have to read a specific book. Certainly I would like it if everyone did, but I know that not everyone will love the same stories I love. And while I understand that’s life, it still makes me sad. Nonetheless, I highly recommend TILL WE HAVE FACES, by C.S. Lewis. Unlike his CHRONICALS OF NARNIA, this novel (a retelling of the legend of Cupid and Psyche) is aimed more for adults. It deals with tough issues, such as the disparity between the arguments we voice and the true opinions we hold—among other things. Also, it’s one of those few books that nearly made me cry. And I believe I’ve made it clear that I am generally a cold-hearted monster when it comes to reading fiction.

And finally:  Cherry on the top—My favorite book of the year (so far).


Well, I’ve already blathered on and on about Nova Ren Suma’s IMAGINARY GIRLS, but I’ll say it again. It. Was. Beautiful. And if you want to read my glowing praise, here’s a link to this post and this post.


Honorable mentions for 2015 include (in no particular order): 

A WHOLE NOTHER STORY by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

TOM SAWYER by Mark Twain

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

ROMOLA by George Eliot

HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

KING SOLOMON’S MINES by H. Rider Haggard

THE MIND OF THE MAKER by Dorothy L. Sayers

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver

THE DOUBLE by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES by Nathaniel Hawthorne

ALL FALL DOWN by Ally Carter
CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, Katherine Catmull, and Emma Trevayne


There are more, of course, but this list is long enough as it is, so I’ll leave you to your cakey thoughts. Since I wasn’t tagged for this myself, I’m not going to tag anyone. But if you feel like writing your own Cake Tag, please tell me and I’ll link to your post!

All book covers from Goodreads!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Creative Blogger Award

Aaaaand, I have been nominated for another award! So without further ado, I will jump into the rules, which follow thusly:

~Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs
~Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you (very important)
~Share 5 facts about yourself with your readers
~Pass these rules on to them

And now for the five facts about myself.

Fact One: Despite my blog title, I don’t (usually) go insane when I run out of coffee. Truth be told, coffee and I have had a love/hate relationship for years. During NaNoWriMo, I rely heavily on its brain sharpening powers to help me reach my overachiever goals. (And if my rough drafts are gibberish, it was the caffeine’s fault—I refuse to accept responsibility.)

But when I’m not drinking too much coffee (and by too much coffee, I mean enough to drown a whale), I can do just fine without it. Sometimes I go for several weeks on end without more than a cup or two. And I realize some people will probably want to hit me for saying this, but I don’t get withdrawal headaches. Last year I drank coffee on a regular basis for seven months straight and then quit cold turkey with no adverse effects. I think that might classify as a superpower. So if you want, you can write a book about me—as long as I get a free copy.


Fact Two: I am a compulsive rule follower. (Already you’re laughing because each time I’ve been tagged for something, I’ve adjusted the rules to suit my own whims. I guess the internet is different.) Little rules. Big rules. Medium rules. It doesn’t matter. I must and will follow them. In grade school, I was known as the goody-two-shoes kid (however, may I point out that everyone who called me that was also wearing two shoes?).

I dislike driving even a mile over the speed limit. I sometimes feel guilty about altering a recipe when I’m cooking, even though I know what I’m doing. And when a pool sign says “soap and shower before entering”, that’s exactly what I do—while my friends just drench themselves and then wait impatiently for me to hurry up.


Fact Three: I love music—as in, if I had to choose between either the perfect husband or an unlimited supply of free music, I would pick the latter. Hands down. However, I am not hugely musically talented. I enjoy singing for my own amusement (that sounded a little narcissistic), but I would rather die than go professional. I have no desire to perform in front of an audience, and I think I would prefer waking up with a spider on my face over braving the stage fright (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration). I can play the guitar and the piano to varying degrees, but I don’t practice often. So when I say I love music, I mean, I love to listen—and that’s pretty much it. I crave long car drives where I can camp out on the backseat, jam in my ear buds, crank up my iPod, and close my eyes.

Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know what sort of music I like—what genres and what styles. I just find stuff that clicks and then go with it, which makes finding new material rather difficult.


Fact Four: I have this mental color-coding system for letters and numbers. I’m aware this makes me sound slightly odd, but I assure you, I am perfectly sane (well, mostly). The letter “I” for instance, is a dark indigo while “w” is usually a dark grey or an ice blue. “B” is violet, though sometimes it’s pink and brown. “Three” is lime green. And on and on and on. Also, the way the letters or numbers are combined will change the coloring of it all. So when I’m editing and I’m waffling between two word choices, I generally go with the one that fits best with the color scheme of the sentence (“sentence” is a pink word, by the way, with just a hint of light green and white). And since you’re probably marking me down on your “avoid this crazy person list”, I’m not even going to tell you about my color-coding system for novels.


Fact Five: Once, when I was sixteen, I convinced another teenager that I was actually thirty-seven.


Now that you’ve read these five useless facts, you are free to go and use your time for more important pursuits, like Twitter and Instagram.

And, last but not least, the tags! Again, I’m going to bend the rules and only nominate three people since I don’t read many blogs. Here you go:



Have a nice day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

That Pesky Balance Issue: In Defense of YA

First off: The lovely Heather of “Sometimes I’m a Story” has nominated me for The Addictive Blog Award! Thank you, Heather!



The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person awarding you. (*clears throat* *yells loudly* THANK YOU, HEATHER!!!)
  • Share a little about why you blog and how the journey started.
  • Paste the blog award on your page.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers you feel deserve the award.

However, as with the last time I was nominated (which was The Lyric Medley Tag), I’m not going to follow these rules to a T. Instead, here’s a link to an interview I did with blogger Adriana Gabriella which went up on Saturday. Basically, I talked about my blog and how I started and stuff like that—so you can skip on over if you want to read it, or you can ignore it and go on your merry way. As for the tags, I don’t follow too many blogs, so I’m only going to tag T. A. Christensen.


And now for the main attraction:


Last week I read an article expressing the sentiment that adults should be ashamed to read Young Adult literature. Basically, the author of the piece argues that, while it is fine for teens to enjoy these novels, grown-ups have far better books to read. To be fair, I am summarizing this woman’s writing, and I invite you to read the article for yourselves.

As I reviewed it, I found myself angered by the overall tone. However, I don’t want to label this woman as a snob, because I can’t see her heart. And while my initial reaction was to stand up in defense of YA, I do have to admit that she makes a few good points. So rather than staunchly supporting my side against hers, I’d like to see if there’s a middle ground. After all, this isn’t about shaming anyone.


Argument One: The author contends that no one would present books like Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT as real literature.


Sweeping statements like this automatically weaken a person’s argument because if the reader can find even one exception to the assertion, then the thread unravels. If I start with the premise that all monkeys are pink—well, you’d only have to produce one non-pink monkey to undermine my platform. True, I wouldn’t argue that Roth’s writing is all that spectacular, style-wise. And I wouldn’t insist that she is on level with Leo Tolstoy and William Shakespeare. But like “real” literature, DIVERGENT skillfully highlights the human condition. In Roth’s dystopian world, the five factions of Chicago cling to their respective virtues (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite), misguidedly believing that this system can fix their problems. Unfortunately, human nature has already begun to assert itself, and the structure is crumbling. Messages like this are what make George Orwell’s 1984 and ANIMAL FARM so relevant—Socialism doesn’t work because corruption invariably derails the train of progress.

DIVERGENT and its companions, INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT also deal well with the issue of betrayal and forgiveness. In fact, though I may be just outside the twelve-to-seventeen-year-old YA target audience, I still came away from the trilogy with a few new insights. When I became an adult, I didn’t become “too good” for Veronica Roth’s stories.


Argument Two: The author contends that Young Adult books are too simplistic and satisfying. Whether their conclusions are happy or tragic, they always wrap up neatly. On the other hand, she reasons, Adult novels tend to be more complex and to leave more ambiguous loose ends untied. YA aims for instant gratification and escapism while Adult literature is often messy, uncomfortable, and intricate (thus more worthwhile).


This argument has some validity. But again, it deals in sweeping statements. True, many YA novels may lean toward the simplistic side, but there are exceptions. (Also, there’s something to be said for elegance in simplicity and not gilding the lily.)

Nova Ren Suma’s beautifully-written Young Adult novel, IMAGINARY GIRLS, is a prime example. Not only does the work center on the relationship between two sisters (a refreshing break from the popular romantic focus), but Suma is not satisfied with superficiality and groan-worthy dialogue. Ruby, the main character’s older sibling, is incredibly selfish and manipulative yet also surprisingly selfless and hypnotic. Some readers might find it more comfortable if she were one or the other—bad or good—not both at the same time. But that’s human nature; we are complex and layered. Furthermore, Suma succeeds in talking around the narrator, thus conveying two messages at once—what Chloe believes is happening and what is actually happening, a line that often blurs. Not to mention the ending, which left some reviewers dissatisfied and confused.

As for the charge that adults read YA purely for escapist reasons—maybe so. Answer me this, though. Why do people pick up Harlequin novels, if not with the same motives? How many of those blush-worthy paperbacks do you think will end up on the classic shelves some thirty or forty years from now? My goal is not to bash anyone, but I would like point out that this isn’t a “target audience issue”. We read to learn, yes, but we also read to escape. And that search for instant gratification, or what have you, is not limited to one age range or one section in the book store.

Furthermore, should I be ashamed to enjoy taking a vacation from the real world? If I read Charles Dickens to escape, does that make GREAT EXPECTATIONS and DAVID COPPERFIELD poor literature? In other words, does my motive change the value of what I am putting into my mind?

Frankly, I understand that YA novels tend to have more satisfying endings. I agree. But you know, life is rough and I’m not always up to reading books like John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN or Upton Sinclair’s THE JUNGLE, stories that just make you want to punch the universe. And I sometimes get tired of the cynicism and resignation I have encountered in adult novels, so I can understand the pull of YA with its freshness and vitality. If I want to sober myself with sad, confusing, messy events—well then, I can just read my journal. Fiction often presents beauty in order to make life more bearable—that is an admirable function.

What I’m trying to say is: We have good literature and we have poor literature, and those two categories aren’t limited to a single age range or to a single genre. No adult should feel embarrassed to read Young Adult novels. There’s no need to forget the people that we were and the issues that we faced; looking back doesn’t mean letting go of your maturity.

And teens! Don’t be afraid to read outside of your age range too. After all, if my fourteen-year-old self could enjoy Leo Tolstoy’ WAR AND PEACE, then I’m sure there’s something out there for you too. (And if you want a list of recommendations, I would be happy to supply it.)

Bottom line, please read without shame. Rant over. Now excuse me, I have a YA-SciFi-Fairytale calling my name.