This Week

READING RECAP:

This week–like this entire month, heck like this entire year–has just blurred by. Blurred. Days just *blinked* past me.

I didn’t even finish any one of my books that I’d borrowed from the library! #readerfail. I’m still planning on reading them though. I will make it a point!

A new book that popped up on my radar is The Bird and the Sword, by Amy Harmon. My friend raved about its beautiful words, and I was curious enough to eyeball Amazon and get a feel. The first page ensnared me, and I quickly sent myself a free sample and now I have to have it. Did you click over yet to experience it yourself? No? Seriously, check it out HERE and if you’re not rolling around in awe at all the delicious words, then I don’t know how we’re friends.

WRITERLY RECAP:

So, as I said, my recent life has been a blur. That’s because I have been a nonstop working machine. Just this week alone, I averaged 18-hour workdays with 4-hour breaks to sleep. (Yesterday, I worked 20 hours straight for the second day in a row, with breaks only for food. I think.) (I’m here on just right under four hours of sleep, so if I’m a little loopy, well, you know why.) If I wasn’t at the pay-the-bills job, I was writing. Website content, emails, feedback, stories, you name it, I was probably writing it.

I feel like most of the people around me think I am an obsessive workaholic. They’d be sort of right of course, but it’s in a weird, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” kind of way. Like, I’m doing something torturous or something.

Uhm, I’m in my creative cocoon where I feel untouchable and in control of my life. I “do this to myself” because I freaking love it! I told a friend just the other day: writing, ideating, creating…it energizes me. This isn’t the soul-sucking work of unfulfilled potential. Writing–the creative and business side of it–calls to me and compels me to work until my eyes give out. THIS is what people talk about when they make those clickable quotes that are splattered all over Instagram. Stuff like: “Do what you love, love what you do” or “Do what you love and never work a day in your life”…those kinds of quotes.

I get all of those quotes because I live it every day.

Speaking of clickable quotes, let me add a fave to it: “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” Buddha. I like this because it doesn’t shame the word “Work.” Work to me is wholly positive because I see the redemptive power of work every day of my life. My work gives me purpose, and I love every minute of it, and won’t apologize for it or make myself smaller just because others perceive “Work” as this horrible thing.

(If your Work is horrible, choose another form of it, or gain a new perspective. Completely transformative experience for me.)

I used to sleep as much as possible because I was a vivid dreamer. I loved that in-between feeling of falling asleep, anticipating the stories in my dreams. (They usually revolved around epic, end of the world type struggles…or whatever I’d been reading at the time.) And then my alarm clock would blare and I would be so miserable thinking about the day ahead, of the long hours of uselessness and busy work. All for what? A paycheck?

Now, as soon as my alarm sounds, my eyes open, and I can’t get up fast enough. Recreating the snippets of my imagination into whole, fleshed-out stories is so much more fulfilling than the shadows I experienced while dreaming. Creating is intoxicating and satisfying and addictive all at once. AND I’M DOING IT ALL FOR FREE. (Mostly. For now. 😉 )

Of course it’s also tedious and challenging, but the reward of seeing a story come together in a meaningful way is just beautiful. ::le sigh:: Just yesterday, I was reading through my manuscript, and basically had been feeling like a beachcomber, inspecting every bit of sand under a magnifying glass. I was so tired of picking at the beach that was my manuscript with what a backscratcher, that I put down my pen, grabbed more coffee (and kept both hands on the mug), and decided to skim for a few pages.

I got so lost in the story, that as I read over one of the main turning points, I literally started tearing up. At my own words. Like, I smeared my untouchable eye makeup wiping my eyes because I was crying.

I know I was basically sleep deprived, but forgetting for a moment that I wrote this thing, and the thing made me cry in a good way, was so, so gratifying after what has seemed like a neverending suckfest of words. (And I mean “neverending suckfest” in the best way possible.) It’s like, once I stopped looking at every grain of sand and only seeing imperfections, I was able to take in the entire panorama and be in awe of all the elements of what makes a Beach so spectacular: crashing waves, sunsets, long stretches of send…this is what I think of when I think Beach; all the elements together and not just the sand. It’s a very important part, but it’s not the only part.

(If it were, I’d hate the beach. Ew. Sand is tenacious and gets everywhere. Everywhere.)

IMG_1352

Anyway, that’s been my week (and month and year…) so far. Hopefully, I have some fun recaps for you next week after my upcoming writing workshop.

So, what’s been happening with you?

Advertisements

This Week

This week had started out hopeful. Even though I spent a part of a “day off” on Sunday at The Job, I still spent most of it with the hubs. We even went out to both lunch and dinner–amazing!

We spent the 4th mainly indoors. Even though it’s a national holiday, it was basically the only day off I had from The Job to catch up with my writing projects, and also finish one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time: Healer, starring Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it is easily one of the best “TV” shows I’ve seen, hands down.

I say “TV” because I stumbled upon it on Hulu.com and it was like a gift! A beautiful, amazing, shining beacon of happiness and positivity that I can look back on for this week. Because after Monday, the week slowly crumbled and devolved.

(That’s saying something when Monday was the highlight of an entire week.)

Local tragedy where two coworkers died in completely unrelated circumstances days apart…National news coverage of needless, inexplicable deaths…International news coverage of militant attacks in Bangladesh and Baghdad.

My heart is heavy. My eyes are hazy. My mind is numb.
These are not the best conditions to write.

I know I should focus on the positive…that I should count my blessings…that I ought to be grateful for what I have…tragedy happens all the time…etc.

I know all this.

But sometimes, it’s OK to shut down my brain and just sit and feel.
So I read. I’ve been listening and soaking in others’ stories, and pray that others have love, support, and light that they can huddle around to give them a semblance of peace at this time.

Hopefully, next week will be a little bit brighter. As for this week, I’m done.

This Week: July 1, 2016

BOOKISH FINDS:

I used to be a voracious reader. I’m talking like four books in one day kind of gluttony.

I was one of those people who would side-eye someone if heard them say, “I haven’t read a book in months/years.” Craziness. Seriously impossible. My ravenous brain monkeys were relentless; I couldn’t read fast enough to satisfy them.

I’d bring home piles of books from the library and read the entire pile in a week. Heck, sometimes I’d read an entire series in one day/night. (I’m looking at you, Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewls Trilogy. I started the series on a random weekday afternoon and finished it sometime around 7 or 8AM the next morning, napped for a bit, then went in for my closing shift at the Job. Totally worth it…one of my best reading marathons EVER!)

…but now…

I’d be lucky if I could finish a book in a week.*

I do have competing priorities for my time now like never before, which has made me pickier on which books to spend my time. And, I have decided to *Adult* and focus on getting enough of that Sleeping thing that so many people have told me was beneficial for my health.

(And, yes, OK, so my eyes don’t bother me as much, and perhaps my skin and overall immune system is a thousand times better…still…)

But, I ‘d gotten overwhelmed with how many books I’ve acquired and have a list of books I have been told I NEED TO READ, that I ended up doing what I’ve always done with things that intimidate me or make me anxious.

I avoided them. I either read something else entirely or ignore reading altogether.

Since reading makes me happy (my original blog title!), not-reading makes me not-happy. So, I’m embracing my first love, and making it a focus to read All The Books (and why I’m returning to this Reading and Writing blog format).

All that said, here are some titles that I was so excited to see available in my digital library (I promise next week I won’t ramble on and on so much before sharing 😉 ):

  • Lair of Dreams, Libba Bray (audiobook)
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Older
  • Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  • Truthwitch, Susan Dennard

I absolutely LOVED The Diviners, by Libba Bray, and had waited so long for the sequel that it fell of my radar! So, when I saw it available, I immediately snatched it up! I also loved the hype around Shadowshaper…anything Urban Fantasy intrigues me.

Some people can’t get into audiobooks, but as someone who commutes to the Job and values efficient use of time, audiobooks are an amazing way for me to get through my lovelist of books. (And, when my eye is irritated, which it often is, audiobooks are a great escape for me!)

Plus, there’s something about audiobooks that makes it easier for me to read books that were “too boring” to read as a physical book…I’ve found and finished so many amazing books this way!

For those who love audiobooks, SYNC is a free summer audio book program for teens 13+ that gives away two audiobook downloads a week (powered by the Overdrive App) from May 5-August 17. I really love this program, because I get to test out books I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, or re-read a fun classic. (It was through this program that I’d read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys three or four years ago? Worth it!)

This week, SYNC is featuring Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (easily one of my top ten fave books of all time) and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (They have weekly themes, which I’m always delighted by!)

WRITERLY RECAP:

Most days, I’m staring at my WIPs wondering WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT, but today all I want to do is work on my NANOWIP (my clever code name for my WIP that I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2014). Maybe it’s because I watched a whole slew of comicbook movies recently. Or maybe I have a whole load of feels because I may not be able to do my annual summer trip to NYC. Or perhaps it’s the news that this year would be Stan Lee’s last year at NYC Comic Con.

At any rate, I’m really excited and motivated to revisit the rough draft and get a game plan started on it. It’s the only YA Contemporary that my brain elves have fashioned together that survived past the seedling idea stage to bloom into a full-blown story. Hopefully, other people will enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of a teen-aged Filipino girl who secretly works on her art projects while at science camp.

As for WIP 2, I have printed off the manuscript and am currently sifting through it. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m raking through a Maui beach with a back scratcher, but I’ve found so many typos and tense/POV shifts (still!) so, it’s a tedious-yet-necessary step. Considering it took several back-and-forths for my query to finally be typo-free, I was inspired to re-read my manuscript and I’m so glad I did!

Speaking of the query, I’ve sent off my latest, shiny query to Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino for a workshop critique. I’ve already gotten positive responses from my writing buddies on this version, so I’m eager to hear his feedback! Then, in about three weeks, I go to my writing workshop! So excited!

My goal is to get the manuscript all cleaned up without these silly typo/spellos, so that it’s ready to send off into the world in August! (After re-reading it a million times, of course.)

Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to bribe myself enough to submit to Pitch Wars in August. We’ll see.

So tell me: anything new with you?

The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa

I don’t think I can convey how much I love Julie Kagawa’s story-telling. I honestly don’t know what it is, but whenever I pick up one of her books, I get sucked right into the story.

She captivated me with her Iron Fey series, writing a world so lush and imaginative that the words disappeared, and for a time, I felt like I actually lived in a hybrid Alice In Wonderland meets Labyrinth landscape. Even when I didn’t agree with the decisions her characters made, I was lost in the fairy tales she wove.

The Immortal Rules is no exception.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where a mutated virus creates Rabids that threaten the survival of humans and vampires alike, the vampires step out of their shadowed existence, creating cities where humans are herded and kept like cattle. Humans are registered to each Master Vampire, trading blood for food rations and resources within the city walls. Those who are unregistered with the vampires live in the Fringe, eking out an existence by any means necessary.

One such Fringer is Allison Sekemoto, who dreams of the long ago world without vampires that she’s only read about in books; where humans fought against their oppressors and not merely kowtowed to them. Allie hates vampires, and sees them for the monsters they are, but when she is attacked by Rabids outside the protective city walls, her overdeveloped sense of survival clutches onto the only lifeline offered to her: become a vampire, and live to fight another day.

And fight, she does! This is definitely not one of those “being a vampire will make your life easier” tales. If Allie isn’t slicing through hordes of Rabids, she is battling with her own inner monster that pushes her to feed. (Sidenote to writers: I would recommend this book just for the pacing alone!)

I know that many people may be put off with the vampire theme in this book, but please believe me when I say that vampires (or any other literary theme) don’t have to be “played out” or over done. In fact, this book is a great example of twisting up what’s already out there. Yes I know YA is the “hot” thing to do now. Yes, I know that vampires and dystopian and  post-apocalyptic themes have been done. But I promise you that The Immortal Rules is much, much more than the sum total of all those labels.

Moreover, it’s a great example of the power of storytelling. This book simply has It: that je ne sais quoi that elevates it from its various labels to create a compelling story.

* * *

As you know, I believe that good books are meant to be shared, and the authors who wrote the books (and took the time and care to craft these wonderful worlds) should be appreciated and supported. So, I’m giving away a copy of this book.

The Immortal Rules releases Tuesday, April 24, 2012. I plan on ordering the book Wednesday, April 25. For your chance* at a copy, please fill out the fancy contact form below. I’ll have it up between now till 12AM, April 25, 2012, at which point, random.org will pick the lucky winner for me, and I will announce the winner that day.

This giveaway is closed. Congratulations, Susan S!

*I will be ordering through The Book Depository, so if they deliver to your country, feel free to enter! 🙂

So, have you read a book lately that transcended its genre? Or, have you read a book that didn’t live up to its hype? I’d LOVE to know about it!

Also, if you’ve read The Immortal Rules, please share your thoughts, too!

Wanderlove, by Kirsten Hubbard

 

When I was in high school, I wanted nothing more than to travel around the world and write for a living. I didn’t necessarily want to write novels or stories, per se, but a little literary non fiction would be cool. (I really enjoyed Joan Didion’s work back in the day. Still do.)

Of course, this was still when I didn’t *quite* understand the value of money. I mean, I knew travel involved money, but my plan was basically to magically appear on distant shores with nothing but my backpack, which was filled with moleskine notebooks and pens. You know, the priorities. And, of course, a towel*.

Anyway, I always envisioned myself with well worn travel clothes, even wearing a. lot. of linen in my teenaged years, because, you know, linen wears really well and is made to look wrinkly. (No ironing, score!)

Well, fast forward *blank* years, and clearly I’m not a travel writer. I don’t have a book of short stories based loosely on my travels entitled Wanderlust. I don’t have a blog that chronicles my every move, sustaining a living from the kindness of strangers whom I meet in exotic locations. (The name of that imagined blog being, you guessed it,” Wanderlust.”) As you see on my bio, I’m currently very landlocked as a retail store manager in the middle of America. Far from glamorous or exciting. But my wanderlust simmers still, relegated to the back burner of my life, briefly satisfied with a road trip or vacation here and there. Adequate for now, but nowhere close to what I truly want to experience.

Enter Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. (I said HERE that you needed to mark your calendars for this book’s release, but as a public service, here I am to remind you all!)

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

This book…this book captured the very essence of that need. That unnameable thing that I’ve wanted to find, if it could ever be found. The spirit of charting your path and following the road less traveled. Basically, when I read it, it was like I was reading about my life.

And this passage from Bria’s point of view was so. dead. accurate. of what I envisioned for myself when I was her age, it’s uncanny:

I could picture it already.

I would glide from ruin to ruin along La Ruta Maya, in a caravan of beautiful, happy people, and I’d be the mysterious one, gracious and profound. Butterflies would float down from the jungle canopy and alight on my bronzed skin. I would wear silver necklaces and ankle-length skirts that shifted in the breeze.

Sigh. Kirsten Hubbard captures the young adult voice really really well.

I remembered an important lesson that I kind of forgot along the way. I was too focused on what I wasn’t doing or what I could be doing better and how those things proved that I wasn’t good enough to be a fill-in-the-blank. I had to remember that I AM ENOUGH. No rules, no comparisons. Just me.That against all odds, I need to finish my work, and remember my love for writing. It wasn’t about being good enough or what other people will think of my work. I just needed to remember that I loved the feeling, the satisfaction that I get from writing. That feeling of creating stories just for me…is just as fulfilling and unnameable and a truth-self-evident as the wanderlust inside me. That thought was and is enough.

And I clung to that thought, and it inspired me to revisit WIP2 again. I’m grateful, because now I’m so close to finishing my draft, woohoo!

I read this book as an e-galley, and I SO wished I had the physical version of this book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still grateful that I got to read it when I did (especially since I’m thisclose to The End of WIP2), but since Bria is an art student, we get to see a lot of fun illustrations (drawn by the author herself!) sprinkled throughout the book that I really wanted to see on paper. Speaking of which…

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

Congratulations, Laura! You shall be experiencing the Wanderlove pretty soon!

Anyway, I hope you get the chance to read this book, and I hope you become inspired to follow your passion, no matter how hard the journey, and no matter where your journey will take you.

*”Traveling with a towel” is a reference to Douglas Adams’s cult favorite, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 😀

EDIT: Wanderlove will be available for purchase, Tuesday, March 13! Feel free to pre-order through your usual bookish channels! ^_^

Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book of January

{Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This week’s question: What was the best book you read in January?}

First of all, I can’t believe that January is gone, let alone have a “best of” for it. I’ve been so tunnel-vision-y with My Plan to finish this draft of WIP2 (which is still not done, ahem) on top of the everyday fires I had to put out responsibilities that I had to take care of for the paythebills job (main reason why WIP2’s current draft isn’t done yet), that even though I wanted to read so. Many. Awesome. Books. I just couldn’t.* I had to do the Grown Up Thing and Prioritize. *pout*

So, despite acquiring a bunch of books, most of which were sponsored by my friends and family via birthday presents (THANK YOU ALL!), I only really read three books: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake; Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver; and The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. (If you KNEW how quickly I devoured books you would be shocked, SHOCKED by this paltry number!)

I know this is a cop-out answer, but considering I prioritized my life to read these books, I would say ALL THREE were truly awesome. Plus, since they were distinctively different genres/styles, they all fed different Book Cravings that I’d been jonesing for.

If I must, MUST choose one, I would HAVE to choose The Fault in Our Stars, since that book is so life-changing AMAZING. (The fact that I’m choosing to spend my meager pennies to buy another copy to giveaway would ALSO be a great indicator to how much I loved it, I would imagine!)

I will eventually come to the point where I can read more science fiction and fantasy, the genre of my heart, but I am waiting till this draft is winging its way to my crit partners before I indulge. (See how Grown Up I am? See??)

So, what was the best book YOU read in January?

[*Waiting in the wings for me to finish WIP2 are Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi, Legend, by Marie Lu, 77th Shadow Street by Dean Koontz, Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I. So. Can’t. Wait!]

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

 Six-ish months ago, I went to a little John Green reading, where I first heard snippets of his yet-unpublished-new-book. Though Green read many clever lines that I loved and noted, I went to great lengths to scribble down this conversation in my notebook:

“Literally?” I asked.

“We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” he said. “I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus.”

“Someone should tell Jesus,” I said. “I mean, it’s gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart.”

“I would tell Him myself, but unfortunately I am literally stuck inside of His heart, so He won’t be able to hear me.”

(Sigh. I knew I would love this book. He had me at the mocking use of “literally.”)

Along with sharing the first chapter of his then-unpublished-and-yet-to-be-named book (my notes referred to it as “the story after Paper Towns“), Green also shared anecdotes that related to both his author-journey-so-far, and what he felt was his responsibility as a writer to produce stories that were both helpful and beautiful.

I didn’t understand all the implications of his talk until I read The Fault In Our Stars, that long ago unnamed book.

Green sought to add a story that was both beautiful and helpful into this world? I’d say he exceeded his expectations. (He certainly exceeded mine!) (Also, much of his author-journey-anecdote became clearer to me after reading this book, a lesson I’m taking to heart for my own journey.)

And, here I am, left in a sort of afterglow.

I always get a quiet hush whenever I read an amazing book. Being a part of a story’s world, being momentarily linked with the author of those words, deserves a sort of reverence. Like, we traveled on a pilgrimage together for a time, and shared a holy act of worship.

Or, maybe I’m just maudlin right now since the characters in The Fault In Our Stars loved and grieved the way I would (and have) loved and grieved, and that poignancy is still with me.

I can go on and on about The Fault In Our Stars, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression of this book with my muddy words. Instead, I’ll give you the opportunity to read this book for yourself, and we can revel in the beauty together. (If we haven’t met yet, “Hi! You totally need to read this book so we can be friends!”)

I will send a copy of The Fault In Our Stars via bn.com to one lovely reader of this blog.

[THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED–Congratulations, Christine Myers! Barnes and Noble is processing your order as I type this!]

This book simply needs to be read, and it would be my privilege to give a copy away. I think of it as adding beauty to someone else’s life.

By the way, if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend reading it in the privacy of your own home. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable bawling your eyes out and wiping snot on your shirt sleeve* in public. Then, by all means, do what you want.

(*I plead the fifth that this was me in any way.)