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!]

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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 Six-ish months ago, I went to a little John Green reading, where I first heard snippets of his yet-unpublished-new-book.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.)

Nerd Moment

I interrupt what would normally have been an insightful, nay, inspirational post to say this:

“Squeeeeee!!! It’s here, it’s here!!”

I am OF COURSE talking about John Green’s latest book, The Fault In Our Stars, newly released this past Tuesday. (I first mentioned how I looked forward to the book HERE, when I went to a John Green signing back in June, and he read an excerpt from it.)

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Aside from my own ridiculous need to finish this draft of WIP2 THIS MONTH, I now have another incentive to get me to write my pages! ^_^

Road Trip Wednesday #100: Your Writing Journey

I haven’t participated in YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesdays before, but since I’m a sucker for milestones and round numbers, I felt like this Road Trip Wednesday was made for me. 😀

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs.

This week’s topic:

What has your writing road trip looked like so far? Excitement? Traffic jams and detours?

Where are you going next?

My blog is sort of an answer to this question, since I keep it as an accountability tool for myself. Ever since my first posts, (“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” “Prioritizing My Life” and “Music, Fitness, and My Muse“) (I just noticed they were posted on Star Wars Day, May 4, 2010…yes I’m a BIG nerd!), I have been focused on making the most of the time I have, and have challenged myself to finish a novel in a year.

After my declaration to pursue novel writing seriously, I have fumbled my way through my writing process, eventually participating in NaNoWriMo, and winning! My novel wasn’t complete at 50,000 words, but I eventually reached The End in December.

The satisfaction of reaching The End didn’t last since I knew my story was a Hot Mess. After a break in January, I tried to get back into the story and revise it. During that time, another story (Scrap Metal, aka WIP2) begged to be written. After scribbling down the first two chapters on post its and index cards at my pay the bills job, I dutifully ignored The Shiny so I could make my Hot Mess less messy.

I attended my very first writer conference, SCBWI. Though I enjoyed the experience of hearing from industry professionals, by far the best result from that conference was meeting local writers. (I’ve enjoyed many a business lunch with them since that conference. :D)

Then, I went to a John Green reading, and that was the aha moment that “gave me permission” to let go of my Hot Mess (for now) and start drafting WIP2.

With WIP2, I’ve learned the value of slowing down and delving into my scenes (“Stuck” “Stuck, Redux“), and that I can balance plotting and pantsing to design a story worth reading. (I’m still learning the rhythm that works best for me).

I’m currently in the Plotting portion to develop the Act 2 of WIP2. I participated in ROW 80 to keep me on track. My goal is to have a rough draft finished this month, and have a prettier draft by the end of this year.

I know that I have so much to learn about my process, but the best thing is knowing that when I’m creating stories, I am truly happy. All throughout my life, schooling, jobs, relationships, etc, everything seemed to come easily for me. I’m grateful for that, but when I look back at my life, the road seems kind of fuzzy; like, it’s all been one big dream. And then, I come to the point in my path when I committed to finishing a novel. The path from that point on sticks out in high relief. With that decision, I became aware. When I decided to follow my dream of writing stories, I awakened to the rest of my life.

I know I talk about writing in almost transcendent terms, but honestly, I don’t know how else to describe it other than an epiphany. A mindset altering, life changing decision. With writing, I have found my purpose in life. How can I treat it as less than a spiritual awakening?

*I couldn’t have gotten this far without my writing partners, alpha/beta readers, and cheerleaders. They keep me refreshed and motivated to keep pursuing my dream, and for that reason I’m ever so grateful for social media for helping me find my writing circle.

So, what has your writing road trip looked like so far? Where are you going next?

Share The Love

Photo shared generously by Poppy Thomas-Hill

I wanted to start a new feature on my blog that I can do on a regular basis, but couldn’t find one that I felt I could commit to. Then, I thought about what I loved most about blogging and Twitter, and realized that I enjoyed sharing, no matter what it was. I love promoting good books I’ve discovered, passing along great advice I’ve heard, and recognizing awesome people I’ve met. So, I’ve simply called this feature “Share The Love,” and will post it on Sundays, hopefully every week.

What a great week it’s been!

I twittered this week, and loved this tweet:

http://twitter.com/#!/JReaHedrick/status/92579501720088576

So cute, right?? LOVE!

I entered these awesome contests hosted by my friends Carol and Hira. LOVE!

Carol is hosting a SUPER ARC Giveaway with a MUST READ book, Girl of Fire and Thorns. The giveaway also includes The Eleventh Plague and Lola and the Boy Next Door, which are also great titles, but I’ve been SO into fantasies lately, that the Girl of Fire and Thorns definitely caught my eye!

Hira is hosting a Mega Awesome Giveaway for a Kindle in honor of her mom’s birthday and her parents’ anniversary! How can you NOT LOVE THAT?

I read a lot of fun books this week…

  • Wildefire, by Karsten Knight (review up tonight)
  • Putting Makeup on Dead People, by Jennifer Violi
  • The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan (Finally! It was NEVER in stock at the library!)
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

…and can’t wait to read these new-to-me books:

  • The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
  • Witchlanders, by Lena Coakley
  • The Passage, by Justin Cronin (Just got this 844 page ebook from my library late last night and read it for a few hours. Epic does not begin to describe the scope of this book so far.)

(Didn’t I tell you I was really into fantasy at the moment? I think I really want to get a handle on how other authors treat huge, sweeping landscapes with a rich cast of characters. Not to say that WIP2 is huge or sweeping, but it does cover a LOT of terrain…)

Speaking of epic fantasies, when my sister and brother in law visited earlier this week (who were, by the way, the first overnight guests in our construct-y house since we bought it four years ago), we watched a little movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Anyway, it lived up to its hype, and I had to watch Part 1 again the next night (followed by How To Train Your Dragon). See? I LOVE LOVE LOVE my epic fantasies ^_^.

I look forward to visiting with the rest of my immediate family this coming weekend as Hubs and I road trip (LOVE) out east. 😀

This Past Week…

A lot of random things popped up all in the same week that I thought were quite memorable, so I thought to share some of these snippets. I know that normal weeks begin with Sunday and end with Saturday, but I have the privilege of not working a set schedule, thanks to my paythebills job, and Tuesdays generally mark the beginning of my “weekend.” So, without further ado…

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Thanks for lending me the book, Kayla! Also, I think the cover has changed since this ARC, so don't be confused!

I spent last Tuesday (and into Wednesday) immersed in other worlds, namely, Fran Billingsley’s Chime and (the ARC of) Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Both of these stories were incredibly written and beautifully characterized. I wanted to wrap the words around me, and live in these worlds. Seriously, these books are what I aspire to as a writer. Unfortunately, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not available until this fall, but Chime is available now!

I unfortunately missed out on a chat that writerly friends of mine were hosting Wednesday night, but here is the archive of that chat. I think we decided to make it a monthly chat, on the second Thursday of each month.

The next few days after that, fueled by insomnia, caffeine, and the raging desire to work on something fun, I fleshed out a chapter of a story (the snippets of which I wrote back in January) and continued to sketch out “next chapter plots.” I was so proud of myself, this song played in my head all day Friday (thanks to my awesome twitter friend, Michele Shaw, aka @veertothewrite, for tweeting me this link, so I can share the madness with you all):

(You’re welcome.)

Then, thanks to my lovely friend, Carol, I got these books…

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Carol, next in line!

…signed by John Green! (Please visit her blog post, here, where she also shares The Man in Truck incident, and her experiences at WisCon.)

Though I loved getting all three of those books signed, I really appreciated listening to what he had to say about the relationship of the reader and writer, and what he felt was his responsibility as a writer to produce stories that were both helpful and beautiful. Also, we got to hear bits from his new book, the title of which will be released next week. (UPDATE: John Green has announced that the new book’s title is The Fault in Our Stars. He will be signing all pre-ordered copies! Go order one today!)  The book itself comes out in nine months, and from what I heard, I will DEFINITELY be lining up to buy a copy (which will hopefully be signed, too, one day!)(UPDATE#2: Since JG announced he would be signing pre-ordered copies, mine is already signed, but I don’t mind getting it signed again!) 😀

Throughout the week, too, I accrued a pile of titles to be read, even though I promised myself that I would only get one book at a time. What can I say? I’m a book junkie.

So, (thanks to my library), I’m currently reading Julie Halpern’s Don’t Stop Now and Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys (via audiobook. What an efficient reader I am! ^_^). Also in my special library bag (what, you don’t have one?), I have:

  • The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto
  • The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  • Claire de Lune, by Christine Johnston
  • Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry

Actually, the last two were because of the galleys waiting for me in my inbox. Thanks to Galley Grab, I have their sequels (Nocturne and Dust and Decay, respectively), along with Wildefire, by Karsten Knight, The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, and Fury, by Elizabeth Miles. (I don’t usually do book reviews on this blog, but I will pass along titles of books I thought were AMAZING! *coughcoughdaughterofsmokeandbonecoughcough*)

So that was my week (which, if you minus the John Green thing, and add a little more insecurity tugging at my “I Can Do This” exterior, was pretty much a typical week).

What Have You Been Up To??