Monday, April 26, 2010

Grab-A-Line Monday: Penultimate Edition and A Contest

There is a season to everything.

I am a firm believer in that. And I think the season for Grab-A-Line Monday is over. Maybe it'll return in a different format in the future, but right now, I wish to celebrate the end of a good season. I've enjoyed reading the quotes and I hope you have too. I've also read many books that I wouldn't have otherwise. And for that, I am very grateful.

The party to send GALM off is on next Monday, during which time I invite you to come with:

  • your favorite quote from previous GALM posts
  • books you've read because of the quotes you've read here
  • an all-time favorite quote

I hope to award one prize for each category and I will do so if there are at least 10 entries in each. The prizes include How Fiction Works by James Wood, and hard cover editions of two recent YA books that have garnered lots of praise: The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

And maybe a mystery gift. Stay tuned.

You may enter in as many of these categories you'd like, but unfortunately, I can only send prizes to addresses in the Continental USA.

Tell your friends via facebook, tweeter, blogs, forums if you wish but it's not necessary. If you like my blog and would like to follow my journey, I'd love it but again, that is not the point of this contest. I just want to have a great party.

So, come one, come all. Virtual food and beverages
and balloons and confetti and will be provided, but BYOQ: bring you own quotes.

See you at the party.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Unplugging and pre-announcement for Grab-A-Line Monday next week

Between my revision

and some (ignored) tasks real life has for me, it is necessary for me to unplug this week. Kitty has to endure a shower and I have to do a few things equally unappealing.

Please come back next Monday for an announcement for Grab-A-Line Monday next week.

Wish me self-control and productivity!

Friday, April 16, 2010

My ideas come from sesame seeds

So the writing of my new YA novel is suspended because I have to rework my Middle Grade novel extensively. I had identified places for six different threads that need to be re-written. First thread provided not much trouble, but the second one is giving me lots of trouble, especially at the Big Ending Scene. Stuck like Kuala Lumpur traffic on a Saturday afternoon during a monsoon storm.

Ever the conscientious writer, I plough on, although with lots of snack and beverage breaks. Yesterday as I was preparing a snack, the act of shaking the sesame seed bottle suddenly brought to mind a scene, complete with back story and emotion. Smell, heat, taste, everything.

I sat down and wrote the sesame seed scene, followed by nine more.

Next time when somebody asks where my ideas come from, I'll have a ready-made, concrete, and completely truthful answer. What about you? Cat's whiskers? Awnings? re-usable bags?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The adoration of Tales From Outer Suburbia

On this week's Grab-A-Line Monday, I quoted from Shaun Tan's Tales From Outer Suburbia and the word I described my feelings for the book is "adore." This is not a word I have used for many things, as Jim McCarthy also mentioned in his comments in answering a question in his post, but I do, I do, I so do adore Tales From Outer Suburbia.

It is unlike any book I've come across. And I have no idea how to classify it in my Goodreads page. Short stories? Graphic novel? YA? Fantasy? Picture Book? I finally created a new category called "Outside The Box."

If you clicked the link to the book, you'll have seen some of the illustrations. Those alone can make me sit and sigh for days on end. With the texts added, the result is one amazing book.

The stories are loosely linked by their locations as being from outer suburbia. But the emotional range is wide, covering family reunions; a sense of belonging; curiosity and acceptance of those different from us. Many of these stories take place in whimsical settings and the details are unusual, yet the underlying thoughts are recognizable.

There are quirky stories and stories with social commentaries embedded within. There is even a little violence and sorrow. There is also sweetness and hope. Some of them made me smile while others just tug at my heart.

I adore this book and I hope you'll check it out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Big and Small, at the same time

To say that something is big and small at the same time is to equivocate. But to feel small and become aware of limitless possibilities: that is what art does.

Yesterday, I saw some amazing pictures of stairs at Talespinning that did just that. Go over now and look at those photographs and see if you have the same reaction, especially to the first one, where your eyes follow those old stone steps upward and when the steps stop abruptly, your eyes are directed to the sky. I found myself holding on my breath as I looked at the photograph.

I felt small.

What am I when I consider the stones, and the power and time it took for them to come into existence? And the steps: how much work and strength and skill that had gone into making the stones into steps? And that unending vastness that uplifts and humbles we call the sky.

Small and big simultaneously? Yes.
Me: small. Possibilities: big.

Have you felt like that?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Grab-A-Line Monday

Welcome to another edition of Grab-A-Line Monday, where you, my wonderful blog reader, bring passages from what you've read that have caught your attention.
This is a place to discover new books and find new authors.

Nandini emerged from her intensive revision to share this passage from A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner.

"I had been happy. And I could stay if I wanted. I could spend my life contemplating olives and reciting old plays to a friendly audience and building excellent walls that would outlast my lifetime. I could save the occasional coin that came to me by way of the baron's feast day generosities and in time buy a book or two, a blank scroll, ink. In thirty years I might be the poet Leuka. He wasn't a field hand, but he had been a slave and his poetry had survived him by four hundred years. No one would know but me and the gods, and I was sure the gods didn't care. All I had to do was hold my peace, and I knew that I couldn't do it."

Bish Denham, who is going through an A to Z challenge on her blog, is on the letter "B" for "Bish" today. You have to go and find out more about her name, or at least look at her cute baby pic. Her contribution last week includes two sentences from I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter

The old women were staring at me as if I were a needle they were trying to thread...


"Oh, girls," Madame Dabney soothed, turning around to make sure that Liz and I were still in our original one-piece bodies.

I have a passage from Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan this morning. I adore this book. I am in awe of the imagination of the author, and his skill, and brevity, and power. Yes, I am jealous. And, oh, did I mention the drawings? Sigh.

Here is a passage from one of the stories, No Other Country:

The green painted concrete out in front of the house, which at first seemed like a novel way to save money on lawn-mowing, was now just plain depressing. The hot water came reluctantly to the kitchen sink as if from miles away, and even then without conviction, and sometimes a pale, brownish color. Many of the windows wouldn't open properly to let flies out. Others wouldn't shut properly to stop them from getting in. The newly planted fruit trees died in the sandy soil of a too-bright backyard and were left like grave-markers under the slack laundry lines, a small cemetery of disappointment.

Before you say, "depress much?" read on to where:

They all inspected the hold closely...

No, I won't tell you what comes next. I'll promise you this: the hole brings discoveries that more than balance the bleakness of what I've shared above.

What caught you this week?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An update on my endurance adventure

Since I received so many well wishes when I posted about my struggle with my non-stamina body and my quest to conquer it with the baby-step of getting a brown belt, I thought I'd give you an update.

First, brown belt: earned. What did I have to do? Seven different forms (a form is a choreographed series of moves that involve kicks, punches, blocks, etc.) which come up to 220 moves in total + mock sparring. I completed every form with only one bobbled kick. My yells did, however, sound progressively more like moans as the forms got longer and harder but I could still breathe at the end.

This was the sweetest belt I'd ever earned because it was significantly more demanding than the belt before.

Two days later, I competed at a regional tournament and got first place in my age group. Not a huge group but a nice pat on the back nevertheless.

Cloud nine. All of that.

Best case scenario: this successful attempt at a goal that had seemed out of reach would inspire a new goal and energize an on-going fitness routine.

Real case scenario: getting sick after all the excitement and extra strenuous work-outs.

The week after the Big Weekend of testing and tournament, I was still carried along by the leftover high and could excuse myself for feeling winded because of the sickness. But the couple of weeks after that, it felt as if I had never improved my endurance at all. I couldn't run for even two minutes, I was breathing hard on the elliptical on the usual settings, I couldn't finish doing all the forms.

Had I used up all the cumulative hard work in one testing and now had to start again? Or had the one week of being sick and not exercising canceled everything ? Or had I been carried merely on adrenaline and wishful thinking that could not be sustained?

TKD classes during those weeks were torturous. I kept having to take breaks. While everyone else in my sparring class was still bouncing on their feet and laughing during their third match, I had to sit down and remove all my gear because I was over-heated and my heart was leaping out. The worst came three weeks after the new session began. In the middle of practicing a new form, I got dizzy and landed right on my well-padded dorsal area. (Bonus for anyone who can tell me which character from a book I highlighted recently on my blog discovered the use of this term.) I just sat there, stunned, at how weak I felt. And then I felt angry and disappointment.

My instructor asked about my diet and hydration and told me to take it easy. My fellow students patted me on the back. I went out after class and got a large, blended, whole milk mocha and stewed for the rest of the afternoon. And stayed stewing and not exercising for a few days after that.

Then I got my sneakers back on and decided that if I couldn't run, I'd just walk. If I couldn't finish doing my forms, I'd just do however many I could. If my regular settings on the elliptical were too hard, I'd dial it back to minimal. I simply had to get back out on my feet and ignore the questions of why I felt so unconditioned and weak. Or if I would ever get anywhere. The only certainty I knew was that doing anything was better than doing nothing.

This week I am feeling better, although what I am able to do is far from what I had been able to do a month ago. Who knows why. It's frustrating but if I don't put a lid on "but I could do better before!" and keep moving forward, then the two months of working toward a goal I didn't think I could was just a fluke. And that is not acceptable.

[An afterword}

I had started writing this post a week ago but couldn't finish it. I came back to it today because I'm stuck, stuck, STUCK on my current revision. The feeling is almost identical to what I felt few weeks ago. Writing this post has turned out to be therapeutic. Life sure has a way to using different experiences to teach us the same thing. And the thing I have to learn now is: don't give up; setbacks will happen; move forward no matter how I feel.

Tanita Davis posted a poem the other day with a line that I will tattoo on my mind:

That if you make the effort, you cannot fail.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fun links

Some fun links for you today. Perfect length for short periods of procrastination: won't completely take over your day, but long enough to make you feel satisfied and ready to go back to work.

The first is from npr (thanks to Chasya from the DGLM blog) that re-imagines some famous moves if they'd been written by Nicholas Sparks.

A snippet:

Grease: The race at Thunder Road ends tragically when Danny flips Kenicke's car and dies in a fiery crash....Sandy tucks his comb into her purse, knowing she must be brave and go through with her makeover. As Frenchy sews her into her pants before Danny's funeral, Sandy sings, "You're in the ground now / like shama-lama-lama, da ding-edy-ding, de-dong."

The second link is the Turkey Lexicon from the SFWA. Even if you're not a Sci-Fi or Fantasy writer, (I'm not) you'll recognize some of these, and if they appear in your own writing, have no fear, nobody needs to know. Some examples from this lexicon;
  • Eyeball Kick

Vivid, telling details that create a kaleidoscopic effect of swarming visual imagery against a baroquely elaborate SF background. One ideal of cyberpunk SF was to create a “crammed prose” full of “eyeball kicks.” (Attr. Rudy Rucker)

  • The Whistling Dog

A story related in such an elaborate, arcane, or convoluted manner that it impresses by its sheer narrative ingenuity, but which, as a story, is basically not worth the candle. Like the whistling dog, it’s astonishing that the thing can whistle — but it doesn’t actually whistle very well. (Attr. Harlan Ellison)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Grab-A-Line Monday: Leviathan edition

Fan of historical fiction*: no
Fan of re-imagined history: a wee bit

Fan of war fiction: not at all
Fan of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan: YES!

Fan of my blog readers who share quotes from books they've enjoyed so I don't feel lost in the sea of new books: Yes, Yes and most definitely Yes!

This is just one of several books I've enjoyed after being enticed by the quotes from Grab-A-Line Mondays and I thought I should let you know that I really appreciate every passage that has been quoted here. Keep 'em coming!

*Turns out the genre intended by Westerfeld for Leviathan is
dystopian steampunk.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A couple of blog awards

Lady Glamis gave me this award a few days ago:

I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it, and she can't remember either, so I will leave this sunny picture up here for some cheeriness.

Tricia gave this other award and this one comes with instructions.

1) Pass it on to seven prolific bloggers. 2) Link to the person who gave it. 3 & 4) Link to the Advance Booking post where it originated and sign into Mr. Linky there.

I will pass this award to:

Wrtier Mama Dreamer
Samuel Park
Cuppa Jolie
Ramblings of Drifting Mind
Story Bug
Composition Book

I tried to make sure none of the awardees (yes, I know there are only six, but shhhh) but if you have already received this, just enjoy getting it once more!

Enjoy the weekend. If you celebrate Easter: Happy Easter!