Road Trip Wednesday #155: Best October Book

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. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: What’s the best book you read in October?

October found me at the end of my third revision on my manuscript and breathing a sigh of relief. I was also breathing to maintain my composure, to wait for my feedback, and to focus my inner critic. Since I had all that breathing room, I also consumed as many books as my schedule (as a Brooklyn Mom, Wife, and writer the schedule can get a little tight sometimes) would allow. These are the books I read during October:

In my opinion the best book I read of the lot was The Crown of Embers. I think Rae Carson did a phenomenal job with her sequel. The addition of the creepy Inviernos guide and the deeply moving love story really kept me interested. But, if I’m being totally honest — and why not be? — the make-out scene sealed it. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, so I won’t go into detail. However, it made my toes curl. I read it three times. I can’t fully even explain why. Maybe because of how well she built the tension between the characters, maybe because I have a soft-spot for war-hardened men, or maybe because I think Elisa just needed to be kissed, but it was good. Highly recommend this book, and its predecessor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Some of my favorite right now.

Here is the Goodreads:

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

And my rating when I finished it:

Road Trip Wednesday: #153 Book-to-Film

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. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic: It isn’t surprising that this month’s Bookmobile selection, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bonehas sold film rights; the darkly magical world of the Shadow Fold begs for an on-screen translation! But that got us wondering. We’d like to know, in your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

I am inspired by this topic for a couple of reasons:

1) Like most readers, great world-building and character development are the food for my imagination. Envisioning the world, and “casting” a book I love is one of my favorite parts of reading.

2) With my screenwriting background, editing a book for movie translation is something I never seem to be able to avoid. Some books are easy (like when I read The Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins used to be a screenwriter) some are hard (like Pure, with it’s multiple plot lines and sensory overload), all are fun.

I agree with the author of this topic, Shadow and Bone will lend itself well to film. It’s ripe with vivid images and told in a straight line by the narrator. Finding the visual narrative thread, and knowing what perspective to shoot in, should not prove too complicated for the writer tasked with adapting the screenplay. And that, in essence, is my answer. Book to film translation is so tricky for those very reasons: narrative voice and scope. When you read a book, the author has pages and pages of time to build and fill and maneuver the characters into the heart of the reader.

When writing a screenplay, every page (which is made up of minimally described scene, action and dialogue) has to do a lot of work. Each page of a screenplay is the equivalent to one minute of screen time. Most screenplays are 120 pages, (2 hour films) with some being much shorter and some being much longer. The Hunger Games screenplay, for instance, would have been roughly 142 pages for its 142 run-time. The book was 382 pages, a 140 page gap. This is not even taking into account the difference in word count per page.

My point? A book to screen adaptation is reliant largely on how easy the information given in the longer novel is to translate into action. Screen time is action driven, even if its a character piece. This is where the breakdown happens, I think, with a lot of books turned to film. For a book to work as a film there needs to be a strong action thread (By action I do not just mean running, fighting, or killing. Action is just anything that pushes the plot forward.) and one that is easy to show on film.

To drive this point home: the seventh Harry Potter book made a horrible movie. The last half of the book, as well as the second film, was easier to interpret because it was pretty purpose driven. The first part of the book, and the first film, was plodding and pushed forward by sheer will. We got through both because we were all fully vested in the characters. This will not happen for every book-to-film adaptation.

Divergent should make a pretty compelling film, as long as they remember Tris’ energy and don’t get too bound up in being overly-clever with storytelling. With first person POV translations, the trick is finding a new narrative voice (why I think Twilight was such a massive failure) to help the audience into the story.

All of this to say…book to film is always difficult because as a medium they are completely different. The best adaptations are ones with clear purpose, clean storytelling, and images that lend themselves well to screen.

One of the best book-to-film interpretations ever.

RTW # 150 — There is a season, turn, turn, turn

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. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic is: How does your writing (place, time, inspiration) change with the seasons?

First, I want to say I had a wonderful time at the Austin Teen Book Fest and will try to do a post about it by the end of the week. Look forward to that!

Now on to the question. I like this question. I have always been highly susceptible to change in weather. When it’s sunny, I feel happy. When it’s gray, I feel introspective and gloomy. When it’s cold I imagine myself burrowing into a cave like a bear and emerging with a renewed vision come spring (also thinner because I’ve been hibernating and not eating). I love the colors of fall, and the romance of winter, and the clarity of spring, and the laziness of summer.

When I began working on my novel — exactly one year ago this week — fall was upon New York City. Fall in the northeast is a rhapsodic time. Poems can (and have) been written about it. Painters flock to the city and the surrounding land to capture the brilliance, this tangible proof that beauty can and always will be possible. The world is transformed, by leaves aglow from light like fire, by softened sunlight, or even by the reemergence of sweaters, stockings, and little wool caps.

I was very influenced when creating my world by the atmosphere of fall. I still am. My book takes place in late fall in a woods much like you would find sprawling across New England. Even as winter, spring, and summer have come and gone since I’ve been writing, in my mind I’ve tried to hold on to autumn.

So, I guess, to answer the question completely: I am not very influenced at all. I carry a season around with me as long as the project lives in that season. My manuscript is over 300 pages, but still it is just barely winter when it ends. As I come to the end of these revisions (my third round) I also come to the beginning of fall. Full circle, maybe even completion.


Keep Austin Weird!

This post will be brief because I just arrived in Austin, TX for the Austin Teen Book Festival and I’m tired from watching my husband drive. My husband is very kind to attend this with me as he himself is not so much a reader of YA, but a supporter of my desire to be a writer of YA (not to mention my fangirling of all things YA), and I am not a great driver.

Phew! I have not been to Austin since the Thanksgiving before we moved to New York. The Texas Hill Country is one of my favorite landscapes in the US to view. If you have never been to the Hill Country, you really, really should. Upon exiting I-35 for our hotel in Downtown Austin, we were greeted by a pack of peaceful petitioners for the legalization of marijuana in Texas, and the US overall. They also carried a sign for us to HONK if we agreed. Needless to say, in a city with a slogan about staying weird, and a major university, HONKERS abounded. Nice to know free speech still exists.

Tonight we’ll chill, for tomorrow I plan on absorbing as much knowledge and awesomeness as my brain can hold. (I don’t know if we come with an awesome threshold, I hope not.) I will also be working with the teens in the afternoon, so my energy must be at full-throttle. It’s a thrill for a YA writer to get to shoot-the-shit with a group of engaged readers in her target audience, in a city so completely strange and oddly old-school as Austin. I imagine much fun will be had by all tomorrow, the least of which, a humble, prospective author. Happy Friday to you, wherever you may be!

I feel infinite.

Ok, so I have said before that I don’t particularly like to do reviews on this blog. I am not someone who feels books can necessarily be broken down by a reader for another reader. Reading is incredibly subjective. My agent friend and I recently discussed this in relation to my manuscript and her notes. So that is not what this is. At all.

A couple Road Trip Wednesday’s ago we had to write about our “best book in August”, and a bunch of the other carnival participants had read and chosen The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had been planning to read it since the movie is coming out soon, but had been putting it off. All those who read it and discussed it on RTW did not necessarily encourage me to bump it up my Goodreads list anytime soon. I was actually dreading reading this book. I was actually terribly afraid of what I would find within the pages.

This week is back to school week, and almost on a whim, I decided it was time. (After thinking in detail about my high school years, both in and out of public school for the most recent Road Trip Wednesday.) I sat down yesterday evening after dinner with my Kindle and began to read. Around seven we had to go get my son diapers, so I had to take a break. We came back and I dove right back in. I didn’t much stop after that. My husband kindly played with Sam while I was absorbed into Charlie’s world. I couldn’t pull myself out. I was afraid of where this story was going, wracked with worry over Charlie and his open, exposed heart. I was torn up by the world he was watching unfold, and in love with it too. In love with him.

I will not give more information about the plot of the book, I will only say this: I cried for all the right reasons. That is all I can say because I don’t want you to miss out on the experience of feeling it all should you choose to read it. And you should choose to read it if you haven’t already. As I said on my Wednesday in response to the RTW question, my experience in high school was not a good one, and my parents took me out rather than subject themselves or anyone else to anymore turmoil.

This problem with school, both socially and disciplinarily, actually began much, much earlier than high school. High school was not the first time my parents took me out. After fifth grade I was home schooled with my best friend for two school years. When we moved to Colorado I went back to public school because I needed a way to make friends. I spent the first six weeks eating lunch with my eighth grade English teacher. She really encouraged me to find my way. I did not do well. I made friends, and enemies, I was a compulsive liar and troublemaker. I liked to create drama and intrigue wherever I went. I did eventually find comfort in the drama kids and a special grammar workshop my English teacher put me in. I loved my Community Service teacher (it was a weird elective, I know), and I terrorized my alcoholic science teacher. A man who never gave me detention even though I really, really deserved it. I made some good friends, and had some poetic interactions.

As I read about Charlie I ached. In my life I have had a few experiences like this with books. Overall I love to read, but not always does a book actually create something new in me. (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, to name a few.) This book was published when I was in eighth grade. I wish I had found it then. I needed it then. Now is OK, but then would have been amazing.

For me, Charlie is a boy I know, and a piece of myself, and someone totally new. I think this book is incredibly relevant to the audience it targets because it is true. Yes, he is deeply intelligent and poetic, but his experience is also filled with honesty and sadness and hope, and that is needed. The concept of being completely present in life is a hard one to hold on to, whether you are fifteen or twenty seven. Charlie holds on to it, even when he comes up against something terribly bleak. This is worth taking to heart.

I am a mom to a son, and a sister to brothers, and a wife to a man who was once a high school wallflower-art-prodigy. I was also an outcast of my own creation. The Perks of Being a Wallflower touched on all those parts of me. If you have read it, I would love to hear your feedback. If you haven’t, do and then write me. For now here is the trailer for the upcoming film.

Road Trip Wednesday: # 146

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. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic is:  Back to school time! What’s your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

High school was brief in my case, at least, public high school anyway. When I was a freshman my family lived in Colorado right down the street from Lewis Palmer High School. My brother and I both attended, but for me, high school was a bad dream. I got into trouble. Not your typical teenage rebellion, the trouble I found for myself had nothing to do with smoking pot on school grounds or vandalism. Mine was about justice (or my fifteen year-old skewed perspective of justice, which usually had to do with my authorities messing with my plans) and it usually meant tense confrontation with teachers I had no interest in understanding. I was frustrated with my life, felt trapped and out-of-place in Colorado, and missed family and friends back home. One teacher really had it out for me though. He taught algebra and grouped me in with the vapid mean girls I would never associate with under any form of torture, let alone his stupid glass. I was more of a drama geek than a cheerleader type. I also didn’t like being boxed. When he then punished this group of girls, including me, a foe was created. I spent the rest of my (short) career in his class terrorizing him. I also landed in ISS and Detention more times in three months than I like to recall. And that was just one of the irons I had in the fire. Needless to say, my parents decided that I should be schooled at home.

In my home schooling I read a lot of books — what else did I have to do?— and wrote a lot of crazy plays and short stories. One book, the book I am choosing as my response, was also one of the first books I read in my private education. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, struck the outcast in me like lightening.

 

I remember feeling Hester was someone I could be, someone I could actually understand and relate to. A testament to the classics is their long-term relevance. That book was published 150 years before I was reading it, and yet is made me feel almost normal. No, I was not a woman branded by adultery and raising the illegitimate child that was a result, but I felt branded nonetheless. I felt like the part of me that was true was deeply misunderstood. I carried secrets, and had few real friends. The tragic ending also played into my overly-dramatic-hopelessly-romantic side. At that time the idea of dying for love was super appealing to me, a girl who had never been in love or anywhere near love’s neighborhood.

I spent a lot of time with the classics as a teen, especially once I entered my banned book phase. But The Scarlet Letter was one of the first times I truly felt kindred to a character, and it was a character written well-before high school algebra teachers were throwing girls in detention because they threw a ruler at their head when called “sweetheart”.

What about you? What high school required reading book stands out in your mind today?

P.S. The website I pulled The Scarlet Letter book cover from featured an article about fashions inspired by the book. It was awesome, here’s the link.

What to do? What To Do?

It sometimes takes a lot for me to dig myself out of my own mind. On days like this I find it difficult to do much more than coast. I am a bad coaster. I don’t like to feel unproductive, or directionless — and I really don’t like to be at the receiving end of my own disapproval. On those kinds of days — or weeks, or over-long months — I try to place this wandering mind on something to refocus it. Some of the ways I do that are as follows, in no particular order, with no discernible reasoning:

  • My son’s long black eyelashes. There is something mesmerizing about sapphire blue eyes curtained in charcoal lashes so long they can tickle your cheeks when he kisses your nose.
  • Real Estate. Not real estate in my budget were I looking to by a house or apartment. Not even real estate where I live or have lived before. Usually real estate in the most fantastic sense of the word.
  • Wander around the park (Central or Prospect) and pretend I’m in the woods. This is good for many reasons. Quiet. The location of the first third of my novel which I’m in revisions with. The chance to climb a rock or a tree. Running water. Playing pretend.
  • A nice glass of wine well before evening time. This may be counter productive since wine can also make you tired, but it definitely calms me down.
  • Default to reading some YA I need to familiarize myself with in order to be able to hold conversation with the rest of the YA writer/bloggers out there. I am behind. Sometimes this helps by merely triggering my longing to see my book in print and putting my brain back in the place it needs to make sentences someone might want to read.
  • Remember that everyone needs a break and then turn on an episode of Weeds because I am way, way behind on it.

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Being a writer, mom, and wife I forget sometimes to also be an individual person with many facets and needs. Sometimes I forget to place my mind on things beyond my need to finish rewrites. (To just get.it.done!) This can be a bad place to write from, because it can make you very selfish and one-sided. Writers revel in their solitude, but solitude and hard work is not the only way to create. And probably not the best.

Road Trip Wednesday: #145

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. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic is: What was the best book you read in August?

I feel I must say — and I think I’m touching on a something being expressed by a collective moan among  others, and especially school teachers and children — that I would like to know where the hell August went? At the beginning of this month I actually recall saying to my husband that I couldn’t wait for the end of August. (At the time my son’s school situation for the fall was a lot more solid and my babysitter had not returned to college, how a month can change things?) August put me through the ringer, as it somehow always seems to, and I am left now breathing both a sigh of relief and scratching my head at it’s ending.

I read four books this month— four!— which was incredibly awesome considering I also finished a major rewrite at in the early part of the month as well. Woo-hoo! August was productive. Maybe that’s why it disappeared…? Anyway. My August books are:

So, clearly a trilogy and a stand-alone. Clearly, high fantasy and contemporary. Clearly, very, verydifferent books. If forced to pick a BEST book, (which I am if I want to participate in this RTW — and I do) I would have to go with…

Bitterblue!

Description courtesy Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

As the final book in the Graceling Realm, I was already deeply invested in these characters and the Seven Kingdoms created by Kristen Cashore. In some ways Bitterblue could be considered weaker than the first two books in the series, primarily in the romance department (Cashore has this to say about that), but what it lacks there it makes up in vivid storytelling, drama, and such intricacy’s to plot that I found my mind reeling at the work she had to put in. But that’s not why Bitterblue wins out. For me, Bitterblue herself is why I fell so hard for this book. Bitterblue is a character I sort of relate to. Not in the sense that I had a pathological father who was also a demented king of a fictional land. (Although, wouldn’t that be a a shocking coincidence?) More because she was grappling with very human questions about love, sexuality, family, truth, and ultimately what all of those are wrapped up in, identity.

Much of my quest as a writer — mother, wife, friend, human being — is about the need to solidify and mold our (my) identity within the many confusing hats we are forced to wear as people. I think this is true at sixteen or twenty seven or whatever-age. I love watching Bitterblue come to terms with her world, it’s history, and the people she loves, in the midst of helping her kingdom do the same thing. I also adored Kristen Cashore’s passion and open-mindedness. Plus, I learned a lot about ciphers and code breaking. Really, send me a ciphered message, I’ll crack the bitch.

I am thankful for this writer, these books being on the market, and the joy that was reading them. The End.

Inner Itch

Image Credit Charlesroper

THWACK! My fly swatter made contact with the dashboard, not the fly. The fly spun in the air toward the back seat of the car where the baby snoozed, neck contorted, his plump lower lip sticking out and gleaming with spit. The fly landed on the baby’s plump, white arm.

“Lovely,” I groaned, catching my own eyes in the rearview mirror. The fly is now throwing up its microscopic stomach contents onto the baby’s skin. The baby’ll suck that same wrist all slobbery and sticky when he wakes up. I’ll have to get to him before he does. I glare at the drivers side window. This window is why the stupid fly got inside and now sits on the baby’s arm in the first place. This. Stupid. Window.

I guess if I’m going to blame the window for my problems, I may as well blame the loser who bought a car with a window that wouldn’t roll all the way up in the first place. That idiot is my younger, slightly more attractive sister, Layla. Being twenty four with breasts like melons and hair from a Pantene commercial does not afford Layla with the foresight to anticipate needing a window to close all the way when driving through the sweaty, insect infested roads outside Houston-hot-as-hell’s-asshole-Texas. Stupid Junior College Dropout.

The fly is taunting me. This is now clear. It has flown to the ceiling above the back window, I can actually see the blasted thing rubbing it’s creepy little hands together. I wish Layla would hurry up so I can pee, and then maybe I’ll forget about the fly altogether. It’s just a distraction really. I’m not dense.

My cigarettes are empty. Layla again. Though, I guess maybe I shouldn’t smoke with the baby in the backseat like that. Secondhand smoke kills. It killed our cousin Larry. Larry had a brother who smoked like the tailpipe of a dying jalopy. His brother burned their trailer down with a lit cigarette while Larry slept off his high in the bathtub. Larry was an idiot.

Out my back window, where the fly now crawls, I see a rusty red pick-up squeal into the parking lot. My heart in my ears. That’s his truck. The truck! Layla. I grab my cell and text rapid fire:

Trck, hrry, go round back — bring tp, i still hav to p. 

It’s too late. Layla, her shiny blonde hair and vacant blue eyes, those long legs that used to be so tan and muscular, saunters the front door of the Stop-N-Go. She’s not looking because she’s pulled out her phone to see my text. She doesn’t see him rush her, his t-shirt showing off tan arms made for beating little woman, the lip of his cap blocking his face from the security camera. She doesn’t notice until his hand grips the hair at the top of her head, a huge clump of golden, and yanks her into the truck. I see him send a lightening quick smack to her face and then I don’t think anymore. Inside I feel the itch to press my foot to the pedal. At least the baby, me, and that damned fly will get away.

This post was inspired by BeKindRewrite’s stellar InMon prompts.

Road Trip Wednesday: #144

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. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Week’s Topic is: Inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

I had to go read the post (as if they were twisting my arm, or something) to understand what this question meant. Once I did, I realized two things:

  1. This is a brilliant idea, it’s also something I have done mentally since my first draft without ever putting a name to what I was doing.
  2. I am now following this authors blog. My blogroll grows again.

So, you may or may not want clarification, but I’ll give you some anyway. As Stephanie says in her post, the “Love List” is a list of things that remind why you love you WIP and why should keep pressing forward to make it what you in your heart believe it can be. It’s like a Pro’s list about your book. It’s also a guide to the strongest parts of your book, and can help you focus when you lose your way in rewrites. The “Love List” is your breadcrumbs home.

So, here is my “Love List” for my Manuscript (or what I can say without giving too much away):

A field of Poppies

Fur

Hands

Velvet

The silent child

Moonshine

The Way of the West

Poaching

A beautiful, lopsided face

The smell of her blood

Telling a secret

Lamplight

The Forest

Dangerous kisses

That was fun. Hmm…it also makes me miss my Manuscript, which is just minimized in my dock. I think I’ll open it, just to be close to them.