It's all about procrastination over here!

So, I was going to do book reviews, but I really don't want to think that much today.

See, if I write book reviews when I don't want to think, they will be short and perfunctory and some of you will be disappointed, especially Marty, who's waiting with bated breath for me to review the Stieg Larsson books and then you will all be sad and I will be sad and that's no good.

So instead, my last post of the year will be some happy music!

*dances*




Happy early New Year, everyone!

Monday Snippits: What can I do for you?

Whew!  Christmas/holiday craziness is over and I'm looking at a rapidly approaching New Year. I've got some plans, some resolutions and some fears, which I'll share with you all on Saturday. But right now, I'd like to ask a question.

What can I do for you?

I've picked up quite a few followers and readers and made some changes since I last asked this question in July.  So I'd like to know.

Is there something you'd like to see me post on more often?

Do you want me to do a book count in 2010? Book reviews?

Do you all have any suggestions for next year? What can I do for you?

An abrupt blog post:

Sorry, I would have posted more today (and earlier) but I'm busy reading The Emerald Tablet by PJ Hoover.

And playing Munchkin.

I love the day after Christmas!

What are you doing?

In which I share my secret stress reliever.

 It's a crazy time of year for a lot of people.  Some of us are working long hours, some of us are planning huge family gatherings, most of us are worried about money, and all of us are tired.

So I'm sending you, my wonderful readers, a blog present.  This is THE most relaxing song I know.  Listen to it once, then listen to it again with your eyes closed.  I promise, your stress will fade.

 The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred Lord Tennyson,
adapted by Loreena McKennitt



On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight forever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

(This is actually the short version of the song.  The whole song is about ten minutes long and contains even more beautiful language.  I strongly suggest that if you like this, you look it up.)

I wish you all a happy and relaxing holiday.  See you Saturday!

Some last minute gifts for the young or young-at-heart.

It's crunch time, only five days left to find that perfect gift!  So just in case you need ideas, I've got some...

The Princess and the Bear (Hardcover) by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Princess and the Bear
Harrison, Mette Ivie

As I blogged in February, I read The Princess and the Hound on a recommendation from several friends, and loved it.  But that love is a pale thing in comparison to how much I enjoyed this companion book about a dog who used to be a princess and a bear who used to be a king.  And that was primarily because of the main female character, Chala.  She's a hound-turned-human, practical, strong, vibrant and refreshing.  As with the first book, the language was beautiful.  5 stars

Life in the Pit (Paperback) by Kristen Landon
Life in the Pit
Landon, Kristen

Normal cello player Brittney is used to being in the shadow of her pretty, popular friend Amanda.  But when the handsome star of the school play starts paying attention to Brittney, and she and Amanda start getting threatening letters, Brittney feels like the world has turned upside-down.

A light, fun mystery. Good for anyone who's musical and maybe a bit shy. :) 3 stars

When Mike Kissed Emma (Paperback) by Christine Marciniak
When Mike Kissed Emma
Marciniak, Christine

This book actually reminded me of Happy Endings, a book I reviewed in February.  This too was a short, sweet story that I enjoyed a lot, with one exception.  Emma's main failing - judging others based on appearance - is one that particularly irks me, and so I spent a great deal of the book wanting to shake her.  But that could be because I was more in Mike's shoes in high school, so I took it personally.  A good gift for someone who loves theater, the Sound of Music, and happily-ever-after stories. 3 stars

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Paperback) by Maureen Johnson
13 Little Blue Envelopes
Johnson, Maureen

Okay, this might be blasphemy, but I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as I did Devilish.  On the other hand, I'm much more into wisecracking demons than I am into traveling around Europe.  Maureen Johnson's style is still as fun as ever, and if you have a teen who dreams of getting away and having adventures on their own, they will probably love this book. 3 stars

Tantalize (Paperback) by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Tantalize
Smith, Cynthia Leitich

This is one of those books that you start and think: "Okay, this is interesting. Let's see where it goes."  But by the time you've finished, all you can say is "Whoa."

See, I thought I could see the danger the main character was in. I thought I knew what was going to happen and it happened.  But when it happened, it was so much more than I expected that I found myself thinking something that I rarely, if ever, do about a main character.

I don't know how she could have possibly avoided it.  In fact, I probably would have done exactly the same things she did, which made the ending that much more powerful.  If you know anyone who likes vampires, Gothic fantasy or plain old suspense, you should get them this book.  5 stars

Anyone else got any good last-minute gift ideas?

What do you think?

 You'll notice a new look about...

For this I blame Amy and her wonderful Inde-Debut idea.  I really wanted to put up the icon, and perhaps a list of the other members of the group but I just didn't have the space.

So I redecorated.  In a demolish-everything-extreme-home-makeover sort of way. And I think I've got something that will work well.

There are still a few bugs to fix.  I still need to figure out why my comments are smashing together.  But all told, I'm happy with the new look.

What do you think?

Why you should buy your niece or daughter a Taylor Swift CD

*ducks to avoid rocks thrown by TS-haters*

Okay, so some of her stuff is irritatingly catchy, and I wish she would make more songs like White Horse and fewer songs like You Belong With Me (which is actually a very honest song and pretty much describes me and some other friends of mine and how we related to guys in high school and college but every time I hear it I want to yell "You cannot get a guy to like you by hanging around and being his best friend and waiting for him to come to his senses, guys don't HAVE SENSES and you should just get on with your life!")

But that's another blog post.

At the moment, I am now solidly pro-Taylor Swift for one simple reason.  This song.  (I've highlighted to extra-awesome parts.)

FIFTEEN
from the CD Fearless


You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors
It's the morning of your very first day
You say hi to your friends you ain't seen in a while
Try and stay out of everybody's way

It's your freshman year and you're gonna be here
For the next four years in this town
Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say
"You know, I haven't seen you around before"

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen, feeling like there's nothing to figure out
Count to ten, take it in
This is life before you know who you're gonna be
Fifteen

You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail
And soon enough you're best friends
Laughing at the other girls who think they're so cool
We'll be outta here as soon as we can

And then you're on your very first date and he's got a car
And you're feeling like flying
And you're momma's waiting up and you're thinking he's the one
And you're dancing 'round your room when the night ends
When the night ends

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
When you're fifteen and your first kiss
Makes your head spin 'round
In your life you'll do things greater than
Dating the boy on the football team
I didn't know it at fifteen

When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now

Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
But I realized some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy
Who changed his mind
And we both cried

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen, don't forget to look before you fall
I've found time can heal most anything
And you just might find who you're supposed to be
I didn't know who I was supposed to be
At fifteen


I don't know about you, but these lyrics really resonated with me.  Sure, I didn't have any kind of boyfriend in high school and my first kiss was a decade past fifteen, but I remember the intensity. Wanting to be noticed, being obsessed with boys, feeling like I knew everything I needed to know about life.

I think Fifteen acknowledges this and counsels patience and caution without being condescending.  Which is a welcome message, especially in the face of the growing "give everything up for a boy, especially if he's Edward" mentality.  I would give a song like this to my niece in a heartbeat. (At least I would if she wasn't two.) 

What do you think?

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!

Required FTC Disclaimer: 

I did, in fact, receive this book as a gift from Quirk Publishing.  They saw my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and asked if I wanted to review this one.

I believe my exact words were "Heck yes!"

So now you know I'm potentially biased.  But the bias extends only to giving the review its own post.  I believe I would have loved this book anyway.

End of Disclaimer. :)





Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Paperback) by Ben H. Winters
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Winters, Ben H.

Okay, I'll admit it, I was skeptical.  I mean I loved PP&Z, but part of that was the novelty, and part of it was that zombies are so entertaining in and of themselves.  I had doubts that Quirk could pull the idea off twice.

I was wrong.  Ho boy, was I wrong.

This time, Quirk didn't just throw in monsters, they constructed an entire sub-plot around them. And these aren't just random dead people showing up to eat humans, these sea monsters are smart, angry, and organized. 

My favorite part is when the girls are in Sub Station Beta (an underwater London) and the sea creatures organize an attack to break the dome.  So. Cool.

5 1/2 stars

Dresden Files: For the smart aleck fantasy fan in your life.

As you know, I've been in love with Jim Butcher books ever since I picked up the first one several months ago.  And like a good obsessive reader, I've been hunting them down ever since.  Here's what I've got so far.


Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2) by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)
Butcher, Jim

Did you know there are four kinds of werewolf?  I didn't.  Fortunately for professional wizard Harry Dresden, he does.  And when grisly evidence suggests that one or more kinds are loose in Chicago, Harry tries to track them down with the help of Bob, his wise-cracking, sex-obsessed information skull.  5 stars


NOTE:  If you're thinking #3 is missing, you're right. I was forced to read them out of order and when I finally got to number 3, circumstances made it impossible to finish before I had to take it back to the library. Turns out #3, Grave Peril, is the pivot point in Harry Dresden's life and everything that comes after relates to it.

Arg.

Fortunately for me, Jim Butcher is so good at backstory that I wasn't ever confused by the skip, just mad I missed so much.  I plan to try again later.


Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4) by Jim Butcher
Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)
Butcher, Jim

A war between the Winter Court and the Summer Court of Faerie is bad news.  Being pressed into investigating by the powerful and very scary Queen Mab of the Winter Court is worse news.  Now Harry has to pull himself out of his depressed, downward slide (I told you I missed something important) defend himself to the White Council and avoid being assassinated so that he can save the world. 

But when Harry's first love--a girl who tried to kill him when they were kids--turns out to be involved, things get REALLY complicated. 5 stars


Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by Jim Butcher
Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)
Butcher, Jim

A duel with a Red Court vampire that smells like a double-cross.  The missing Shroud of Turin. And a gang of super-powerful, fallen angels who are after both the Shroud and Harry Dresden's immortal soul.

Harry has the Knights of the Cross and his half-vampire ex-girlfriend on his side.  But it may not be enough.  5 stars

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) by Jim Butcher
Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)
Butcher, Jim

This one starts out with Harry rescuing a box of puppies from a group of purple pyromaniac gorilla-demons and it just gets better from there.  He's asked to do an investigation by Thomas Raith, a White Court vampire into the mysterious deaths of several women.  But Thomas isn't telling him everything, and with the added complication of yet another group of vampires, Harry needs all the help he can get.

Especially since there's family involved.  5 stars

Dead Beat (The Dresden Files, #7) by Jim Butcher
Dead Beat (The Dresden Files, #7)
Butcher, Jim

Harry, his information skull Bob, and his new dog Mouse are blackmailed into tracking down an ancient text written by the most powerful and evil necromancer that ever was.  But when a group of the necromancer's disciples show up in town with mayhem on their minds, Harry has to take some unusual steps.

Like enlisting the help of a polka playing coroner. And resurrecting the skeleton of a dinosaur. Meanwhile one of the fallen angels from the fifth book continues to tempt him with promises of power.  5 stars


Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, #8) by Jim Butcher
Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, #8)
Butcher, Jim

Harry's been dragged into being a Warden for the White Council.  He doesn't like it, and when the Council sends him to investigate a surge of black magic, Harry finds himself int he middle of a horror movie.  Literally.  Entities that feed on fear are loose at a horror movie convention, taking on the aspects of the movies themselves.

Now Harry is in a race against, well, everything, to save the daughter of a good friend from police, the fear entities, the White Council... and herself.  5 stars

White Night (The Dresden Files, #9) by Jim Butcher
White Night (The Dresden Files, #9)
Butcher, Jim

Someone is killing low level magic practitioners in Chicago and the evidence implicates Harry's half-brother. Now Harry has to go back into the lair of the White Court vampires, into a power struggle where humans are collateral damage.  To pull this one off, he has to call on all his friends; Mafia, police, Wardens and vampires.  But Harry's fallen angel is more persuasive than ever.  Harry might win this battle, and lose his eternal soul.  5 stars

Again, sorry for the late post.  I'll see you Monday!

Another late post...

Whew, this week just flew by.  Busy work, lots of rewriting and I'm starting my agent search again! *gulps*

Now I have to open at work. But I'll be back this afternoon, with some great book reviews.

See you then!

Christmas time is near!

(At least for those of us who celebrate it)

In honor of this overcommercialized-but-still-vastly-awesome holiday, I'd like to share my favorite Christmas song.


 I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day 
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!



 I love this song for many reasons, not the least is that it is actually based off of a poem by Longfellow.  I just adore the language.  "Wild and sweet, the words repeat." is my favorite line.

What about you?  What's your favorite Christmas/holiday song and why?

Monday Snippits: Christmas List

Hey, I almost forgot to post my Christmas wish list!

This year I wish for:

~The Emerald Tablet by PJ Hoover

~The Navel of the World by PJ Hoover

~A subscription to SmartFTP (so I can finish my website)

~The movie Van Helsing, with director's commentary

~An agent :)

ADDS:  I'd also like circular knitting needles and The War of Art by by Steven Pressfield


There are a couple of other things that are supposed to go one here, but I forgot them.   (Which is why I need to put up a list in the first place.) 

What's on your wish list this year?

Song and Story Month

Whoa, how the heck did it get to be Saturday already?

I've decided to do a new thing this December.  Song and Story Month! We're going to celebrate the coolness of words in all forms and maybe get some good gift ideas too.

I'll be  posting reviews of some more new books, and highlighting songs that I think have vivid and interesting lyrics.  Please feel free to chime in with other recommendations or suggestions.

First up is a band called Antigone Rising.  I confess, I bought their CD From the Ground Up mostly because they all have awesome hair.  (Not the worst criteria, I suppose.)  But it rapidly became one of my favorites.

This is a song called What? and it was the theme song for one of the troubled main characters in my project last month.


Lost inside the pattern
of those who'll never matter
speak to you of freedom, rage is getting fatter
Empty as your beer can
crush me you're a mad man
Hanging on to history of hate in your hand


(chorus) What can I say
to pull you from behind?
What can I say
to make you change your mind?


I know what you're thinking
you believe in nothing
Hollow eyes say you're not whole
and you're not bluffing


Now we can't ignore you
now we can't afford to
standing on your chest are those that go before you


(chorus) What can I say
to turn water into wine?
What can I say
to make you change your mind?


(bridge)
Your anger looks so ugly like a handprint in the icing
of one more forgotten birthday 
of the child no one noticed
Lay the belt upon the table
hope for punishment that's better 
than the silence that surrounds you
and the love that never found you


(chorus) What can I say
to leave your hands untied?
What can I say
to turn water into wine?
What can I say
to make you change your mind?



That bridge still gives me shivers!

Do any of you find theme songs for your characters? What are they?

Okay, maybe a little bit more about me...

Two things:

Thing 1:  I am sad to announce that, barring a miracle from the heavens (which are mostly passing out snow these days), my book will NOT be out by the end of 2009.

*moment of sniffle-y silence*

However, like many things in life, this continued delay comes with an unexpected benefit.  Here it is:




This is a group started by my good friend Amy to help promote authors who are being published in 2010 and 2011 by smaller presses.  One of my regrets with Flute was that I wouldn't be able to be a part of a promotional group like this, and now I can!

To find out more, you can visit their site.



Thing 2:  I don't often comment on some of the popular blogs I follow, mostly because by the time I get there, there are so many comments that I'm intimidated.  But when Rachelle Gardener posted a rant the other day, a commenter said something that I felt needed to be addressed, and I thought I'd share my reply with you.
__________
Anon 3:02-

I believe there is a misconception in this statement.

"He writes great stuff... but never gets any feedback from the people who matter (agents, editors)."

The people who matter are not agents, editors or publishers. The people who matter are the people who buy books. The people who matter are the readers.

The readers are the ones who determine the New York Times Bestseller List.

The readers are the ones who fail to buy the struggling midlist author's books, thus making it hard for them to sell another.

The readers are the reason that the books on the shelves are there in the first place, crap or not.

The whole publishing industry, good and bad, is based on selling. Agents try to find authors they think they can sell, publishers want books they think will sell well. But the people who are BUYING BOOKS are the ones with the power.

Now, it's true that readers can't always tell you why they put down a book, or what didn't work for them. That's why writers need other writers. That's why they need to study craft, read writing books written by people who have sold books, and why they need to keep practicing.

But I don't think your friend, or any of us, would be well-served by looking to agents and editors as the ones who matter. Because you can get a great agent, sell to a huge publisher, get all the marketing support you could ever want, and still not hook the reader.

The readers are the ones who matter.
_____________


So that was my thought.  There's been lots of talk lately about the future of publishing, and I see a lot of writers getting angry, frustrated or despairing.  But for me it helps to remember that ultimately it comes down to one group of people, one final test.

Can you hook the reader?

Enough about me!

And my awesome 46,000 word Nano project.  Which combined with the beginning 14,000 words gives me a glorious, completed 60,000 word manuscript to play with in six weeks.

Whee!!!

Instead, we're going to talk about someone else, specifically Stacy Whitman, who is starting a small press this year.  Since Beth said it so much better than I could, I just stole her whole post.   *laughs evilly*

______________________

So.

Tu Publishing.

Publishing multi-cultural fantasy and science fiction.

It's important. Here's why:



I've been a fan of Stacy Whitman (founder of Tu Publishing) for awhile now, but although I knew she was working on establishing the publishing line, I didn't realize she needed help with fundraising. WriterGirl brought that to my attention. Really, you should go read her post here--she says it all much better than I would.

My favorite lines from her post:
I believe this idea is as important if not more so than the LIAR cover controversy. Bloggers moved mountains with that campaign and this publishing house aims to bring more books like that to us. They need our help. And I want to do everything I can to help make this a reality.

There are 14 days left on the fund-raising project and there is a lot of ground to cover. And the cool thing is, if you donate, you get stuff back. Please, spread the word. Donate. Contact others who might be interested. There is a fabulous auction going on. There is so much we can do, and not a lot of time left to do it. Please, I want to move another mountain.

WriterGirl is right: let's move this mountain.

Posted On Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at at 8:44 AM by beth  


__________________________

For more information, here is Tu Publishing's website and Stacy Whitman's blog.

See you Saturday!
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