Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stepping through the portal

I’m talking to you, 2012! I've got a little wish list.

It’s not that I'm asking to be like a giant, regal swan in a lake teaming with common coots and ducks and cormorants. (Um, yes, I was walking with a friend when the swan appeared, and I couldn't resist this stretch. After all, swans symbolize intuition, creativity and light,) And, not to disparage swan behavior, I wouldn’t fling lesser beings aside on the way to the feeding trough. (Ack. Yes, they do that.)

But, sigh. I wouldn’t mind a little adoration and crumb tossing. Just a tad. You know, an agent loves my story. An editor loves my story. The marketing department loves my story. The public loves my story. Hollywood loves my story.

Is that too much to ask?

I suppose it is since I’ve yet to finish said story.

So, 2012 Goal, The First:

Finish writing and editing my darkly funny fairy tale! I mean, really, enough already. I need to send it toddling out into the world and see if anyone wants to fuss over it, put a pretty cover on it and shout out its wonders.
To reach goal No.1, I am going to go away for a week in January with nothing but my manuscript to do some serious final revisions.

As part of my 2012 writing plan, I've downloaded the coolest 365-day, one-page, free calendar called Don't Break the Chain. Inspired by Jerry Seinfeld, it is a simple way to nudge yourself to write (or anything else) every day, so you can "X" out each box. Mission accomplished day-by-day and writing moving steadily forward. Here's a link through The Writers Store.

All other goals can line up in the queue. Here's a good one--the banishment of overused, misused words, such as compiled by the “amazing” Lake Superior State University.

I wish you all a sparkling New Year, filled with adventure and goals well-met. Let’s expect the unexpected, roll with the sucker-punches, be flexible and adaptable. Who knows, some of the surprises may carry wonders.

Doesn't it feel like we step through a portal when one year rolls into the next? So much possibility. (But no ancient Mayan doomsday, thank you very much.)

One last thought, part of a quote from Neil Gaiman: "and I hope somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A mind-bending read

I've been wearing an orange wrist band I love for the last month. I won it in a contest on Susan Kaye Quinn's blog. The band reads: openBOOKS openMINDS The organization raises funds to give books to children, some of whom have never owned a book of their own, and I love that Susan chose to include that during her book launch.

OPEN MINDS also happens to be the title of Susan's YA novel, which should be added to your TBR pile if you haven't sat up reading it late into the night already. Really, this is a great read for young teens to adults, both male and female.

This fast-paced thriller is set in a world where mind-reading is the norm, and Kira, the teen-age protagonist is a freak--a zero, who hasn't developed the ability to communicate by thought. But what really sets her apart and catapults her into danger is her newly-discovered ability to jack into other people's minds and control them.

When she realizes there is a subculture of jackers, who range from benign undercover citizens to vicious criminals and ruthless military agents, she faces choices she could never have imagined. If you can control other people's minds how far would you go and can you ever justify what you're doing?

Susan deftly developed a captivating concept with solid world-building, comprehensible futuristic slang, and characters who matter. There are two love interests for Kira. Raf is a loyal friend and all-around good guy, who the reader can't help but love, but bad-boy Simon turns out to be a heart-breaker, too. They're all caught up in a complex society they barely understand.

This is Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy, and I'm eager for more.

An interesting note about Susan, she's not only a talented writer, she's a rocket scientist. If you poke around her blog--for instance, check out the For Writers page--you'll find links to fascinating, informative and fun past posts on everything from developing characters to analyzing the publishing possibilities open to writers these days.

And there's a sample available you can read of OPEN MINDS on her site, too. Have a peek, but beware. You might get jacked!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A very merry monster to you!




I had to post this. *grins like a monster*

My daughter and I took a walk through the canals in Venice (California, that is), which are gorgeous with strings of light. This bridge may have menorah candles depicted, but the way the photo came out is Monster Mouth! Is it not?

I hope your holidays, however you celebrate, are full of surprises, laughter, joy and zombie-free (at least for the moment).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hey there Solstice, you sure look good to me

Winter solstice,

a sunrise walk,

such symmetry,

balance in


and space


an offer of







My wish is joy to you,

peace to all,

beauty wherever

we may walk


Happy holidays however you celebrate, wherever you are!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book love

If you're still shopping for gifts or receive a gift certificate or just plain want a good book, well, have I got suggestions for you! I picked a few of my favorite reads this year, which I reviewed on Goodreads or, perhaps, even here before. But these deserve a second shout-out.

I've rarely been drop-to-my knees floored by a debut author, but I am this time. Tahereh Mafi not only weaves a riveting tale in SHATTER ME, she creates a character who grips my gut, tears at my heart. But the thing that made me almost gasp time and again was the stunning way she describes Juliette's emotional reactions.
When we meet Juliette she is a shell of a teen girl kept alive and half-sane by some inner strength. No one can touch her because of a strange affliction that will cause them pain or death if they do. She is kept locked alone in a cell.

The world-building in this dystopian future is not all that unusual but Juliette is.
Here are a few samples of sometimes stream-of-consciousness style, in which punctuation and numbers don't go by the book. The first comes after she's been alone for a much of a year and is inexplicably given a cellmate. When she offers him a blanket, he does the unexpected:
He takes it only to wrap it more tightly around my body and something is suddenly constricting in my chest. My lungs are skewered and strung together and I've just decided not to move for an eternity when he speaks.
When she is too slow to follow a soldier's orders and is beaten:
The walls are beginning to bleed into the ceiling. I wonder how long I can hold my breath. I can't distinguish words I can't understand the sounds I'm hearing the blood is rushing through my head and my lips are 2 blocks of concrete I can't crack open...
And when she collapses:
I'm in the air. I'm a bag of feathers in his arms and he's breaking through soldiers crowding around for a glimpse of the commotion and for a moment I don't want to care that I shouldn't want this so much.
Mafi's character development and beautiful style are unforgettable.
WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE is what might be known as a quiet book--a middle grade, historical fiction about a girl whose father is a traveling preacher. I usually read YA or adult fantasy/dystopian but, I was drawn in completely to Ollie's world and her huge heart and courage. And even though Tess Hilmo's writing is rich in detail and atmosphere, a sense of urgency and danger begins early and stays through the story.
I like that this book is never preachy, despite being about a family who travel from town to town to spread the gospel. Perhaps because Ollie's father is named Everlasting Love he is infused with compassion and a good-hearted nature that extends to all the family. That is not to say Hilmo's characters don't have faults and family squabbles--they do, and the dynamic feels authentic.
But when the family pulls their travel trailer into the small town of Binder, they find more than expected after Ollie befriends a boy whose mother is in jail for killing his father. Soon Ollie and her family are on the nasty side of intimidation from townsfolk who want them to leave.
My heart was captivated by their strength in standing up for what they believe is right.
Here are some samples of style:
Binder was a pitiful place, worn thin from years of want. It was exactly like all the other towns her daddy dragged them through. It was exactly the kind of nothing Ollie had come to expect.

Except, maybe, for that boy.

And about her daddy:
Reverend Love's voice was rich as molasses and deep as the Grand Canyon. It had power about it that made people reach into their pockets even when they didn't come with the intention of donating to the cause. He called it his trademark. Ollie's mama called it their only salvation.

Maggie Stiefvater made me cry. When I came to the ending of THE SCORPIO RACES I had a lump in my throat big as an island of chalk cliffs against black water, painful as the loss of a beloved. And it was the satisfying ache of a story well told, of characters one cares about after the book is closed.
I had thoroughly enjoyed her five earlier books (the Lament fairy stories and the Shiver werewolf tales), but THE SCORPIO RACES is her masterpiece, carved out of myth and painted with blood.
She has written on her blog what it took for her to write this story after many years of trying and not finding it. I think you’re best served to read her words on that.
Her book proves that this time she was as ready to take on this tale as her protagonist Kate “Puck” Connolly and her mare Dove are to face the savage, killer water horses in the deadliest race ever devised. Puck must win to save her home, but she is the first female to attempt the race and many don't want her there.
I kept thinking as I read this how fleshed out and achingly real her characters are, how grounded the sense of place, how authentic and thrilling the equine detail. And how seductive and terrifying are the water horses.
When my heart wasn’t in my throat it was lost to this wild place.
The story is told first person from Puck’s POV and from that of Sean Kendrick, a young man who loves horses but most of all his water horse, Corr, and what that love costs him.
Here are some writing samples to give you a feel for the atmosphere and thrill of this book:
The wind is sucking the sound away from me, so as I approach the scene, it seems as if the men are voiceless. The struggle is almost artful, until you get up to it. It’s four men, and they’ve snagged a gray water horse around its neck and by the pastern on one of its hind legs, right above the hoof. They tug and they jump back as the horse lunges and retreats, but they are in a bad place and they know it.
And this:
The water shifts, black then gray-blue then black again, the froth of a white ruffled collar, and then, out of the froth, we all see it. A dark horse’s head surges above the water, jaw wide open. And then, before the sea swallows the first, we see a chestnut mare break the surface, along with a brief glimpse of a brown spine curving in the water alongside it. Then they’re all gone beneath the water and I have goose bumps creeping up my arms.
I’d read Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch and Dreamdark books and been enchanted by the freshness of her storytelling and her delicious way with words. But now they feel like an overture for the magnificent symphony that is DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE. Ms. Taylor has brought it all to this work—unforgettable characters, gripping storytelling with surprising twists, real depth of meaning and gorgeous style.
I don’t even know where to begin, because I remain stunned by so many things in this story. The quirky main character, Karou, has a mysterious past, and her strange family deals in secrets she can only guess at. Taylor’s storytelling is like a trail of bread crumbs that lead us slowly, skillfully to the astonishing answers.
In a way, this is Romeo and Juliet among angels and demons, but it’s so much more than that. Taylor pits bigotry, hatred and war against hope, tolerance and love. And she does it all within richly-detailed human and fantastical worlds. I was both grounded and enchanted by her descriptions of places from the souks of Marrakesh and streets of Prague to the land of the chimaera.
My heart was ripped out at the end, but I don’t want to give much away, because I really hope you’ll all read this one.
Here’s a taste of the writing style:
A thrill along every nerve ending. Her body, alert and alive. She was hunted, she was prey, and she didn’t even have her knife tucked in her boot, little thinking she’d need it on a visit to the graverobber.
And this:
He stood revealed. The blade of his long sword gleamed white from the incandescence of his wings—vast shimmering wings, their reach so great they swept the walls on either side of the alley, each feather like the wind-tugged lick of a candle flame.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


What does a sea turtle or polar bear have to do with a book tour? In the case of one author buying her book will benefit endangered animals. I love seeing the innovative ways that writers are finding to reach audiences in this new era of publishing. Whether published by a big house, a small press or by yourself through resources like Smashwords and CreateSpace, authors have to be more involved in selling their work than ever before.
More about the wildlife at the end of this (short) post. But first, I want to point to a post by Jane Dystel, president of DGLM, about moving forward positively within the changing publishing landscape, particularly the future of digital publishing. No doom and gloom from her perspective, just excitement about the possibilities.
This year, many writers I know in person or online have chosen alternative avenues to get their books in the hands of readers. Some were traditionally published in the past, like Gayle Brandeis. Sometimes, small publishers snapped up their books, as happened for Karen Amanda Hooper. Others tackled the multi-tasking job of publishing themselves as did Shelli Johannes and Susan Kaye Quinn. Talli Roland went small press and self-pubbed, and she came up with creative online release parties that rocketed her sales.
Heather McCorkle chose an independent press and currently has an unusual blog tour for the release of a special edition of her previously released THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL.

From Dec. 12 until Dec. 17 she is donating a percentage of proceeds from book sales to a charity for endangered species.

If you win a contest she has running with this, she will donate $50 for the "adoption" of an endangered animal of your choice. And you'll get a stuffed animal, too.

Pretty cool, I think.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where I've been, where I'll go

What if you found a ladder into the sea?


And discovered you were standing on the spine of a sea monster?


I love where my imagination takes me. Now, if I would just let it help me finish the final lap of my fairy tale! Nearing 80K...

I sidetracked to join Twitter. Finally. Too much fun. Too many interesting people! Too many days gone by. Find me @triciajobrien

But here I am, posting about my wanderings on land and interwebz.

And! I went to the first meeting of a new crit group. We seem to be a pretty solid group of writers, so I'm encouraged. I still love my old group and will travel a gazillion miles to meet with them. Thrice this month, in fact.


Where have you been wandering?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Good book, good wish, good deed

What if buying a book for yourself would help put a book in the hands of a child in a refugee camp? Purchasing WHAT YOU WISH FOR, an anthology of short stories about wishes by some big-name kidlit authors, raises funds to do this.

About 250,000 people who fled genocide in Darfur are in camps in eastern Chad where even gathering firewood can be put girls in peril of rape from marauders. Libraries and education are far-off dreams for the children in these camps, whose culture has been stolen from them along with their homes. One boy said he would gladly walk to the farthest mountain every day if there were a school he could attend.
Enter The Book Wish Foundation, which is donating all proceeds from sales of WHAT YOU WISH FOR to build libraries in the camps through the United Nations refugee agency. The stories in the book were written by super authors: R.L. Stine, Meg Cabot, Cornelia Funke, Jane Yolen, Joyce Carol Oates, John Green, Jeanne DuPrau, Gary Soto, Karen Hesse, Ann M. Martin, Alexander McCall Smith, Nikki Giovanni, Naomi Shihab Nye, Nate Powell, Sophia Quintero, Cynthia Voight, Marilyn Nelson, Francisco X. Stork. The forward is by actress and activist Mia Farrow.
For writers, another incentive to purchase the book has been added. A 500-word essay contest about how wishes in the stories connect to the refugees offers one-page critiques of 50-pages of manuscript from some of the authors or their literary agents. For more information go to the Book Wish Foundation’s essay contest page.
You can purchase the book at Penguin, Amazon, B&N.