Monday, October 31, 2011

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo!


As some of you may know, I'm writing a BOOK. (Have I mentioned this once or twice? Maybe?) And the thing about writing books is that it takes a lot of freaking time. And effort. And brain power. And typing. And backspacing. And re-typing. And sighing. And procrastinating. And  freaking out. Repeat.

You know, those things.

 I've been trapped in the backspacing-retyping-sighing-procrasting-freaking out circle for about three weeks, which is entirely too long. Luckily, there is a lovely month called NOVEMBER. Some lovely people dubbed it National Novel Writing Month, which was very lovely of them indeed. So starting tonight at midnight, I will be NaNoWriMo-ing in hopes that I finish my freaking book.

I already have around 25,000 words written, so my goal is to finish the next 50,000 during this month. That has me writing a little over 1,600 words a day. Which is actually pretty doable as long as I stay on top of it. Now, the only crappy thing about this is that there is this kind of big deal holiday toward the end of November. So I really need to take that into account. (Although, I don't know if I'll be w/ the fam in Arkansas or not. If not, I won't have as much to worry about because I can just sit at home watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade [and then the Dog Show] and typing and typing and typing whilst eating an entire pumpkin pie. By myself.)

ANYWAY. I'm going to do my best to blog AND NaNoWriMo AND review TV shows AND have some semblance of a social life. We'll see how that goes. (My best guess? NOT WELL.)

But I'll definitely give you guys updates about my NaNoWriMo-ing throughout the month. If you'd like to follow my progress, my username on NaNoWriMo is bethanyelarson. If you're interested in joining NaNoWriMo, click here. And if you're interested in donating to the organization, click here.

Hooray NaNoWriMo!

Aaaaaaand! Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

TGIF: Spooktacular Reads

*sneaks in* Boo!

Ok, I know. You may all insert an eyeroll. But I had to!

This week the incredibly lovely Ginger at GReadsBook has asked:

Spooktacular Reads: Which books do you consider festive Halloween reads? Which stories have chilled you to the bone?

Oh this is gonna be long-winded! I tend to like books that are pretty dark and have a high creep/WTF-factor. But, I'm not necessarily into horror books. Because they give me nightmares. If you want straight up horror, check out Midnyte Reader. Anyway, I've divided my picks up a bit. Here's my recent list: 

No one who knows me will be surprised by this, but Maureen Johnson's (LOVE HER) The Name of the Star is a really great ghost story. 

The most haunting book I've read so far this year has to be Fury by Elizabeth Miles. It's not necessarily scary, but GEEZ does it have some creepy moments. 

The book with the most HOLY WTF?! is hands-down The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by the super-fab Michelle Hodkin. 

If you'd like a series to dive into, then definitely Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder

Also, ANYTHING by Neil Gaiman. He's a bad-ass. 

And now for the kickin' it old school list!: 

Be warned! Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is quite sad in addition to being creepy. 

Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (I work down the street from Sleepy Hollow and am going on the Sleepy Hollow cemetery lantern tour TONIGHT!!!!!) 

Bram Stoker's Dracula. Duh. 

Y'all, there are so many great book with high creep factors. SO. MANY. I'm sure I've left gaping holes in this list and y'all who are well-versed in horror are laughing at me, but . . . I tried. 

Now I have a question for y'all. Have any of you read The Hollow series by Jessica Verday? It's been on my radar for a bit, but I can't find the damn books anywhere and I don't like buying books I haven't already read. So! If any of you can definitely tell me that they're worth the monies, I will buy them. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Saving June

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: November 22, 2011

When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister's urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.—Goodreads

This is a book I probably never would have read. I shy away from death books. I don't necessarily have an issue with death, I just don't like to surround myself with lots of death-type things. Ok, that's not true since I watch A LOT of really gory, death-related television. Maybe it's because when I read, I want to have a good time. That sounds silly, I know, but I honestly don't normally read books that are forthcoming in their being about (let's be honest: non-supernatural) death.

So what changed my mind? The Twitterverse EXPLODED with nothing but praise and love and YOU-MUST-READ-THIS. And because I don't like to be left out, I decided to give it a shot.

Verdict: the Twitterverse was right.

Hannah Harrington's debut novel, Saving June, is great. And while it's about death, it's more about coming to grips with things out of your control than it is about, you know, death. In a lot of ways, it's a coming of age book. It's also a ROAD TRIP novel, and y'all know how I feel about those.

So while I was basically hard-wired to like this book, there were a couple things that really endeared it to me. First are the CRAZY amount of Tom Waits references. (Harrington! We need to HANG OUT!) Because this is a road trip novel, there is the requisite amount of music in this book. And the music selections are (in the words of Ferris Bueller) choice. A mix of indie and classic rock and heavy metal and country and guilty pleasures. It's perfect.

 Then there's Laney, the best friend of Harper, the main character with the awesomesauce name. Now, Harper is pretty great (though completely lost) in her own right, but for some reason I really, really latched on to Laney. I felt for the girl, who's dealing with the loss of June herself, but also in the midst of some really heavy stuff of her own. And though she allows her focus on being a loyal friend to Harper to be an excuse to NOT deal with her shit, I still really adored her. I wanted to give her a giant hug and bake her cookies and then adopt her as my little sister. (Not that my little sister needs to be replaced. Au contraire actuellement. My lil' sis is THE BEST.)

Ok, so there's another component to this book that can't be ignored: Jake. Jake is Saving June's resident mysterious music snob who was connected to June in a way that no one but he understands. And, really, he's the key to the entire book. He's the one who offers to drive Harper and Laney and June's ashes to California. And he's one of those guys who is frustratingly perfect—good looking, but dangerous; smart, but reckless with his education; easy to open up to, but impossible to get to open up. You know, that guy. But y'all. The slow burn of it all is SO worth it.

Overall, Saving June is both everything and nothing that you expect. Yes, there are shenanigans. Yes, there are meltdowns.Yes, there's growth. But it's also highly comedic and surprising and warm and honest. I'm very glad that I listened to Twitter and gave this book a shot. If you're smart, you will too.

But don't take my word for it! Check out these other reviews:
Ginger at GReadsBooks
Carla at The Crooked Shelf
Tara at Fiction Folio
Anna at Anna Reads

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Future of Us

Title: The Future of Us
Authors: Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 21, 2011

It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.

Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.

Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on—and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.

Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.—Goodreads

I don't know how, but this book has totally flown under the radar for me. I KNOW that I've seen the title, but I never realized what it was about. I think maybe I thought it was something else I wasn't interested in? I don't know. But what I mean is this: THIS BOOK SOUNDS AWESOME.

Seriously, who hasn't thought about what it'd be like to be able to go back and talk to your younger self? Even if you're the kind of person who wouldn't want to change the outcome or any of the mistakes you've made, it'd still be incredible to let your younger  know that everything will be ok, or that they should probs study a little bit harder for that one test, or go to that party instead of studying.

Anyway. I'm in love with the premise of this book. And I'm sort of glad that I'm hearing about it late so that I don't have all that long to wait for it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Shatter Me

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 342
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Format: ARC Tour from the lovely Tara at Fiction Folio

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.—Goodreads 

Reader-Bethany's Reaction to Shatter Me 
This book is crazy-good. Everyone should read it. Like, you should be at your favorite bookstore when it opens on the morning of November 15th and you should RUSH into the bookstore and buy all the copies so you can give them to people as presents. You and yours will thank me for telling you to do so.

You should follow the above advice for these reasons:
  1. Tahereh Mafi is a very, very gifted writer. Her verbs and metaphors are gorgeous and creative and curious and gut-wrenching. Instead of telling you how her characters feel, she forces you to feel it right along with them. She also employs the use of the strikethrough better than any way I've ever seen it used. It's inspired, really. 
  2. The story is wonderful. I described it to a friend as a dystopian X-Men.*
  3. The world building is really cool, but subtle. Which is nice. 
  4. ADAM. Oh holy bazoo, Adam. 
    • (Related: I have a bit of a thing for Warner, who is presented as the villain. Like, a weird Stockholm Syndrome thing for him. But, then again, I tend to over-sympathize with villains. However, I'm not sure if I think he truly is a villain. DO YOU SEE WHAT THIS BOOK HAS DONE TO ME?!)
  5. The characters are so well-crafted and Mafi allows them to evolve. 
  6. Juliette is real damn kick-ass too. 
  7. It's just really frackin' great. Entertaining and intense and emotional and unforgettable. 
 *This would be an AWESOME comic book. If a comic pub house hasn't already picked this up, they seriously need to. IMHO, I think Dark Horse would do a bang-up job of adapting it.

Writer-Bethany's Reaction to Shatter Me 
This book shook me.

Reading this has made me think differently about how I write. The way that Mafi uses her words is completely different from anything I've ever read. She takes words that I would never, ever, ever think to put beside each other in a sentence, lines them up, and forces you think about those words in a different way. It's truly masterful.

And then there's the way Mafi uses verbs. Her verbs are violent and inventive and magnificently gory. (e.g., "There are wire cutters carving holes in my heart.") I was fawning all over myself  and bouncing up and down and calling random people to read them sentences from this book because of the verb usage. SRSLY.

If I'm being completely honest, Shatter Me is the first book I've read in a long time where I've thought "I want to write LIKE THAT." And I'm sure that this book will inspire many young or aspiring writers to think the same thing. Mafi's voice is fresh and evocative and so, so, so inventive that I wish I could adopt it. But that would be weird and forced and disingenuous. So I won't.

But! What I can do is re-examine the way I write. Mafi's writing has made me look at my own and think "How can I make these words really come alive? And how can I make my reader feel what my character is feeling? And, ok, this section here is a little dry, which words can I use to shock my readers and keep them attentive?"

But let's be clear here—I'm not modeling my writing on Mrs. Mafi's. Her voice is hers and I will never write the way she does. But reading Shatter Me has definitely made me think about it differently, and, I'd like to think it's made both my writing and editing skills sharper and more attentive. Because, y'all, it's really easy to be lazy about your words or to find crutch words that feel natural, and then employ them over and over again. That's not fun. Mafi has fun with her words. She splashes around with them like a little kid. It's refreshing and eye-opening and jealous-making and OH-MY-GOD SOOO YUMMY.

In sum, this book is fantastic. Not only will it captivate you and keep you enthralled from page one on, it'll keep you guessing and laughing and crying. It will have make your heart bleed and break and pound right along with the characters'. But, you know, in a good way. For me, Shatter Me was more than a book—it was a watershed moment as both a reader and writer. Maybe it will be for you too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What I'm Writing {5}: Screenwriting and Sociopaths

Well, hello there. 

This week I'm writing my life away, but working on a bit of a new project. (Meaning, I'm sort of stuck with Airport Book and not sure how to proceed, so I just started a different project. Because that makes sense?) 

Anyway, I'm trying my hand at screenwriting. I'm a big TV junkie and like to think that I write visually. A lot of times when I'm writing, I think of what the scene would look like on a screen, or what kind of shots might be used if it were being filmed. 

There are also a couple really cool, but really competitive screenwriting programs for new, inexperienced, aspiring television writers that I might submit to next year if I think my stuff is up-to-snuff. WE SHALL SEE. 

Anyway, the format of screenwriting is far more rigid than for writing books. And! I think it's incredible just how in control of things the writers actually are. They write in directions for the actors, camera shots, transition shots, scene setting—everything really. Screenwriters have to know every aspect of the filming, directing, and acting process. It's a little . . . intimidating, actually. (If you want a great example, check out the pilot for The Vampire Diaries. It's INCREDIBLY detailed.) 

Anyway, so my idea for a TV show is a really dark dramedy about a cheerleader who is a sociopath, but is doing her best to suppress her urge to kill everyone around her. It's creepy. It's fun. It's a really good way to take out my stress. If you're interested in my crack at an opening scene, check it out, after the jump. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life Update

 Hey y'all! (Please pretend I sound just like Tami Taylor when I say that. Thanks.)

So, if you scroll down this here bloggy blog, it's plain to see that I've been a bit, um, negligent with the posting.

I hate this right now. But, there are a couple good reasons as to why. (I promise the reasons aren't OMG-I-MET-THIS-GUY. If they were, I'd give you all permission to come to New York and kick me and steal all my books.)

Mostly, it's one reason—I'm trying to figure out what the eff I want to do with my life.*

You see, I work in non-fiction publishing at a really, really small publishing house where I edit children's non-fiction for the school and library market. I really like my job (Really.), but it's becoming very clear that I don't really have much of a future here in the way of advancement. This isn't because I'm not a good employee or whatever but more because of gross business stuff and the sort of uncertain state of publishing today.

So, I know some of you are like, "Ok, so start applying to other jobs." And while I agree with you on this, it's not that easy. My current dilemma is this: do I want to stay in New York?

Ok, now some of you are thinking, "OMG are you completely insane?! OF COURSE you want to stay in New York. It's mother-effing NEW YORK." And I hear you. New York is fantastic and I feel so, so lucky to live and work here. But, I don't want to live here forever. And I don't even know if I want to stay in the editorial side of publishing. And it's really expensive to live here and I don't make a ton of money as it is and there's NO WAY I could quit my job and write full-time and get a part-time gig to cover the bills without making myself sick with worry and concern over monies.

(This is getting long-winded. I have a point. I'm getting close to it. PROMISE.)

Because, you see, I'm one of those crazy writer types. I have all of these stories and characters in my head and I just want to get them on paper. And then I want people to read them and love them and not criticize them. ;) So! To that end, I've been writing like the crazy-writer lady I am. Like, I've been telling my IRL friends that I can't go out because I need to sit in my house and write.**

Because of this, I've been reading less and writing blog posts less since all my energy outside of work is put into my works-in-progress (WIPs) because my lease is up in June, and I'd really like to have some of my WIPs finished, and, you know, a plan in action by March.

But! None of that excuses my blog negligence. I need to do better. So I am charging all of YOU in helping me with this. Take to the Twitters and yell at me. Email me your verbal ninja-kicking. I mean it. And I promise I won't yell back at you. Well. If do yell or get testy, I'll apologize at some point. :)

 Alright, so that's my story morning-glories. I miss y'all. I miss my blog. But I also need to figure my shit out. But! All things in moderation, right? RIGHT.

*Meaning, I know I want to write, but I need to figure out what I want to write.
**I seriously have five books and a television pilot outlined. Three of the books and the spec pilot have been started.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

For those of you who don't know, I basically worship at a shrine of Joss Whedon. It's more of a metaphorical shrine than a physical one, because a physical one would be highly creepy. Anyway, the take-away here is that I think Whedon is brilliant and awesome and witty and incredible.

And in addition to writing very on-the-nose and intelligent dialogue for TV/film, he also sometimes writes music. And then employs his actor-friends to sing it.

Which brings us to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day. It's GREAT. Here are some songs from it.

"Freeze Ray," Neil Patrick Harris

"A Man's Gotta Do," Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day

"My Eyes," Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day

"So They Say," Ensemble Cast

It's pretty much one of my favorite things ever. If you've never seen it, it's only 45 minutes, and it is streaming on Netflix. Or you could buy it on Amazon/iTunes. And you should. Because it's worth it. 

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReadsBooks

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reactionary Reading: Paranormalcy

Welcome to the another edition of Reactionary Reading, a feature where I share my reading notes with all of y'all! This week I'm publishing my notes on Paranormalcy by the adorable on Twitter Kiersten White, a book that I did not really like at first, but that really, really grew on me while reading it.

For those of you new to this feature, there are a couple THINGS you probably need to know about it. So, here's how it works:

I have gone through and redacted major spoiler information. (Yep, just like the government does.) If you've read the books, or if you don't care about being spoiled, feel free to highlight the redacted portions so you can read the text. (It's like a game! Sort of.) But there might still be minor spoilers involved. So if you're the type that hates knowing things before you read, DO NOT PROCEED. And please keep in mind that this is all in good fun and are just my thoughts and opinions. Also, bad language abounds.

So without further ado, may I present my notes on Paranormalcy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: (500) Days of Summer

'ello lovelies!

So, I missed the first week of this oh-so awesome Soundtrack Edition because I was off in my hermity corner of the world WRITING like a crazy mad lady so that I can have my booky-wook finished by the end of the year. (The goal is before Christmas. Hopefully this will REALLY happen.)

SO! Music! One of my most recent (meaning in the last couple years) soundtrack obsessions is one that I'm pretty sure is fairly popular—all of the music from (500) Days of Summer.

If for some reason you have never seen this movie, FIX IT IMMEDIATELY. It's sort of a hipster homage to Annie Hall, but it stars Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both of whom are adorable and I desperately want to hug. Also: the music is pretty twee, but still great. Here is a sampling of it.

"Sweet Disposition"—The Temper Trap

"She's Got You High"—Mumm-Ra


"Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want"—The Smiths

So there it is! My very twee, sort of angsty, but really great pick for this week's Tune In Tuesday, Soundtrack Edition! *crowd cheer, confetti canons explode.* Have a GREAT Tuesday!

Oh! And if you are on Tumblr, I am now tooooooo! You can find me here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What I'm Writing {4}: Anger, Overreactions, and Metaphors


So, I've been a little MIA (as in gone, not as in the rapper) lately because 1) my life suddenly got busy and 2) Farrah, an Internet friend of mine and fellow book blogger signed a contract with a literary agent and I am jealous (and also super, super proud of and pumped for her) and I want an agent and now I am competitively motivated to have what she has. So I've been writing a ton so that I can have this sucker finished and then start querying like a crazy mad lady.

So on the writing front: what I have discovered lately is that I love irreverent, bizarre metaphors and imagery—stuff that is jarring and a little subversive and perhaps kind of violent and not at all what you expected to read, but that still somehow makes sense. So, I've been trying my hand at writing them. And let me tell you, they are NOT my forte. I'm far more comfortable writing dialogue and descriptions rather than metaphorical, figurative stuff. But! I need to make myself uncomfortable so that I can grow, right? RIGHT.

So, now comes the scary part: letting the Internet read the (maybe horrible) stuff I've come up with. But, I need to know if it's horrible or horribly clich├ęd or horribly-awesome, in the Doctor Horrible kind of way. (Also, if you've never seen Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, GO! GO NOW! To the Netflix and FIND IT. It's streaming. You're welcome.)

Ok, let me set up the scene for you:

Dan and Willa (If you have NO IDEA who those people are, click here.) are Skyping so they can plan their fall travel weekends. While Skyping, Sophie (Dan's girlfriend Willa doesn't know about) calls Dan and he answers the phone and Willa, who is in full-on, head-over-heels crush mode for Dan, overhears their conversation. This is how she reacts.