Non-dusty Historicals

While I personally love all kinds of historical fiction, I also adore the trend people have recently coined “non-dusty historical fiction.” Sounds exciting, right? Thrilling, even!

But what exactly does “non-dusty historical” mean?

A few examples I think fit this term:

  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (YA, WWII, narrated by Death, possibly my favorite book ever. Read it, read it, read it! Oh, and yeah, here’s what the author signed in my copy when I met him at an SCBWI event in Munich.)

  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (YA, medieval French nuns who are also assassins. Um, hello?)
  • Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen (YA, retelling of Robin Hood by a female member of his gang with one amaaaazing voice.)
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Adult, Fitzgerald-esque portrayal of a twenty-something girl on the rise in New York with some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read this year)

These books are historical but don’t read like traditional historical. In each of these books, the fiction–the story itself–is what draws the readers in, with its voice, characters, or the thrill of an exciting plot that happens to be set in the past because that’s when it would have happened.

If you’re not convinced that there are historicals out there that offer as much of a thrill ride as some of the exciting sci-fi and dystopian stories out there, read this great post by J. Anderson Coats over on the Corsets and Cutlasses blog–btw a great new blog for historical fiction fans: http://corsetsandcutlasses.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/notonthequiz/

I think you’ll agree that “non-dusty historical” is definitely a thing, and a thing worth reading. Bonus points for suggesting other must read examples.!

Twofer Tuesday: Novels With Beautiful, Beautiful Writing

I read a lot, and what makes me love a book more than anything else is beautiful writing. I’d be the type of agent (if I were ever an agent, which I wouldn’t be) who’s ask for literary, lyrical novels. The kind of novel that knocks me over with that type of prose is rare, and when I find one, I just want to hold it and savor each delicious word.

Unbelievably, I came across not one but two such novels (both debuts) in the past few weeks and I feel compelled to recommend them: RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles and THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS by Rinsai Rossetti.

RULES OF CIVILITY is a novel for adults, which means that just picking it up was a surprise for me, as I normally don’t even bother with books for adults since there are so many great YA novels on my TBR list. This is only the second book for adults I’ve read this entire year. Yet the first pages pulled me in with its atmospheric details and the writing made me weep with its beauty. There were so many zingers in this book I couldn’t possibly note them all, but I have to share one that sums up the tone of this gorgeous book:

For what was civilization but the intellect’s ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity (shelter, sustenance and survival) into the ether or the finely superfluous (poetry, handbags and haute cuisine)?

The entire book is this beautiful. The. Entire. Book.

THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS is a likewise gorgeously-written flight that had me sobbing by the end, and again, not so much by the engaging plot and complex characters, but by the beautiful prose. This might be the best-written romantic tension I have ever read, and it goes on and on in the most wonderful and perfectly believable tease. With that in mind, a teaser for you:

But having him beside me, with my father’s itch clawing into my back, my fingers shaky because of what I had just put them through, and things beating to and fro, in one direction then another, inside of me, was already more than I could stand.

Can you even stand waiting for more? I devoured this book in one sitting.

I’m already looking forward to more books from both of these authors and in the meantime, these books have edged their way into my short list of favorite books of all time. It’s been a pretty good month to be a reader. :-) Hope you enjoy them, too!

 

Yippee for Week 2 of September #Wipmadness!

Big cheers for everyone who made it to Week 2 of September #wipmadness and hello to anyone joining us! I hope you’re all feeling proud of the progress you made in Week 1–large or small. To celebrate, I tossed your names in my trusty Sox cap and picked a winner for last week’s book:

Deb Marshall step right up!

Just let me know your address and which book you’d like (Circle Nine, League of Strays, The Breakup Bible, or The Forest for the Trees) and I’ll send it off to you. Everyone else, be sure to comment for your chance to win this week!

Continuing with this month’s theme of WIP love, I thought I’d dive into the world of visual inspiration and tempt you all with some photos from my trip to Iceland that have been inspiring me while drafting my current WIP.

Viking ship replica

Blue Lagoon

Reykjavík

Heading to Laugardalslaug

Geothermal greenhouses

Although I didn’t get to spend as much time in Iceland as I’d like (which means a return trip must be in my future), I love going there in my imagination every day, and images like this help remind me what a haunting place it is.

What kind of visuals motivate you in your current WIP? I’d love to take a look at any links to pinterest boards, artwork, photos, colors, or textures that have been an inspiration! While you’re at it, feel free to share how you’re doing on your #wipmadness goal for the month!

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

Thanks to Jaye Robin Brown for tagging me in this fun post! It gives me the chance to talk about the manuscript I’m working on and share that love with some friends. I’m tagging #wipmadness buddies Patrice, JennaWren, and GirlParker!

1. What is the working title of your book? 

Brightest Midnight

2. Where did the idea come from the book?

Ever since visiting Iceland, I’ve wanted to set a book there, so the setting came first. The landscape there is so haunting and natural phenomena so beautiful that I knew what I saw would affect my characters the same way. Plus, I wanted to get them up into the huge sky, complete with its Northern Lights and Midnight Sun.

3. What genre is your book? 

YA futuristic thriller

4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie? 

Native Icelanders would make the most sense, so probably no one famous. ;-)

5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book? 

Seventeen-year-old Lilja joins the Icelandic Sky Patrol Corporation’s internship program to fly the big skyships, but when she discovers their plans to harness Iceland’s geothermal energy as a powerful weapon, she’s not sure whose help to enlist in stopping them—her old boyfriend on land or her new best friend on the ship.

6. Will your book be self-published or repped by an agency? 

I’m currently seeking rep for my completed ms, and I’m looking for someone to rep all my work.

7. How long did it take you to finish your first draft? 

Still going!

8. What other books would you compare yours to in this genre? 

STARTERS by Lissa Price and the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series by Beth Revis (though mine takes place in the stratosphere rather than outer space).

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

See my answer to Question 2 above.

10. What else about your book my pique a reader’s interest?

See my manuscript Love List here!

Welcome to Week 1 of September #Wipmadness!

First off, a quick introduction to any of you in the interwebs not familiar with the glory of #wipmadness. In March of 2011, Denise Jaden kicked off a “March Madness” writing challenge filled with blog hops every day of the month to motivate fellow writers to work on their goals: writing, revising, and even reading. Over on twitter, there was this strange basketball thing going on at the same time, so we had to hunt for a unique hashtag and thus #wipmadness was born.

#Wipmadness was so majorly awesome that other writers started volunteering to host a month-long weekly check-in on their blogs so that the madness could continue. The best part is that it’s never too late to join in. If you’re working on a WIP and could use a little motivation, you have come to the right group!

Like many of the hosts before me, I’m also going to be offering up PRIZES for lucky commenters on the blog this month. I’ve got four awesome books to share (three YA novels and one on craft) and will send one out each week.

If that’s not enough, we’ll be chatting here this month about the things that make us love our projects! *hugs project* Last week, YA Highway asked about our project’s Love List, and I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with my own list and reading the cool lists that other contributors posted. I’m going to be continuing my draft on that project this month with a goal of 15K new words, and I couldn’t be happier. Who wouldn’t want to spend a month in virtual Iceland?

What about you, Wipsters? Care to share an item or two from your own WIP Love List? Anyone else have specific goals for the month? I’d love to hear them!

 

What I Love About My WIP

YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday this week asked the question: What is your WIP’s Love List?

The idea for this trip came from Stephanie Perkins, who writes down what she loves about a project when she starts. Check out her list for ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.

I absolutely love this idea. It’s easy to forget about the initial love for a project when caught up in the challenge of completing a first draft or slogging through endless revisions. I’m personally still in love with my WIP, a futuristic thriller set in Iceland, so coming up with my list was pretty easy. I’m hugging it close now for that day down the road when our trip together gets tougher.

  • Iceland
  • A tough, sassy heroine with super-short hair
  • Northern Lights and huge, gray sky
  • Sigur Rós, Björk, and múm
  • Very cool character names
  • Betrayal and trust
  • Kisses and almost-kisses
  • Skyships and scoot-racers

I hope I’ll have a lot more cool things to add to my love list as I continue drafting. Can’t wait to see all the other love lists out there!

Twofer Tuesday: MG Novels with a Side of Tissues

For anyone who missed my last Twofer Tuesday on two great Tudor YA novels, I’ve started up a Twofer Tuesday blog series on two books I’ve read and can’t wait to recommend. Up this week: two Middle Grade novels that had me in tears by the end. Trust me–this is a good thing. I adore a book that makes me cry.

While the vast majority of books I read are YA, I read a good share of MG novels this summer. Without a doubt, my two favorites were FLYING THE DRAGON by Natalie Dias Lorenzi and ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Both of these novels are about the characters fitting in when they find themselves in almost unimaginably difficult situations, and both authors did a remarkable job making us care so much about them that their pain becomes our pain.

In FLYING THE DRAGON, Hiroshi must leave his native Japan behind to move to America with his parents and grandfather, who needs treatment for cancer not available in Japan. But Hiroshi isn’t the only one who has to make sacrifices. His cousin Skye must serve as his interpreter in school and spend her Saturdays in Japanese school instead of soccer practice as she tries to get to know the grandfather Hiroshi’s known his whole life–before it’s too late.

Carley in ONE FOR THE MURPHYS also must leave her home behind after an incident sends her to a hospital and then a foster home–while her mom still recovers in the hospital. As Carley struggles to fit in with her new family and new best friend, she comes to realize how much she loves her new life. At the same time, she must acknowledge her feelings about her less-than-perfect mom–which get all the more complicated as her memories of the incident return.

I’d love to hear about more recommendations for other tissue-worthy MG reads. In the meantime, hope you love these books as much as I did. But keep the tissues handy when you read them!

Twofer Tuesday: Tudor YA Novels

Welcome to my new blog series! I’m starting this to introduce some great sets of twofers: two books I’ve read and want to recommend.

I got the idea for this series when I recently finished two great Tudor-themed YA novels: GILT by Katherine Longshore and TRANSCENDENCE by C.J. Omololu. On the one hand, these books couldn’t be more different (details below), but I loved them both for different reasons, so anyone else fascinated with that time period will probably love them, too!

GILT is historical fiction at its best. From the first page, I was pulled into the head of Kitty Tylney, best friend to Catherine Howard, the fifth of the infamous Henry VIII’s wives. The details of life at this time and place, the intrigue of the situation in which she finds herself, the conflicted loyalty she feels–WOW! I had to restrain myself from looking up the facts that formed the basis for this story in Alison Weir’s THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VII until I finished.

TRANSCENDENCE is a great contemporary YA that pulls us into different times and places with likewise vivid details, including recurring visits to the Tower of London in Tudor England. Main character Cole’s swoon-worthy romance with Griffon that spans lifetimes makes this book worthy of a read in itself, but when combined with the intriguing mystery Cole uncovers of a cello rival in her past–and present–I couldn’t pass the pages quickly enough.

Any other great Tudor YA reads out there? I’d love to see some more recommendations to add to my TBR pile!

Write Your Passion

I recently answered interview questions for an upcoming issue of the NESCBWI newsletter as the Ruth Landers Glass scholarship recipient this year, and I still can’t stop thinking about one of the questions.

I was asked about breaking into the magazine and anthology market, and my response was that targeting submissions–and continuing to submit in spite of the inevitable rejections–helped get my work published.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how true this is.

Magazines

When I first began submitting queries, my acceptance rate was pretty dismal. I really, really, really wanted my work to be published, so I tried many magazines, whenever I thought their submission calls or assigned themes seemed interesting.

Without realizing it consciously, I changed tactics in recent years, submitting queries almost exclusively in my field of expertise (languages). In my mind, I was taking the easy route. These articles would be easier to write, since I have an advanced degree and shelves of reference books in my own house. Having worked in the language software field for years, I’ve dabbled quite a bit in languages I don’t even speak, so I already have some understanding of the difficulties in learning them.

Yet every time I get an acceptance for one of these articles, I do a little jump for joy. Why? I realize now that it’s more than getting them published–it’s because they’re so much fun for me to write. In the end, it’s all about the passion. As an added bonus, my acceptance rate has improved with this change in tactics.

Anthologies

Anthologies are different from magazines because you generally need to write and polish the entire story before submitting it. For me, passion for a piece plays an even larger role with this type of writing.

My first published piece was a story called “First, un Bocata de Calamares” in the SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthology. I adore Spain; I love backpacking; I am currently drooling over the thought of a good bocata de calamares. Needless to say, I was thrilled when my piece was accepted and published!

My second piece is about to be published as part of the TIMELESS anthology of YA romance. As soon as I saw the call for submissions for historical YA stories, I knew it was completely up my alley and I threw myself into brainstorming ideas for a piece. In the end, the idea that formed in my head  drew on my passion for German Literature. My story, “And the Nightingale Sang,” is based on a poem by Walther von der Vogelweide, a German troubadour who lived from 1170-1230.

My main character, Elisabeth, is the fictional love interest who inspired “Under der Linden,” a poem von der Vogelweide wrote from a peasant girl’s perspective. As I worked on the story, I spent my free time re-reading his poems and listening to the medieval songs of Hildegard von Bingen to get in the mood of the story. Bliss!

I hope readers of my story will be able to see how much fun it was to write! Writers, do you have any similar stories about writing about your passions? I’d love to hear about them!

Writing or Querying? Try Road-tripping.

We all know that it’s a good idea to step away from the computer sometimes. But it’s so tempting when it’s right there, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve gotten in the habit of writing or revising every day, or when an agent might be tweeting something relevant. *coughs*

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to physically step away (farther than across the room from my dear, darling laptop). Luckily for me, the timing was perfect to drive out to Wisconsin with my four-year-old twins to visit family, so we got the little Scion xA all gassed up and ready to go.

One of the best things about a road trip? Road trip food that’s different from what we get at home:

The trip couldn’t have been better. Not just the visit with family, which is always fun and doesn’t happen often enough, but the open road, the freedom, the time to think. (Yes, one can even think with two preschoolers in the back of a Very Small Car, having provided them with books, favorite stuffed animals, and the music of their choice.)

Of course I brought my laptop along (duh), but I used it sparingly. Instead, I read books (when not driving), scribbled outline notes on my next WIP in my notebook, and listened to my own music when it was my turn: Beethoven, Sigur Rós, Utada Hiraku. So peaceful, so free!

Now that I’m back, I’m digging back into drafting, but it sure seems like fun again after stepping away. Highly recommended!