Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Zone

I've discovered that if I'm going to get anything done--anything written, that is--I need to be in the Zone. 

You may ask, what is the Zone? 

Well, for instance, I was rewriting some scenes a little while ago and I was listening to music to try to motivate myself.  I sat there listening for a while, staring at the screen and taking ridiculous pictures of myself with my WebCam like the one you see above.  (That was me posing as if I was in the Zone.  I wasn't actually in the Zone yet.) 

And then, I wrote the scene.  The world disappeared around me, but I didn't notice becuase I was too focused on what I was trying to say. 

Then I finished and snapped out of it.  And it occured to me that although my music was still playing, I had not been hearing it for the past 45 minutes.  My brain had stopped registering the noise.  In fact, it had stopped registering all my surroundings. 

Who knows, the building could have gone up in flames and collapsed around me and I might not have noticed! 

I think this hyper-focused state is one of the best ways I can get any significant chunk of writing done.  And, I'm not sure, but I think I get in the Zone more than I even realize. 

Do you become oblivious to your surroundings when you work?   Can anyone accomplish anything substantial without being in the Zone? 

By the way, if you haven't seen the video we posted yesterday, you have to watch it!!!  It is perfect for anyone who has a love of books.  I teared up.  And it's being nominated for an Oscar!  Check it out--you won't regret it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


My grandmother sent me a link to this short film by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg and I had to share it. Mr. Morris Lessmore and his books are beautiful, utterly charming and fully worthy of their Oscar nomination.

The film manages to wordlessly show a deep love of words. If a book has ever come alive for you then I know you'll enjoy it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Follow Friday #6

This week's question: 

What book genre do you avoid at all costs? 

There are quite a few genres I haven't and probably won't delve into--such as Nordic Noir and Southern Grotesque, as Tyler-Rose pointed out. 

However, the only genre I seem to actively avoid is hard science fiction.  I'm just not fascinated by the right type of things to be entertained by this genre.

I avoid memoirs a little bit, too.  They're one of those things you only find me reading if I have to do so for school. 

Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.  (Click on the blog names for guidelines if you want to participate!)  This week's feature blogs are Fiction Fervor and Pretty in Fiction.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Third Sentence Thursday

Third Sentence Thursday is a blog meme usually hosted by Proud Book Nerd. Not this week, it appears, but I decided to do it anyway. Here are the rules: "Take the book you are currently reading and post the third sentence of the third chapter. Feel free to share one or two of the following sentences, if you’d like."

This amuses me.

The third sentence of the third chapter (if it actually had chapters instead of sections) of Sunshine by Robin McKinley is:
"I both remembered and tried not to let myself quite remember what had happened."

The passage continues:
"This lasted for maybe ten seconds. I was still alive, so I wasn't dead yet. If it wanted me awake and struggling, to continue to appear unconscious was a good idea. I lay facing the door the gang had left by; which meant that the cross-legged vampire was behind me. . . . Don't think about it."

Sunshine, a talented baker, foolishly goes out to be alone with her thoughts by a lake that is known for its aura of bad magic. A gang of Suckers kidnaps her, forces her into a scarlet gown and drags her to one of the lake's abandoned mansions. They chain her to the wall in an empty ballroom and leave her there as food for a single vampire, who is sitting cross legged against the wall somewhere behind her.

Sunshine is one of my favorite books. I love the air of mystery that pervades the the whole thing. You never quite understand exactly who Constantine (her vampire) is, nor are you meant to. He just is. You never quite understand how the magic in New Arcadia works, nor are you meant to. It just is.

One of my biggest pet peeves about YA fantasy is when the author decides that it is absolutely necessary that she explain every little-bitty, intricate working of the system of magic she has created for her imaginary land. The reader then gets to sit patiently and listen to all its little rules and foibles explained, if not in great length, at least in great detail.

It always occurs to me that this isn't the way I think about things I am familiar with. I don't explain the workings of my computer to myself. I don't even really try to understand what it is doing. I just turn it on and check my email without thinking much about it. The only time I would think about it would be if it stopped working for some reason.

That is just how people work. If a character has grown up in a land where magic is common, where it is expected and normal, they probably wouldn't think much about it, and they certainly wouldn't explain it to themselves every chance they got.

Sunshine conveys this exactly and I think that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Sunshine lives in a world where magic and Other Beings are run of the mill. You see them everyday. She never explains the system of magic, though it clearly has constant rules. Sunshine and the reader must simply accept that this is how it works and this is how it has always worked.

And it's perfect and beautiful and mysterious.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Detours through Rome

I'm back!  There were several disruptions keeping me on a blog hiatus, but the biggest one was the 10-day trip to Italy I took with my college's classics department.  We were in Florence and Rome, and took a day-trip to Pompeii. 

In Rome one night, I decided to take a bus back to the hotel by myself.  It was simple—I’d get on the 160 bus, sit quietly, and get off at Via Veneto.  There was just one tiny detail I didn’t know about. 

There are two 160 buses in Rome. 

I became uneasy when we drove straight out of the city in a direction I didn’t recall.  I thought something was probably wrong when we started dropping off individuals at their apartments.  And I was working hard to reign in my panic when the bus headed down a road that had a steep stone wall on one side and a field of grass on the other. 

Making a strained but successful effort to remain calm, I scooted to the front of the (now almost empty) bus and asked the driver, “Via Veneto?” 

“No,” he said, shaking his head darkly.  “Other line.  Other side of the city.”

Other side of the city.  Terrific. 

After confirming that the bus would, indeed, circle back to where I’d picked it up, I sat down and tried to decide what to do with myself.  Going back to the hotel was part of an agenda.  I had pastries to buy, postcards to mail, and Ibuprofen to take—and travel companions to meet at 6:30 at the now-faraway Vatican. 

But instead, I was on a bus that was slowly making its way through the grubby outskirts of Rome, on the complete wrong side of the city. 

And I discovered, then, that I could only do one thing:  look out the window. 

I saw parts of Rome I never expected, intended, or necessarily wanted to see.  Apartment buildings of various qualities, large parking lots full of tiny cars, Italian gas stations, Italian grocery stores, an Italian sofa store, rows upon rows of dumpsters…  That ride made Rome real for me.  Not every inch of it is beautiful, historical, and breath-taking.  Parts of Rome are ordinary, too. 

We also passed some magnificent ruins that made me want to jump out the bus window  for a better look—just in case I was getting too caught up in the normality of Rome’s nitty-gritty outskirts.  But I was still on the wrong side of the city.  I caught a cab (once I got back to a part of the city where there were cabs) and arrived at the Vatican to meet the others at precisely 6:30, but I hadn’t accomplished a single thing I’d set out to do. 

I tried to decide if I should be disappointed or upset about getting sidetracked.  That bus took me everywhere I didn’t want to go.  My valuable time slipped out of my grasp as it poked along the southern edge of the city.   

But what could I have done?  Looking back, I think my time was not wasted as I sat back, experienced the ride, and maybe passed a small test of my composure while I was at it. 

It can be hard for me to let go of my plans, both in life and in writing.  But sometimes we have to recognize what is out of our control and forfeit our plans to the churning gears of the world.  Sometimes all we can do is sit back, take a deep breath, and embrace the detour. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

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. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: If you couldn't use your own name, what would your pseudonym or penname be?

With much consideration, I have decided that my pen name would most definitely be:
Rosie Penhallow

Or, slightly less dramatic, I could be:

Rose Tyler

Wait...That one's already taken. Hmm...

How about:
Olga Flint

Oh, wait. We were being serious?
I guess If I was really trying to come up with a good pen name, one I was going to want to keep and write under for the rest of my life, I would keep "Rose" and for a last name go with something that started "Ma..." so my books would hopefully end up sort of near Juliet Marillier's. That would make me smile.
Rose Manner
Rose Maren
Rose Macaffey
What if you couldn't use your real name? What would your penname be?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Want

This is the book I want right now:

Books Make a Home by Damian Thompson

I saw this in the most recent issue of Bas Bleu and have passionately desired it ever since. I would like a room that needs decorating and a generous budget to come with it, of course.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read.

Question of the Week: Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

There are only 35 books on my shelves that I haven't read. I tend to check books out of the library and only buy them later if I find that they merit a second read. The ones that I haven't read were mostly gifts, I think. Still, it hurts my soul that there are that many books on my shelves that I haven't read. I'll have to remember this the next time I am complaining that I've run out of reading material.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RTW #112: Describe your dream writing retreat. Where would you go? Who and what would you bring?

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. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

My perfect writing retreat is a cottage, just big enough for me and one greyhound. The house is encircled by a rose garden in the full riot of summer blooms. A climbing rose wraps around one of the front windows and a brick path leads through the garden to a green front door with a rounded top.

In the kitchen there is a big window so that the morning light can come pouring in. The rest of the inside of the house is furnished in antique wood and soft upholstery that makes the rooms cosy and a little dim. In the living room there is a fireplace with comfortable chairs in front of it for reading and enough space on the rug for the elegant grey hound to lay down. On the opposite side of the room there are floor to ceiling book shelves stuffed full of all my favorite books.

The window with the climbing rose wrapping around it looks out of the living room. In front of the window is set a desk that is just the perfect height for me, in fact it was custom made. This is where I work so I can look out over the garden and the little country road that runs by the cottage while I'm writing.

I would bring no one but my greyhound to my lovely imaginary cottage, but visitors are welcome. The surrounding neighborhood definitely thinks I am an intriguing oddity and loves to drop by toward dusk and see what I am working on.
They always bring me food gifts and in gratitude I awe them with my artistic brilliance and unique style.

Of course, there is also a small wood nearby so I can go for long, inspiring walks.