reading, Train, writing

Reading memories of 2011

I hope everybody is having a wonderful holiday season and enjoying quality time with loved ones…The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives blogfest organized by Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott and Alison Miller starts tomorrow. I will be participating on Friday (post already scheduled :-))

I have seen in the past days a lot of 2011 lists popping up on the blogosphere which made me think of my 2011 reading year. Are you ready for some flashbacks?

My top 5 reading memories of 2011

1. Fighting to keep my tears in check in the train (and failing) or laughing out loud in the train (and not caring, well not totally caring about others looking at me like I had gone mad)

2. Finally getting some of my historical fiction fix (especially on the very intriguing time of Louis XIV)

3.  Roaming the bookstore, going for an impulsive buy and falling in love with a novel I had never heard of before (for some of them I now almost own all the author´s published books)

4. Relaxing with a cup of tea, a good book and missing my bedtime.

5. Reading so much that my writing has improved (thank you dear published authors out there for making me a better writer :-))

So tell me what are your best reading memories of 2011?

Observations, reading

Online, in the store, by the river bank: books everywhere!

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.

This Week’s Topic: Where do you buy most of your books? No one is judging!
Hmmm…I buy books everywhere, really, wherever my feet or my fingers take me.I´m sure you heard of an online store called Amazon…Well this is where I get most of my books these days. To be more precise: on Amazon.de (and then I go to the English or French sections). Sometimes, also on ebay if the book I really is out of print (e.g. you know when you discover an author and you want to read aaaaaaaaalllll of their books but they´re just not available)

The train station: if I´m there very early and it´s already late in the evening and I´m tired…I will go in the bookstore of the train station and treat myself to a book. That´s my type of retail therapy (ok I have other ones as well like clothes and trying on shoes…trying on because it´s tough to find ones which just fit…anyways :-))

The city: In the German Barnes and Nobles (i.e. Hugendubel) or in the little independent bookstore which has a lot of books in French and English.

And…when I´m in Paris, I love to roam through the old little bookstores (imagine the kind of story the book in your hand may have already gone through!) and the “bouquinistes” on the river bank.  I simply love getting lost on the other side of Notre-Dame browsing what they have to offer.

Where do you get your books? 

writing

What did I learn this year?

“I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”

Mikhail Baryshnikov

Before jumping into any good resolution for 2012, I am looking back at what I learned (writing-related) in 2011. Here are my top 5 lessons of the year.

1. Keep trying

This WIP is a long time coming. It´s the first one I am powering through. I have about 5 other drafts from past years which never saw the magical words “The End”. However, I learned to come back, to not give up. Some days might be better than others but I keep the goal in mind.

2. Learn and research

Writing is a learning process. I am very thankful for all the great posts, advice, websites I have found which remind me it is ok to not know everything. It is a very humbling experience. I try to write better than myself and the competition is tough 🙂

3. Take a break

A breather. A walk outside. An evening without the laptop. We all need to recharge and we cannot beat ourselves if one time, we do not reach the number of words we wanted so badly. Why? what is good for us is mainly good for our story.

4. Read and keep reading

I am lucky that during my commute I can devour books. Reading helps me to write and it also reminds me on how much I would like to have people reading my story. Plus, I get to escape in other worlds, walk in other people’s shoes if only for a few hours. It’s just wonderful!

5. Connect

Roaming forums (not anymore a lurker but a proud member of several writing communities), websites, answering questions, starting this blog and getting on Twitter helped me a great deal. It taught me that support may come from unknown places and that many others go through the same loops as I do. Thanks again to all!

What lessons did 2011 teach you?

Photography

Winter impressions…

Photography is one of my hobbies…I can get lost in the moment trying to find an angle, a light, a message in nature or in people´s eyes. It´s been awhile since I found the time to actually venture out with my camera. Below you will see some winter impressions from the past years (when we actually had a little bit of snow).

But as always, I´m curious: what is your hobby?

And because there is always hot spiced wine 🙂

writing, young adult

Déjà Vu Blogfest: A picture is worth a thousand words…

Today I am part of The Déjà Vu Blogfest , where we bring back our favourite post or the one we believe may not have gotten enough attention (click on the link to see who else is participating :-)).

I decided to bring back my moonlight muse…I mean I wrote about the music muse and received quite a bit of comments. However, before I actually had followers (thanks again by the way, hug to everybody and if you´re not into hugs, I am shaking your hand very formally), I shared a picture of an evening which inspired me. Cannot wait to read  if a sun or a moon or a butterfly or a traffic jam can get  you to write or to think about the story of a book you read!

A picture is worth a thousand words…

By what do you get inspired? It is almost like asking: why are you writing?  It is difficult to grasp where the writing scenes come from…

Sometimes one can recognize in the MC´s habits, way of talking some small traits of a loved one, of an acquaintance, of somebody from the past or even of oneself.

Tonight, as I was outside looking at the moon reflecting on the water, I wondered what my main character would feel on an evening like this with everything she has been going through…

Is she thinking of Aleksi, the one who not only gives her butterflies but is no longer as mysterious as she first thought?

Is she pondering the words of Ben? Is she wondering what he meant when he said Aleksi was dangerous? How does he even know him? The guy just arrived…

Or maybe she is actually tired of the stupid drama and just wants to figure out why this entity is coming after her and her loved ones, why she has flashbacks from another time and what the heck happened to Marie and Elijah, those girls who are linked to her over the centuries?

As I type this and look at the moon, I know a scene is unfolding, I feel the pain of my character and I just want to tell her “Sorry you have to go through all of this but remember, you have it in your power to make the right decision…this time around”

And if she did hear me, her reply would be “Can´t you be a tad more specific? I mean come on people…I just cannot guess what you think, you need to spell it out for me. I am tired of this!” and she would storm out.

She does have a little temper of her own…(my husband would say I am projecting :-))

Do moonlights inspire you or remind you of a book you´ve read?

writing

Santa Claus is coming…to my novel :-)

Thanks to Road Trip Wednesday, I will not rant about how my train decided to come late (again….) today 🙂

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:
What would be the ideal holiday present for your main character (or favorite character)?
So what could it be?

Unlimited books? Adorable puppies (awww, aren´t they adorable?)?

Superpowers? (I mean she has some powers but they seem to get her into trouble). All of these gifts would make her happy, no doubt about that but none of them are the ideal holiday present.
Are you ready to know what would make her go: “Thank you sooooo much! How did you know? Oh my gosh, that is SO sweet!”
Those two little words are her ideal gift.  She needs me to finish telling (I mean showing :-)) her story. She is going through a difficult time right now…and she´s ready to know what happens next, no matter what may come.
So tell me: what is the ideal holiday gift for your favorite character? (either the one you write about or the one you can´t stop reading about)
writing

Help needed: The writer and the quest for criticism

Over the week-end, I reached 43k in my YA paranormal romance, I blogged, enjoyed the Christmas Market, worked out, tweeted (I am becoming an official addict of Twitter) and cooked. Go, me, go! (*does her own little cheerleading dance while husband rolls eyes*). I decided to take part in Deja Vu Blogfest (more details here) ´cos it sounds like fun 🙂

I also roamed the internet and the wonderful-super-helpful forums (Absolute Write, YAlitchat.org) to learn more about getting crit partners and beta readers. First, I had to come to terms again that writing meant I did have to learn a new language (what the heck is the difference between a crit partner and beta readers?), this post helped me clarify a bit. Basically, a beta reader gives you a full impression (more on the plot/characters than on the hard editing) while a crit partner may tear your draft apart with language/vocab/grammar error. Am I getting this right? Feel free to correct me if I´m wrong. ..

Then, the next question came: when do I actively start looking for either one of those? And here I am at loss. I am not sure if I should already try to dig out my beta-reader(s) or my crit partner(s).

So, now on to you and your knowledge/experience/ideas: when did you start looking for a crit partner/beta reader? Did you even have one? Will you look for one if like me you´re still in the middle of your first draft?

reading

How I fell in love with a Bronze Horseman…

Ask yourself these three questions, Tatiana Metanova, and you will know who you are.  Ask: What do believe in? What do you hope for? What do you love?”

When I first bought a book by Paullina Simons, I was strolling through the sales rack of Barnes and Nobles (I was a student at the time and trying by any way possible to appease my thirst for novels). I saw The Bronze Horseman, read the little blurb, it was about love and war and family and did I mention love? I went home with it and never regretted that decision once. It is one of those epic love stories which stay with you long after you turned off the lights.

The Bronze Horseman: From the author of the international bestseller Tully comes an epic tale of passion, betrayal, and survival in World War II Russia. Leningrad, 1941: The European war seems far away in this city of fallen grandeur, where splendid palaces and stately boulevards speak of a different age, when the city was known as St. Petersburg. Now two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanov, live in a cramped apartment, sharing one room with their brother and parents. Such are the harsh realities of Stalin’s Russia, but when Hitler invades the country, the siege of its cities makes the previous severe conditions seem luxurious. Against this backdrop of danger and uncertainty, Tatiana meets Alexander, an officer in the Red Army whose self-confidence sets him apart from most Russian men and helps to conceal a mysterious and troubled past. (Picture and summary from Goodreads.com)

I fell hard for this book and for its characters. I mean, Alexander, is one of the most attractive character I got to know. Maybe I am bias because my husband´s family comes originally from Russia (yes we are international) and some of the nicknames used are ones I hear from times to times. The numerous references to Puschkin and her love for literature probably helped as well.

Diving into the story, we are transported in a time of terror but through which hope emerges. Tatiana is strong and stubborn. She grows up fast because she has to, her relationship with her grandparents and her sister shine through the book. It is not an easy situation and yes the moral may not come unhurt but the passion and its denyal are there. She holds her ground against him, she tries to stay true to her values and herself, growing up too fast in a changing world.

Of course, nothing can always be perfect and sometimes, I did feel like history was simplified and that there was a strong US vs Russia type of situation: Russian men bad, American men good (a little stereotypical but luckily the love of Tatiana for her grandfather and the honor, respect and good nature of some Russian soldiers do save the situation from times to times). There may be other things one could maybe complain about, but honestly I did not care because I jumped into the story head first.

Why? Because I rooted for Tatiana and Alexander, because one can feel like you are at home with her when she is starting to cook blinis for him and her family…

The Bronze Horseman is followed by Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden. While I enjoyed Tatiana and Alexander, I was not able to immerse myself in the story as I did with The Bronze Horseman. The Summer Garden is different but it teaches us that even the most powerful of love can take awhile to heal the scars and the importance of not drifting apart. It took my breath away, in a different manner than The Bronze Horseman.

Oh and if you end up falling in love with The Bronze Horseman as much as I did, you can even get the recipes from the books (food plays such an important role in it). I have to admit, I only did one dish so far. My husband keeps on telling me the ones I want to make take too long and that his mom can cook them for us (she does and it is indeed yummy…). One day though, I will make piroshki.

Now I´m hungry, off to eat…but before I do a little question for you: is there an epic love story you could not put down and read several times? Or what, according to you, makes a story a beautiful love story? Feel free to let me know if you hate love stories 🙂

writing

Writing and The Seven Dwarfs…

First of all: Joyeux anniversaire, Maman! 🙂 (I know she is a lurker sometimes…)

Now off to the topic, we are all moody. We can not be sunshines 100% of the time (I try, I really try), we are sometimes angry, sometimes tired, sometimes shy, sometimes just happy. That is what makes us likable people 🙂

As writers, we also go through different stages and that´s when Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs came to my mind…Here is my take on the Seven Dwarfs and writing : (and I´m looking forward to know YOUR mood today, writing or not-writing related)

Doc: That´s when I am in the researching mode, trying to make sure that some historical elements in my novel are correct, that the setting is right (and I do wear glasses when I am working on the computer :-))

Grumpy: When I´m stuck or when I feel like a sentence, an entire part of a character could be much better but at that particular, it is just not happening. Or when I don´t have room in the train to write or…or… I do have some grumpy moments 🙂

Sleepy: When I get up earlier to get a few words out or to try to keep my working-out schedule (I can hear my husband laugh but I DO try to exercise). When I am in the train during the evening just wanting to close my eyes but that I know I need to write ´cos that may be the only time I really have to do so.

Bashful: This is me talking about my writing with people I know. Only a selected few are aware that I am working on a novel, that is one of my passion. That will also probably be me once I start looking for a beta reader or crit partner…

Sneezy: That is me when I am getting distracted by my environment, when I can not get into the writing process…

Dopey: I get Dopey-like when I am super excited about something going on in my novel or in the books I am reading. I don´t care if I look silly, it´s just the way I feel and it is usually a great feeling 🙂

Happy: This one comes around the most often. I usually am in the happy place when I write, when I talk about writing, when I discover that my plot is getting even more intriguing or when my characters feel like they come to life. I am also happy when I read and reading is crucial to my writing. Without loving books, I probably would not be trying to write one myself 🙂 Oh and I do happy dances for others, when I hear about publishing, getting an agent, finishing a draft…you get the picture.

Today I am Sneezy, Sleepy and Grumpy but that´s because I am not feeling well so I do get distracted and annoyed.

So now tell me, what is YOUR mood today (writing or non-writing related)?

writing, ya

RTW: How far would you go?

Another long day, about to get myself settle with a book and a cup of tea but I could not pass up on Road Trip Wednesday 🙂

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic:

How far would you go to get published?

When I first read the topic, my thoughts started to wonder and the first images which flashed in front of my eyes came from movies:

The Devil´s Advocate and The Devil wears Prada (wonderful movies by the way :-))

So, how far would I go so that my dreams come true? My name on a beautiful cover, billions (yes billions :-)) of readers to hold a hard copy or paperback of the story I have written?

Would I be willing to basically sell myself and who I am to get published: no. I have learned to trust my instincts and I have a wonderful husband to get me grounded if things get out of hands and I get blinded.

However, when it comes to the following baseball bases (not a big baseball fan but still: Go Orioles!), here is my view:

First base: I may or may not do this. The way I am currently writing, it is taking me awhile to finish the draft so it might be trendy by the time I tried to query it. Would I then try to see what the next trend might be? Probably but I will only write it if I am inspired which means I like the trend…so I would not call that selling my soul to the ennemy

Second base: (ok here for a second it sounds like we´re talking about making out in High School :-)) would I change voice? Yes again probably, I do enjoy reading many genres and if may try my “writing” hand at another genre if I feel it´s right for me (i.e. I am not writing total crap)

Third base: Minor revisions? It is a no-brainer! I know my writing is not 100% perfect and I always strive to improve it. I´m all for my story becoming even better thanks to those revisions.

Homerun: Major revisions? Ok here it´s a bit like talking about the definition of the word “culture”, there are thousands out there. If by major revisions, it means going with a different ending but one that I can agree with, yes it will be difficult but I might do it. Major revisions include things I can not put myself through then the answer is “no”.

So you might notice a trend in my answers and I´m sure many others (from writers published and non-published alike): yes, probably would do it but….and the but is what matters so that we can continue to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day.

Tell me, what do you think either about the movies or the actual question :-)? How far would you go?