Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday trip photos

Every year I yearn to go some place Christmassy for the holidays. It's usually warmish and brown in Oklahoma during December (except when it BLIZZARDS in my absence, like last year), so I've always wanted to go to a colder city with lots of Christmas sparkle. This year Steve and I debated back and forth about where to go, torn between choosing an old favorite or something new. The old favorite won! We spent Christmas in London, with a few sidetrips.

(It was a whirlwind trip, so I didn't get to see any of my UK friends -- I hope to see you guys this summer!)

1
We spent our first two days in Cambridge, which has a cozy, festive feel and hardly any tourists this time of year. (I'm starting to wonder if I like Cambridge better than Oxford, but that's not really fair because I've only spent time in Oxford during high tourist season.) We wandered about, drank mulled wine at The Eagle and ate our first mince pies! (Why did I think mince pies had meat in them? I am so DUMB. They are delicious and fruity/spicy.)

A nice thing about our time in Cambridge -- I nailed down some very crucial research details for the latest ms and thus the airfare + some expenses are a write off for me! Yay.

2
We enjoyed a festive tea at Brown's Hotel in London. Here our waiter is serving us Christmas cake and slices of yule log. Too bad we were already STUFFED.

3
The parlor at the Charles Dickens Museum, all decorated for Christmas!

5
Sunday night we saw Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall. AMAZING.

6
Monday we took the Eurostar to Brussels for the day. It was very cold, but we had a great time eating traditional Belgian food and browsing the shops and Christmas market. Here we are at a bar on the Grand Place, drinking Kriek and Geuze beer.

7
The Christmas light show on the Grand Place. We watched it several times!

Now back to reality . . . obviously my holiday cards will be a little late this year.

(If you want to see more photos, my Flickr set is here.)

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, December 6, 2010

The hero that outbroods them all

Steve and I rewatched North & South over the past few days. I've lost count of how many times I've seen this. Well over ten, I think? (And this had to be Steve's fourth time watching -- he is very fond of Daniela Denby-Ashe's Margaret Hale.) Such a wonderful cast! I adore this adaptation, and if you are a fan of BBC costume drama who hasn't yet seen it, please buy it or rent from Netflix immediately. Consider it a much-deserved holiday gift to yourself!

Anyway, after this viewing I've decided that Richard Armitage does the sexiest hostile expression in the world.

thornton
See what I mean?

And I'm ready to go out on a limb and say his Thornton is my all-time favorite 19th century brooding hero in a film adaptation. Yes, I think I love him even better than Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy.

Do you agree? Or is there another actor who epitomizes the brooding hero to you?

All right, enough swoony silliness. I'm going to be away from the blogosphere for a bit, so please behave while I'm away. Looking forward to seeing you again late next week!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Revenant jacket

I've tried not to spam you with too much REVENANT stuff lately, but today I can't help sharing the final jacket design:





Click the image for a larger view!

I'm excited, but this still seems so surreal, ya know?

Mmmm . . . turkey and chocolate cake

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American friends!

(And whoever else wants to join in, please do!)

I am thankful for a low-key morning of sleeping late, reading half of Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall (so delightful!), and only having to worry about making one dish for our Thanksgiving meal with friends:

cake
Too Much Chocolate Cake! (The chocolate glaze is supposed to be more drizzly, but hey! It's CHOCOLATE CAKE, FTW.)

The only bad thing is my stomach ache from drinking too much tea and licking too much chocolate glaze. :(

Happy Day, everyone! I am so thankful for your friendship. ♥♥♥

P.S. Steve is now suggesting we put chocolate sprinkles on top of the glaze. Thoughts?

[cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Five of fall color

Our fall color is just about at its peak right now, and though central Oklahoma isn't exactly known for autumnal beauty, I still found a few nice shots to share with you.

1
The young maple in front of our house. I deliberately shot into the sun because I liked the way the light peeks through the leaves.

2
Pumpkins on our front patio. This is the first year my crepe myrtles have had such fine color -- perhaps because someone finally told me I was overwatering them? Notice the neighbor's yellow tree across the street.

Now for a change of pace . . . some photos I took last weekend on the OU campus.

3
A tree across the street from the law school. Steve sees this one from his office window and takes cheer!

4
These trees haven't really turned, but it's always nice when the fall mums are planted on campus!

5
Two (or three?) ash trees mingle their leaves.

Happy weekend to all!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jane Eyre trailer!





I was so delighted when Michael Fassbender was cast as Rochester, and so far I am still very pleased!

It's a small thing, but I'm quite relieved to see a dark-haired Blanche Ingram. (This rarely happens.)

Just a wee glimpse of Jamie Bell as St. John -- I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Simon McBurney doesn't seem right as Brocklehurst -- too gentle? -- but I can deal with it.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts after I watch it a few times.

What are your thoughts!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A magical discovery

This past Saturday evening when Steve was at a law school function, I was rather desperate for something different to watch on TV -- something he wouldn't mind me watching without him. After much fruitless searching, I stumbled across The Secret of Kells on Cox OnDemand.

I googled it before watching, of course. I had no memory of it as an Oscar nominee! (It had noms and wins for plenty of other awards, too.) I understood from the title that the story somehow revolved around the Book of Kells, but when I read that the hand-drawn animation was styled after the manuscript's illuminations, I figured it was worth $5.99 to check it out.

The film opens with a rather unremarkable "precocious boy gets in trouble" goose-chasing scene, but once Brendan gets to the forest, the real magic begins. In the following scene, the young hero is introduced to an oak tree by mysterious sprite Aisling (notice also the white cat Pangur Ban, who stole my heart):




In this haunting scene, Aisling and Pangur Ban help Brendan escape a locked cell in the abbey tower:




These clips do not come close to representing the film's beauty -- I do hope you'll check it out on a bigger screen! (It's available at Netflix.)

(I would love to have stills from the forest scenes, like this one, to hang on my walls.)

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Five -- in which I gather comforting links

In the not-so-distant past, I effused about Laura Miller's The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. After reading it, I so admired Miller for her candor, wit, compassion and eloquence. I still love the book, but I'm a bit miffed at Miller right now after having read her slam of NaNoWriMo at Salon.com. Hey, I totally get it -- NaNo doesn't sit well with everyone. For many folks, it's not the best method. That's fine! But did she really have to get ugly about it? I just don't understand why she's so deeply offended by the idea of quick-drafting a novel. (And neither did a lot of her commenters. You'll find some classy responses there. Oh, and some rude ones, too, if that's your thing. heh.)

1. Fortunately Nova Ren Suma tweeted a link to this response to Miller from Carolyn Kellog at the LA Times. Nice refutation of each of Miller's arguments, Ms. Kellog! If any of you are feeling sore about NaNo haters like Miller, read this article.

2. You might also read L.K. Madigan's initially cheeky but ultimately inspirational Rules for Writers. I've never seen a metaphor forced so beautifully. BE THE CORN, as Lisa Schroeder would say!

3. Then there's Myra McEntire's You Gotta Believe at Adventures in Children's Publishing. She addresses just about every feeling of inadequacy or fear that I've ever experienced on the road to publication. I wanted to shout "Hallelujah" when I finished reading!

4. I also got a kick out of Brian Kell's recent post on the tragic disconnect between a great idea and what actually ends up on the page. Check it out here.

5. Finally, I gotta take this back to the writer whose book helped me get unblocked. I know each of us has a unique method of composing that first draft. But if you're like me and sometimes despair at how the writing on the page doesn't live up to the grand idea in your noggin, consider Anne Lamott's words:

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. [. . .] Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you never would have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you're supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might want to go -- but there is no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and half pages.
(Bird by Bird, pp 22-23)

This may even be too wild and loose for me -- I'm a planner/outliner and don't usually jump in and romp with such abandon, but I do write things that make me cringe. And I just fix that stuff later. If it's not fixable, it gets cut. The main point is DON'T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF. Just get something on the page.

Do YOU have any other pep talks to share? If so, link in the comments!

Happy Friday and Happy Writing!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yay for kitties!

Oh no! I almost missed National Cat Day!

(probably because it's also Steve's birthday)

Jama Rattigan is celebrating Kidlit Kats at her LJ today, so I wanted to join in the fun and post my own kitty photos. (Because I don't do this enough already, right? Heh.)

In my house, it's National CEDRIC day!

kitty1
Happy kitty in a box

kitty2
Mysterious kitty in a box

me
Kitty squirming in the arms of uncombed human who forgot to stage a more flattering photo for this special event!

All right, my kitty-loving friends -- time to post your own photos!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Advance reader's copy (!!)

Agent Jenn received hers last Thursday. I didn't get mine until yesterday morning when my neighbor brought over the misdelivered package. The wait was long and cruel! But now I finally have it in my hands.

Bear with me, friends . . .

ARC
This is what geeked-out newbie authors do when they get their ARC. I had to see how it looked "faced out" on my bookshelf. It sure feels nice and cozy to be snuggled up next to Neil Gaiman. (rowr!) Actually, there's good company all around.

inside
And here's a peek inside. Eeeek!

I hope to share the entire jacket with you soon. :D

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five -- TV detective shows I wish you would watch with me!

1. Law & Order UK -- Okay, I'm mostly watching this for Jamie Bamber and Harriet Walter. Still, it's a good way to get my British police procedural fix.

2. Luther -- Idris Elba was fantastic as a highly entrepreneurial (& extremely sexy) drug dealer in The Wire, and I've always wanted to hear him use his native accent. The fact that he's starring as a police detective makes it all the more enticing. (And he'll be working with Jane Eyre! Heh.) However, I hope the show doesn't go over-the-top with the DARKNESS and TORMENT. (I get too much of that with Wallander.)

3. Sherlock -- Saw this in England during the summer. It's brilliant. Watch it.

4. Fringe -- (Does this count as a detective show? I think so.) Great start to the third season, though my heart broke a little last night. I KNOW many of you are watching this, and I want to discuss it with each and every one of you!

5. Castle -- Just when my husband decided to give up on this one, it seemed to get better. Hmmm . . . Despite the fact that we never see Castle's old/new girlfriend and now have a new PlotDeviceBoyfriend! for Beckett, this season has been consistently clever and entertaining.

In other news, my poem is featured today at Maurissa Guibord's Haunted House Tour. I'm not a poet, but this little piece demanded to be written nonetheless. By commenting, you could win a copy of Neil Gaiman's Newbery-winning The Graveyard Book! (One of my favorites!)

Happy weekend, everyone!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Photo recap

Last Wednesay, Steve and I flew to Phoenix and stayed at the Intercontinental Montelucia. He attended a conference while I furiously worked on revisions.

camelback
Our room at the Intercontinental boasted this view of Camelback Mountain. Such a beautiful resort!

toes
I didn't work every minute of my time there. In fact, I enjoyed a facial and pedicure (see shiny purple toes!) and spent some time by the pool.

ashley
On Friday Steve's parents picked us up and took us back to their place for a very relaxing visit. This is a shot of Steve's adopted "little sister" Ashley, who despite getting on in years (& being blind in one eye) is still very spry and affectionate.

[BTW, on Saturday afternoon we saw The Town, which was very good, but I would have enjoyed it so much more without the constant talking and texting of all the people around us. FOR SHAME, PEOPLE! Why do some folks think the movie theater is their living room? *rage*]

firetruck
Perhaps the most exciting event of our trip was when our plane pulled out of its final approach to DFW. After several minutes in a holding pattern, the pilot announced that there'd been a malfunction warning on the landing gear, but we were safe to land anyway. For some reason, I did not panic, but it was strange to see three firetrucks zooming toward us as we hit the runway (with only a weird bobble to the left). The passengers cheered as we landed, but only fifteen minutes later they were grousing about missed connections. I was more than happy to wait for maintenance to pin the nose gear before we gated. Then again, we had a longish layover to OKC. (Apologies to Facebook friends who were already subjected to this story!)

newnham
I was thrilled to find this book waiting for me when we got home. My work-in-progress is set in a college based on Newnham at Cambridge, so this semi-autobiographical (?) novel published in 1901 will be very helpful. And I just LOVE old books!

frontispiece
Check out the gorgeous frontispiece and title page. The novel is fascinating to read, but some of the sentimentality is cloying. For example:

To both girls that walk was memorable, as the opening chapter in a volume which was to become even more helpful than the dearest of their silent friends, the books that both loved so passionately, to which their talk so often turned. They were turning the first pages in the book of friendship, the most absorbing of all books. (39)

This excerpt is rather mild compared to others, but I still treasure the book for the amazing wealth of detail on the college and student life in the early twentieth century.

Now . . . back to work!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Five -- it's FINALLY October

Back to the usual randomness . . .

1. Maurissa Guibord's Haunted House Tour 2010 begins today! Creepy tales and prizes will be featured throughout the month of October. Do check it out -- if you dare!

2. Don't forget to nominate your favorite Children's and YA books for the 2010 Cybils. (I must add this to my 'to-do' list immediately.)

3. I recently re-read I Capture the Castle and couldn't resist reviewing it for Book End Babes. Oh, how I love this novel! Have you re-read anything wonderful lately?

4. I've finished a draft of my manuscript. (!!!) It's rather ugly in places (I mean, REALLY patchy and frequently ridiculous), but I still count it a decent start at 76k words. Since I tend to underwrite first drafts, I fear the final product will be the longest thing I've ever written.

5. After I get back from my workout (bleh) I'm going to celebrate and unwind by watching last night's Fringe and Vampire Diaries, perhaps also indulging in an instant viewing of I Capture the Castle on Netflix. Tomorrow it's back to the salt mines as I return to the beginning of the ms and start revising. (I really want to get this to my crit partners by the middle of the month.)

What are your plans for the weekend?

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five: giveaway WINNER and some links

1. The winner of a shiny new hardcover copy of L.K. Madigan's The Mermaid's Mirror AND an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly's forthcoming Revolution is:

brian_ohio!!!

(Brian, if you email me at sonia (at) soniagensler (dot) com, we can iron out the details.)

Thanks to EVERYONE who participated on livejournal and blogspot -- I appreciate you ever so much, and I hope you'll stay tuned for future giveaways.

2. Book banning makes me LIVID. If you haven't already, please read Laurie Halse Anderson's blog post about a mind-boggling challenge to her beautiful book, Speak: This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography. ALSO, go here to win a copy of Twenty Boy Summer, another book thoughtlessly maligned by Scroggins. And consider reading a banned book this week, won't you?

3. This brilliant blog post from Maureen Johnson almost pushes that Scroggins dude out of my head: Sell the Girls.

4. I saw this short little video linked on Facebook. It may have been around for a while, but was new to me. CRACKED ME UP. Perhaps I should advise . . . oh, I'm not even going to warn you. A commercial for Channel Bee.

5. These two film trailers make me giddy:









Happy weekend, everyone!

[cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MERMAID'S MIRROR interview and giveaway!

[NOTE: if you prefer Livejournal, please read the interview and enter the contest here.]

Today I am absolutely tickled to share my interview with the fabulous L.K. Madigan, author of the William C. Morris Award-winning Flash Burnout. Her latest novel, The Mermaid's Mirror, features "highly imagistic descriptions and savvy dialogue" and "offers a rewarding and credible story that uses fantasy elements to bare truths about family ties" (this according to a starred review from Booklist!).  And guess what? Lucky YOU will have a chance to win a copy of Mermaid's Mirror at the end of this interview!

So without further ado, my questions for L.K.:

I know you’ve told this story before, but it delights me so. Please tell us about your very first mermaid book and explain how/if it influenced MERMAID’S MIRROR.

My very first mermaid book was an epic tale penned when I was in third grade … so it’s more accurate to say it was penciled. I took on the role of illustrator, too, which meant my characters sometimes had to suffer the indignity of noselessness. (The art world breathed a sigh of relief when I narrowed my focus to words instead of pictures.)

I’m not sure my early juvenilia influenced my current novel, but my desire to create a compelling world beneath the waves was as strong in childhood as it is now. My eight-year-old self and my current self both love to tell stories.

[Interviewer note: For more details on L.K.'s early love for mermaid stories, please see Jaclyn Dolamore's captivating interview. Simply magical!]

MM combines contemporary realism with fantasy. You’ve written an award-winning contemporary novel already, so we’ll assume you’re comfortable with that genre. At what point on the comfort scale (let’s say “liberated to terrified”) did you fall when writing the fantasy components of MM?

I wrote an early draft of MM years before I switched to contemporary realism. In fact, it was my first serious attempt at writing for children. Back then I simply wrote … forging blithely ahead, creating my underwater fantasy world, free of any crippling fears about what constitutes authentic world-building. A few years later, when I decided to rewrite MM from a middle grade novel to YA, the fears found me … but they didn’t cripple me. I forged ahead with the writing, a little less blithely now, a lot more aware of all the things I might get wrong.

I went ahead and told my tale, anyway. If we writers become too paralyzed to tell our stories, then who will? I loved creating my fictional world, and I hope the book will find readers who love it, too. My goal was to describe beach scenes so vivid that a reader who’s never been out of her landlocked state will feel as if she can smell the salt air and feel the ocean’s power … and maybe even imagine a world beneath the waves.

Thank you for mentioning my “award-winning” novel, but I still feel like an apprentice in this profession, and I probably always will.

You write boys so well. (I ADORE Blake from Flash Burnout). However, your protagonist in MM is an equally complex and lovable girl. Was it a challenge or a relief to shift to a female perspective? Details, please!

Is it a cop-out if I say I truly love writing from the perspective of both genders?

In some ways, there’s a greater sense of freedom in writing from the male perspective. I didn’t feel the need to censor Blake’s salty language or his frank admiration of his girlfriend’s physical attributes. Even in our enlightened 21st century, some people will still judge a girl harshly for behavior that boys are permitted.

More and more, YA novels are slowly breaking down that double standard. I’ve read some terrific books with female protagonists who occasionally utter a swear word, and who explore the boundaries of love and lust.

I’ve never even touched a surfboard, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the surfing scenes in MM. Did you draw from personal experience in writing them?

I spent eighteen years in southern California, yet I never learned to surf. I guess it’s because we lived “inland,” so I wasn’t close to surf culture. I body-surfed and swam in the ocean, and I have happy memories of my university days, in which I would finish classes and head for the beach alone. I would go for a swim, then lay on my towel and read. I sometimes rode a boogie-board, but I never took the time to learn to surf. I wish I had!

My parents and sister moved to a beach town in northern California when I was in college, so she was close to surf culture, and became a surfer herself. I drew inspiration from her adventures. I also asked surfboard-maker Robbie Dick – who has over five decades of surfing experience under his belt – to read the book and make sure I got the surf scenes right.

Hawaii is one of my favorite vacation spots, because I can swim and snorkel in the warm sea, listening to the underwater music of shifting sands.

I know you created a lovely playlist for MERMAID’S MIRROR because I’ve had a chance to listen to it! Can you share two of your favorite songs from that list and explain how they helped put you in the mood for writing/revising?

Oooh, I love my Mermaid playlist, but I admit two of my favorites are “In the Deep,” by Bird York, and “Bright Glittering Gifts,”by Laura Veirs.

“In the Deep” is so dreamy and drifting and hypnotic, like floating in the sea. “Bright Glittering Gifts” is more upbeat; it opens with images of sand and sea and earth, then ends with a beautiful, repetitive refrain that rolls over and over, like waves.

[Interviewer note: You can watch a video of "In the Deep" here. Both it and "Bright Glittering Gifts" (from the Saltbreakers CD) are available from iTunes!]
______

Thanks so much, Lisa, for your eloquent answers to my questions!

NOW! I want to offer you, dear blog reader, the opportunity to win The Mermaid's Mirror. PLUS, I am sweetening the pot with an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution (due to be released October 12). Like Mermaid's Mirror, Donnelly's latest novel weaves a compelling fantastical element into a realistic contemporary story. So they pair nicely, right?

Comment below to enter. International entrants welcome! You may gain more entries by tweeting or facebooking this contest, but please tell me below under what name you've tweeted/FBed. The winner will be announced FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Five

1. WriteOnCon. This amazing online writing conference needs your help! Browse the various offerings and comment on those you'd like to win. Comment here to win a critique from me and an ARC of The Revenant when it becomes available. Multiply your entries by making a small donation.You have until Sunday, September 26, at noon (EST) to comment/donate! (Remember, you don't HAVE to donate, but doing so will increase your chances of winning AND will help a great online resource continue its fabulous work! Oh, and don't worry -- they are suggesting small donations.)

2. My home office. We've been working on this room for four years, adding a few pieces here and there when we could scrounge up the money. Our final two pieces -- a 5th bookcase (!!!) and a hutch -- arrived Wednesday. After lots of heavy lifting, sorting, and cleaning, here's the result:

 



I am so happy with how it all turned out. But a word of warning -- black bookcases collect dust like crazy. Yeah, you probably already knew that. Well, imagine what it's like when you add a white cat into the mix! My Swiffer duster just can't keep up.

3. A relic of my past. Look what I found when cleaning out the office closet: an old-timey photo of me in my late-teens with Steve (who looks 12). My hair is just sad, but at least I had a tan back then!

4. Book squee. As soon as I finish The Children's Book (which is good, but so LONG), I will dive into Y.S. Ling's The Body at the Tower. (Victorian girl spies RULE!) And after that, I simply must get my hands on Lucy Christopher's Stolen, which apparently is beyond spectacular.

5. TV squee. Six days until the Fringe Season 3 premiere!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sonia does her best to be late for 1st conference gig

This past Saturday, I was the first speaker at the SCBWI OK Fall Conference. The presentation went just fine, but getting there was a comedy of errors.

First of all, I didn't sleep well the night before -- partly because I was nervous about speaking, but mostly because I continued to obsess about the disturbing bits in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which we'd just watched, and which I'm starting to think was better than the book) long into the wee hours.

So I woke puffy-eyed and exhausted, dragging around until I was fifteen minutes late leaving, but I still had plenty of time to make it to Chandler, Oklahoma. Except -- my gas tank was nearly empty! So I lost more time filling it. Then I remembered that I didn't have a cent on me for the turnpike. So I got cash. But a twenty dollar bill was no good, so I had to break it at Starbucks. Finally, I'm on the road again and, now that the sun has crossed the horizon, it occurs to me that I don't have my sunglasses. ARGH! (My photosensitivity has reached nearly vampiric levels, so I've GOTTA have sunglasses. Even when it's cloudy.) Fortunately, I had a spare pair in the glove box, but they were crappy and uncomfortable. Still, I'm finally on the interstate and moving in the right direction.

My GPS is telling me what to do, because I don't even trust myself with Mapquest anymore. I'm driving along, la la la, and all of a sudden I realize I'm passing the turnpike. The GPS forgot to tell me to take it! But I keep driving, thinking maybe it knows a better way to access the turnpike. Instead, it takes me to Route 66 -- yes, that famous TWO-lane highway -- and tells me to take that to Chandler. DOUBLE ARGH! (It occurred to me later that I'd adjusted the GPS settings to avoid toll roads. Well done, Sonia.)

As it turned out, Route 66 was pretty cool. And because I didn't get stuck behind a grandpa on a tractor, I still made it with 15 minutes to spare.

And then my computer would not cooperate with the LCD projector. *sigh*

But we got that sorted (thanks to Tammi Sauer's thumbdrive and Darlene Bailey Beard's netbook), and I was able to start my presentation on time. Everyone was wonderfully polite and cooperative, and I had a great time. My thanks go out once again to the Elevensies who offered their successful queries for my presentation. *hugs*

The rest of the conference was brilliant. Pati Hailey led us through some relaxation exercises before asking us to do some writing. I ended up brainstorming character motivation details that I'd been ignoring for too long. And then Joni Sensel's fabulous Fantasy intensive helped me to write two scenes and brainstorm a different character's motivations. Such a productive day. Thank you Anna Myers, Pati Hailey and all the staff and speakers at Oklahoma SCBWI for a great day!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Five of Fun and Magic

1. In case you didn't see me EXCLAIMING ABOUT IT all over the place yesterday (like a crazy fool), I finally got permission to share my cover for THE REVENANT. Here it is. Thanks for celebrating with me!

2. Tomorrow I will be sharing tips on getting an agent at the Oklahoma SCBWI Fall conference. If you're reading this and you attended my "Schmooze" talk on the same topic a few months ago, I will have new material. Oh, and big thanks go out to the Elevensies who donated their queries for my presentation. *smooch*

3. I needed a little extra magic for my presentation, so yesterday I went on the hunt for a new pair of shoes to jazz up my look. So many ladies have been working the red shoes lately that I had to get my own pair. Here they are. And here's an an action shot, so to speak. They're slightly old-ladyish, but also foxy. Silver-foxy?

4. Speaking of magic, I am listening to Sara Bareilles' new CD Kaleidoscope Heart. She is my #1 girl-crush! Would love to see her in concert again, but I'm afraid Steve would stow away on her tour bus and I'd never see him again.

5. Even more magic: I love this interview of L.K. Madigan by Jaclyn Dolamore. Lots of Mermaid-y goodness AND a giveaway. Please do go check it out -- you might win something fabulous. And don't forget that L.K.'s The Mermaid's Mirror will be released on October 4th!

Happy weekend, everyone!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I FINALLY CAN SHARE MY COVER!

Revenant

Click here for larger version.

Learn more about the book here.

This Photobucket version looks a tad fuzzy. And keep in mind that it will be tweaked -- at the very least they still need to add the tagline -- but this is the "approved" design!

My pub date is June 14, 2011. Please write this on your calendar 'cause we are going to PARTY! ;)

Anyway . . . watcha think?

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Five -- Writing

In an effort to be less random on Fridays, this week's five are all somewhat related to writing. (I haven't used my "writing" tag in over two months. Eeek!)

1. Earlier this week, Nova Ren Suma tweeted about this amazing month-long writing retreat in a Scottish castle! Pictures like these bring to mind one of my favorite books, The Keep, and make me think of spooky things that might happen during a writing retreat at a remote location (à la The Ghost Orchid). I have to admit that, even though the idea of this retreat is so seductive, the reality is that I'd probably be too spooked to get anything written! (I LOVE ghostly books and movies. But a real-life haunted castle -- and I'm already imagining Hawthornden to be downright filthy with ghosts -- might drive me straight to Looneyville. (Not that I would ever be selected for this retreat.)

2. Good thing there are plenty of other retreats that are closer and considerably less gothic. Kindling Words, for instance. Doesn't that look cozy? Kate Messner recommended it, and I do believe I'll be putting my name in for the lottery. Any other retreats to recommend?

3. Speaking of Kate, I met her on Wednesday! She was in town on a special research mission (oooh!) and fortunately had time for a chat at Starbucks. I had such a great time talking books and writing with Kate, and I was so inspired by her positive attitude, boundless creativity, and amazing work ethic. Yay!

4. As far as my own writing progess, I'm pleased to report that I've finally reached the 50k mark with the latest ms (the one I was supposed to have drafted before I left for Oxford. *sigh*). The sagging middle was determined to suck me into its vortex, but I finally realized that if I just relaxed my white-knuckled grip on the outline and kept writing, I would eventually escape the sag's gravitational pull. (Which may sound counterintuitive, because you'd think a sagging middle would require more structure, but I think I just needed a slightly different structure.)

5. And on that note, I give you an updated progress bar. (Haven't posted one of these since May 19th. Oh, the shame!) I plan to turn this sucker into a straight blue line by the end of the month. Hold me to it!


50073 / 70000 words. 72% done!

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Superhorse!

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I've been seeing this poster all over the place lately. And everytime I look at it, my eyes prickle with tears. I couldn't even explain to Steve without choking up.

You see, Secretariat was my first love.

I was wee, but I still have very vivid memories of jumping up and down and screaming with my mom as Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. (We weren't actually there, however. We watched on TV in California. Here's the film of the race -- it never fails to give me chills.)

I begged my mom to take me to Claiborne Farm so I could meet Secretariat. I just assumed the grooms would be happy to let me ride him. Unfortunately, Claiborne was closed to the public at that time, but I did visit Spendthrift Farm. (I did see Nashua, who was quite old. Unlike Secretariat, he lived to the ripe old age of 30.)

I obsessively followed Secretariat's children as they tried to repeat his success -- Lady's Secret, Risen Star, General Assembly, etc. He turned out to be much better at siring broodmares than stakeswinning racehorses, however. (I like to think of him as a doting grandpa!)

And when he died? I was so shocked I couldn't even cry.

The film may be more about Penny Chenery than Secretariat, but that's okay. Her story is amazing, too. See the trailer here.

Any other Secretariat fans out there? Other equine/non-human first loves? Do share!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Five of Random

1. FOOD: Last week I had a whole pile of black bananas and no eggs for banana bread. With Deleilan's assistance, I made a vegan version that was delicious. (Email me if you want the recipe -- I don't think she'd mind.) Once I obtained some eggs, I made these banana muffins (thanks to Caerwyn) that pretty much knocked my socks off. YUM!

2. FILM: There's going to be a film of Susan Hill's THE WOMAN IN BLACK starring Daniel Radcliffe! I'm sure this will be deliciously gothic and creepy. (I've never seen any of the TV adaptations -- have you?)

3. BOOKS: after allowing myself an afternoon to celebrate/mourn the completion of the Hunger Games trilogy, I moved on to Kate Atkinson's fourth Jackson Brodie book, Started Early, Took My Dog. The UK edition has one of the most gorgeous covers I've ever seen! And it's thoroughly engrossing in its meandering, stream-of-consciousness way. I'm trying to make it last because I let Steve take my copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with him to Colorado. (What was I thinking?)

4. PETS: Yesterday was National Dog Day, and Jama Rattigan celebrated with children's authors here. Just so you know, National Cat Day is October 29. Cat lovers need to represent, so put it on your calendar!

5. MUSIC: Those of you who came of age in the 80s might find this interesting: a Then and Now montage of music artists. Some folks are holding up well, while some . . . not so much. Do you see any of your old crushes? :)

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend surprises

Pleasant surprise #1: Spaced. This is one of those shows where after the first episode I was thinking "well, that's cute enough," and then by episode 4, I was obsessed! The tragic thing is that when I added it to my Netflix queue, I noted the existence of three discs. So when I get to the end of season 2, my first thought was "thank goodness there's one more to go!" Little did I know the third disc was for EXTRAS, and there never was a third season. Sad Sonia! And yet, one of those extras was a very detailed featurette on the making of the show that included a wee little peek into what might have happened to the two main characters if the show had continued. Almost as satisfying as a third season! (Well, not really -- but I'll take it.) Anyway, I'm not sure how many of you have seen this show (it's 11 years old already), but the Star Wars references made me think of several friends. It's not sci-fi, but half the characters are living a scifi storyline in their heads, so it might as well be. Definitely a very geek-friendly show! If you're a fan of Simon Pegg, and liked Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I think you'd enjoy it. It's silly and vulgar at times, but at its heart it is incredibly, delightfully sweet. (And very clever, of course. And hilarious. And even a little romantic!)

Pleasant surprise #2: Nanny McPhee Returns (or Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang in the UK). Like the first one, this film was downright silly at times, and had an utterly predictable ending, but I found myself very entertained and had a lovely cry during the closing scene. It's a charming, heart-warming film -- If you'd like more details, this review from the San Francisco Chronicle seemed on target to me. The cast is amazing -- I was particularly impressed by young Eros Vlahos (what a name!) who out-acted all of the children and many of the adults. But the real surprise of this movie, for me, was the appearance of a certain (unbilled) Scottish actor as the dad who is off at war. When we first see him in a photograph, I nearly gasped. I'd know that smile anywhere!

BTW, a cute connection between Spaced and Nanny McPhee Returns -- each features Bill Bailey in a minor, but memorable, role (as Bilbo Bagshot and Farmer Macreadie).  Hee!

[cross-posted from Livejournal]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Anticipation

Three books are on their way to me from three different places. I'm dying to read each one and am in UTTER SUSPENSE over which will arrive first:

Mockingjay -- MUST read this one before I get spoiled on Twitter! :) (Team Peeta, baby!)

Started Early, Took My Dog -- I've been waiting SO LONG for the next Jackson Brodie book. Couldn't wait for the US release, so ordered it from the UK. (Atkinson took the title from one of my very favorite Dickinson poems, which seems a good omen.)

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- not a new book, but lots of buzz lately due to the casting of the Hollywood film adaptation. This one's on its way from my editor.

And this morning, Brontë Blog brought this book to my attention -- A Taste of Sorrow (or Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontës, as it is known in the States). I'm sure the blog has mentioned it before, but this was the first time I noticed Juliet Barker's endorsement. Eeeee! And this one's available at my local bookstore -- but do I dare start it when I'm waiting for the others?

What books are you dying to get your hands on?

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekend recap

I did not see Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this weekend -- decided to wait until after I've read the book -- but did watch two other films and finished a book:

The Eclipse -- at the end of this film, Steve growled "that's it?" He was expecting a mystery of some sort, and felt let down. I, on the other hand, was pretty satisfied. The film features gorgeous cinematography (I really want to watch again so I can study it), with a good balance of creepiness and pathos. (Plus a little romance for our dear Ciaran Hinds.) I hope I'm not spoiling or oversimplifying things by saying the story seems to be more about being haunted by the living than by the dead. There are some horror moments that may feel incongruous to viewers, but I was able to reconcile them with my interpretation of the film. Would love to discuss this one with others. (Lo, it is available from Netflix!)

Inception -- Another film that, at it's core, is about being haunted, about facing loss and moving on (or, as the case may be, not really). I thought the concept was absolutely brilliant, but couldn't quite emotionally invest in Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist. I left the movie thinking that if he could have brought to this what Guy Pearce brought to Memento, the film might actually have blown me away. As it stands, I really enjoyed it and want to see it again. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't even more satisfying after a second viewing. (BTW, the character I really connected with? Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's Arthur. LOVED him. More movies starring him, please! Also thought Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy all did fine jobs. And Pete Postlethwaite's final scene? *sob*) I know everyone else saw this ages ago, but if you get a chance, please direct me to your commentary!

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia -- I'm going to be lazy and just quote my Goodreads review: "This book celebrates so much of what I loved about the Chronicles, but at the same time provides context for many of the things that troubled me about the books and Lewis himself. Not a book to be read quickly -- best for those who enjoy a cozy and somewhat meandering combination of memoir and lit crit." I will add here that if you're a Lewis fan who values the Chronicles mainly for their Christian message, this book may not appeal to you. But gosh, it sure taught me a lot about how we evolve as readers, about the various literary (& personal) influences that shaped the books, about Lewis' friendship with Tolkien and their drastically different attitudes toward fantasy and world-building, and much more. Fascinating stuff!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

England Top Five

We're home!

Got here Monday night, which meant yesterday was all about groceries and laundry. I was very happy to be reunited with my kitty-child, who seemed pleased to see us, but thankfully not in a desperate "WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME" sort of way. (I think he had a good time with our housesitter.)

Overall I really enjoyed our time in Oxford, but It's so wonderful to be in my own home, sleeping in my own bed, drinking my own tea, etc. And gee, I don't miss those drunk students yelling outside my window AT ALL. No siree. (They were lovely people, but unfortunately their voices really echoed around the quad.)

Over the summer I posted many links to photo sets, most of which included so many scenes of wooded paths and Norman churches that they probably all started to look alike after a while. Someday I'll learn to take more photos with actual people in them! Sorry about that.

And yet, I can't leave the photo thing alone. I still want to share! Can I, please? Don't worry -- to spare you the frustation of sifting through all my shots of paths and churches, I've chosen five of my favorite photos from the summer.

tea
Our first English tea of the summer, and probably the best. When in Bath, we had a "Wimbledon Tea" at the Pump Room, which included the usual sandwiches and scones, but started with a cocktail and ended with strawberries and cream instead of sugary pastries and sweets. Can you tell I am very excited to get started on this?

london
Our week in London was hot and sticky, but fortunately it cooled down at night. We stayed in a hotel on the south bank of the Thames, and I loved the view from that side. Here's St. Paul's Cathedral, taken from the Globe Theatre courtyard.

dartmoor
A view of the moor near Easdon Tor in Dartmoor. This was such a great day of hiking (15 miles in all) and I love this photo of tiny Sonia against the vastness of the moor, trying to stay upright in the powerful wind.

cotswolds
Steve taking a breather somewhere near Broad Campden in the Cotswolds. My favorite photo of him from this trip!

magdalen
Magdalen College is, in my opinion, the most beautiful college in Oxford. I admit I was very pleased with how this photo of the New Building turned out. In the center you'll see the three windows with flowerboxes underneath. Those were C.S. Lewis' rooms when he was a fellow at Magdalen.

And, just for kicks . . .

sheep
This Dartmoor sheep seemed quite keen to have a conversation with me. I thought she might be saying "How are you, dearie?" or something sweet and old ladyish like that, but later that evening, when I'd just finished my portion of lamb for supper, I realized that she must have been saying "Please don't eat my baby!"

Since then, I've really been considering going vegetarian. (If only chicken, turkey, and fish didn't count as meat! Argh.)

If you'd like to see more, here's the entire Oxford 2010 Flickr Collection.

Also, I just added a small set of photos related to Dorothy Sayers -- you'll find them here.

And now, I'm moving on with all the work I ignored this summer . . .

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]