Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three things on a Thursday

1. Apologies to those who already saw it on my Facebook or Twitter feed, but I have to share this review of The Revenant at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy*.

(*Best. Blog title. EVER.)

I try not to post about reviews too often, but this one made me weepy because she really seemed to get what my editor and I worked so hard to convey about the protagonist. She also articulated something that made me see the story in a new way, which is very cool. I am soooo grateful to Liz Burns for featuring the book on her blog! (BTW, the review does contain spoilers, but she gives plenty of warning.)

2. The second part of this post was bascially going to be me navel-gazing about whether I suffer the right way for my art, but . . . GAH that's ridiculous! Who cares? I think the bottom line is that I need to: a) take more risks and b) practice learned optimism (as explained by my dear friend Lisa Marotta). What's really got to stop is the constant flailing over all my inadequacies. That is NOT the productive way to suffer for your art!

3. Looking forward to a fun weekend with friends. It was especially exciting to load Lola and the Boy Next Door and The Name of the Star on my kindle. Yay! Trying to decide whether or not to take my computer. We could probably use a break from each other . . .

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TV Tuesday: pleasant surprises

It seems that all I've blogged about lately is TV. All I can say in my defense is "'Tis the season!"

(I'll make an effort to branch out soon.)

The season premieres of Fringe and The Good Wife were great fun -- and I'd love to discuss them in the comments -- but for this entry I'm focusing on pleasant surprises:

A Gifted Man -- Hadn't intended on watching this one, but ultimately couldn't resist the appeal of Jennifer Ehle. Actually, the whole cast is pretty dang good. This is the best I've seen from Patrick Wilson since Little Children, and we also get recent Emmy winner Margo Martindale as his secretary (?), Dexter's Julie Benz as his sister, and The Wire's Pablo Schreiber as the medium/psychic dude (please let his role be recurring!). The story is predictably schmoopy, but the performances won me over. And you guys, there's a GHOST! I'm gonna keep watching.

New Girl -- I was intrigued by the promos, but wasn't sure Steve would find this show appealing. Turns out that the trio of male roomates make the perfect foil for Zooey D's offbeat persona. We laughed outloud several times and definitely will tune in again.

Terra Nova -- I expected to be "meh" about this, but aside from some clunky exposition dialogue (especially toward the end), I found it pretty gripping. Not sure the show can sustain this pace, but so far so good. (Oh, and I've liked Jason O'Mara since he played Fergal on Monarch of the Glen -- he's the main reason I tuned in.) TN writers -- please give us more head-chomping dinosaurs! And don't overdose us on teen angst. Thanx. (Oh, I hope there's an interesting story behind the Shannons' third child.)

How about you -- found any new shows yet? Any pleasant surprises of your own?

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TV Tuesday: Brit TV on DVD

New fall shows are getting ready to air. Old favorites are returning. Seems like it's taken FOREVER, doesn't it?

I haven't suffered too much. For the last couple of weeks I've been watching a couple of DVD sets of British shows from the 90s.

The Minette Walters Collection was my first purchase after getting my all-region DVD player. I'd seen all these episodes long ago on TV, but was surprised to learn that the US broadcasts were edited for length and content. With these DVDs you get the Full Monty! (And I'm almost being literal on that.)

I was a huge Minette Walters fan in the 90s. I read each of these books when they came out and found them utterly gripping. The TV adaptations are fascinating, too. They were my introduction to (now outrageously famous) actors like Daniel Craig and Clive Owen. The characters were dark and complex. The mysteries were convoluted, and their solutions were nearly impossible to predict.

I still enjoyed the episodes during this recent viewing, but there was some squirming. For one thing, nearly every police officer depicted in these eps is disconcertingly homophobic. (They're usually the bad guys, though.) Many of the male characters are too sexually aggressive for my comfort. There's a high degree of dysfunction all around. If you have a tolerance for that, you might enjoy the dvds (or the books, for that matter).

(Of all the eps in this collection, only "The Sculptress" is available from Netflix/Qwikster.)

My dad recommended The Grand to me. (Now that he's mostly retired, he watches all sorts of recommendable dvds.) What I didn't realize was that it was written by Russell T. Davies. Who knew that he'd penned a historical melodrama? (Well . . there was Casanova.)

Since I've only just started this series, I'll share the Amazon blurb:

Lust, greed, and gossip in a glamorous British hotel of the 1920s. As the most opulent hotel in Manchester, England, during the decadent Roaring ’20s, The Grand is more than a building. It’s a nexus for schemes, scandals, romance, and intrigue. For owner John Bannerman, The Grand symbolizes a tradition of luxury and elegance begun by his father. For Marcus Bannerman, it becomes a risky investment and a way to entice his brother’s wife into bed. And for the maids and porters employed there, it represents a possible escape from their hardscrabble past--and an endless source of backstairs gossip.

Very mixed reviews on Amazon, but after four episodes I'm still enjoying it. It's rather fun to watch Stephen Moyer in his pre-True Blood days.

(This series is available from Netflix/Qwikster.)

Now that I have this all-region player, I'm itching to watch some UK shows that aren't available in the US. Any recommendations? Has anyone seen Marchlands?

[Cross-postd at Livejournal]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Endowed objects giveaway WINNER

I feel so fancy. And mathematically clever. (Which is funny because I didn't use math at all.)

To select the winner of Daughter of Smoke and Bone & a signed copy of the The Revenant, I went to as usual. But this time I used the Random Sequence Generator to assign each entrant a number before I used the Random Number Generator.

The winner is TayteH!

Hope to hear from you soon, Tayte!

In other news, it's cool and rainy here. Heavenly.

This photo would be perfect if only the face had a huge SMILE on it.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Endowed Objects BOOK GIVEAWAY -- now CLOSED

On Monday, I mentioned Kathi Appelt's presentation at SCBWI OK, and how she urged us to show emotion in fiction through endowed objects. First, however, she asked us to brainstorm what our own endowed objects might be.

I must confess I struggled with this. I mean, I LOVE things. I enjoy collecting them and displaying them and petting them. But which ones were endowed with a special emotional significance or power? Which ones would I collect in an imaginary treasure chest of Sonia-ness?

When she asked us to think of objects that conveyed something about a relationship, I was finally able to unblock myself. I thought of my husband Steve. And no, I didn't immediately think of my wedding ring or some other bit of jewelry. Instead, I thought of a teacup.

This teacup. The one that he made a special little trip to search out for me, without my urging, when he was in Milwaukee (the city in which we were married). He knew (and still knows) that I love to collect teacups. He knew that I love Medieval/Renaissance/European designs. So he bought this cup and saucer as a special gift for me. Can I say again that he did this without ANY prompting?

I think he looked at the bottom of the saucer and KNEW. I mean, this stamp just makes me giddy! It's so ME.

And thus, this cup and saucer is the pride of my collection AND automatically goes into my imaginary treasure chest of Sonia-ness (as well as Sonia♥Steve-ness).

Okay, so what about endowed objects in fiction? In The Revenant, Willie arrives at the Cherokee Female Seminary with only a small bag of things, but some of them are endowed objects. A three-volume set of Shakespeare's plays might be the most significant. These books are practically all she has left of her beloved father, a man whose obsession with the theater proved the financial ruin of her family. Two of the books contain endowed objects within their pages -- her only photograph of her father, and a letter from her mother. The latter launches the very plot of the book.

Funny how it was easier for me to think of an endowed object in one of my stories than within my own life.

I read another story recently -- Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Wow, ya'll. You know when people say "their love was so epic"? Well, the romance in this novel truly is epic. In the past, I never was drawn to stories of angels and monsters and protagonists who are so achingly beautiful that it hurts to look at them. That stuff was just too much for me. Too over-the-top. This novel is over-the-top, but in a really good way. The writing is exquisite. And like I said, the story (and romance) are epic. It also contains an endowed object -- many, in fact -- but the one I'm thinking of has a profound meaning that is revealed in layers throughout the story. (I might be talking about the "bone" part of the book's title.) I want to thank sweet Sara at Novel Novice for passing the ARC along to me!

Now I'd like to pass it along to one of you. Sure, the hardcover will be out at the end of this month. (Amazon says they're stocking it on Friday.) You could buy it for yourself. But this copy is FREE! And I'll mail it anywhere in the world! (Also, it has a different cover from the published version, which I think makes it sort of collectible.) I'll throw in some Novel Novice swag, some Elevensie swag, and heck, why not throw in a signed copy of The Revenant? (Both books feature revenants, by the way!) If you already have a copy of The Revenant but still want to win Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I'll throw in something else to sweeten the pot. Something good, I promise.

All you have to do to enter is to comment with details of an endowed object, either in your own life or in a favorite story. This giveaway is open internationally. Just make sure you leave a name and check back on Friday to see which name was drawn!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hello Monday!

I know yesterday was tough for many people. I wondered how to honor the day without giving in to gloom. Mostly, I thought about human strength and resilience. I contemplated how to be a more compassionate citizen (and less of a mole in a hole). I avoided TV as much as possible.

I also thought good thoughts about kidlit writers. :) You see, on Saturday I attended The SCBWI Oklahoma fall conference. Such a great group of people! I always leave these events cheerful and inspired.

It was a special honor to see Kathi Appelt speak. Her presentation on emotion was so unique and engaging -- I'm still thinking about the songs and images she shared. She's a wonderful lady, warm and generous, and I owe her thanks for the use of her projector during my own presentation. (She helped me get set up and everything!)

It also was an honor to sign a copy of The Revenant for her. I mean, WOW! That was a nice feeling.

There was a bad feeling, too, because I'd forgotten to bring my copy of The Underneath for her to sign. In all the craziness of packing up my stuff, it somehow didn't make it in my bag. I thought about explaining this to her, but it sounded lame --as if I hadn't bought it yet and was just making excuses.

But I DO have it, Kathi! See:

However, I have another confession about this book. I am TERRIFIED to read it. You know how it's so hard to read a book or watch a film in which children are in peril? Well, for me, stories of animals in peril are 1000 times harder. But I'll be brave and read it. I just have to work up my courage. (Dude, it's a Newbery Honor book and National Book Award finalist.)

One thing that Kathi talked about on Saturday was the power of endowed objects -- personal items that have a special power or emotional resonance. (Not necessarily a magical object -- the power is more related to memory.) She suggested that, in fiction, it was effective to express emotion through these objects. On Wednesday I'm going to talk a little more about endowed objects. And I'm going to do a GIVEAWAY.

Stay tuned!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Favorite -- speaking engagements

Last week I had the honor of presenting at the State of Sequoyah Conference in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, during the Cherokee National Holiday. I was on a panel with distinguished scholars -- all PhDs or ABD -- which was more than a little intimidating. Still, I always have fun talking about the history behind The Revenant.

Here's a newspaper article about my talk. Thank you, Betty Ridge!

I also have to thank Brandi Barnett for inviting me over for breakfast the morning of my presentation. It was very soothing to spend time with you, my friend!

Thursday night the presenters and attendees were invited to a hog fry at the Cherokee Heritage Center. It was sooo hot, but the food and company were great. Got to spend some time with Karen Cooper (one of my Tahlequah-based critique buddies) and her husband. And I finally got to try frybread!

Here are members of the Cherokee National Youth Choir. You can see a short video I made of the young ladies singing here.

During Friday's banquet I sat with Richard Allen, policy analyst for the Cherokee Nation, and his lovely wife Shelly and daughter Emma. Richard read an early draft of The Revenant and was generous with suggestions. Emma is a graduate student at Northeastern State University, and she told me that Seminary Hall gave her some creeps after she read my book. As you might imagine, that MADE MY DAY.

This lovely lady is Dr. Lynda Dixon, professor at Bowling Green State University and member of the State of Sequoyah commission. She is gifted with a warm personality that instantly puts one at ease.

And this is Dr. Ellen Cushman, professor at Michigan State University and another State of Sequoyah commissioner. She introduced our panel on Thursday and went out of her way to make me feel welcome.

It was a privilege to sign books with Jim Northrup on Friday. He shared thoughts and several moving poems about Vietnam during that morning's session on "Warriors and War."

Overall, the State of Sequoyah conference was quite an illuminating experience!

Tomorrow I will be speaking at SCBWI OK's fall conference in Chandler. Hope to see you there!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

TV Tuesday -- a look at fall shows

Old friends . . . and new?

Returning favorites:
Inspector Lewis (PBS) -- The new series already started this past Sunday with an episode that made me LONG to re-read Dorothy Sayers' GAUDY NIGHT. Lewis is not a perfect show, but it's almost always satisfying AND provides a sorely needed Oxford fix. (Also, don't forget Case Histories, which premieres 10/16.)

Fringe (FOX 9/23) -- according to exec producer Jeff Pinkner, "the season is a love letter to the show and fans" (as quoted in Entertainment Weekly). I just want to know what the HECK they're going to do about YOU KNOW WHO.

The Good Wife (CBS 9/25) -- I am, of course, eager to see what unfolds after last season's finale . . .

The Walking Dead (AMC 10/16) -- this show has been on haitus so long that I've lost some of my enthusiasm. A lot of it, actually. And yet . . . I'd still like to know what happens next.

I'll invest some time in these newbies:
Ringer (CW 9/20) -- How can you not love Sarah Michelle Gellar? And Ioan Gruffudd? (Jason Dohring joining the cast was icing, baby.)

Bedlam (BBCAmerica 10/1) -- haunted apartment building in England? OF COURSE I'm going to watch. I'm intrigued that Neil Jones, a writer for Blue Murder (a fave of mine) is co-creator/writer.

American Horror Story (FX 10/5) -- this second ghostly offering, labled a "psychosexual thriller" (???), was promoted by EW as one of the best new shows of the fall season. Who's with me on this one?

New shows I might try:
Person of Interest (CBS 9/22) -- it's a J.J. Abrams thing, but CBS's preview video left me a little cold. Too much speechifying from Michael Emerson.

Prime Suspect (I'm not linking to website because is so ANNOYING 9/22) -- I'm a huge fan of the Helen Mirren version. HUGE. Not sure if the writing will be as appealing in this American . . . reboot? Re-imagining? What carries over from the original, I wonder?

Terra Nova (FOX 9/26) -- I like Jason O'Mara a lot, but this one might be a little too busy.

OH, and I still need to procure and watch Justified season 2. Yee haw! Plenty of TV options to satisfy this addict. :)

Will you be watching any of the above?