Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just Read...

Catching Fire.

And if you haven't read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, put your computer down right now and go buy it.

I won't say much about the sequel, other than I was really anxious about it because of how amazing the first book was. But it definitely lived up to expectations. Don't know that it exceeded Hunger Games in my mind (not many, if any, books do), but it was still outstanding.

Just wish the third installment of the trilogy wasn't so far away.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Puzzle Building Without a Box Cover

As I start to put (yet again, hopefully for the last time) the finishing touches on my manuscript, I picked up a book I bought recently that is essentially a reference to all things fantasy.

In the introduction, hugely famous fantasy writer Terry Brooks writes about the importance of outlining, so that you can make sure you get your story right. He deemed this pre-writing part as "Puzzle-building without a box cover," and I really loved that phrase.

Because it's true. In all of our stories, we are pulling characters and plot points--the puzzle pieces--out of nowhere and trying to fit them together in a way that makes sense. When it's all said and done, we want to be able to glue those pieces together permanently and frame up that puzzle (or, preferably, to see it on a shelf in Barnes and Noble or Borders). The reason I love the box cover-less puzzle analogy is because it expresses how truly unique and challenging it is to write a good book. Imagine dumping a 10,000-piece puzzle of an ocean full of colorful fish on a table and trying to solve it with no point of reference. Daunting, huh?

You set out to completing it, though, because you've bought the puzzle (thought up a story you can't ignore) and feel it inside that this puzzle will not go away until it's finished. You start the puzzle and it's going great! You get all the outside pieces with the straight edges put together. Then comes the heart of the puzzle, and boy is it tough now.

Don't give up, though, because it's going to be a beautiful thing to see when it's all put together. Sure, there may be times when it seems like there's no way you'll get it done, and that the puzzlemaker must have forgotten to put several pieces in the box. And just when you're at your lowest and ready to tear the puzzle apart, your puzzle-friends will stop by on the weekends and solve a couple of pieces and remind you how awesome that puzzle will be when you get it done.

Kinda like writing. Everyone wants to give up at some point. Heck, J.K. Rowling almost committed suicide at one point. (Literally.) But then your family and other writer friends sympathize and encourage you, and maybe even solve a piece or two of that puzzle, and you keep plodding forward. So stick with it, because that puzzle will be something to behold.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Books I Officially and Publicly Recommend: The Mysterious Benedict Society

I have been on fire recently when it has come to selecting books to read, and have a couple really fantastic books going right now. I believe my streak started when I purchased The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.

This book is a smart, fun story about four extraordinarily gifted kids who must stop an evil man from taking over the world through hidden messages in the television--basically, television is rotting people's minds.

It takes place in a very Roald Dahl-esque Real-But-Not-Real world (and if you've read any Roald Dahl, you know his thoughts on the television), and the characters are wonderfully memorable. The four kids have such fun character quirks and real emotions that you can't help but be endeared and cheer out loud for them. Along the way, the kids must solve several puzzles and clues to achieve their goal, and you find yourself working out the problems right along with the kids as you read it. The back jacket flap asks in bold, "Are you a gifted child?" From the very beginning of the book, you think hey, I believe I am, thank you very much. It's full of heart, and just a gem of a book. I can't wait to read the sequel, and then the third one coming out in October.

Having said that, I now Officially and Publicly Recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Nice (People) Story

Note: when moving a open trailer full of house stuff, make sure it's all tied down properly. Okay, on with the story.

This last weekend my parents and I helped my sisters move back to school. Per the normal routine, we loaded the trailer we had borrowed with beds, dressers, and the boxes-O-stuff that had been cluttering the garage for the last three months. We cinched everything down (or so we thought) with some tie-downs, and hit the road for the three hour drive. I should mention that my mom drives the car in our family.

Not twenty minutes later, breaking through the road-trip silence, my mom: Ohh shnow-tractors! (Okay, maybe snow tractors wasn't the exact word. But you get the idea.). My dad starts freaking out, "WHAT? WHAT DID YOU DO???" I look out the window and there goes one of the boxes zip-spinning off the trailer and crashing into the center divider.

We're going too fast to turn around, and my dad is bordering clinical insanity in his rantings about our liability, and what if it causes a pile-up? and oh no, they're going to helicopter onto the hood of our car and fly us to jail! He's yelling at my mom to "Keep going! Keep going! We can't stop now!" 

So I guess we had no choice but to press forward and hope that nothing valuable was in those boxes. Maybe we could've gone back, but we didn't. A couple exits down the road, we pulled off and bought more tie-downs so we wouldn't lose any more stuff, and proceeded the rest of the journey rather uneventfully.

Enter Rob and Ria Cross. 

Driving home Sunday evening we were planning on going by the spot we lost the boxes, just to see if they were still there. About five minutes before we got to the spot, though, my sister got a call from United States Swimming. The woman on the line said a guy had apparently found some bins of ours and was trying to get ahold of us (!). Tiffany (my sister) says thanks, and immediately calls the guy. Rob told us to pull off the freeway and wait right there, he'd meet us with the boxes. Let me tell you, we were thrilled (except for my dad, who honestly thought the guy was pulling a sting operation and would be arriving with the SWAT team and handcuffs.)

He pulled up, and was just the nicest guy. Apparently my sister's homework and US Swimming card had survived the box blunder; he told us how he and his wife had sent a Facebook message to every McBroom they could find, but no one responded. They had searched high and low, and all around to try to connect with us. I mean, they spent their entire weekend trying to find us, so that we wouldn't have to go without our two boxes (it turned out to be kitchen supplies, if you were wondering). Eventually, he took the Swim card and called up US Swimming, and that's when the magic happened.

So a big cheers for Rob and Ria Cross, who reaffirmed for me that you still can come across really, really nice people at random.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Name, Same Look

As you may have noticed, my name has been a rather drab "...Under Construction..." the last few days.

Since my days as a singer in the world of children's books have (for now, at least) come to an end, I deemed it appropriate to evolve my blog as well. So I came up with a new name. I was going to change my temple to a fancy, fantasy-filled design, but it didn't come out looking right. I'm not all that good with that kind of stuff. So the look is the same, but I present to you....

(see title above).

My Personality Test Results

Prior to my business school orientation this Saturday, I was required to take a personality test. Apparently Chapman (my school) will use these results to better craft a program for each of us as students, which I think is really awesome.

Personally, I love taking personality tests/quizzes. I think it's really fun to reflect on the results and whether or not they are accurate, or completely out in left field. This particular test was called the StrengthsQuest evaluation; the results were divided into 34 "themes," that represent you as a person, and you receive your top 5 themes after the test.

My Top Five Themes:

5. Significance: People who are especially talented in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.

4. Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

3. Futuristic: People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.

2. Activator: People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

And Number 1.......

1. Ideation: People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Overall, I was pretty happy with my results (especially my number one, considering I'm trying to publish a book).

How about you? Do you like personality tests, or do you think they're just a bunch of fluff?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Query Process: Damaging to the IQ?

According to an article in The Bottom Line magazine: Constantly checking your email--as opposed to checking it once or twice a day at a set time--lowers your IQ by up to 10 points!

I don't know about you, but this does not bode well for me when I've got a query or manuscript out.