Apr 8, 2014

Book Review: The Here and Now

The Here and Now
by Ann Brashares
Delacourte Press
Release date: April 8, 2014

Goodreads / Amazon

Everyone should be aware of my fascination with Brashares' previous novel, My Name is Memory.  Full disclosure: I didn't read The Traveling Pants series.  I only know Brashares for that one heart-wrenching, mind-melding, haunt-me-for-weeks novel.  When I received the invitation to read the ARC for The Here and Now, I was all over it.

First thing's first.  Quick synopsis.
The Here and Now is about Prenna, a young girl from a plagued-ridden future who emigrates to 2010 with a colony of survivors.  They are free and safe in the present-day world, but are forced to live by a certain set of strict rules, to include forbidden relations with time natives.  Well of course, charming and adorable Ethan enters the picture.  Then, a cool mystery involving a death to be prevented and a world to save. Insta-conflict.

My thoughts:
The Here and Now is quick paced.  Not in the action sense but in the "cut straight to the chase" sense.  It's not as epic and drawn out as the other Brashares novel I read, but I'll stop the comparing here (maybe).  It didn't take me long to get into the novel or feel attached to the characters, especially Ethan.  There was not a lot of complicated world-building or background.  The story begins on page one, and I loved that.  It was un-put-down-able.

If you are a time-travel fan, as am I, you will love this fresh perspective.  This time-travel takes place in the past (future?), and the novel is really about the consequences of their travel.  They, of course, try to stop things that haven't happened yet and avoid things that never happen from happening, and it has that always-lovable mind-twist ingredient of the genre.

If I had any complaint about this book, it's that I want more.  I want the story to be a bit deeper and a bit longer. And I want our dear friend Ann to try to write an ending that doesn't leave her readers from shaking, weeping and screaming.  Too much to ask?

You'll like this book if you enjoy:
Young Adult

Apr 6, 2014

A Blogger who Writes Books

I came to a realization recently.  I'm enrolled in a course right now (my last one!) that helps us to explore platform,  marketing, and identity.  I find myself talking a lot about blogging in this course, quite annoyingly I suspect.  I talk about how blogging has put me on the track to writing.  How blogging has helped me to network with other writers, reviewers and book lovers.  How blogging is so important to me.

The realization that came to me was this: I want to be a blogger who writes books, not just a writer with a blog.

If you don't see the distinction there, let me explain.  Many (or all) writers create a blog for platform.  They post book news, bios, and whatever else the universe demands.  It's a great tool to give readers a place to "find" that writer.  It becomes his/her virtual office.  They'll draw in some followers, make a few friends, but the main purpose of the blog is to market and be present.

I don't do this to market, I do it because I'm a blogger.  Yes, I'm trying to become a published author, but I'll still be a blogger.  I'll still want to post Top Ten Tuesdays and Book Chats and check my Bloglovin' obsessively.  I'll still be me.

When I embarked on this career, I considered doing away with The Tangerine.  I considered throwing it all out and starting new with just an author's website.  I thought authors had to be professional, not personal.  I thought I couldn't post our family's travels, my own reviews, link-ups or pictures of the boys.  But times have changed.

These paths have been paved by blogger/authors before me: Amanda Hocking, Jenni Lawson, Jeff Goins, and many, many more.  These days you can follow your favorite authors on Instagram and Vine and get glimpses into their regular, boring lives complete with cat pics and baby giggle videos.  The walls that authors used to once hide behind are now coming down.

I like to think that I'll kill two birds with one stone.  If blogging helps me to create an online presence and I can just keep doing what I've been doing for three years, then I'm set.  If hanging out with you guys is part of the job, I don't know how I could complain.  But I won't sell out.  I won't turn this space into a campaign.  I won't even change the name.

So, if you are a writer who has created a blog for platform alone, I hope you find the love for blogging that I have.  There is so much to be gained from having this space, one to call your own, to publish whatever you want and to see your writing evolve and grow. I hope you see yourself in your own published words.  I hope you find the blogger in you.

Mar 10, 2014

Alpine Weekend

If you follow me on Instagram (@sweetgreent), then you've noticed that we had ourselves a sweet little alpine excursion this weekend.  I booked this weekend out of sheer frustration with our lack of traveling.  In short, we just needed away.  The trip was free of complications thanks to the BE-autiful Military Lodge the have down in Garmisch, at the base of the German alps.  As an added bonus, some friends of ours we rarely get to see happened to be staying there at the same time.  Perfection.

Okay, take a moment away from my rambling to feast your eyes…then, I'll explain it all.

Gorgeous, right?
We basically spent 48 hours in all of that, and it was perfect. We spent Saturday hiking up to some castle ruins.  We rested at the top for a cold brew and a snack, then made our way back down.  Here's the thing about hiking.  In my opinion, there is just nothing not to love about being outdoors and walking through the woods on a  beautiful day.  To just be outside, you're not thinking about emails, deadlines, homework, the gym or money.  It's my reset button.  It really is the most freeing feeling I can find and I would do it everyday if everyday were like this.
Sunday, we took a cable car to the top of one of the mountains in the area.  To give you perspective, this was one of the "small mountains" we were on.  But check out that view.  Heaven on earth right there.

As much as I didn't want to return to real life, I was also feeling so refreshed and ready for the week that Monday morning actually felt great.  Here's to a beautiful week, friends.

Feb 28, 2014

A Slave to the Manuscript

All hail the mighty manuscript.  No seriously guys, I am a slave to this thing.  Just the sight of the Scrivener icon makes my stomach flip.  So much work has gone into this thing. So much work. And wine.  And we're only at the beginning of the revision process.

In short: the revision process is where I make the mess of past thoughts and words appear to be something solid and understandable.
You're not a writer until you spend a full day with a hangover revising the junk you wrote when you were drunk.

Things people don't understand about writing a book until they do it:

  • It doesn't always fall together perfectly.  I go cross-eyed looking at my manuscript sometimes.  Is this part long enough?  Should this happen sooner?  Does the story climax too soon?  Are my characters relatable?  Is this confusing?  Did I explain this well enough?
  • There is no magic formula of success, but there is a lot more planning than you might have thought.  You have to think about tense, point-of-view, past/present, setting, length, chapter breakdown, etc. And no one can make those decisions, but you.  Shit, man.
  • You put in a lot of work never knowing for sure if you'll be paid for it.  Let's be real, writing a novel is a full-time job. And most people are writing their first novel while already working a full-time job.  The only problem with novel writing is that (unless you've been given an advance, lucky you), you're rolling the dice.  You can do the best you can, but it's a tough market and even if you do self-publish, that hourly rate is starting to look pretty dismal.  Not to be a Debby-downer.
  • You can get burnt out easily.  I love my novel, and I love my characters as much as the real people in my life.  Truth.  But yes, sometimes I get sick of them.  
  • You have to write even when you don't want to.  The muse does not always sing.  Creative juices aren't always a-flowin.  It's not all gold.  The most important part is just to write, even if it's garbage.  It's easier to clean up garbage later than pick up a dormant writing habit.  

Can you think of anything else?  Have you written a novel?  What did you learn?

Although I sound like a super whiner, I can't complain.  I'm doing it and have 50k+ words done and what was once a pipe dream is now a reality.  Twenty year old Jessica would be proud, and probably a little relieved.

Feb 26, 2014

Let's Skip the Awkwardness...

Let's just not talk about how long I've been gone.  Let's just not do that.

Instead, I think I'll just jump right in like I've never been gone. Sound good? Good.

Here are some topics we need to catch up on…yoga, school, writing, Germany, reading, did I miss anything?

So, yoga.  Yes, yoga.  I've started volunteering as an instructor at the gym on post.  I've taken the small first portion of my teacher training and I have a long way to go, but guys, how did this happen!  Seriously, within two months I vocalized the desire to teach yoga and bam, here I am.  It's been an awesome journey so far, and I feel so incredibly blessed for this opportunity.

School!  I have ONE class left.  Eeeep!  I have senioritis hardcore along with that "what now?" fear.  For those who don't know: I'm set to graduate with my Bachelor's in Creative Writing in May.

Writing.  So, the good news on the writing biz is that I've successfully started a writing group in the area.  I've found some other novelists and even some NaNo'ers.  It's amazing how quickly the writers will come out of the woodwork once you put the bait out there.  Every one has a writer inside.
As for my writing…the book is slow moving and I'm missing something in terms of motivation that I'm working on.  It's pretty much finished and needs heavy (HEAVY) revisions, but it's getting there.

Germany.  Life is good.  I've managed to make some amazing friends and although it's not really "home" in the same sense that other places have been, we're still happy and comfortable here.  We have some trips planned over spring and summer and we're always eager to soak up the culture (read: beer and food).

Reading.  Oh it's been bad. Very, very bad.  I can't tell you the last book I finished, guys.  I read everyday and I've been trying so hard to get into anything, but it's all coming up short.  It's been like speed dating, really.  I've started and ditched too many to count.  It's okay, I've built up a healthy obsession with BBC's Sherlock to compensate.

As for the book chat…let's take baby steps for now.  I tried to jump back into blogging and the book chat before and it backfired.  We're going to take this slowly.

I think that's all for now.  I'm excited to dive back into blog reading and see what you've all been up to. I have no idea where this blog is headed for now, but I feel like it's going to be something new and different than before.

Oh yes, and Jeremy and the boys are all doing well.  Guess I should mention that, huh?