Double Rebel: My Annual Pre-NaNoWriMo Post

It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean the fast-approaching end of fall, or the beginning of truly crappy weather, or Halloween. (Although Halloween does tie in at least a little.)

November is standing on our doorsteps, and that means National Novel Writing Month is almost here! That’s right. The mad quest for 50,000 words of fiction (or nonfiction, or poetry, or screenplays, or whatever else) undertaken by hundreds of thousands of writers worldwide is practically upon us. And I for one, can’t wait.

If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to write a novel–or complete another creative endeavor of your choice–I highly encourage you to sign up. Seriously, November was in the running for my least favorite month of the year until I got involved with NaNoWriMo. What better way to forget about how short the days are getting, how dark and cold it is, than burying yourself in a world of your own creation and fretting about new ways to make your protagonist’s life miserable?

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’ve been a NaNo rebel the last couple years, which basically means that I’ve spent November writing feverishly on a story I’ve already started instead of starting something new. I find that I have much better luck with winning when I have some small idea of where I’m going, even if it’s no more than a few chapters.

This year, though, I’m going to be rebelling twice. Goal number one for the month is to finish my current project–finishing my rewrite of Facing the Music. I’m five chapters from the ending and making solid progress, so with any luck wrapping it up won’t take more than a week and a half. Since the story seems to expand and change the closer I get to the end, we’ll have to see if that luck holds.

Goal number two is to get a sizable amount of my new WIP, a NA mystery with a lot of romance thrown in for good measure. I have about five chapters of this story written already, a large cast of characters, and a decent amount plotted. I’ve been daydreaming about this idea for at least six months now, and I can’t wait to really dive in and explore all its little nuances. It’s untitled as yet, but for the purposes of both NaNoWriMo and this blog, the working title is Amnesia Conspiracy.  Hopefully you’ll get as excited about it soon as I am. 🙂

With only three days left to go, I’m going to be scrambling to get to decent stopping places on both Facing the Music and Amnesia Conspiracy so that I can begin in some concrete sort of way. Then again, that seems infinitely doable when compared to throwing together a Halloween costume for kick-off before midnight on the 31st . . .

Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo? If you’re considering it, what’s holding you back?

 

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Book Review #21: All Our Pretty Songs

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve followed Sarah McCarry’s blog since her early days as the awesome and anonymous Rejectionist, and when I saw that her book was coming out, I was thrilled. When I read the premise and the first page–both of which were posted early at her blog–I was obsessed.

McCarry has mentioned that Francesca Lia Block’s writing informed a lot of her own, and between the lyrical prose and the mystical premise, it isn’t hard to see how. The nameless narrator has grown up like a sister to her best friend, the beautiful extreme Aurora. They have the kind of easy camaraderie and complex communication that defines close female relationships, and until the day they meet Jack, an almost supernaturally talented musician, nothing has ever come between them.

Contrary to what I expected, the story didn’t start out bleak. With the exception of their parents and their upbringings, and a few allusions to how strange both of those are, the first third of the story is surprisingly normal. I loved those descriptions of summer days, falling in love and running wild between jobs and the occasional few hours of sleep.

The narrator’s burgeoning relationship with Jack starts off a little fast and reckless perhaps. Their early first kiss made me wonder if the connection they both recognized would extend to anything beyond the physical, but any doubts of mine faded by the next chapter. If anything, I fell in love with Jack just as much as the girls did. I craved more glimpses into his past, his life outside music.

Most of the Greek-inspired mythos and culture cropped up in the second half of the story, and that was also when the tension ratcheted up. Because of the comparatively light-hearted first half, the sudden increase in tension could’ve been choppy or uneven, but managed to largely avoid both. The scenes that set up the narrator’s slow descent into the understanding of hell and how closely it intertwines with her friends were creepy because they weren’t completely far-fetched. In fact, the horror came from wondering how much of the nightmare was real.

Hell wasn’t as terrifying as it’s sometimes portrayed in other fiction, and that worked for me too. I spent a large portion of the climax alternatively pitying and fearing everyone involved. And that ending! The final few pages left me gaping, wishing I had more pages to turn.

McCarry’s next book comes out in a year, I think, and as much as “All Our Pretty Songs” lived up to my expectations, I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.

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Book Review #20: The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Since my initial discovery of Sarah Dessen’s work when I was in high school, I’ve read everything she’s ever written. The majority of her books have been enjoyable reads for me, and “The Moon and More” is no exception.

Emaline is a resident of Colby, North Carolina, a beach town that features in a few of Dessen books and where other people come to make summer memories. Except Emaline’s whole life has been spent in and around Colby, and now that she’s about to leave it and start college somewhere new, she finds herself torn between whether she’s going far enough and whether leaving is a natural choice at all.

I thought that post high school discombobulation was handled really well, the sense that you’re about to start some huge new phase in your life without having any clue what to expect, was reflected accurately in Emaline. One of the things I loved about “The Moon and More” was how all the subplots essentially reflected that overarching theme. Emaline’s decision to briefly date Theo, a New Yorker with very different life experiences, her biological father showing up on the eve of his divorce, and the documentary project which focuses on a local artist whom Emaline knows all speak to that idea of some changes being acceptable while others aren’t.

The book itself sees a lot of transitions between character relationships–from break-ups and make-ups, to developing friendships, to family fallouts–and none of them felt forced or unnecessary. Like with most of Dessen’s books, I loved the secondary characters at least as much as I loved Emaline as the protagonist. Their agendas and concerns and ambitions were all believable and easy to relate to. I loved seeing some of those agendas come together in the final few chapters.

The reason I only gave “The Moon and More” three stars, however, was a simple one. As much as I enjoyed the story and its characters and its handling, I never quite managed to fall in love. It was a quick, fun read and I’m glad I picked it up, but I never quite reached the level of emotional investment that I have with a few of Dessen’s other novels. I’m willing to bet a large part of my response has more to do with personal preference than anything else though.

If you’re looking for a fun, summer read a month or two after the fact, you should still give this book a try.

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Book Review #19: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I had never read anything by Robin Benway before I became obsessed with her Tumblr “The Songs that Saved Your Life.” Worth checking out for the music alone, but when I found a brief summary of “The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June” hidden in amongst the song discussion, I knew I had to take a look.

The premise was right up my alley, and though I didn’t fall in love quite as hard as I’d lead myself to believe, I still found plenty of things to enjoy about the story.

I have a sister myself, and I thought the sibling dynamics–the familial dynamics in general, really–were right on the money. The banter between April, May, and June before they develop their powers rang incredibly true, and watching them realize how much their abilities influence their relationships with each other was both hilarious and poignant. One of the things Benway captured so well was how quickly the three girls flitted from teasing, to arguing, to bonding, and back. Sibling relationships vary so much from family to family, but the best ones always remind you that being pissed off doesn’t last long when there’s someone who has your back.

The side characters here were equally entertaining, especially the quirky, not typically romantic leads. I loved that both the boys who enter the story are not necessarily the YA version of hot. It felt very realistic to me. At the same time, I would’ve liked to see a little more development within the story’s other sibling relationship. A better explanation for who or what the classmate was who sets off the collective powers of April, May, and June would’ve also been appreciated.

I think my biggest problem with this story, and the reason it earned a three star review instead of four, is that the stakes never felt high enough. We’re told throughout the story that April has a catastrophic vision of the future, and a large portion of what drives the girls through the plot involves trying to prevent these mysterious events from unfolding. It’s built up to be this massive, life-changing thing, and I suppose it could’ve been, but given how super powers are used in the story, I would’ve liked to see April, May, and June come up against a much bigger set of issues.

All in all a fun, quick read. Give it a shot if you’re more interested in personal drama and family dynamics than Avengers-style heroics.

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