Month: November 2010 (page 1 of 2)

MATCHED, Ally Condie, and Free Books!

I "borrowed" this perfect image from Ally's blog.

Do you know what day this is? Do you? It’s November 30th, the day MATCHED by Ally Condie is finally released to all of us mere mortals. People have been talking about this book. Lots of people. Lots of talking.

The Wall Street Journal said THIS.

Entertainment Weekly said THIS.

Publishers Weekly?  Kirkus? Booklist?

Kirkus, Starred Review–”Condie peels back layer after dystopic layer at breakneck speed, Dylan Thomas reverberating throughout. If the Society’s at war, who’s the enemy? Of the three tablets carried by everyone, what does the red one do? …A fierce, unforgettable page-turner in its own right.”

Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review. –”Condie’s enthralling and twisty dystopian plot is well served by her intriguing characters and fine writing. While the ending is unresolved (the book is first in a trilogy), Cassia’s metamorphosis is gripping and satisfying.”

Booklist. –”The stunning clarity and attention to detail in Condie’s Big Brother–like world is a feat. Some readers might find the Society to be a close cousin of Lois Lowry’sdystopian future in The Giver (1993), with carefully chosen work placements, constant monitoring, andpills for regulating emotional extremes. However, the author just as easily tears this world apart while deftly exploring the individual cost of societal perfection and the sacrifices inherent in freedom of choice.”

The Independent Booksellers of Indie Next?

I know, right? It’s a big, big deal.

Here’s what I want to tell you about the book. It is lovely. Lyrical. Elegant. Exciting. Intriguing. Cerebral. (I work really hard not to be spoilery around here, and it may happen that I don’t tell you anything about the book at all. That is not my intention. Just want to whet your whistle, so to speak.) Characters (especially Cassia, Ky, and Xander) are shaded, in great ways. I found myself not sure what I wanted to happen, because I wanted to sort of protect everyone from The Effects, you know? I’m giving this book my fullest recommendation. Go ahead and pick yourself up a copy or two or three.

How about one for free?

Why, sure. The generous folks at Penguin have offered two copies to people who read this here blog. I’m not kidding. If you want one, leave me a comment. We’ll do the random winner draw on Friday morning.

But Wait! There’s More!

We’ve seen how many people think MATCHED is awesome, and now I’m here to tell you how Ally is awesome. (It’s not the same thing, you know, for an author to write a fabulous book, and to be an excellent person. When it happens, it’s a lucky and wonderful coincidence. Like this one.)

Boys and girls, I’d like you to meet Ally.

Photo Credit: Brook Andreoli. Thanks, Brook!

I know. Isn’t she lovely? Ally agreed to do a little interview with me, which is so great of her, because I happen to know she’s neck-deep in Book 2 revisions. And before you read the interview, there are a couple of things I’d like you to know about Ally. She is funny. She thinks she’s not, but she’s wrong. Very funny. She has a terrific husband and three beautiful sons. She is gracious. She loves food like I love food. She is modest and humble and unassuming. She is, really, one of the loveliest women I know, and I am grateful to be able to call her my friend.

So, on to the interview:

Becca’s Question: If you had three uninterrupted hours (I know, just come with me to the land of make-believe), what would you love to do?

Ally’s Answer: *Okay, that would be awesome. Here’s what I would do:  I would go running(in the daylight!) and then I would have a really long shower. Then I would write something for fun. Then I would go to lunch with a great friend. 😉

(Do you think she means me? I’m going to totally assume so. Feel free to assume the same.)

B: How do you quantify a good writing day? Word count? Tears produced? Kids ignored? Ache in the joints? Some other method?

A: *I like to feel like the manuscript moved forward somehow. Whether that’s writing a new scene, or deleting a bad one, or having a new idea–anything that makes me feel that progress is being made!

B: When you were seven years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? How about when you were 12?

A: *When I was seven, I wanted to be an animal protector. I don’t know what that is but it is documented in the journal my parents kept for me. When I was twelve I wanted to be a writer or a teacher.

(I love that her parents still kept a journal for her when she was seven. I should be such a mom. Also, she is a writer and a teacher – wow. What if I did what I thought I’d do when I was twelve? I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer. Yeah, not so much.)

B: Sweet or salty snacks?

A: *Sweet!

B: When you write, do you prefer music or silence?

A: *I prefer silence but I love to listen to music before I write or while I’m editing to set the mood.

B: Be honest – when you saw the mock-up for MATCHED’s cover, did you cry?

A: *No, I didn’t, but my heart started pounding and I kind of couldn’t breathe because I loved it so much.

B: What did you do to celebrate your book deal with Dutton?

A: *First, I cried. Then my husband came home and we cried and then giggled. Then we got takeout from the Bombay House and ate that and cried some more because it was so delicious. Seriously, though, it was so surprising and wonderful and overwhelming and there were a LOT of tears.

(So there are the tears. I knew they’d be there.)

B: What books did you/will you buy as gifts this year?

A: *I think everyone should have the chance to read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I have been giving away a lot of copies of both of those books and will be giving away more for Christmas!

B: Do you have a favorite film adaptation of a book?

A: *Cry, the Beloved Country. Such a great book, and the movie feels very true to it but stands on its own as well.

B: How do you relax?

A: *I love to run and read and hang out with my husband. He always makes me laugh and that really helps.

B: When will we see Books 2 and 3? And what should we call the series?

A: *The books should be released a year apart, so November 2011 for Book 2 and November 2012 for Book 3. Right now we’re calling it the Matched Trilogy, which is great, but feel free to let me know if you think of something sexier.

B: Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?

A: *Yes! It’s tilting to the side a little but it is fully decorated, mostly on the bottom half because the kids are short.

B: Do you love the travel you’ve started doing (for promo reasons)? Or does it stress you out?

A: *I love the being there part. I love being in new cities and meeting new people and talking books. But it is hard for me to leave my kids. They are still very young. Luckily, Penguin is great about working with me and they always make the time away as easy on my family as possible (they help me work around my mom’s schedule so she can always come help out with the kids; schedule things efficiently, etc.).

B: Shall we talk about Launch Parties?

A: I’m so excited because I’ve never had a launch party before and now I get to have two!

Let us party with Ally: At the King’s English Bookshop (Saturday December 4th) and the Provo Library (Tuesday December 7th) Get yourselves to Utah, friends.

And in the mean time, let’s give away books. Leave me a comment, and you’re in the game for a copy of MATCHED. Several will enter, two will win. If you live in my house, you’re out. Contest closes at midnight on Thursday (except seeing how I only stay up till 10, the contest is open until I get up about 5 on Friday). Thanks again to the generous Penguins who are donating copies of MATCHED.

And a thousand thanks to Ally for coming by on this very cold morning in the Frozen Mountaintops (negative 5 this morning – mmmm, yeah). We love you , Ally, and we can’t wait for the whole world to fall in love with Cassia, Ky, and Xander!

(CONTEST IS CLOSED. WINNERS ARE NOTIFIED. TRY AGAIN TO WIN, OR GO BUY YOUR COPY. VISIT ALLY AT HER LAUNCH PARTIES. COME AGAIN. ANY TIME.)

Here’s a Book Rec for You.

I read a great book over the weekend. “Finnikin of the Rock” is the first fantasy book by Melina Marchetta (who wrote “Jellicoe Road,” which I enjoyed tremendously last year). I picked it up at the library (because I lurve the library) and read it over several days of vacation laziness.

Thanks for the image, Amazon.

In a nutshell, it’s a “return the rightful ruler to the throne” sort of book. I’m intrigued by this theme – why does it speak to us so much? Do we all think we might be kings and queens, placed far from our true homes? Hmmm. The fantasy element is minimal – a blood oath and a curse’s effects on the abandoned country (as opposed to magic dwarves and glowing swords). There’s an excellent Anastasia Romanoff type feeling to the story, too – did one of the heirs survive the slaughter? The language is perfect – just enough description to hold my imagination hostage. Characters? LOVE. All of them. Even the bad ones. There’s good action, and even better avoidance – which, when done right, is powerful stuff. Love, hate, revenge, filial piety, honor, forgiveness, redemption. Want it all? Here it is.

(Mature themes: Violence? Yes. Sensuality? Well, sort of. Things are mentioned, but you’re not In The Room, if you know what I mean. Language? Mild, but there. And there’s quite a lot of discussion about a young woman’s maturing, if you see what I mean.)

Popular

Days like this I’m almost overwhelmed by how many people love me.

Today, it’s the vacation rental adverts.

They’re all over my blog comments. Husband said to me the other day, “Wow. Your blog is getting really popular.” I sort of looked at him with that “duh, huh?” questioning look on my face, and he said, “You have fifty comments waiting for approval.”

Oh.

That.

Yeah, well, I only have to translate their comments into rudimentary English before I can understand what the commenter meant,  for real. Like so:

“Unsecured finance such, media or sales?Are impermanent in, there This has.People are buying, reviews These will.The God-Spark within Long Lets in Javea  Long term rentals in Javea  Villas for Rent in Javea  Letting Agents in Javea, fluctuations Then understand So even if.Vendor is my, if they breach.,”

Okay, so if I change every mis-applied capital letter to the words “awesome books” (which is clearly what the commenter had in mind) we get this:

Unsecured finance such, media or sales?Are impermanent in, there awesome books has.People are buying, reviews awesome books will.The God-Spark within Long Lets in Javea  Long term rentals in awesome books in Javea  awesome books in Javea, fluctuations awesome books understand awesome books even if.Vendor is my, if they breach.,

Then, if we change “Javea” to “Becca” (which, obviously…)

Unsecured finance such, media or sales?Are impermanent in, there awesome books has.People are buying, reviews awesome books will.The God-Spark within Long Lets in Becca  Long term rentals in awesome books in Becca  awesome books in Becca, fluctuations awesome books understand awesome books even if.Vendor is my, if they breach.,

Misused punctuation switches out to a totally realistic compliment, such as:

Unsecured finance such, media or just found your website, and I am thrilled to be here. impermanent in, there awesome books has. People are buying, reviews awesome books will.The God-Spark within Long Lets in Becca When I discovered your books, I found a place that I could escape – to laugh, cry, explore, and love. Long term rentals in awesome books in Becca  awesome books in Becca, fluctuations awesome books understand awesome books even if.Vendor is my, if they breach and I will be visiting your site often, and buy your books as gifts for all my friends.

Then we take out all the totally worthless stupid parts, and voila! We have a comment to be proud of:

While I was waiting for my online donation to a worthy charity organization to go through, I just found your website, and I am thrilled to be here. I am so glad I can find a way to tell you how much I adore your awesome books. People are buying them, and leaving reviews all over the web – they’re offering reasons for conversation, as awesome books will.The God-Spark within your stories speaks to my soul, Becca. When I discovered your books, I found a place that I could escape – to laugh, cry, explore, and love. Diving in to awesome books in your style, Becca, is my greatest joy. I love to tell my friends about  awesome books in Becca’s voice, awesome books we can relate to, understand even if our usual favorites contain undead boyfriends. Yours are awesome books even if we only like kleptomaniac zombie mermaids of the apocalypse.This is my point, if you keep writing such delightful words and sentences, I will be visiting your site often, and buy your books as gifts for all my friends.

See how easy it is to fool myself?

I know what they MEANT to say.

Obviously.

Hello? National Weather Service?

Are you there? If you are, we need to talk. No, not really. Only I need to talk. You need to listen.

Are you listening, NWS?

You promised.

You said.

You guaranteed me the snowstorm of the century.

You used the word Blizzard.

You lied.

There was a teeeeeny bit of snow. A bit of wind. A lot of hype and very little delivery. Am I annoyed? Oh, you betcha.

I was prepared to be snowed in for at least three days. I even went to the store (along with everyone else in the Frozen Mountaintops) to get a bit of snackiness in the event (the Totally Probable Event) that we’d be without power for a few days and I wouldn’t be able to depend on fresh hot bread at my every whim. I was prepared to miss Thanksgiving dinner. I dusted off “A Christmas Carol,” all prepared to read by firelight, to ready my Kids for the best Christmas in living memory.

I was LOOKING FORWARD TO A SNOWSTORM. Do you know what a big deal this is, NWS?

Do you?

This never happens. I like Spring. I crave sunlight. I want to get out and mow the lawn. But yesterday, I was giddy at the thought of sinking into the couch with a heap of blankets and a box of Wheat Thins.

So, thanks a lot.

See if I ever listen to your dire, evil, false predictions again. Pooh.

The End.

I didn’t mean to (but somehow I did)

* eat half a (small) loaf of really good homemade white bread

* lick the hot-fudge-frosting pan

* growl at the Kids who were only 3 minutes behind schedule

* brag about my key lime pie until it is almost all I can think about (while I’m trying not to eat sugar)

* cry in public

* roll my eyes at that thing I should NOT discuss

* agree to feed 60+ kids (cast, crew and orchestra) at the High School “White Christmas” rehearsal tonight

* steal a blog post idea from Ann (or maybe I meant to…)

* learn what this means: the second inversion of a primary triad (while helping my SIX-YEAR-OLD do his piano theory)

* back the minivan into the little-tiny snow bank on the day of the first real snowfall

* tell my b-i-l that I am still (after all these years) afraid to walk up the basement steps because SOMETHING is surely reaching for my ankles – so I have to take it at a jog or suffer the blood-pressure effects

* receive a rather remarkable gift, book-shaped, signed, and very, very hyped (page 2, middle), with a cover that gives me chills every time I glance at the gorgeous green-dressed girl in the bubble

* misplace the blue nail polish after applying only one coat

* stare out the window at the snow for WAY too long

* become addicted to edamame

* agree to discuss putting up the Christmas tree (tonight)

* steal/borrow Husband’s last $20 so I can go out to lunch with C today

* call it good after writing 300 words

I (heart) Friday! (Yea, verily.)

Yea, verily, thus saith Becca, It is Friday, and the end of the week approacheth.

Husband returns today from his journeys to the Far East*. And there is much rejoicing.

Kid 1 did sleep the sleep of the teenage girl (from 2.45 a.m. until 5.40 a.m.) as a result of the midnight showing of Harry. No rest for the wicked? Also no rest for the anxiously engaged. However, The Mama? Yea, verily, owing to a deficiency of Good Mother Genes, she did sleep the sleep of the just.

The part of Ginny Weasley will be played by Kid 1

And verily, Kids 2, 3, and 4 watched “My Dog Skip” and there were tears of sadness and frustration. In the main, the tears were related to the predicted (and predictable) outcome of a Dog movie, but perchance some tears were directly descended from “My Dog Skip” having no connection to the above-mentioned Harry. And thus saith The Mama, “No chance you are seeing that Harry movie. Sorry, Pal.”

Yea, verily, the house is in a state of cleanliness. Words do verily appear on document pages. Gifts are wrapped. Clothing is cleansed. The end of the week loometh cheery and snowy in our little family’s future.

And there is much rejoicing.

*Not that far East. Boston. Far enough.

And then the Good Things I’m not so good at…

Did I say I’d come back tomorrow? Oh, well. There’s the first one.

I’m not really that good at blogging every day.

Or exercising every day.

Or meeting those writing goals I’m so fond of making.

Or avoiding butter.

Reading books slowly.

Writing thank you cards.

Waiting 24 hours before spending the paycheck (on frivolities like food and heat).

Staying up past 10 p.m.

Grinning and bearing it.

Being patient.

Staying at the speed limit on the freeway. (In neighborhoods, I rule the 23 mph.)

Changing my own car’s oil.

You know what? I could go on all day about the Good Things I don’t do well. But here’s the thing about that. I am very, very good at beating myself up (emotionally – I’m not coordinated enough to do anything quite as physical as beating myself up for real). But I can make a plan, a goal, of you prefer, to find and revel in the long list of Good Things I’m good at. I can wallow in it for a minute. Then I can just figure one small Good Thing that needs work (at a time), and I can work on it. I can give that one thing my focus for a time, until I’m better at it.

This works. I’m telling you. I could give examples (loads of them) of Good Things I’ve been really, really bad at, and have tried to improve by tiny increments. Now I’m less bad at those Good Things. And that feels good.

So how about we skip all this talk about those Good Things I don’t do. You can guess the rest. But maybe I don’t want to know all the ways you figure I need to improve (at least not just now). I’ve got a thing I’m working on. And when that Good Thing becomes a habit, I’ll pick the next one.

So, for today’s gratitude: I’m seriously grateful for Incremental Improvement.

50 Good Things I am Good At

(To be followed up tomorrow by a few of the good things I am not so good at… but I put the positive things first, because I am good at looking at the positive. How ’bout that?)

Setting a goal (like this: Write 1000 words every day).

Making lists.

Making Pizza.

Reading books quickly.

Doing a load of laundry every day.

Answering emails.

Baking bread.

Making dinner every day (nearly).

Making people laugh.

Keeping my fingernails clean.

Mowing the lawn.

Grocery budgeting.

Saying “yes.”

Saying “no.” (And getting better all the time.)

Avoiding sugar.

Cleaning the kitchen.

Saying “Thank you.”

Being happy.

Sleeping 8 hours.

Speaking my mind.

Making smoothies.

Remembering faces and names.

Remembering movie lines.

Singing.

Encouragement (note: I did not say nagging, but that’s what I mean).

Paying the bills.

Taking long walks.

Falling asleep during movies (at home, not in the theatre).

Baking with butter.

Wearing makeup every day.

Ordering from Amazon.

Finding time.

Painting my toenails.

Looking for the bright side.

Delegating. (This is new. I am getting better at it day by day.)

Throwing stuff away.

Taking a deep breath.

Sticking to my guns.

Giving hugs.

Calming sad babies.

Reading out loud.

Being dependable.

Spelling (except privilege and hygiene, which always fool me).

Being on time.

Putting air in my tires.

Arranging furniture for proper winter-afternoon light (you know, to nap in).

Wrapping presents.

Drinking plenty of water.

Cutting hair (my own or someone else’s).

How about you? What good things are you good at?