Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week. I'm sure many of you have noticed -- there have been a lot of us blogging about it and I wanted to throw my thoughts out there as well.

This morning during a report on NPR about The Grapes of Wrath and the Politics of Book Burning, I heard a quote that I think really hammers home how I feel about book banning. A local librarian, in an effort to overturn the ban against The Grapes of Wrath in her county (Kern County where much of the book was set) wrote a letter to the county supervisors saying:

It's such a vicious and dangerous thing to begin. Besides, banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile. Ideas don't die because a book is forbidden reading.

And that's really so much of what is behind book banning -- fear of ideas.

At my graduation from high school, the bishop of our Diocese (I went to an Episcopal school) told us that as we went forward in life we should always question our faith. He said that if we questioned our faith and continued to believe then our faith would only be stronger. If we questioned and did not believe, then our faith was not strong enough to begin with.

Honestly, this blew my mind. It seems so simple now, but it was the first time that someone -- especially someone in a position of authority and power -- told us to question and really test ourselves. It was an incredible lesson to learn and one that I try to apply to all aspects of my life beyond just religion and faith.

To me, this is what books do: they cause us to think. To question. If reading a book causes us to think harder about what we believe, that is a good thing. We should always think hard about what we believe.

We should never hold tight to an idea, belief or thought from a position of ignorance. And this is what book banning promotes. It is nothing but fear.

Support the First Amendment, Read a Banned Book

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Prime News

Seems like recently the news is all about economic woes, election, war, etc etc etc. And then this morning as I've been reading the news, I saw that the top story on CNN isn't about any of those things. It's about how mathematicians at UCLA have found a new prime number. For some reason this just tickles me -- I think it's awesome. A prime number with 13 million digits!! They used 25 computers to find it!

And it's the top news story which totally rocks.

I guess that gives me some hope. Not just that people are there are working on things like finding a new prime number (I had no idea that we didn't already know all the prime numbers!) but also that others recognize this as such a cool story. It's like how a few weeks ago it seemed everyone was abuzz with the news of the supercollider. These are such cool things -- people with a passion for science and math stretching the limits of what we know and don't know. And I just love that this ignites something in all of us, even those of us who understand next to nothing about it :)

So yay for a new prime number. Yay for people recognizing it as worthy of being a top news story.

Of course, I can't help but admit that the former SAT prep teacher in me is wondering how I could work a 13 million digit prime number into the test...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blurbs, Beta Readers & Bikinis

I have fun book news!

First, Amazon sent me a little update to let me know that The Forest of Hands and Teeth will be shipping on March 10! I scrambled over and checked the Random House Children's Books webpage and yep, it says FHT is coming out March 10 as well. I'm sure these things can still change, but still -- it could be coming out two weeks earlier than planned!

Second, I've said before and I'm sure I'll keep saying it over and over again but it's very surreal and crazy to have people read FHT and tell me their thoughts. It's even more surreal when those people are authors who you have admired and been fan-girly about for years. Even crazier - when they blurb your book! I've posted before about Melissa Marr's blurb, but now I'm very honored and excited to share a few more blurbs:

"A post-apocalypse romance of the first order, elegantly written from title to last line."
-Scott Westerfeld

"Dark and sexy and scary. Only one of the Unconsecrated could put this book down."
-Justine Larbalestier

"Intelligent, dark and bewitching, Forest of Hands and Teeth transitions effortlessly between horror and beauty. Mary's world is one that readers will not soon forget."
-Cassandra Clare

Big time SQUEE!!

Third, today is the day I send Book 2 out to a few beta readers and my agent. I was thinking about this last night and the analogy that seemed to fit was this: imagine that you're told that in February you're going to be in a competition wearing nothing but a bikini. And they'll take pics or video of you in that competition to immortalize it forever and those pics and videos will be distributed to people who will then grade you, critique you, talk about you etc. Great -- that's over 5 months away and you can spend those 5 months working out, toning up, finding the right bikini, etc.

But what if right now, way before the competition, you had to stand on stage in that bikini for a few friends and let them tell you EXACTLY what you look like now and what you need to do to be ready in 5 months. They may poke at your saddle bags, glare at the wobble under your arms etc etc etc. You'd want their critiques -- you welcome them because what really matters is that competition in 5 months.

But you're also a little afraid because some of those people have ONLY seen you when you've been in competition shape before. You don't know what they'll say when the see how you've let yourself go over the past year. Others have seen you look way worse of course and they'll be able to say "you may have let yourself go, but man, you want to know what you looked like TWO years ago? Yikes!"

So... yeah. That's how I feel. The final draft of the book isn't due until February so there's lots and lots of time to get it in shape and tone it up. Right now is the time to start poking at its flaws and weaknesses and start the long regime to get it in order. I'm excited about the process, I love the process -- taking what I have now and (hopefully) transforming it into something great. But still.... must take the deep breath, throw on that bikini and strut across the stage :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

X-treme laziness + weekend goals

Ok, confession. You want to know the real reason I end up posting on my LJ more than here? Aside from the fact that it's easier to respond personally and all of that jazz. The real reason is that I'm lazy. Deeply lazy. Back in the day when I created this blog, I didn't want to use my personal gmail account mostly because I didn't want people at work finding my blog (thus didn't want my real name on it) and so I created another one. Hence the carrie-me. And generally, I keep my computer logged into my personal account all day. Which means that to post on this blog I have to log out of my other account and log into this one.

Really doesn't sound like a lot of trouble or effort does it? But I can't tell you the number of times I've thought "hey! I should blog" and then haven't wanted to go through the trouble of logging out and back in. Of course, mostly that's because I'm chatting in my other account and don't want to interrupt the chat just to go post. So yes, there have been a few times (like this week) that I've just blogged on LJ and not bothered to cross post here.

Lame, I know. I wish there were a way to toggle easily between accounts but... alas. Just thought I'd let y'all know about this since recently I've blogged over on LJ and not cross posted here.

In other news, fall has... erm.... fallen here rather quickly. At least weather wise. A few days ago I was sweating it out in shorts and t-shirts and today has that wonderful crisp fall air that makes everything feel so clean and sharp. I love it. I'm sitting here with the window open, the cat on the dog bed and the dog on the couch. Everyone's enjoying the fresh air!

Many moons ago I used to post weekend goals. Essentially I did it to hold myself accountable and to put my intentions in writing. I haven't done that as much recently because I've been holding me writing process closer to my chest. But, as I round into the home stretch towards my second book being due, I thought it would be fun to get back into the weekend goal habit. So this weekends goal: read Book 2. And then revise it.

I'm not one of those people who reads as she writes -- I try to not look back. I open the document, glance at where I left off and then start writing. If something in the plot needs to change, I put a comment in saying "make this change" and then I keep pushing along. When I'm done, I go back through and write a list of all those comments and then I start reading.

Usually I like to do the first read on paper. But it takes me DAYS to enter in the comments and corrections I make and I just don't feel like taking that time. Not with work being as hectic as it's been recently. So today my plan is to read the draft, make notes (on the document and on a pad of paper) of things I like and don't like and what needs to change. Tomorrow I'll dive in and make all those changes. And then it's off to beta readers - hurrah!

Or at least that's the plan....

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And that's all I have to say about that...

So, you may have noticed we're in election season.  You may not have noticed that I haven't talked about politics or the election and let me assure you that I'm not going to start now :)  While I have very strong thoughts and views and I'm an utter political junkie, I also decided way back when I started this blog that I wouldn't express those views here.  So no worries on that front for those of you who are tired of such things.  However, I did want to bring up a few thoughts tangential to the election in a non-partisan way.     

First, for those of you who aren't registered to vote, now is the time to register.  There are a lot of people who have said it much better than me, but the bottom line is that voting is important and we should all do it.  Plus, it's totally fun and cool :)

Second, if you've moved since you last registered to vote or if your information has changed, make sure your voter registration is up to date.  This is really simple to do -- a lot of states have their voter registration online and you can look yourself up and make sure everything is right.  You don't want to cast your vote only to realize that it might not count cause you information was out of date.

Third, inform yourself.  Don't just believe what you hear, but take a little time to check the facts.  There are plenty of non-partisan groups out there that try to get the bottom of claims, rumors, etc.  One of them is factcheck.org and another is (believe it or not because I had no idea) snopes.com (if you know of others, leave them in the comments).  Just because a candidate or a newscaster or a friend says something doesn't make it true.  Be the cool one who can say "Actually, I looked this up and the truth is...."

Fourth, challenge yourself.  Even though we all love to be proven right, play the devil's advocate to yourself.  When I was in law school I challenged myself to read newspapers that held a bias opposite of my own.  These days I read liberal slanted papers and conservative slanted papers and everything in between.  And I know this sounds like it can take time, but it doesn't have to.  Try getting your news from a variety of outlets to make sure you're getting many different angles.  If your beliefs or feelings are so shallow that they can't be challenged by reading or watching news that might contradict what you think, know or hear, then you need to rethink those beliefs.  To me, the strongest convictions are born from evaluating the facts of both sides and then deciding where you stand; that's why it's important to know the facts and to try to understand the other side's point of view (even if you later reject it).

Firth, remember that there are local elections too!  There's nothing worse than walking into the voting booth with a long and well-reasoned list of reasons to vote for Candidate A for President and then knowing nothing about the senators, city counsel members, judges, etc. that will also have a big impact on your day to day life!   

Sixth, play nice.  Elections can be emotional, they can stir people up.  Remember that other people hold their convictions as tightly as your hold yours.  And if you try to change other people's convictions, be willing to change your own.  And also, don't belive something just because your parents or your friends or your spouse tells you to :)

Finally, enjoy it.  There's a lot to talk about these days!  It's exciting and fun! 

And that's all I have to say about that!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A thought...

Mom: I have an idea for a twist in your book.

Me: Okay, let's hear it.

Mom: Have one of them get pregnant...

Me: Well... I don' t know if--

Mom: ... with a zombie.

*pause pause pause*

Me: Are you suggesting necrophelia to spice up my book?

Mom: *laughs*

Me: You know this conversation will end up on my blog, right?

Mom: *curses in Spanish*