Friday, June 22, 2012

The Little Woods Book Review

Title: The Little Woods
Author: McCormick Templeman
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0375869433

336 pp.

ARC from publisher via Netgalley

I was looking forward to a good YA mystery when I chose The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman. The protagonist, Cally Wood, decides to go to hoity-toity boarding school St. Bede's Academy because her sister disappeared there years before. Maybe Cally's looking for closure. Maybe she's looking for answers. She's definitely going to find trouble.

Cally has a great voice that pulled me in right away. Snark is de rigueur for YA novels these days, but Cally's voice wasn't just snark. There was real wit in her observations about the school, her new classmates, and herself.

But that, unfortunately, isn't enough to carry the novel. The actual mystery is predictable and while I kept hoping for some creepy suspense to crawl in from the woods, it didn't materialize.

The plot gets sidetracked by Cally's relationships with cute boy Alex and cute boy Jack. But neither are essential to the mystery. And Cally isn't that essential to the mystery, either. Clues are literally handed to her, and in a very talky denouement, she finally pieces it together.

So if you're looking for a smart, engaging character, Cally is your girl. If you're looking for a suspenseful read, you may want to look elsewhere.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Getting Words on the Page

The blank page.

White space.

Just there.

Staring at you.


For you.

The writer is the one with the words, the one who has the drive to sit down and fill up the blank page.

With something.


Doesn't have to be good.

Not that first draft.

It just has to be.

And oh, there's the rub.

Sometimes when I write, I have an idea, a thought, maybe even a line, that compels me to put it down. Whether that blossoms into something else, like an actual story, is another matter.

But it all starts with getting words on the page.

I'm not going to know if that's a story worth pursuing unless I get words on the page. I don't know if that's a story I can fix unless I get words on the page.

There are various tricks I use to get words on the page. Rewards are good. Especially cupcakes.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to those in the know) was a really great kick in the pants to get words on the page (even though, nearly three years later, I am still revising that novel).

A couple of other tricks to help writers get words on the page have come to my attention and I thought I'd share them.

The first works on the reward model. No, not cupcakes. Kittens. You get kittens.  Written? Kitten! is a website where you get a picture of a cute kitten for every X amount of words you write. You can set your writing goals starting at a minimum of 100 words. And then you get a kitten!

The second works on the punishment model. Write or Die comes from the evil mind of Dr. Wicked,  just so you know what you're getting into. There's a fancy version that you can buy for your desktop or as an ipad app, but there's also a freebie web version. What you do is set your word goal, your time limit, and your punishment. It can be a gentle pop-up telling you that you need to get writing, or if you really need a kick in the tush, put it on kamikaze mode where the words you already have start deleting themselves if you're not meeting your goal. Yikes!

So what do you do to get words on the page? Reward or punishment?

Friday, June 8, 2012

In Memory of Ray Bradbury

Every year the literary world loses great authors, but somehow it seems unfairly cruel to lose both Maurice Sendak and Ray Bradbury so close to each other.

Both have been banned numerous times. Both are icons in their genres. Both will be deeply missed because their books were so deeply loved.

Books are precious to people because they become friends. Friends who cheer you, challenge you, and invite you into their worlds.

You don't want to see your friends hurt. That's why there should be outrage when a book is banned. That's why Fahrenheit 451 means so much to people, as a moral tale of it-could-happen-here, or as some people may think, it's-already-happening.

To take away books is to take away friends, good friends, best friends. The ebook revolution threatens some people who love the physical heft of a "real" book. I'm more pragmatic. It's not the format that matters, digital or paper. It's the content. It's the ideas and characters that make us want to be friends with a particular book.

So we appreciate the creators of books, our friends, and pay homage to them when they die.

Here's a video of Ray Bradbury talking about his writing journey:


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