July in Review

July wasn’t too shabby. I met with my critique group and got some really good feedback on “There With You,” although the experience sent me into a book-related panic that I’m only now coming out of. That means that August is going to be about two things: 1. Going on the annual family vacation to the beach, and 2. Creating my final draft. More on both of those things in a bit. Let’s see what else I did in July.

Books

The book slump from June ended, I’m sorry to say, with “Fifty Shades of Grey” by luckiest bitch on the planet E.L. James. Oh man, this book is BAD. (See my full rant here.) I borrowed all three and finished them in like a week because there were chunks of text that I barely skimmed. Aside from the fact that the writing is awful, the story itself made me set my lasers from stun to kill. Even most of the stuff that was supposed to be sexy — and there was some sexy stuff in there, I admitΒ  — made me laugh. As in real-life sexy scenarios, probably not the desired reaction.

“Ella Minnow Pea” by Mark Dunn was this month’s BBCE selection. It’s a charming story about an island that takes pride in being the birthplace of the person who wrote the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” When the tiles that spell out that sentence at the base of a statue begin to fall, the crazies on the island’s council take that as a sign that everyone should stop using each letter as it crumbles. The book is written as correspondence between island residents, and as letters are lost from the statue, the characters’ writing become increasingly hard to understand. Dunn had a good time playing with words, and I had a good time reading them.

I follow a lot of authors/agents/editors/publishing people on Twitter, and for a while everyone was atwitter (*rimshot*) about “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein. The first couple of chapters felt murky, but I’m glad I stuck the book out because it’s a heartbreaking tale of true friendship. Maddie, a pilot, and Verity, a spy, are young women who meet and become best friends while serving Great Britain during World War II. Verity is captured, imprisoned and tortured for information. She writes it all within the tale of her and Maddie’s friendship. The last part of the book is told from Maddie’s point of view, which is how we learn how the story ends. A lot of times I find WWII-set stuff gimmicky, but this one could be re-written for any combat or espionage situation and still work. That’s a testament to these characters.

“The Lifeboat” by Charlotte Rogan still has me thinking, days after I finished reading it. Grace is on her honeymoon when the luxury ship she and her new husband are sailing on capsizes and Grace is stranded for three weeks in a lifeboat with 38 other survivors. During those three weeks alliances are formed, mind games are played, intentions are questioned and violence is done. And that’s on top of all the exhaustion, dehydration, starvation and illness. I still don’t know which character, if any, should be trusted. I’m beginning to think that the author’s goal was to bewilder the reader the way the characters were bewildered by their circumstance. Well played, Charlotte Rogan. Well played.

Movies

Not a one in July, y’all. I know! There were a few I wanted to see, too, but it just didn’t happen. “The Dark Knight Rises” is first on the August list for sure.

Internet Highlights

FlippyCat created Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” using dominoes. DOMINOES! My brain would have exploded a thousand times just trying to set it up.

Letters of Note. Go there and read letters to, from or about all kinds of random people. There’s a book coming in November, too. Yay!

A graphic artist friend shared this post with videos of people creating hand-lettered chalk signs. Way cooler than the average lunch specials board.

Widely-read or well-read? I’d like to think I’m both, but if I’m being honest it’s probably the first.

People make lists because it feels like an accomplishment without actually being one. Here’s a brief history of how they came to be.

If Aaron Sorkin had written “Twilight.” This made me laugh. A lot.

This is the truest visual example of the writing process ever. “The Idea…” and “nitpicking” are spot on.

Creativity as a force of good — college students hope to use social media to help end hunger.

It turns out frustration is an important part of the creative process. So, I guess I’m right on target. πŸ˜‰

I have read only one of Huffington Post’s nine books that make you undateable. So, I guess I’m doing something else wrong. πŸ˜‰

Jenny Volvovski creates a new book cover for every book she reads. Awesome! “The History of Love” one is brilliant.

Coming up in August

I’m going to the beach and I’m going to get the final draft of “There With You” ready to go. That also means it’s time to start working on query letters, a synopsis and a pitch. (Those things might freak me out more than writing the book did.) Oh, and I’m still doing “The Artist’s Way,” too. So, I guess that’s more than two things. πŸ˜‰

Quote(s) of the Week

I’m giving you a trio of quotes this week. They were all in “The Artist’s Way” reading from last week, and they all resonate with me while I’m in my current agitated state.

“I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.”

~Duke Ellington

“Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.”

~ Eugene Delacroix

“Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before.”

~Mae West

The Angsty Artist and Critique Group Feedback

So last Friday night I met with two of my three critique group members to discuss “There With You.” Dianna mailed me her copy of the draft with notes; Jenni and Christiane each brought theirs.

Feedback. Dun, dun, DUN!

Overall the reaction was positive. Well, more than just positive, really. All three love it. And none of them would say so if they didn’t mean it, so I am really happy about that.

They also all had some good ideas. I know which moments are confusing, which characters need more attention and where the story has holes. I need to go through the draft again and see where I’m going to make adjustments.

But not just yet.

I woke up the day after the meeting all panicky and hating every word I’d written. Absolutely nothing any of them said made me feel this way. They were all positive and encouraging and beyond helpful. I owe them all many more dinners.

The feedback is going to have to percolate for a little while. If I opened the file right now I’d be tempted to delete the whole thing. (I would never do it. But I’d be tempted.)

“The Artist’s Way” says that anger is normal, but call it what it is — fear. And I am freaking terrified.

It doesn’t make any sense at all. The best way I can attempt to explain it is using mythology from the book. In “There With You,” the main rule when it comes to time travel is that the past cannot be changed. If a character travels to a time before a known tragedy was going to happen, for example, he/she can’t give any kind of warning because the consequences of altering history can’t be predicted.

It’s sort of how I feel about this whole endeavor. I know how things are going to be if nothing happens. But if this thing works, I am stepping into a realm I know absolutely nothing about. I know I’m putting the cart in front of the horse, but I can’t help it. My angsty artist brain is messing with me.

I had a reprieve from this nonsense when I visited my family over the weekend. My nephew has become quite the artist, and his imagination has taken over my parents’ living room. Seeing his stuff instantly put me in a better mood.

No, this is not Kabbalah Buzz. He’s rappelling down that there building.

Because he’s got to shoot his laser…

… at this bad guy. Duh.

Atmosphere. A helicopter circles near the moon.

The town below is none the wiser…

… just driving along, business as usual.

His next project is to create a desert for Woody on the other side of the room. I can’t wait to see it. I think he might be a genius. (He gets it rightfully – my sister used to turn shoe boxes into all kinds of stuff when she was a kid. My favorite was when she made a cash register, complete with a working drawer and scanner gun.) He’s done portraits of all of his favorite super heroes. (They’re really good. I can totally tell who each one is.) He’s also written and illustrated a couple of his own books. I know of an Iron Man book, an Angry Birds book and a Cars 2 book.

The genius at work.

Maybe I should start working in crayon.