Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2012 July Book Roundup

So it's been a while. *cough* I read some books last month though . . . and you know what that means: Book Roundup time!

If you are unaware: At the beginning of each month I do a quick review the books I read the month prior. But instead of letting myself get too wordy, each book gets a Twitter-length summary and a Twitter-length review. Genres are listed at the beginning of the reviews and my absolute favorites of the month are marked with a star ().

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King
YA Contemporary Fiction--When Vera's best friend Charlie Kahn dies in questionable circumstances, she's the only one that can clear his name. But does she even want to? § Cute, quirky, and a punch to the face. Vera is such a complex character: she loves and hates and accepts how she can feel both at the same time. 

Essential Avengers Vol. 2 by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and Don Heck
Comic--One day "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" found themselves united against a common foe, and the Avengers were born. And then they fought more evil. § Still silly and still dated. Love it though. Also, Hawkeye learns some humility and won a place in my heart for his ridiculous one-liners.

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
YA Paranormal?!--Brokenhearted Viola accidentally summons a genie into her world, but can't commit to her wishes, lest she make a stupid mistake. Also, romance. § This is a cute/fluffy story, though Viola's angst was rough for me at first. But once things started rolling, it was a fun read to the finish.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Week 26+27+28

Pahaha . . . it's been a while since we've had one of these posts. Oops.

Days Worked On: I was doing good, then my mother visited and I didn't do anything for a week, and then I was doing good again. *shrug*
Morale: GOOD?!
Total Word Count: 96,213 (that's right, -4,614 from whenever ago) . . . and most of this was actually done in one week of breakthrough awesome

What I Worked On: Chapter 8. But you know what? It wasn't horrible.

Thoughts: I've talked about how I like to marinate on my writing. Or, at least, I think I have . . . I can't actually find a post on it . . . which I probably a sign that I should just write another one. Or a first one?

Anyway, thinking about writing. I like to know exactly what I'm doing before I'm doing it, which has gained me a bit of a reputation of being able to sit down and just spit out 5,000 words. Unfortunately, if I haven't thought out what I'm doing, I end up staring at my computer screen like everyone else and ripping my hair out.

There is also another major issue with this process: over thinking. Which, holy crap, is my kryptonite of editing. Seriously. I talk to one of my lovely CPs for 45 minutes and she fixes everything in 5 minutes.

So yeah. Chapter 8. Still a little like pulling teeth. But at least I'm not re-writing the opening scene again and again and again anymore (seriously, how did you think I got rid of 4,000+ words so quickly).

Random Quote of the Week:
"I'm fine," Eva said, plopping to the ground and folding her good leg beneath her. "All that sitting was getting boring anyway."
She'd washed the last of the grease from her hair, which shone a soft, butter yellow, and new freckles spotted across the bridge of her nose like pale flecks of amber.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 June Book Roundup

*dun dun dun dun* Book Roundup time!

If you are unaware: At the beginning of each month I do a quick review the books I read the month prior. But instead of letting myself get too wordy, each book gets a Twitter-length summary and a Twitter-length review. Genres are listed at the beginning of the reviews and my absolute favorites of the month are marked with a star ().

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
YA Sci-fi--Lunar Chronicles #1. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic and second class citizen in New Beijing. Also, plagues, princes, people on the moon, and mind powers! § Not a huge fan of Cinderella, so this was MUCH BETTER than I expected. Loved the world building, but the twist at the end was a little obvious. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
YA Historical Fiction--When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's given a choice: reveal her secrets or die miserably. She choses to confess in written form. § Ultimately, this is a story about friendship, which is kinda rare for YA. It's also written beautifully. And Verity and Maddie are both awesome. 

Essential Avengers Vol. 1 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck
Comic--One day "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" found themselves united against a common foe, and the Avengers were born. And then they fought more evil. § Pahaha, these comics are so silly and so dated. It took a little while for me to get into it, but I love how cranky and dramatic everyone acts.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
YA Fantasy--When Alina Starkov's regiment is attacked crossing the Fold, she reveals a rare power that might be the key to saving her country's future. § Such a quick and delightful read! The work of Ravka is dark and gruesome and just plain nifty, but I the love triangle just felt weird

Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld
Picture Book--Cloudette is small for a cloud, but she's okay with that because it has its advantages. But what about when she wants to do something big? § This book was super cute. The messages rocks, the illustrations are perfect, and there are a bunch of little asides that pile on the extra charm.

Pat the Zombie by Aaron Ximm
Picture Book--A macabre re-telling of the children's classic Pat the Bunny, but with zombies. Instead of patting the bunny, you're patting its innards. § Amusing, as the minor changes made quite a difference, but lacked substance. I doubt this would be funny to anyone who never read the original.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
YA Apocalyptic Fiction--It's the zombie apocalypse and six students have taken cover in the local high school. To Sloane, this seems like the perfect time to give up. § There is SO much sadness and anger in this book and it is all handled SO well. I love the situation. I love the characters. I just love it all. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sarah's Fancy Stir-Fry Ramen

So, due to popular demand, I am going to cook for you guys today. Better yet, I am going to teach you guys how to turn this:
 Into this:
Making ramen exciting is a particularly handy skill when:
  1. You're a poor, starving writer
  2. Any money you do get is going towards buying a couch before the big sale ends
  3. You're eating instant ramen all the time anyway
  4. You have that faint hope that your ramen tasted different for once
I'm sure we've all been there at least once. Am I right? *crickets chip* Yeah . . . I'm totally right. So let me teach you guys how to spice up instant ramen!

Sarah's Fancy Stir-Fry Ramen
In order to make this delicious meal for two people, you will need:
  • 2 packets instant ramen
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (peeled)
  • Delicious veggies of your choice
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 green onion stalk (chopped)
  • Fresh ginger (minced)
  • Sesame seeds
Yes, you may notice the distinct lack of measurements in that ingredient list. This is because cooking this dish consists mostly of winging it. But don't worry, everything will turn out okay.

Right-o. To start with, we're going to make shoyu eggs, as seen on the excellent Japanese food blog, Just Bento. Why eggs in a noodle dish? They add protein and I love them.

To make these babies, you're going to need some soy sauce and your hard boiled eggs. In this case, I have 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Heat the soy sauce in a small pan. Once it starts foaming, add the eggs and roll them around with a spoon so they get evenly coated in the soy sauce. When they're done, they'll look something like this:
Yum! Remove from the pan and chill in fridge. This will let the soy sauce set a little bit and make the eggs easier to slice later.

Next, pull out your delicious veggies. In this case I'm using ½ cup frozen corn and ½ cup canned bean sprouts, but I'm also a huge fan of Asian stir fry frozen veggie medleys. Pretty much anything can work though--peas, carrots, brocoli, edamame, water chestnuts, cabbage, etc. Just sauté the veggies of choice in a little butter until they're all warm and delicious. Set aside.
Now it's time to get the actual noodles out of the way. If you're feeling particularly skilled, you can do this while you're sautéing the veggies. If not, well, it's not big deal. Just place the ramen noodle bricks in boiling water, cook until done, strain, and set aside.
For a quick recap: at this point we've made shoyu eggs, sautéed our delicious veggies, and cooked our noodles. Next comes the sauce, which will tie the entire dish together. You will need all of this stuff:
Top row: sesame seeds, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
Bottom row: ramen seasoning packets (chicken flavor), minced garlic, chopped green onions, and minced ginger.

Okay, so it looks a little intimidating (and expensive), but it's not that bad. Really. The bottled ingredients will last you quite a while and the fresh ingredients are A) not that expensive, and b) add a kick that their powdered counterparts lack.

So to get this started, add the garlic, ginder, and a dollop of sesame oil to your pot. When making this sauce I usually adjust ingredients based on taste, so unfortunately I'm not going to be much help when it comes to measurements. The thing about most of these ingredients is that, while having more or less of one will change the flavor of your sauce, it won't ruin the dish. Don't be afraid to experiment--too much or too little of something never killed anyone.

Anyway, I like to cook the ginger and garlic in the sesame oil until they get soft and a little browned. This seems to help the flavors come out and make them taste delicious. . . but I really have no idea what I'm talking about. Just do it.
Once that's done, it's time to add the rest of your ingredients. Start off with a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar. You want to have enough liquid to cover your noodles, so make sure to at least cover the bottom of your pot. Mix in some sesame seeds and the two ramen seasoning packets until everything is well combined. Add the green onions and give them the opportunity to soften a little. This is a good time to taste test and adjust the levels of sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to get the perfect flavor.
When everything is to your satisfaction, add the cooked veggies that you set aside earlier. Get them all nice and covered in sauce, and then add your noodles. When you're mixing everything, make sure to get the noodles completely covered in sauce. You should have little to no liquid left over and your noodles will visibly change color when they are properly sauced (feel free to compare the color in this next image to the image of the cooking noodles above).
Almost done! Dish out your lovely creation into two bowls. Cut the shoyu eggs we made earlier up into pretty slices and place along the side of your bowl. And look at that, you're done!
Now doesn't that look delicious? Of course it does! Alternatively, if you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can pan fry up some chicken tenders in a little sesame oil and soy sauce, slice them up like the eggs, and have another element to your noodles.

So, how do you guys feel about instant ramen? Is it one of those foods that you avoid like the plague? Have you ever had the opportunity to eat real ramen in Japan? And, most importantly, do you have any alternative ramen recipes worthy sharing? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Week 25

Holy crap, I've been doing these things for almost half of a year?!

Days Worked On: All but the weekend . . . which is becoming pretty standard
Morale: Mostly cheerful
Total Word Count: 100,827 (+1284 from last week) plus 14,677 words in the story bible

What I Worked On: World building forever. Then, when all of the character profiles wrapped up, I looked at that horrible beast called chapter 8 again. Sigh.

Thoughts: Well, I continued writing out extremely detailed character profiles . . . so now I know everything there is to know about everyone thus far. Doing this was pretty damn boring (14,000 words of it!), but I think it'll be helpful later on . . . especially for characters that didn't have fleshed out backstories yet.

Then, instead of doing location profiles (because holy crap that sounds horrible right now), I went back to chapter 8. You guys remember chapter 8, right? The one that inspired a corkboard timeline, made me want to rip my hair out, and basically sent me into a spiral of misery?

(Melodramatic? Hah! What're you talking about? I'm not being melodramatic)

Wish me luck.

Writing Song of the Week: Deb Talan's Rocks and Water. The vocals are so clear and it makes such a lovely song about survival and learning from experience . . . and then there's the parts with a male vocalist in the background! *happy shudder* Makes me think of Eva.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writerly Tools: Pinterest

Yes, this is a Pinterest post.

If you've been following pretty much any blog for the last six months, you've already seen at least one version of this post, so you're welcome to move on. If not, stick around an I'll tell you how Pinterest can be useful to you (and your writing).

Now the idea behind Pinterest was to create virtual pinboards for everything that you as a user thinks is worth pinning. Get it? Pin + Interest = Pinterest. Haha.

At first glimpse, Pinterest looks a whole lot like Tumblr because the entire website is an explosion of pictures. This is why it took me so long to get interested. What was the point of dealing with another social website when it was so close to Tumblr? The answer to that question is because Pinterest is a bit more self-centered than Tumblr.

At its core, Tumblr is just another blogging platform, though it does have a huge emphasis on sharing content. Pinterest, on the other hand, is an easy way to organize online content that you enjoy. Tumblr uses want followers because they want to share their content, while Pinterest users seems a bit more focused on collecting things they like.

Make sense? Maybe a little interested to hear more? Good, since this is the part where I cut to the chase and tell you five reasons why using Pinterest might be in your best interest:
  1. Pinterest is your inspiration board
    Remember when I did a WIP picture spam post? Well Pinterest allows you to easily cultivate images and ideas for your writing . . . or anything else really (and if you're curious, here's a link to my WIP board).
  2. Pinterest is a haven for writers
    So many authors have Pinterest accounts that it's not even funny. Want to see what kind of things that Laini Taylor associates with Daughter of Smoke & Bone or Beth Revis's with her mysterious new WIP? Well now you CAN.
  3. Pinterest lets you organize like a champ
    You can definitely have more than one pin board, which allows you to organize everything your heart's content. Want a board for every WIP? For the tastiest looking recipes? For everything related to comics books? Totally doable.
  4. Pinterest makes browsing easy
    Of course Pinterest has the standard search function, but you can also scroll through pins based on genre/category. Better yet, you can follow other people's boards and let them find all of the best content online.
  5. Pinterest is only what you let it be
    Maybe you'll use it for WIP inspiration, or maybe you'll use it to procrastinate from working on your WIP. Maybe you'll get some new hobbies or save every beautiful picture you find online. If nothing else, Pinterest is versatile.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Week 23+24

Days Worked On: Probably most of them . . . once again, didn't pay attention
Morale: It was low, then it got higher
Total Word Count: 99,543 (-485 from last week) and several thousand words in the story bible

What I Worked On: World building. ALL THE WORLD BUILDING.

Thoughts: In case you're wondering, there was no post last week because there was really no point. I hadn't done anything and there wasn't anything to say on the matter. I figured I wouldn't bore you.

This week, instead of working on the same nightmare section that I've been looking at for the past forever, I worked on something different. It was fun and therapeutic and reminded me that I actually do enjoy writing. What did I do? Worked on the story bible . . . which I have been ignoring for a long, long time.

Thus, I've been writing out super detailed sections on culture, class structure, character histories, locations, etc, etc, etc. It takes forever, but I think recording all of this information can be super helpful for several reasons:
  • It's easier to look up small details without searching through the text
  • Plot holes show their faces, so you can fix them now
  • Editing is better when you already know everything there is to know
So, you know, that's what I've been doing. Yay!

Anyway, this all brings me to a point I've been wanting to bring up for a while. But first, go look at the WIP Wednesday posts by Jessie at Little Bonobo's Book Café. Note the awesome cultural tidbits that she throws in at the end of each post. Is that not awesome? Yes. Yes it is.

Why is this relevant? Well, I've been wanting to throw in similar, interesting tidbits about my WIP in these posts, but I never do because I can't figure out what to share. What's too spoilerish? What's interesting to read about? Do you even care? I've spent the last week fleshing out more of these details, so I want to tell you guys things. SO MANY THINGS.

So please, help me! How do you know what to share and not share when it comes to your WIP? I feel like I'm over thinking this, so I need your voices of reason. Give me a heads up in the comments.

But first! After a lot of brainstorming, let me share something! Presenting a kinda old, mostly but not completely accurate because of the distances, map I drew of the world in my WIP:
Lovely, yes? Click to make it huge!