3.14.2012 | By: Alisa Callos

A Monster Calls

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing. A must read for all but the very faint of heart. The story of a young boy whose mother is dying of cancer and the monster who comes to his nightmares. I cried buckets of tears and was a slobbering mess at the end, but isn't that the mark of a true and wonderful story.

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11.14.2010 | By: Alisa Callos

Not to be Missed...

On the Jellicoe RoadOn the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars:

Goodreads blurb:

My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die.

‘I counted.

‘It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, “What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?” and my father said, “Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,” and that was the last thing he ever said.

‘We heard her almost straight away. In the other car, wedged into ours so deep that you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. She told us her name was Tate and then she squeezed through the glass and the steel and climbed over her own dead – just to be with Webb and me; to give us her hand so we could clutch it with all our might. And then a kid called Fitz came riding by on a stolen bike and saved our lives.

‘Someone asked us later, “Didn’t you wonder why no one came across you sooner?”

‘Did I wonder?

‘When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they’re some kind of garbage, don’t you know?

‘Wonder dies.’

My take:
Not to be missed…whatever you do, keep reading. After a slow confusing start (a perfect mirror for the mind of our heroine, Taylor), this book takes you on an amazing journey.

Through friendship and death…“Is a person worth more because they have someone to grieve for them?”

Abandonment and loss…”One day when I was eleven, my mother drove me out here and while I was in the toilets at the 7-Eleven on the Jellicoe Road, she drove off and left me there. It becomes one of those defining moments in your life, when your mother does that.”

Through war and gut wrenching fear…suicide and drug addiction, the reader is drawn down a path by a story that grabs hold and doesn’t let go until all is known and the way is clear.

Twisty and beautiful…the best kind of book.

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10.02.2010 | By: Alisa Callos

If you haven't read this one...you should.

Going BovineGoing Bovine by Libba Bray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Layers upon layers in this book.

It was an amazing read…something for everyone here—comedy, tragedy, adventure, philosophy, magic, a road trip, snarky teenagers, science, music, and a yard gnome. I have a feeling I’ll be rereading this someday just for all I missed the first time around.

Favorite Quote: “We all walk in a land of dreams. For what are we but atoms and hope, a handful of stardust and sinew.”

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9.07.2010 | By: Alisa Callos

Reflections on Writing...

First, a very warm welcome to new readers. I don’t post very often as life and The Novel have pushed blogging to a back burner.

It’s been over two months since I finished the first draft of Wisdom, Light and Darkness, and over a month since I’ve done any serious work on it. I had deluded myself into thinking it was a pretty decent first draft, but a few friendly critiques have shown me the error of my thinking. Oh, and how…

In August, I attended the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon, and was treated to some wonderful classes on editing. Some of the things I learned there, I hope to share with you in the coming months.

However, tonight I’m focused on my own writing journey—what I’ve learned this past year. A year which saw the high of finishing a first draft and the low of learning how completely awful it was. As well as the realization of how much work still needed to be done… Throughout my journey, I’ve kept lists of what I’ve learned so far, and I thought I’d share them with you. I’m still making these lists because I’m still learning. For me, these ‘light bulb’ moments have made learning my craft a delight.

So here’s my first list. The one I wrote when I was half way done with WL&D.

Things I’ve learned so far:

  1. There will be days when nothing comes. Just do your best...research, revise, reevaluate.
  2. Showing up every day, gets the job done...even if it’s only one page or one paragraph at a time.
  3. Keep notes. Character lists for name spellings, timelines, dates, etc. It’s easier to find a note than the exact passage in the manuscript. Word 'notebook view' does this very well.
  4. The find and replace function is invaluable. Know how to use it.
  5. Sometimes your brain needs a 3 minute break...great time to floss your teeth, so keep floss handy.
  6. Nothing is better at combating your favorite word than a good thesaurus or my personal favorite, a flip dictionary.
  7. You can never be too busy to stop and kiss a boo boo, or hug your child.
  8. There is always more to learn...read and learn from those who have gone before you.
  9. Writers are weird. (If you’ve ever been to a writing conference, you know what I mean.) Embrace your inner weirdness…but don’t forget to shower on occasion.
  10. The right music, and a beautiful smelling candle, do wonders for setting the scene.

    How about you? Where are you in your journey? What have you learned?
    4.17.2010 | By: Alisa Callos

    A Very Short Book Review for You

    The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars
    I almost didn't read this book as the premise struck me as unrealistic and a bit contrived. That said, it was masterfully written and the author held the level of suspense at nail-biting intensity throughout the entire book. I couldn’t put it down and am looking forward to book two.

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    11.22.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

    First Snow

    I woke to beauty this morning. Our fall turned suddenly to winter. The kids were dressed, and out in the first snow of the season, before I could say good-morning. First snows are always special, for they define the essence of lovely. I haven’t had time to get tired of winter, and all the leaves have fallen and been raked up. There is a hush over our glen, as if nature is holding its breath—at our house, broken only by the laughter of children at play. Today, the snow is fluffy and feather light, drifting down slow, as if the snowflakes are afraid to end their heady downward journey.

    And then as I watch, the flakes change, fall harder, faster, straighter to the ground. They are smaller now, no longer downy soft. The thermometer has inched one degree higher and I know what will come next. But it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve captured the beauty of the moment, and for now, will hold it close to my heart until it captures me again.
    8.18.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

    A Novel in your Spare Time?

    Well, I’m back from the Willamette Writers Conference, and yes, I had a wonderful time. I thought I’d take a page from my friend Valerie’s book and give you a few posts for writers—a little of what I learned while there.

    Thriller writer Phillip Margolin taught one of the classes I most appreciated. He was working full time as a lawyer when he wrote his first book and spoke about how to write a novel in your spare time. As neither I, nor most writers I know, have the luxury of not working while writing our breakout novels, what he had to say was especially helpful.

    Let’s start with a couple of general rules.

    First, writing is writing. This means that whether you write poetry, lurid romance novels, literary fiction or graphic novels, that writing—the words you use to paint a picture—is just as valid and worthwhile as any other writing. You don’t have to be James Joyce or F. Scott Fitzgerald or write a classic, to write something worthwhile. Write what makes you happy, what excites you, and it will shine through and excite your readers also.

    Second, writing is hard work. Many people have the idea that writers goof off most of the time, great ideas float into their heads like magic, and it all get onto the page and off to the publisher with minimal fuss. This is totally bogus. The biggest thing that distinguishes published writers from non-published writers is doing the work. Everyday.

    Lastly, writing is a learned skill. Like any new skill, the more you do it, the better and easier it will become. This brings us to ‘rejection’. It is normal to have early works rejected. Don’t give up. It may take awhile to be published but it definitely won’t happen unless you keep writing.

    So you’ve got a full time job, kids and husband, a house to clean, friends and the latest movie to see. When to write that story you’ve had in the back of your head for years…

    The obvious answer would be every chance you get. Here are some ideas:

    Change your concept of time. Don’t put artificial deadlines on yourself…it will take as long as it takes. Some books take years to be written and that is OK.

    Turn off your TV. The average American watches 151 hours of television a month. That works out to four to five hours a day…time that could be spent writing.

    Write one page a day. At the end of one year, you’ll have a 365-page story. Write two pages a day and you’ll have War and Peace.

    Analyze your day. What activity could you cut back to get a little extra time? Just 30-minutes a day and your novel could be written in a year. The key is to be consistent. Make excuses, and it will never be done.

    Sometimes things come up and you can’t write for a few weeks or months. OK—don’t panic. As soon as possible, pick up your writing again. Read through your entire novel to date so you can get back into the head of your character and resist the desire to edit. Your entire goal should be to get the story onto the page. Rewrites are for editing and cleaning up your manuscript. This is only done after your entire story is written.

    So…writing a novel in your spare time can, and has been done…get to writing yours!

    Good Luck and happy writing!