Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Recs. . .

I do naaaaaaaahhhh feel like blogging today-eeeeeeeee.

I'm polishing up Book 2, and it's boiling my brain.

So. Because I'm feeling blah and busy, I'm just going to recommend three books that I've been recommending to friends a lot lately. Book reviews that are purely positive and gushing are sometimes kind of boring, but these three books are great, and there's nothing to not positively gush about, and ah luv ehm, and so ahm going to recommend ehm. To you.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo


What Stefan says to get people to read it: "IT'S SO SAAAAAAAAAAD."

It really is. The cover leads one to believe that it is a happy story about a slightly creepy red-suited rabbit who stalks people's houses, but THE COVER LIES.

Ok, never mind all that, but the cover does makes the book out to be much more glow-y than it really is. Because the book is actually pretty dark and pretty deep. It's about love and loss. It's like... The Velveteen Rabbit only more complex, and even sadder, if you can believe that. (Stuffed rabbits have such depressing lives, apparently.) Anyway, I don't know what I would have thought of it as a kid. I probably would have cried. But it's amazing. You should read it.

Splendors and Glooms by Amy Laura Schlitz


What Stefan says to get people to read it: (This one doesn't actually come out until the end of August. I read it in ARC form, so I've really only recommended it to my sister. I said something like, "Atmosphere. Creepy. So good. Read. You like."

I got this from my awesome editor after I posted about how I so desperately wanted to read it. I've already yelled about how perfect the prose is on twitter, but I'll do it again here. There are so many quotable phrases and images and scenes in this book, and it all coalesces into such a dense, atmospheric read. It's definitely upper middle grade. It's complex, both its emotions and its plot, and things get nasty, and people are bloodied up something fierce, but I think I would have loved it at eleven or twelve. And even if you don't usually read middle grade, it's like a handbook in how to write deliciously shivery period atmosphere and authentic characters. Schlitz is definitely a master. There's a lot to be learned from her no matter what age bracket you write for.

In other words, it's amazing. You should read it.

Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff


What Stefan says to get people to read it: "IT'S SO SAAAAAAAAAAD."

I did, in fact, successfully foist this on an unsuspecting friend, and while she liked it, she said she didn't find it *that* sad. Cold soul. I thought it was probably the saddest book I'd ever read. And if I remember right none of the main characters even die, which usually means the writing is *really* strong if a book can be sad and powerful without anybody dying.

I literally read it all in one sitting. That saying gets thrown around a lot, but I never read books in one sitting. I'm not a slow reader, I'm just a lazy reader, and even books I love can take me ages to finish. But this one's just so good. Irish kids surviving and leaving their homeland during the potato famine maybe doesn't sound like the hookiest of hook, but I found these kids' hardships and their perseverance profound and affecting and whatever other sappy adjectives you can think of. Book's amazing. You should read it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Alpine Kitsch

Hi, peoples! 

We're back. :)

Zermatt's super tourist-y. Everyone speaks English. There is ice cream everywhere. And the Matterhorn. . . Ohh, the Matterhorn. It's one of those things you see in so many pictures and movies that once you're there in real life it's almost a cliché. Like Mount Rushmore or The White House. You're just like, "Wow, that's fake and CHEEZEH."

Except... it's not.

But anyway. We had fun. The only not-fun thing was that I told myself I would polish ALL OF BOOK 2 that week, and then we went traipsing up mountains, and into valleys, and over great gulches, and I finished Splendors and Glooms and loved it unto death, and I ended up doing very little polishing at all.

So that's what I'm frantically catching up on now. And that's why the rest of this post is just bunches of pictures I snitched from my Mom's camera. Like, bunches. Like, you'll probably have to scroll for the rest of forever.

Train riding.

Moaaaaahr train riding.
We are arrived!

Zermatt has no cars. It has only these tiny electric munchkin trucks so that the view of the Matterhorn is not clouded.

The view of the Matterhorn. From our balcony. At sunset. *flourish*

A bunch of goats being randomly herded down main street, I suspect to amuse the tourists.
The POOL.

...a FAERY.
...and a CLOCK. I like this clock. Do you like this clock? It's a steampunk clock, definitely.

Going up in a little pod to the highest cable-car station in Europe.

12,000 ft. above sea level...


















...in tennis shoes.

Skiers looking off the edge of the world.

Left to right is: Jolly Good Friend from Oregon, Little brother (who would like you to know that he was rather blinded by the sun in this picture), me, and the Matterhorn's BACK.

A St. Bernard doggeh with the classic barrel of brandy around his neck in case you are in danger of freezing.

This is nigh impossible to read , but the words say, "Night's candles are burnt out and jocund day tiptoes on the misty mountaintops" I liked that quote. It was for one of the many people who fell from Matterhorn. There's a whole graveyard of them at the foot of the mountain, and it's very sad. Apparently an average of 12 people die every year while attempting the Matterhorn.

One of the huge glaciers below the Matterhorn.

Peaking over the edge.

Hard to see, but one could go down an elevator several hundred feet into a glacier and walk around in TUNNELS, one could.

A chandelier out of ice.


A wagon and houses out of ice.

Goat-like creatures out of ice.

An alphorn concert in the town square. They sounded very modern and atonal, and I don't think they wanted to. I thought it was cool, though.

G'bah, Alps!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Goodbye, World!

It's summerrrrrr. And school just ended. So this is a pre-emptive blog post for Tuesday, because I will be gone.

We're going to Zermatt for a few days. Zermatt looks like so:


I can't wait to go, seriously. I plan to do nothing but read, and edit, and attempt to stay off the internet, and hopefully I'll have some interesting travel stories to relate for next week. But I don't right now. Right now I only have three things to say.

THING ONE: In case you missed me squawking about it on Twitter, The Peculiar got a starred review from Publishers Weekly! Woo!

A starred review is a review with a star on it. I think the star means it's special.

But seriously, I'm super happy PW liked the book and I want to shake their collective hand.

THING TWO: There's a twenty copy giveaway for The Peculiar underway over on Goodreads which you can enter if you so please.

THING THREE: I watched The Importance of Being Earnest! At the behest of Jolly Good Friend. The same Jolly Good Friend who behested me to watch The Avengers. Only this time Jolly Good Friend was right. It was good. And funny. And I think you should watch it, too. Especially if I know you in real life. Then I will probably want to watch it with you so that we can laugh at the same parts. It's all about characters who are witty and deceitful and somewhat horrible to each other while still being sophisticated most of the time, which is OBVIOUSLY the best sort of movie.

"I'm Earnest."                                   "Yes, apparently."
I'm not sure it will go on my all-time favorites list. Sometimes it's silly, and the jazz soundtrack was not a good idea, and the ending is a little bit contrived. But it's just so FUNNY.

Anyway. Off I go.

Bye. :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing Book 2

I was a very bad blogger yesterday. Very bad indeed. I didn't post. And it was Tuesday. This = Bad. 

But I have REASONS.

I tell you them.

I finished drafting book 2.


YaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

Anyway. Technically this is a first draft, but it's been written-upon, and polished-up almost non-stop since the book deal last Fall, so it doesn't really feel like a first draft.

Still, there's plenty of work to be done and The Deadline will be here before I know it, and in a week or two I'll probably look at the manuscript and be like, "Ew," like that, but right now I'm just ridiculously happy it's out of the brain and onto the screen, ya know? Great.

Below is a timeline-list-thingy - starting last October and going until today - in which Stefan talks to Stefan in third person like a loon about how Stefan drafted Stefan's Book 2.

___


- Stefan thinks for many weeks and makes a list of all the cool things he wants to put into this book.

- Stefan decides how to string all the cool things into a plot that makes some modicum of sense.

- Stefan writes the beginning.

- Stefan writes the end.

- Stefan realizes it will take a tediously long time to write everything in between.

- Stefan starts writing.

- Stefan procrastinates by reading many sad and scary stories online about Book 2 writing, and how it's the worst thing ever, and wonders if he should be freaking out more.

- Stefan starts freaking out over the fact that he's not freaking out.

- Stefan wonders if perhaps everything he thinks is good is really not good, and freaks out further.

- Because Stefan is freaking out, he applies the DUMP METHOD. He writes pages and pages of junk in a mad flurry, because it's better than writing nothing at all. The dump method works better than expected. Because in FACT - sometimes what you think is junk one day is not junk the next, or is easily made into not-junk with some focused writing n-r-j.

- Stefan gets about three-fourths way through Book 2 in this manner and then freaks out yet again because let's face it, Stefan doesn't really know how to write, and everything is a fluke, and misery and agony and bla-bla-bla.

- Stefan realizes freaking out is not conducive to anything helpful, so he stops.

- Stefan writes some more.

- Stefan thinks his book is terribly clever.

- Stefan thinks his book is utter rubbish.

- Stefan wonders what other people will think of his book.

- Stefan wonders if it's too violent.

- Stefan realizes things don't make sense in his book and goes on a walk to sort it out.

- Stefan struggles with last chapters, because Last Chapters are STUPID complicated, and everything must be tied up, and characters must have satisfactory conclusions to their character arcs, and things must make sense unfortunately. So he struggles.

- Stefan procrastinates by reading marvelous books by marvelous authors, and playing the piano, and staring at the ceiling.

- Stefan realizes The Deadline is not very far away, has a fright, and goes back to writing.

- Stefan finishes last chapter.

- Stefan says "HURRAH" and writes a blog post about writing Book 2.

 ___


And there you have it! Drafting Book 2. It's a lot of "Gaaaah, this is so much work, and what if nobody likes it," but it's nice in the end. Because I wrote another boooook, you guyyyysss. :) Makes meh happeh.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

SHORT STORY - Under the Arrow

I have a short story for y'aaawww.

It's kind of pointlessly horrible, probably because I wrote it when I was fifteen and most things I wrote back in yonder days were pointlessly horrible.  But I have nothing interesting to talk about, and need to go through Peculiar galleys again for typos (AHH. GALLEYS. *panics a little*) so it'll have to do.

Here it is - an old, un-edited short story from like... 2009, that distant year.

La Belle au Bois Dormant, Gustav Doré
Under the Arrow 

by Stefan Bachmann

The children who are going to die are presently traveling along the road between Kackadaw and Brent.

It is a good road, straight and neatly graveled, with mossy gulleys on either side for when the rains come. Trees droop over it for most of its length, making it cool and shady in the summer, bleak and deliciously frightening in the winter, quaint and picturesque all the year round, depending on one's point of view.

As for the children who are going to die, they are rather quaint and picturesque as well. They are probably the offspring of wealthy farmers, and I assume this because the two girls wear colorful shawls on their heads, embroidered all over with dainty needlework, and the two boys wear breeches of softest doeskin, and their wooden clogs are newly hewn. 

Sometimes - for the clogs are loosely fitted contraptions - one will fly off a foot mid-stride and the foot will meet with the sharp gravel. It is a very unpleasant meeting, and the boys' feet are soon unhappy.

The girls wear snug felt slippers, so they don't need to worry about such things. However, they have their own problems. They each carry a basket woven from rushes, and these baskets are somewhat too large for their comfort. They are also terribly heavy, laden with barley bread and big green bottles of peppergrass cordial. The children's parents brewed the cordial the day before. They slipped in a pinch of something extra.

The children are going to die though, so what use have cordial and barley bread?

***

The names of the girls are Strill and Tule. Those of the boys are too dull even to mention. 

Not that it matters what their names are. They are going to die.

***

The children talk as they go. Occasionally one will giggle, and the giggle will flutter up into the air and into the treetops. They speak of silly things, of how much they loathe carding wool and how happily they look forward to the haying season. The girls chatter about the frocks they will make for Yuletide, and how they will look prettier than all the other girls in their township. The boys laugh at their sisters and tell them they oughtn't look too pretty or some foreign prince will fancy them and spirit them away to his distant castle. Secretly, the girls suspect they would not mind living in a distant castle, but of course they don't let on. They sniff, and walk a little way off, and make a great show of whispering in each others ears and throwing smug glances at their brothers.

Only what good are smug looks and whispering? What good is teasing, or speaking in general? The children are going to die; words have no use.

***

After a while, the children cross a bridge that is arched and built of stone, and come out into the open, out of the confines of the trees. One of the boys spots a sign ahead. At the sight of it, the children instantly forget their weary feet and aching arms, and hurry up to it, shouting excitedly. The sign has the shape of an arrow, and on it, written in letters so gnawed-upon by rust that they are barely readable at all, is one word:

die

The arrow points down an overgrown path that has not been trodden upon for many a year. The path leads into a clump of briers and stunted trees through which the children can just glimpse the grey stone of a house, the peak of thatched roofs, a window, a chimney.

With skip and a whoop the children are away, dashing down the path, stumbling through shrubbery and greedy weeds. The boys loose their clogs almost at once, but they don't notice and barrel on into the tangle of greenery. It is beginning to puzzle them how unkempt the path is. The youngest boy shivers, even though the air is warm and buzzing with bees and crickets. He whispers something, pushes aside a knobbly branch. 

The children stop short.

For you see, the village called die is deserted. No smoke rises from the chimneys. The thatch on the roofs is turning black with mildew. The windows are dusty and full of cobwebs. No voices sound from within.

The children stand still and look at each other, a little shyly, as if they wished one them were cleverer than the rest and could tell them what to do. They have arrived in die and it is empty. They have come all this way with baskets too heavy and shoes too large, and die is simply deserted. What use is their cordial and barley bread without hands to give it to? What use are their names without a living soul to hear them? What good are whispers, and teasing, and speaking in general? What good is anything in a forsaken place like die?

So the children leave the village, abandon it to the shadows and the buzzing bees, and with spirits low, return to the arrow-shaped sign. They throw themselves onto the grass under it. The boys kick off their clogs, the girls upend the baskets, and they all eat barley bread and drink peppergrass cordial until they feel quite ill.

And then they die, the four children. Yes, they die. From that pinch of something extra, remember? Poor dears. It wasn't meant for them.

But do not act so alarmed. I told you from the start.

The End


* 


I remember submitting this to short fiction magazines (because I submitted just about everything I wrote) and one of the rejections said, "The funnest story about children dying I've ever read." 

Uhhhh. Yeah. I'm not proud.