Month: November 2013


“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”  –Pablo Picasso

I’ll tell you a secret: inspiration is a fickle, fickle mistress.

The enchanted well is full of absinthe (according to Hemingway.)

The enchanted well is full of absinthe
(according to Hemingway.)

One of the questions people ask me most frequently about my writing process is, “Where do you get your inspiration?” Despite the frequency of its asking, the question usually catches me off guard, leaving me struggling to answer with half-sentences and mixed metaphors. Why is the question so difficult? Not because I am never inspired, nor because inspiration doesn’t exist, but because at any given time I have no idea where my next jolt of inspiration will come from. There is no enchanted well that I drink from, no mystical invocation to a Muse, no Zeus’ fire bolt from Olympus. Gee, I wish.

Nope. There’s just me, and my weird little brain, and the world around me.

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, and sometimes nowhere at all. Confused yet? Let me try to explain. An dream, an image, a phrase, a name, or even a single word; sometimes the simplest, most banal occurrence can set off a veritable waterfall of ideas that lead to plot outlines, interesting characters, entire made-up worlds. One of the major world-building elements in my most recent novel was based almost entirely on a recurring dream I had years ago. I wrote a short story inspired by nothing more than a short phrase that popped into my head one random afternoon. Reading, living, watching, listening, being. Daydreaming. A lot of daydreaming. And sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Review: The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves,
by Maggie Stiefvater

In Maggie Stiefvater’s sequel to 2012’s The Raven Boys, the Cabeswater ley line has been awakened, but Blue, Gansey, Adam and Ronan are no closer to finding the lost Welsh king Glendower. In fact, things are more complicated than ever. Adam’s sacrifice Cabeswater seems to have worked, but he doesn’t know what the ley line wants with him, or how to hold up his part of the bargain. Blue and Gansey’s relationship is suddenly complicated by romance. And Ronan–angry, troubled, violent Ronan–travels deeper and deeper into his dreams, even while his dreams begin to intrude into his waking life. Meanwhile, dangerous people circle closer, bent on locating Glendower before they can. Ronan must find a way to channel his dreams for good, or else the ley line might disappear, ruining Gansey’s hopes of ever finding the lost king.

I’ve read and reviewed several of Stiefvater’s novels, and I have liked each better than the last. The Dream Thieves surpassed my expectations in nearly every way. The novel is haunting, beautiful and unsettling and delicious, the kind of book that gets under your skin so much that you think about it for days after you’ve finished the last page. As Stiefvater grows as an author, her writing becomes more abstract, relying on simple images to convey complex ideas, and vice versa. Her imagery is incredible. It speaks for itself: here, Stiefvater describes a political gala attended by Gansey and Adam:

The party had become a devil’s feast: will-o’-the-wisps caught in brass hunting lamps, impossibly bright meats presented on ivy-filigreed platters, men in black, women jeweled in green and red. The painted trees of the ceiling bent low overhead. Adam was wired and exhausted, here and somewhere else. Nothing was real but him and Gansey.

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9 Fictional Besties You Wish You Had in Real Life

Have you ever wanted to hang out with your favorite fictional characters? I know I have! Here’s my top nine (I’m an iconoclast that way) fictional besties I wish I really had.

Step. Off.

Step. Off.

1. Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games

She’s tough, she’s loyal, and she’d be willing to sacrifice her life if it means saving yours. Best friend and security detail. Plus, the odds are apparently always in her favor. Can anyone say Las Vegas?

2. Cameron, from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This guy would (reluctantly) let you steal his dad’s precious sports car to go joy-riding around the city while you play an elaborate game of hooky. That’s true friendship.

3. Dr. Watson, from Sherlock Holmes

The best case scenario of random roommate assignments: John Watson. He doesn’t mind when you flash your erudition, dazzling everyone around you with your brilliant genius. He also doesn’t seem to care if you shoot up cocaine and play your violin all night long (I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

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Review: The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

For most people living in Scion London in 2059, clairvoyance is the stuff of fantasy, reserved for frightening unruly children away from meddling with things they do not understand. But for Paige Mahoney, clairvoyance is all too real and all too dangerous. Part of a crime syndicate who uses their voyant powers for financial gain, Paige fears execution when she is arrested by Scion police.

But instead, Paige is shipped to a voyant prison colony in what used to be Oxford, where her wardens are a powerful, otherwordly race known as the Rephaim. They treat voyants as slaves, feeding on them psychically and forcing them to fight the horrific monsters that stalk along the boundaries of their prison. Paige is desperate to escape Oxford, and the only way is to delve deep into the history and motives of her Rephaite masters. Will she learn enough to defeat them? Or will they devour her, body, mind, and soul?

I picked up Samantha Shannon’s debut novel on the recommendation of one of my beta readers, and I’m so glad I did! Although I usually shy away from novels with a great deal of hype, for once I thought the novel in question deserved the praise heaped upon it. I really enjoyed this novel, from its spunky heroine to its sizzling pace to its creep-tastic monsters.

I had only a few problems with the novel, and the bulk of them appeared in the beginning. The first few chapters are difficult to get through, because Shannon has the unfortunate habit of drowning the reader in information about her world, her characters, and their histories. Granted, Shannon’s world is complex and deep, but I would have appreciated a bit more showing and a lot less telling. I was so overwhelmed with nonsense words, names, and terms that I barely made it past the first few chapters.

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Power in Type

Thanks, Carl Jung.

Thanks, Carl Jung.

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator test? I have, more than a few times. Junior year psychology class, senior year Theory of Knowledge class, job applications, recreation–for whatever reason, I’ve taken the personality test almost more times than I can count. And although the results have varied slightly from time to time, I’ve usually been impressed with how closely my resulting type mirrors my way of interacting with the world, my inner landscape, and the people around me.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Myers-Briggs instrument (often referred to as MBTI), it’s a psychological test designed to measure peoples’ preferences in how they process information, make decisions, and interact with the world around them. Although the actual test is hours long, you can take an abbreviated version of the questionnaire here. Basically, the test measures responses to questions based around four basic dichotomies: Extraversion vs Introversion; Sensing vs Intuition; Thinking vs Feeling; Judging vs Perceiving. And while the test certainly doesn’t cover every aspect of personality variance, nor strength of preference, the test can still be a useful tool.

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