Archive for April, 2011


Z is for Zaghareet

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

A-ZApril …and we’ve come to the end of the challenge!!! One full month of blog posts, six days a week. (And if you’ve been paying attention, I’m still missing the post for ‘D’… ah well, one of these days I’ll finish it and it’ll show up in your RSS reader and you’ll be really confused.)

So what are we all doing to celebrate?

In the Arabic world, celebrations are loud, noisy, and joyful—and commonly full of women creating a particular sound called a zaghareet (also known as a ululation).

To create this noise, you start by saying “la la la”. (Try it!)

…good! And a little boring, right?.

So now, do the same thing, but make the sound a little bit higher pitched and a little bit louder, like you’re a kid trying to ignore her parents. I’ll wait. Promise!

…all right… better…

But now make it even louder, and as high pitched as possible, but cover your mouth first… you don’t want to spit on anyone!!!

…did you do it? And did you realize it sounded a little bit like Xena’s battle cry? The producers of the show took the zaghareet of celebration and used it for something completely different, but it’s basically the same sound.

If you’re still not sure what it’s supposed to sound like, here’s a quick little video of a dance class attempting it (they’ve almost got it! just a little higher pitched and they’ll have it!):


So, did you make it through the challenge? Or have anything else to celebrate?

Shock and surprise your friends and family, and join in women around the world in making this (unique and LOUD) sound of celebration!!!

Be honest… did you try it? ;)


Y is for Y U NO WRITE?

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

I think I’m going to take a bit of a bloggy break in May… this A-Z Challenge has been fun, but more time-consuming than I’d expected in a lot of cases. I’ve barely had a chance to get around to visit all the blogs I regularly go to, let alone my fellow Challenge participants, so I think I’ll spend May doing things I should be doing, like:


  • commenting on others’ blogs
  • catching up on overdue book reviews
  • reading some relevant writing books
  • working on revisions

and most of all…

  • writing!!!

I haven’t put pen to paper for the past month or so (beyond quick revisions here and there), and that’s not acceptable.

There’s a story a day challenge coming up in May too… anyone interested? I don’t know that I’ll officially participate, but I plan to use it as inspiration.

Anyone else feeling the lack of writing time these days, or is it just me?


X is for Xenodochial

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Is your blog xenodochial?

Over the course of this past month, if you’ve been participating in the A-Z Challenge in particular, you’ve likely gained some new followers, maybe lost a few (hopefully not, though!), and perhaps made some new bloggy friends.stranger-chat

But what if you haven’t?

In the unlikely event that you haven’t seen an increase in traffic to your blog (not always characterized by comments, as it seems participants for the A-Z Challenge have a bit of blog fatigue these days… but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading your posts), you may want to consider whether your blog is, in fact, xenodochial.

Which means what, exactly?

Someone who is xenodochial is kindly or hospitable to strangers. Ah! Now it makes sense.

A few things to consider:

  • Does your blogger profile link back to your blog, so bloggers can click through your comment and return the favor?
  • Does your blog use those horrible surprise captchas? (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve commented and clicked away, only to see the surprise captcha pop up as the page closed…)
  • Do you comment back on your own posts? (I know, I’ve been horrible at this lately… but at minimum, responding to questions is the polite thing to do!)
  • Do your posts contain a balance of personal information and practical information? It’s all well and good to post WIP updates, but if that’s all your posts consist of, you may find yourself losing readers.
  • Do your posts invite response? Asking a question or making a final, summative statement prompts new visitors to interact with you… and if they feel comfortable commenting, they’re likely to return.

Just a few quick little things can help make your blog more xenodochial—which is always a good thing. You want people to stick around!

I know there are other things you can do to invite readers into your little bloggy world… what would you add to this list?


W is for ‘Wither’ (Book Review)

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes


(Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 1)

by Lauren DeStefano

YA Dystopian

Release Date: March 2011


wither By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems.

Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?

My Thoughts:

To start: I love the cover. See how the little circles pull your focus to very specific things in the picture? Those things are very important, and tell you a lot about the story inside.

But, cover aside, what about the story itself?

Well, for a story where nothing much happens, it’s pretty darn compelling. I got halfway through the book before I realized, “wait a minute… it’s been 150 pages and all the main character has done is walk through her daily routine a few times and chat with the other wives… why am I still interested?!?!”

And honestly, I’m not sure. It takes quite awhile for the main character to decide to actually do anything about her situation, but when she does, it’s worth the wait. In the meantime, the interactions between the characters and the simple consequences of a wrong word spoken here, or a strange glance there, are enough to maintain a rather stressful level of tension throughout the narrative, even without much action.

In the end, the worldbuilding in this novel was better than in others I’ve recently read, and the slow reveal of the situation wasn’t as annoying as some others. I’d also say that, compared to the book Bumped, which has a similar premise, I found this story much smoother in terms of the way the fertility/life expectancy issues were introduced (review of Bumped forthcoming…).

Mind you, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, and a number of bizarre issues not addressed (ie. when did society become okay with rounding up fertile young women and shooting them, if there’s a population crisis? and why are there orphans on the street if children are such a precious commodity?). If you can get past that, it’s a surprisingly good read, and I’m certainly looking forward to the second installment.

About the Author

laurendestefano Lauren DeStefano was born in New Haven, Connecticut and has never traveled far from the east coast. She received a BA in English from Albertus Magnus College recently, and has been writing since childhood. She made her authorial debut by writing on the back of children’s menus at restaurants and filling up the notepads in her mom’s purse. Her very first manuscript was written on a yellow legal pad with red pen, and it was about a haunted shed that ate small children.

Now that she is all grown up (for the most part), she writes fiction for young adults. Her failed career aspirations include: world’s worst receptionist, coffee house barista, sympathetic tax collector, and English tutor. When she isn’t writing, she’s screaming obscenities at her Nintendo DS, freaking her cats out with the laser pen, or rescuing thrift store finds and reconstructing them into killer new outfits.


V is for Valued

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Writing isn’t a very good profession to get into if you’re looking for affirmation of any kind.

Honestly. A-ZApril

You can’t do this so that you’ll feel valued, or to get revenge on the people who told you that you’d never succeed, or to show up old bullies, or to get acceptance from your parents/teachers/friends, or to find fame and fortune.

But that’s okay.

Writers simply need to find value elsewhere.

  • …in the creative comments of others.
  • …in the appreciation of your critique partner(s), who values your writing enough to spend time on it and help you improve.
  • …in the personal satisfaction gained from a job well done.

We might not get valued the way others do in their professions, but that’s not a bad thing! I think it forces us to seek outside the traditional indicators of ‘success’, and encourages us to place a higher value on the things that really matter in the long run:

  • friendship/relationships
  • personal growth
  • self-esteem
  • hard work & improved work ethic

Where do you find value in your writing life?  Do you want to feel valued by others, or are you learning to be content with knowing you’re doing your best?


U is for ‘Unearthly’ (Book Review)

   Posted by: Faith    in Fiction on Foccacia


by Cynthia Hand

YA Paranormal

Release Date: January 2011

Synopsis (

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

My Thoughts:

As with most YA books I read these days, I try to start each book with lower expectations than I actually have. Why? Because many of them are hyped to such a degree that to start reading with high expectations in mind is bound to result in disappointment.

I’d heard that Unearthly was “Halo the way it should have been written”, but since I hadn’t read Halo, I didn’t go in with any real basis of comparison. Mind you, I read Angelfire first, but the two books are so vastly different that I don’t feel a comparison between those two is fair.

So I had to judge the book on its own merits.

And I wasn’t disappointed!

unearthlypb The story started a little slow for my tastes, and I wasn’t sure whether I could get into the story. The heroine seemed a little bit too perfect, and I had a bit of trouble buying the premise—mostly because the author chose not to reveal key details until later in the story. I think if I’d had more explanation about the world-building up front, I might have enjoyed the first half more, but this ‘late-reveal’ method of story crafting seems to be popular these days. Unfortunately, it just bugs the heck out of me.

That said, the story picked up eventually, and managed to be a decent read, despite the clichéd “supernatural teenager at high school” premise. The way the angel-bloods recognized each other, and the abilities they had, were quite creative. Aside from the cheesy bits. :)


Beyond that, I was most impressed with how respectful the author was when writing about spiritual matters. She didn’t take the angels and turn them into something over-the-top anti-God (as some of these more recent books seem to do), but rather crafted a lovely explanation of the difference between angels on earth, angels in heaven, and their roles in relation to God’s purposes.

My favorite part of the entire book was the explanation of something called ‘glory’—which I’ll leave up to you to discover.

Overall, I have to admit that I didn’t particularly like the ending. I know the author was setting up for a sequel, but it felt like a bit of a cop-out, seeing as how the events of the ending were alluded to throughout the book… but I’m hoping that will get resolved in book two.

Verdict? Worth the read!


cynthiahandAbout the Author

Cynthia Hand divides her time between Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son, and southeast Idaho near the Teton mountains. She teaches creative writing at Pepperdine University.


T is for Trololololo

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

…because I’m behind on the challenge, and because this makes me laugh every time…


Go ahead, sing along! You know you want to… :)


S is for Steampunk

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Anyone up for a steampunk workshop with me?

Black Diamond RWA chapter is offering an online course in May called:

The Woman Behind the Goggles:

The Two Faces of Steampunk

crazy-mobaile …and it’s only $25 for non-members of the chapter!

The course runs for four weeks (May 2nd-29th), and will be research-heavy and writing-heavy, with (I suspect from the sound of things) personal feedback.

I’ve taken a class through this chapter before, and I learned a lot!

So… who wants to get their steampunk on this May? :D


R is for ‘Radio Shangri-La’ (Book Review’)

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Radio Shangri-La:

What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

by Lisa Napoli

Travel / Memoir

Release Date: February 2011


shangrila2 Dissatisfied with her life as a radio journalist, Lisa Napoli takes a stranger at a party up on his random offer: to visit Bhutan and lend some of her expertise to setting up the country’s first youth-oriented radio station, KuzooFM. At the time, Bhutan was known as ‘the happiest place on earth’, measuring its success in GNH (Gross National Happiness) and limiting the influence of the outside world.

Over time, this changed, and through Napoli’s memoir we get to experience the shifting social structure as it happened: democracy, access to Western television stations, modern music, and a growing sense of materialism in a country that was previously focused on family and spirituality. There is one interesting thing to note—even with the changes, Bhutan has retained its $200-per-day tourist tax for visitors wanting to enter the country. The country may be more open, yes, but they still don’t want the hoards of unwashed Westerners traipsing through their sacred spaces.

I’m glad I read the book to learn about Bhutan, which I previously knew very little about. However, you may have noticed that I haven’t yet talked about Napoli and her time at the radio station. That’s because I actually found that part of the narrative somewhat dull and self-indulgent. I’m very glad that Napoli was able to ‘find herself’ in the experience, and was able to discover her priorities in life, but unlike other ‘travel memoir’ style books I’ve read recently, there didn’t seem to be a real point here.

She wasn’t there on a humanitarian mission, so the book wasn’t written to create an awareness of social injustice. She didn’t do anything particularly remarkable, so the book wasn’t written to chronicle how she rose from nothing to conquer to world. There are moments of excitement and flashes of brilliance, but on the whole, I wasn’t quite sure what the point of the book happened to be.

On the whole, I was a little disappointed. The cover (of my ARC, anyway) is lovely, and the title is fantastic. I only wish I’d known the purpose of the book, rather than feeling like I was simply indulging a friend telling a bland travel story, and not really sure how to walk away without being rude…

I will say this, however: If you like travel stories for the sake of travel stories, you’ll probably find much to enjoy here. I really mean that! I suspect the genre may simply not be “my thing.”

About the Author

home_lisa_napoli Lisa Napoli’s last staff job was as reporter and back-up host for public radio show Marketplace. She covered the Internet revolution and the cultural impact of technology as a columnist and staff reporter for the NY Times CyberTimes, and as a correspondent for MSNBC.

A native of Brooklyn, NY and a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. She currently lives in downtown Los Angeles, where there’s a giant swimming pool, and hopes in the second half of her life to be a philanthropist.


Q is for Quintessential

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘Q’, which I spent far too much time thinking about… mostly because I had no idea what to write this post about. And I’m still behind on the challenge (but that’s nothing new).

So, we’re going to take a few moments to look at a commonly misused word! Yay, words!

Our word for the day is: Quintessential.

Here’s the definition from is 'Quintessential Barbie'. Yay Mattel for correct word usage!

Quintessence –noun

1. the pure and concentrated essence of a substance.

2. the most perfect embodiment of something.

3. (in ancient and medieval philosophy) the fifth essence orelement, ether, supposed to be the constituent matter of theheavenly bodies, the others being air, fire, earth, and water.

And how about from Merriam-Webster online?

Quintessence –noun

1: the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies

2: the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form

3: the most typical example or representative <the quintessence of calm>

The adjectival form of the word is ‘quintessential’. But ask yourself this: When was the last time you used this word, intending it to mean “the most important thing”?

I’ve heard people describe something and use ‘quintessential’ like this: “The painting was absolutely beautiful, but the quintessential element was the brushstroke technique.”

Or like this: “Flour, sugar, and water are the main parts of this recipe, but the quintessential ingredient is the chocolate!”

These examples use the word to convey that something is the most essential. But, as you can see from the definitions above, that’s the incorrect way to use the word! And now you know. :D

When was the last time you tried to explain that something was the ‘most essential’ by using ‘quintessential’ instead? Are there any other common words you’ve misused before? :)