Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011, with digressions & confessions

Okay, I'll play. The year in review. (NOTE: This post was basically shot out in one fast draft, so sorry if it's a bit rambly or incoherent or embarrassing. I'm pretty sure I spelled everything right.)


Best Books: You can see all my favorite reads over on my GoodReads Favorites page. I just started my GoodReads this year, so every book there is a book read in 2011. Some of them actually were released in 2011, too!

Breaking down a few standouts:

Favorite Adult book: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire. Toby Daye continues to be my favorite urban fantasy series ever.

Favorite YA overall: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Favorite contemporary YA: Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Favorite paranormal YA: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite published-in-2011 YA novel: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Overall, the book I loved the most was Craig Ferguson's novel, Between the Bridge and the River. It made me laugh myself silly and even cry a few times. It's one book I know I'll reread next year.


Um, I hardly saw any this year, but my favorite was the first one I watched, Pirate Radio. Anyone who loves rock 'n' roll needs to see this movie. Plus, it's where I "met" my first real candidate for Zachary, Tom Sturridge:



Community was better than ever this year, and I will kill everyone in the world if it's canceled (so be prepared). I came to love Game of Thrones, though I took it on a week-by-week basis for most of the season. It's where I met the NEWEST candidate for Zachary, Kit Harington:

That's him before he got all buff and beard-y to play Jon Snow (a look that suits him very well, I might add), a character who shares Zach's loyalty, self-sacrificing-ness, and purity of heart.

Jon (Episode 2): First lesson, stick em with the pointy end.

Zachary (SHINE, Chapter 30): The sharp end goes into the bad guy. homage? Perhaps.

Okay, that was a major digression. Happens to me a lot these days. Where was I?


I actually went to shows this year--many, in fact! The best two were Mumford and Sons and the National. M&S were joyful, exuberant, intensely emotional. The National were simply masterful. I loved them ten times as much when I left as when I entered.

But the single most important show I went to was Death Cab for Cutie. Not because it was awesome, though it was. (They started with "I Will Possess Your Heart," which pretty much MADE MY LIFE.) It was because their opening act was an indie band I'd never heard of, Frightened Rabbit. I asked for FR's latest CD for my birthday, figuring it'd be cool to at least be familiar with their music before seeing them. My sister-in-law, may an eternity of goodness rain upon her, got me Winter of Mixed Drinks.




Insta-love, from the first note of the opening track, "Things." I've been mad, mad, mad about them for months now, playing WoMD and their three-song, extremely Scottish EP, again and again and again on repeat for weeks, the way I haven't done for any album since I was a teenager.

Because Frightened Rabbit did more than provide great music--they helped me unlock a character who'd been a mystery to me for two whole books: Zachary Moore.

With Logan the writing was always easy, because he wears his heart on his sleeve and, let's face it, Logan is me but with talent and charisma. We're both paranoid, self-absorbed little divas who spend half our time putting our feet in our mouths and the other half apologizing for those feet. For some reason, people still love us, but we honestly can't figure out why.

But in writing Shade and Shift, I never quite GOT Zachary. I only saw him from the outside, the way Aura and the readers see him: a smart, gorgeous, compassionate, preternaturally patient boy. I didn't know what was inside his head and heart, other than a deep, unshakeable love for Aura and his family (and chocolate).

Until I heard Frightened Rabbit. Maybe it was the accent: Frightened Rabbit hails from Glasgow (though originally fromSelkirk), so they sound like him. But it was beyond that. On WoMD, Frightened Rabbit sings of more than love--they sing of the fear and pain of life's uncertainties. They sing of silent suffering and loneliness and loss. But they do it with humor and hope.

Whatever it was, I'd found the key to Zach's heart and mind, and to his experiences in Shine. That's often what it takes for me to really get to know a character--find their perfect band, whether it's one they would actually listen to or not (he does, and Aura does in Shine, obsessively, thanks to Megan).

There was one song on their EP that rang painfully true to me, "The Work."

Scott Hutchinson says this about the song, sung with Scottish folk legend Archie Fisher:

I have been thinking a lot about ageing and death, especially on our new songs. So two distinct characters emerged fairly quickly. There’s me being the belligerent young upstart asking ‘what’s the point in getting old?’, then there’s Archie as the counterpoint, convincing me that it ain’t all bad.

The chorus goes like this:

When the work stops working
What was light becomes a weight
When the work stops working
Shall we pack it all in?

When the work stops working
And the weight becomes an ache,
When the work stops working
Shall we pack it all in,
Or start again?

In 2011, the work stopped working for me on many occasions. I wrote a failed novel (Let it Bleed) that became a struggling novella (still struggling but hopefully coming together soon), and I threw away as many words of Shine as I ended up putting in the book.

This song was there for me when Shine wasn't working, when I thought it never would. It helped me keep the faith and not give into the fear. It reminded me that the work didn't have to be easy to be good.

And in the end, Shine worked, thanks to the help of many, many people. But it probably wouldn't have worked so well without Frightened Rabbit.


Favorite Book-Related Moment: Two words: TEAM KILT. (Which is sometimes one word.) This blog post sums up everything that they are, and this Crush Tourney tag will take you on a trip down memory lane on everything that they accomplished. Team Kilt has often been imitated, but will never be topped. Team Kilt bows to no one.

Favorite Sports Moment: November 7, Ravens defeat Steelers, 23-20 in the closing seconds in Pittsburgh. It was like I was living in a new universe, where history stops repeating itself. Of course, the final chapter in this story could still be so, so heartbreaking.


Going to Ireland and Glasgow with my husband Christian. Not because, you know, IRELAND AND SCOTLAND OMG, but because we have a lot of fun traveling together. We rarely get on each other's nerves, and the memories and catch phrases we create are revisited many, many times for the rest of our lives. We're still using jokes that we made up on our honeymoon in 1994.

Plus, the food was outstanding. Go figure.

Thanks, 2011. You rocked pretty hard.

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I absolutely loved Craig's book! I read it last summer and fell in love with it. Mostly because it was just so...Craig. I could hear him reading it in my head the whole time.

As for Zach, I think that Tom is the best choice. He is who I picked to "play" Zach for my post about My Book Boyfriend, starring Zach.

And Pirate Radio= the best. Simple Simon and Thick Kevin are hilarious!

Posted by: Blogger Must Love Books at 12/31/2011 8:16 PM

I love the song. Must check out this band. And the book rocks :-)

I loved walking part of your journey with you; thank you for including me along the way.

May 2012 bring you many great blessings.

With love,

(Who thinks it is ironic that the word verification is --I kid you not-- "tries")

Posted by: Blogger Deborah Blake at 12/31/2011 8:21 PM

you are so cute.

Posted by: Blogger Three Fixed Hearts at 12/31/2011 8:35 PM

I will forever remember 2011 as the year that I discovered your books (thanks to the Tod/Zach match in the YA Tourney) and fell in love with Logan and Aura and Zach and Shane and Ciara -- all of whom are still in my head months after reading their books.

Thanks to your recommendation I also fell in love with Frightened Rabbit. Their music has helped me through some rough times as well so even though I've said it before, I can't thank you enough.

And now that I've gone and gotten all sappy, I'll stop.

Posted by: Blogger Judy (shellseeker93) at 12/31/2011 10:05 PM

What a crazy year 2011 has been! I am so glad that I was introduced to Shade & Shift during the Tourney.

Thank you so much for being such a generous, kind, & involved author.

May 2012 bring you health, happiness, continued success, and many more books/movies/music to share & experience.

Posted by: Blogger Marissa at 1/01/2012 1:07 AM

Thanks, everyone!

Must Love Books: I agree, Tom is still my first pick, though he needs to bulk up a tad to match Zachary's physique. ;)

Deborah: Thank you for all your help on SHINE. Love and blessings to you in the new year, too!

Melissa: Speak for yourself! :-D

Judy: I'm so happy you discovered the books--and even happier you discovered Frightened Rabbit. I can't figure out what it is about them that is so powerful. I wish they were better known--they really deserve it. And they're so nice on Twitter!

Marissa: It was wonderful meeting you, too, during the tourney. I still remember the funny rhymes you made up early in the morning to keep up our spirits. I don't know what TeamKilt would've done without you!

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 1/01/2012 10:28 AM

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