Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favorite Reads of 2012

The year's quickly coming to a close, so I thought I'd finish out 2012 by listing my top five favorite books I read this year! Here they are in no particular order (since it's hard enough for me to narrow it down to FIVE, let alone try to put them in order from most favorite.)


Nevermore

The goth boy with the cheerleader has been done before (in sometimes cringe-worthy ways), but Kelly Creagh's characters are so emotionally-gripping that they feel like real people. That and the paranormal Edgar Allen Poe themed-plot kept me turning pages long after I should have been in bed. I still need to pick up the sequel.


The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Author N.K. Jemisin really hooked me with her interesting fantasy world and a cast of gods who seemed like real otherworldly beings, not just humans with superpowers. I seem to enjoy fantasy books with cutthroat political maneuvering, and so I loved seeing how the main character adapted when she was just chucked into the middle of things. I really enjoyed the created mythology and am anxious to know where things go from here. I still need to pick up this sequel as well.


Hex Hall

I was skeptical about this book at first. I was just about sick of stories about “high schools for people with powers,” but this one really delivered something special. The main character’s voice is wonderfully sarcastic and I frequently found myself snorting at her humor. I can’t wait to read the spin-off novel next year!


Timepiece

I’ve been a fan of Myra McEntire ever since my friend Shalena over at Writer Quirk brought me the first novel in the series, Hourglass, as a birthday present in 2011. So I snatched up this sequel as soon as it was available. I really enjoyed Kaleb’s character in the first book so I was stoked to discover that he was the POV character for Timepiece. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a male for once, and thoroughly enjoyed getting into his head and seeing his developing relationship with a certain other character. Of course there is also the aspect of time-travel, which I always love.


The Near Witch

I was thinking I read this back in 2011, but according to Goodreads, it was this year, so yay! This story is poetic and beautiful without being overly flowery. I ate up every word. I also got an advanced copy of Victoria Schwab's next book,"The Archived," and let me tell you, it's even better than her first book. I can't wait to see more stories from this talented lady!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Turning Off the Perfectionist

I'm doing better since having my little writerly breakdown last week. I'm plugging away at editing my last few chapters with the hopes of being able to actually start querying literary agents in January.

I think I've finally been able to convince myself that no, this novel is not going to be perfect. Yes, I've heard that from other authors before, but I don't think it really ever sunk in. It wasn't until last week that I really realized how badly I'm burning myself out on this story that I love by constantly going back and rehashing it to pieces.

Not that I think that I shouldn't have spent time and hard work editing this book. It's definitely light years ahead of the drivel it started out as in my 2010 NaNoWriMo. But I think I've been working on it too long.

I've realized now that if I keep tearing it apart and rewriting, I'll never finish. My skills as a writer are growing with every book I read, with every new scene I write. If I keep going back, month after month, and trying to edit my entire book into something up to par with my new writing skills, it will be a never-ending process. I'll just never be able to say, "It's done. It's as good as I'll ever be able to do." I just need to get it as good as I can do now.

I've decided to finish edits on my last few chapters and then take the plunge and see if I can get anyone interested. If so, great. I'll have the advice of a professional to help me make the book into something they think they can sell. If not, well then, maybe I'll look into self-publishing or maybe I'll just put it in a drawer for the time being, but at any rate I'll move on to my next story.

I can't grow as a writer if I'm stuck on the same novel, and if I keep rehashing the same story, I know I'm eventually going to overdo it and ruin the book completely. I'm just going to do the best I can at this point in my life and then keep moving. Quit trying to be perfect. That's the only way I can do what I love without also losing my mind in the process.

Plus I've got a baby coming in April. I'm not going to have the extra brain cells to lose.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Giving Up

The novel that I'm working on now, I wrote the rough draft during NaNoWriMo 2010. I had a lot of fun on that original draft, but, of course, when I went back and read it, I realized that most of it was horrendous. No big deal. My NaNoWriMos were always horrendous after that first draft.

I really liked this story though, so I dug into edits. When I showed it to some fellow writers, I got helpful comments. I edited some more. I showed my first chapter to an online critique group. Of course, the first person to leave a review completely ripped it to shreds, telling me that it was more or less the crappiest crap that he had ever set eyes on. Of course I handled it like a mature adult.

(Something like this)

Then a few days passed and I got several more reviews. Reviews that were much more helpful. I was appeased. (Plus in looking at the profile of the negative reviewer, I saw that he pretty much prided himself on being a gigantic ass, so I was able to take his review with a grain of salt.) I started editing again.

Later I showed some of my revamped chapters to my local writing friends. Got some great feedback, but also some more advice for changes. I saw they were right and grit my teeth and got down to more edits. By 2012, I got to where I had only three more chapters to edit. I showed some bits to my writer friends. They suggested I switch the point of view of the novel into first person. I tried this with the first chapter and realized I liked the sound of it a lot better. Of course, this meant I now had to go through and completely switch a 70,000+ word novel into first person.

(This made me feel something like this.)

Fast forward to this month. After something like a three-month novel vacation in which I dealt with 24/7 morning sickness instead, I'd finally gotten the chance to dig into switching my manuscript into first person.

And even though at this point, I had read my novel a bajillion times, as I edited, I still found myself thinking, "Oh yay! I really like this part!" in every chapter. In short, I was thrilled with what my manuscript had shaped into. I just had those last three chapters to rework and then I'd be done. All of the continuous editing, all the blood, sweat and tears would have been worth it and I would finally be able to start querying for a literary agent.

And then I had the bright idea of entering a contest. I should have known better. This pregnancy thing has got my hormones all out of whack, and I'm definitely prone to overly-dramatic thoughts and weeping and self-hating at random times. It was a query contest. I wrote up one that I thought was awesome. I knew I'd be sure to get a few bites. Well, it sat there and sat there and sat there. It's still sitting there today without a single reply, while it seems like posts around me are all marked up with requests for pages.

I was a little hurt. Then I convinced myself I didn't care. Then — again, I really should have known better — I found a place where I could post up my brand sparkling new first 10 pages for comments. It sat there for over a week without a single comment while all the other boards seemed to be soaking them up. Then a few days ago I checked and saw there was a comment. I knew I was already in a weepy mood that night. I told myself I should not look at it now. I knew it was a bad idea. I clicked anyway. To sum up, the response from the person was basically, "Meh."

(Again, I handled it like an adult.)
I basically ran to the bedroom, shut the door and sobbed into my pillow. I told myself I was done. I quit. This novel is never going to be good enough. I was stupid to think I ever had enough talent to pull it off. I was done wasting my time. I was never going to write again. I'd spend all my time watching TV or playing Sims. ANYTHING else would be better. I was just going to delete my whole novel right now.

.... or maybe in the morning. I didn't even want to get out of bed. I'd do it in the morning.

That morning I walked by my computer, ignoring it. I went to work. I did my job. I came home. I tried to read, but every book I picked up made me angry. I'd pick up one book and hate the author because I knew I wrote better than this and yet THIS person had a book in print. I'd pick up another book and hate myself because this author wrote so much better than I did and I'd never be this good. I threw the books down and spent the rest of the evening watching TV. This continued for two or three days.

(I imagine I looked like this.)
But last night I was on my computer, goofing off on the internet. I don't know why, but I opened my novel file. I stared at where I had left off. I read over what I'd written. I liked it. A lot. I still loved the characters. I still loved the story. I sat down and finished rewriting that scene. Before I knew it, I'd partially re-written the next scene too before I noticed how late it was and decided to get in bed.

I don't think there's any real "moral" to this story. I just wanted to share my struggles in case it helps other writers who are going through the same thing. You're not alone. I am continually feeling beaten down and defeated as I work on this novel. But no matter how many setbacks I've had, I just can't give it up. I can't quit working on it. I love this story and I think, if I can figure out how to tell it in the right way, others will too.

So I'm not stopping.

I'm doing this until I get it right, no matter how long it takes.

* All moving images from this post were borrowed from Title to Come on Tumblr, which is the most hilarious site for writers ever. You should go see it. *

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ignoring the Classics

I hate to admit it, but aside from my required reading in high school and college, I rarely pick up "classic" books. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe because I'm usually too busy trying to keep up with my TBR pile of new books that I've forgotten that the classics are usually classics for a reason. Maybe it's because with how fast-paced the plots of modern books are, I've lost the ability to have patience with classic books that sometimes take a lot of time and effort to get through.

A few weeks back I picked up "Gone with the Wind." I'd never read it before and have never seen the movie - though I did know all the famous lines, just not necessarily their meanings within the context of the story. So I decided to give it a try.

I wasn't disappointed.

General thoughts: Before I started, I really had no clear idea what the book was really about, other than it was written over the backdrop of the Civil War and that a woman named Scarlett was the heroine. I figured it was some kind of romance story since the covers of the books always seem to have Scarlett being swept off her feet by a man. I had no idea that the story was actually the fascinating tale of our main character going from a silly little girl to someone who is not afraid to get her hands dirty to make things turn out exactly how she wants. I'm a sucker for good character growth and change so, as a writer, this was a valuable lesson to me on how things like this should be done.

Characters: I loved Scarlett and yet wanted to slap her at the same time. On the one hand I admired her for what she faced and how she survived through horrifying times, but then I kept marveling at what an awful person she was in her heart. I know more than once I was thinking, "Oh, you're such a horrible person ... but you go, girl!" ... I think if she'd just known when to stop, things would have gone a whole lot differently in the end.

I thought Rhet was amazing. The best "bad boy" character I've read in ages. It was amazing how well his character complimented Scarlett's. I always looked forward to their scenes together and their verbal sparing matches were my favorite parts of the book. It broke my heart that she couldn't see what an amazing match they were until it was too late.

I also loved Melly. Kind of like Scarlett did, I didn't realize just how much Melly has brought to these other characters' lives until she is gone. It made me so happy to see that even though she was quiet and kind, even though she seemed timid, she was really one of the strongest people in the whole cast, and undoubtedly the one who lived the most happy life in the end.

As a side note, I've got to mention it - I know this book was written in a much different time period, but the depiction of all the African-American characters was really painful to me most of the time. Not just the fact that the author used phonetic English that gave me a headache to read, but also that they were all - except for perhaps Mammie - depicted as complete idiots who had no idea what to do with themselves when their masters/mistresses weren't around. I don't doubt that SOME people were that way, but to have them ALL depicted like that made me flinch and put a damper on an otherwise amazing book for me.

Writing: Even though I felt like the story dragged in places (there were some long passages about the war that I only skimmed over), I thought the writing itself was excellent. I especially liked how at times I felt like I understood what was going on better than Scarlett did - it made me both frustrated with her and antsy to see what would happen because she was making such poor decisions.

Recommend?: If you're big on character development, like me, yes, I think you'll love it. But if it's more action and adventure you're after - you might get bored. The book is very long, and although there are some great action scenes, I'd say most of the "action" is the inward growth and development of the main character. It's something I love, but I could see where it might bore others.

~

Now I've got the movie on the way from Netflix and am eager to see how the film version holds up to the book.
I think from now on, I'll make a deal with myself that for every five "new" books I read, the sixth needs to be a classic. I'm definitely missing out if there's gems like this out there that I've been ignoring!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Update!

This place has been more or less abandoned as I've been dealing with a lot of life changes - like moving into my first house and dealing with 24/7 morning sickness that made me want to drown myself in my toilet.

Thankfully the dreaded morning sickness has passed, I'm an only slightly uncomfortable 19 weeks pregnant, and am more or less moved into my house. So! I thought I'd kick off my re-dedication to blogging by posting a little update on my novel-in-progress.

Where I am in the writing process: A novel that's about 90% complete. I'm trying to use NaNoWriMo to finish up the last 10%.

My current problem(s): I've decided, on the advice of friends, to switch over to first person point-of-view for my main characters. This is slightly confusing at times and is getting rather tedious.

The good news: I've only got about 10% more to go until I think I can call this thing finally done. I've been rewriting this thing more times than I can count and I am ready to put it out there and see if I can get any literary agent interest. And cry if I cannot.

What now? I just need to finish converting my story into first person and then finish rewrites on my last couple of chapters. Then I'm done! At least until I (hopefully) get an agent and they send along a list of revisions for me to do. Which might also make me cry.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Almost ready to write!

Good news!

My child has stopped trying to kill me with morning sickness and I should be fully moved into my new house by the end of next week. In this new house I actually have my own office, which is the most exciting thing EVER.

After three months of neglecting my novel, I plan to kick things into high gear again and get my novel in submission-ready status before my little one arrives and takes away all of my free time, energy and sanity.

Also, I'll actually start updating my blog again!

I can't wait!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Novel Excerpt

Chapter 1
Andromeda

Today is my sixteenth birthday. It’s also the day of my husband’s funeral.

Two young men, clothed in shades of black, lower the bundle that contains Xenres’ body into the small grave. I feel like a part of me is being lowered into that dark hole with him, but it’s a part of me I’m glad to lose.

My late husband’s brothers, sisters and children from his first wife glower at me through their tears, as if they blame me for his sudden death. They probably do. But fishermen found Xenres lying face down in the mud near the eastern banks of the Nile just a few days ago without a mark on him. I had nothing to do with it. Though I may or may not have prayed to the gods to take him away - every day since our marriage three years ago.

Not that I think his death had anything to do with that. The gods never paid me much mind before, at least when it comes to giving me things that I want. Xenres’ death had been because of a bad heart, most likely. He was old. Of course our age difference wasn’t an issue when my parents agreed to ship me off to Egypt to be his bride. I was a bribe. Here, take the princess and keep your Persian armies away from our country. I’m not angry about it. This type of arrangement isn’t unusual these days. I just wish I had gotten shipped off to a handsome and maybe slightly broody prince instead of a military man long past his prime.

The funeral songs fade away and I step forward on cue with a small tray topped with a bowl of food, a flask of water, and a jar painted with red flowers and filled with ointment. I kneel and lower the gift-laden plank into the grave beside the body. Before I get the presentation settled in the bottom of the hole, a few pieces of fruit slide off the side and land in the sand, making them inedible to the dead man in the afterlife. It’s not entirely an accident. A few people mutter but I pretend not to hear them and nestle the rest of the offering into the grave.

Two men start filling in the hole before I can get back to my feet and bits of grave dirt fly into my face. I keep my expression passive as I stand and brush it away. I’ve long ago learned how useless it is to voice any complaints to my husband’s family. Back when I still had a poetic streak in me, when I had been a new bride at the age of thirteen, I described myself as feeling like a bird thrown in a cold metal cage right after leaving the nest. Xenres had laughed.

Several women in the back of the crowd start wailing again, and I bury my face in my hands in order to follow suit. I do not cry though. I simply pray for this day to be over soon.

Once the Egyptian sand covers the grave again, the men place heavy stones at the head to mark the spot. It’s my turn. I pick up a small pitcher of wine and approach the grave. I pour the liquid out over the stones and watch it spatter like blood. “Please receive Xenres safely into your realm.”

I make sure not to mention exactly which god I am addressing. There are enough people with dissenting opinions about deities at this funeral to cause a fuss if I mention the wrong name. I picture my mother’s Greek god of death, Hades, as I pray — Xenres was always fascinated by our Greek gods — but I don’t care if it is my father’s Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris, or the Persian god Ahuramazda who hears me instead, as long as one of them takes him away. This little bird is tired of singing on command.

After a few more funeral songs, the crowd turns from the grave. Unfortunately they won’t head home yet. Now it is time to go back to the house for the feast in the dead man's honor. I will have to put on a show of mourning for a few more hours yet. What I really want is to collapse into bed and fall into sweet unconsciousness.

I get caught behind a pair of slow-moving mourners dressed in black, and adjust my pace with a sigh. I’m content to let my mind go blank for the walk home, but my ears perk up when one of the women mentions my name.

“Andromeda never had any children at all?” the first woman says in what she apparently thinks is a hushed voice. “Xenres had children by his first wife, didn't he?”

The second woman tsks. “Of course. Four strong sons and a daughter, but not a single pregnancy from this girl. I've heard he has had nothing but ill fortune since their marriage, and now he's dead. The girl is god-cursed, I think.”

I grit my teeth and slow my pace even more to let the gossips pull away. My fingers wander to the small golden frog pendant under my clothes. It’s an Egyptian fertility charm — a not-so-subtle gift from my father, probably on insistence from my mother. Even though a squalling baby on my hip is the last thing I ever wanted, I’ve worn the charm anyway, more as a reminder of home than anything else. Like I said before, the gods seem to pay me no mind. I never believed a bit of molded gold on a chain would change that.

When I reach the house, a dark-haired boy about my age stands in the doorway, blocking my path. I try to side-step him, but he reaches out and takes me gently by the arm. “Andromeda?”

I narrow my eyes at him, wary. He wears a white linen kilt in the Egyptian style and a small gold hoop in his left ear glints in the fading sunlight underneath his dark shoulder-length hair. His eyes are outlined in black pigment – also an Egyptian fashion. It takes me several heartbeats to realize I know him. The thin, sickly boy from my childhood memories had somehow grown into a tall, trim young man with a sleek layer of muscle across his bare chest.

“Phineus?” I ask, to be sure. When he nods, I fly into his open arms and find genuine tears squeezing from underneath my eyelids. “What are you doing here?”

Several of my late husband's relatives stop to stare and I realize my breach in etiquette. The gossips will be whispering tonight about the new widow throwing herself into the arms of another man on the day of her husband’s funeral. I jerk back. “He's my uncle,” I stutter in explanation to the nearest mourners. “My father's younger brother.”

With this explanation, the mourners turn away from me and file inside the house, though some raise an eyebrow at me as they pass, no doubt doubting the truth of my claim. Phineus is only two years older than me, after all. My grandfather married a much younger woman after his first wife died. This new wife had Phineus, which actually makes him my half-uncle, I think. Our family is complicated.

Phineus pulls me off to the side and to let the funeral guests continue on into the house. “Are you all right?” he asks gently. “I tried to make it in time for the funeral.”

“I'm managing,” I say while dabbing my tears away. “How about you?” I drop my voice to a whisper. “I heard news that some Egyptians were in trouble for trying to overthrow the Persians’ rule in your corner of the country. I was worried you were involved.”

The corner of Phineus' mouth tugs up into a smirk. “Are you suggesting that I'm some kind of troublemaker?”

I raise an eyebrow at him, but before I can get out a reply, he grins and pulls me into another hug. “It's good to see you again,” he says.

I lean my head on his chest with a sigh. I didn’t miss that he had dodged the question about rebel activity against the Persians, but I am too tired to insist on an answer. “It's good to see a friendly face. This funeral has gone on for nearly a week. I'm surprised word of my husband's death got to you so quickly though.”

“I've just come back from visiting your parents back in Joppa. They’ve sent a message.”

I pull back and look up at him, expecting to hear condolences, though both my mother and father have always known how little I cared for my late husband. However, Phineus winks and says something that makes the world stop: “We’re bringing you home.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lots of changes

I apologize for going MIA for a while. There's a lot of things going on in my world now, and it's made things a little crazy!

For one, I am currently pregnant with my first child and as a result have been spending much time in the bathroom with morning sickness. Fun times!

Second, my husband and I are in the process of searching for and buying our first home. Actual fun times!

A lot of things have been put on hold, like blogging and novel-writing and apartment cleaning. Hopefully things will start to calm down in the next month or so and I can get back into a routine.

I get depressed every time I look at my Twitter feed and see the book world moving on without me!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Novel Progress

Sorry for my absence again. Health issues have taken their toll on me recently, and last Monday I had to undergo some lovely sinus surgery. Good news was I got a week off from work. Bad news was I spent most of that time either asleep, reading, or maybe playing Sims 3 if I could get myself up.

Now I can breathe freely, but am still recuperating from surgery, which means still having zero energy while also have started back to work this week. Fun stuff!

Here's a little update on how things are coming along on my novel.

Where I am in the writing process: I've pretty much got everything done except for editing the last three chapters, which are being like stubborn children who refuse to follow directions. I'm urging them to get in line and act properly, but they're running all over the place, pulling random plot holes off the walls and screaming really bad bits of dialogue like they've totally forgotten how to behave themselves.

My current problem(s): Aside the fact that my last three chapters have gone crazy, I've also got the not-so-uncommon issue of realizing that my story is never going to be as awesome on paper as it is in my head, and I'm just going to have to accept that and do the best I can.

The good news: I'm so close to being done, I can taste it and it's making me crazy.

What now? Even though I feel crappy, even though I'm annoyed that I can't get every chapter perfect, I've got to press on and finish this book so I can get on to the next!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Title: "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms"

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Synopsis: Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together. (From Goodreads)

Why I picked it up: This has been in my "to read" pile for a while, so I'm not really sure I remember. I think I read a glowing review of it somewhere and decided I needed to pick it up. Honestly, when I picked it up out of the stack, I couldn't remember what it was about or why I wanted it in the first place. (But I'm glad I did!)

General thoughts: At first I felt a little lost as to exactly what was going on as I got acclimated to this new fantasy world, but by about the second chapter when the gods are introduced, I was hooked. The last book I'd read (which I have not reviewed), I had felt like I was forcing myself to read to the end of the book, so it was really nice to find myself immersed in a book that I couldn't wait to pick up again. (I went to bed much later than I should have for several nights in a row.)

Mythology: The mythology of the three main gods was very interesting and felt like a real myth. Then the author made the supernatural events in the Gods War and the fact that gods were now being controlled by mankind seem plausible.

Characters: I thought the main character, Yeine, was a great heroine. She's suddenly found herself caught up in the crazy, cut-throat world of politics and has to scramble to keep her head above water. She has to learn quickly to play the game or lose her life.

I also enjoyed how the gods actually seem otherworldly, not just humans with superpowers. The dark god Nahadoth was one of my favorites. I felt like Yeine was frequently only still alive because she had said the right thing to him at the right time. He really felt dangerous, not just a "bad boy." The child-god Sieh was also a favorite of mine. I pretty much spent the whole book wanting to hug him.

Writing: I thoroughly enjoyed the writing. At first I was thrown off by the parts of the book where Yeine is suddenly talking in first person and someone unknown is responding to her. But after we get deeper into the plot and I figured out who she was talking to and what those parts were all about, I thought it was an interesting narrative choice that I really liked.

Recommend?: If you enjoy gods, political scheming and fantasy worlds, I'd say definitely give this one a try. I really enjoyed it and am planning on picking up the sequel, "The Broken Kingdoms" as soon as my budget allows (and I can get away with buying yet another book without glares from my husband. lol). I think I have an idea of the direction the next book will be going in, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: What Lies Beneath



Title: "What Lies Beneath"

Author: Anne Greenwood Brown

Synopsis: Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters must prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually they select their victims at random, but this time around the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take the whole White family to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love — just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between family and the girl he loves. One thing's for sure, whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty. (From NetGalley)


Why I picked it up: Like pretty much every other little girl who watched "The Little Mermaid" a million times as a child, I spent all my time at the pool pretending I was a
mermaid. A novel about a merman sounded interesting.

General thoughts: Though I probably should have known from the description, "What Lies Beneath" focuses heavily on the romance between Calder and Lily. I'm usually not a fan of purely relationship stories (I like it to be a side-plot, not the main plot of the novel). I think that's why I was a little bored at first, when Calder is pretty much stalking Lily and trying to make her like him.

Their relationship itself doesn't seem to form very naturally either. Lily is creeped out by Calder at first (good for her!), and Calder seems to "fall in love" with Lily after a few meetings. And then it seems Lily is all of a sudden in love with him, too. After that, though, I was more interested as the pair had to struggle to keep Calder's sisters from finding out about their relationship and also keep the girls from killing Lily's family.

Mythology: The story had hints of interesting mythology about the merpeople, but I wish there had been more. It seems like Calder and his sisters spend the majority of the book on land, when the whole reason I picked up the book in the first place was that I wanted a story about merpeople. The part I most enjoyed was the struggle at the end, where Calder is fighting under water.

Characters: I didn't particularly love any of the characters more than the others, but I didn't hate anybody either. I did like that the sisters, the "villains" of the story, were not completely evil and that they had reasons for what they were doing.


Writing: The writing itself I thought was good. There were a few spots here and there where I had to read a sentence over again because I didn't quite understand it -- the worst case being toward the end when someone was killed and I'm still not sure I understand exactly how it happened. But overall I had no major problems with the writing.
I also enjoyed the surprise "this is what was really going on" reveal at the end. I hadn't expected it, since the book had seemed mostly relationship fluff between the two main characters up until that point.

Recommend?: I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for a fast, fun read, with merpeople who are not happy creatures dancing with fish like in the Disney version.
I will probably read the planned sequel, "Water Lily," because the reveal at the end of the book piqued my interest. Here's hoping the second book will rely more heavily on interesting plot developments like that one and less on the romantic relationship aspect.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Brain Vacation

I wrote the first draft of my novel for National Novel Writing Month back in November of 2010, and, aside from December 2010 when I took a month off to recuperate, I've pretty much been working on it non-stop since then. The good news is that half of that time has been spent creating my world and the rules in it, as well as crafting a general synopsis for what's going to happen in the three books that follow. So, hopefully, writing the next books will not take me quite as long.

Bad news is, though I'm pretty close to having a finished product, I'm still not there yet. And I've gotten to the point where every time I open up my manuscript, I start off okay, but then run into a bit that needs editing and then realize that I'm going to have to go back in my story and change something else to make things flow right and then once I'm there I see that I forgot to mention that Character A's hair is up in a bun instead of down and then suddenly I'm all, "OMG, I TOTALLY SUCK AT THIS NOVEL-WRITING THING." And then when I think about trying to fix it all, I look like this:


Source: OlanRogers

I've decided that's really not a good look for me. So, I've given myself permission to not write a single novel-related thing this whole week. The thought is terrifying and awesome at the same time. I'll get to do normal person stuff like laundry and dishes and vacuuming. Guys, I might even actually see my floor by the end of the week!

I'm going to get to read the stack of books I've got piled up. I'll probably also read a few of my writing books to refresh me on stuff I probably used to know but forgot in the midst of all the flailing about me being the worst writer ever. I'm going to give my brain a chance to relax and not feel guilty when it's 10 p.m. and I still haven't worked on my novel yet.

Because I think sometimes you need to give yourself permission to chill out. And hopefully, something beautiful will come as a result.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What makes a memorable villain?

After coming back from my third (yes, third. Don't judge me.) viewing of The Avengers movie last week, I realized that while watching the movie, I'd somehow become more interested in the character of villain, Loki, than in all the heroes. I really wanted to know why. I mean, the guy has the most ridiculous hat ever. If I had just seen a photo of the character without seeing the movie, I'd be crying from laughter on account of the hat alone.


Don't mock the hat.

My husband regularly pokes fun at me for loving the bad guys in movies/books/whatever, but I've noticed that it's not just ANY villain. So, I set out to find out what exactly it is that a villain has to have to earn my love, so I can bring some of those characteristics to my villains in my own stories. I decided to use my current obsession, Loki, as an example because he rocks and it gives me an excuse to Google images of him.

Trait 1: The main thing seems to be that I'm drawn to a villain who not only has reasons for what he is doing (ie, not just being evil for the sake of evil), but who I can also totally see being turned into a "good guy" with the right storytelling. In Loki's case, it's obvious his issues stem from jealousy of his adopted brother Thor. While Thor has been a giant war-mongering idiot for the first half of their lives (seriously, I wanted to punch him most of the time in that first movie), Loki has sort of languished away in the background while others adore his brother. Also, finding out your real parents are creepy blue frost people has to be damaging to the psyche. But, despite everything he's done, I still think he has potential to join the good guy team. (... Also, though I know chances are slim to none, if he fell in love with a human girl in the process, I would be obscenely happy. Because I am ridiculous like that.)


This is the face of the man who needs a hug.

Trait 2: Style. If you're going to be evil, you have to look good doing it. This means either being pretty or so awesome that people just suddenly start to think you're pretty regardless. In Loki's case, I remember in the Thor movie thinking he was pretty greasy-looking and not all that impressive compared to his brother. But in the Avengers movie, he suddenly got all this confidence and suddenly he was bizarrely attractive -- regardless of the greasy hair and silly hat.


All dressed up just to go poke somebody's eye out.

Trait 3: Kind of linked to my number one, a villain has to have a likable personality. He can't be killing kittens and maiming old ladies. And, yes, I guess that Loki's army was killing people, but that wasn't necessarily what he wanted (and I thought he even looked a little remorseful when Thor pointed out the destruction to him). Loki wanted his own planet to rule. I almost wanted him to win, and felt bad for him when he gets beaten. It's almost like he's trying TOO hard to be a villain at times, and isn't very good at it. (Am I the only one who -- after laughing hysterically -- made a sad face after Loki's "confrontation" with the Hulk?)


For the love of god, someone please let this man finish a monologue.

So there are my main three traits for what makes me really enjoy a villain. Is there anything I didn't think of? Any particular traits that I didn't mention that make you enjoy a bad guy? Feel free to comment below! (Or just look at pictures of Loki. That's fine, too. Several of these photos are going to be rotating as my computer background for a while....)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Novel progress

Where I am in the writing process: I think I'm closing in on having the novel as polished as I can without outside professional help. I'm trying to finish up so I can start submitting to literary agents, hopefully finding one who sees potential in my work and is willing to work with me to make my novel better before submitting it to publishing companies.

I'm attempting to work extremely hard and have everything done by the end of next week. It's an ambitious goal, but I'm getting up early and staying up late to try to accomplish it.

My current problem(s): Time, energy and brainpower. I seem to be running low on all three. Sometimes I wish I could just have a whole week to myself where I could lock myself in a room and write all day long. But knowing me, I'd probably resort to spending half of that time sleeping and the other half looking at cat pictures on the internet.

The good news: I'm determined to get this thing done. Hopefully in time to participate in this contest to win a free manuscript critique. We'll see.

What now? Pray for my sanity.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mythology Abridged

You may have noticed me playing with the page layout this week. It's been in preparation for me making another attempt at actually posting regularly. Yay!

My plan is to start a little blog post series tentatively titled "Mythology Abridged." I'll be retelling shortened versions of mostly Greek myths to start and then probably move on to Egyptian myths. And of course I'll have my own silly commentary thrown in. I can't NOT be silly, guys.

Because sometimes the myths are very pretty ....

Shiiiiny

but sometimes they're also unintentionally hilarious.


What are you reaching for, dude?

I'm going to be pointing out all the hilariousness. (You're welcome!)

I'm planning to start next week, with stories accompanied by a few photos I've taken, but then I'm hoping I can get my sister on board to illustrate for me. I'm really hoping she can, because she's an excellent artist.

I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Little bit of construction..

Please excuse any weird layout. I'm messing with things, making everything go a little crazy. I promise I'm not color blind, just design-stupid.

Working on it! :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Updates

Oh, Blogger, I leave for a little while and you go and change your whole set-up on me!

Well, anyway, just wanted to leave a brief blurb apologizing for not posting. I've had some health issues lately that have really sapped my energy so badly that all I've been able to do is come home and pass out on the couch after work.

However, I have returned from the doctor and am on the mend. I've only been taking medication since Wednesday evening, and I already feel a million times better than I did. I was just telling the hubs that even though I've gotten through today on only four hours of sleep, I still feel 200% better than I did just last week.

Sooo ... I've got some stuff I need to organize so I can post!

Like the second half of my Parthenon trip, plus a few book reviews and such, and I'm sure I'll have something to say about my trip to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest tomorrow with my friend Shalena from Writer Quirk!

I'm also looking forward to having energy again so that I can finish up my novel-in-progress that I have neglected more and more as my health kept going downhill. But, as I said, I'm doing better now, and am looking forward to getting myself re-organized and back into fierce edit/rewrite mode!

Good things are on the horizon, I know it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Journey to the Parthenon

So, I went on a magical trip to the Parthenon in Nashville last week with my my good friend, Shalena and am just now writing about it because my day job
sucks up all my time/energy like a vampire
keeps me busy. Note to self: look into writing a story about a time vampire. That sounds awesome.

Anyway, we went to this amazing place, as I have only lived in Tennessee since 2001 and have never made the journey, because I am just awesomely oblivious like that. But, seeing as I'm trying to finish up a novel that has a full chapter dedicated to things happening at the real Parthenon, we figured it was pretty important for me to see the replica in person instead of using my Google skills to hunt down photos.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival is that this place is HUGE. Quite a bit bigger than it looks in pictures.



And it's even bigger on the inside. Like a TARDIS.


On the inside, the Athena statue is quite a bit larger than I pictured as well. Though I was pretty pleased to see that I'd estimated the height of the base pretty well. In one scene of my novel I have a character jumping up and banging their fist on the foot of the statue to get the goddess' attention. I was tempted to do the same thing here -- you know, for research purposes. But I figured the people in charge of the museum wouldn't understand. (Oh, and I apologize in advance if my book ever gets published and hordes of people start wanting to reenact that scene. Plan on hiring some security guards now.)



Photo includes bonus random girl for height comparison!


It really does make you feel tiny and understand the awe and respect the ancient Greeks must have felt for their gods/goddesses.



Athena even makes her own special lighting effects for her photos.



Also, I didn't realize it at first, but those little figures on the outside corners of the building are actually gryphons. I think this is awesome and am totally going to have to incorporate gryphons in one of the sequels to my first novel now.



Why, hello there. Yes, I am awesome.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Novel Updates

I have not updated in like a million years (I swear, I'm totally going to get better at this.), so I figured I better get off my lazy butt and write something!

Where I am in the writing process: I've got a full draft of my novel and have gone through almost a full pass with my first round of edits. I had about 4 more chapters to edit, then realized I needed to go back and fix some things in the first few chapters of my novel. If I didn't, then things my characters did in the end would not make as much sense.
So, I'm back at the beginning of my novel, trying to tweak and re-write.


I have been tempted to do this.


My current problem(s): For about a month now I've been in a mood that I've been calling, "OMG, I'M SO SICK OF LOOKING AT THIS NOVEL." I've hated everything I've tried to edit. Just looking at the folder on my computer made me grumble and go play on the internet instead.
Adding to my frustration is that I'm also trying to set down the mythology/important world rules for my book which will become important later. This has resulted in a bit of planning overload.
Also -- perhaps the root of my problem -- I have realized I'm a perfectionist when it comes to writing.

The good news: I think I'm finally starting to come out of this funk (*knock on wood*). I did some editing/rewriting today and have not completely hated it. It still needs work, but at least I don't want to delete everything and go hide under by bed and cry.

What now? I'm working on fixing my first 4 chapters. If I can keep myself out of my writer's block mood, I'm hoping to be done with that in about a week and a half. Then I'll be able to edit/rewrite my last 4 chapters. Not sure how long that will take.
Then I'll be on to reading through the rest of my novel to see if anything else needs tweaking. I'm praying nothing else will need anything more than some polishing up.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reason 243 Why I Love My Husband

Here's a conversation I just had with my husband.

Him: Yeah, my car's running really well now.

Me: Ooh, you said "well" and not "good." Excellent grammar, dear. Very nice. I'm impressed.

Him *singing* She think's my grammar's sexy .... it really turns her on ...

He's also informed me that (while at his job as an assistant manager of a fast food restaurant)he makes his employees say "May I" instead of "Can I," and that he'd actually made it a habit with some of them. When I again indicated I was impressed, he said he was going to "make the world a better place" through fast food.
I love him. lol.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How I Work

Now I know that every writer is different and what works for me may not work for others, but I felt I should share something that's pretty simple that has amped up my novel-editing productiveness quite a bit. (And I suppose it could apply to any big project, not just writing.)

I can't tell you how much time I've wasted on my work-in-progress just sitting there and typing as much as I could in the hour or two of writing time I get each day. I thought just sitting my butt in the chair and typing until I got tired was the best way to work. Problem was, when I went back and read what I'd written the next day, it was weak and often needed two or three more passes before I could get it to the quality level I wanted.

About the middle of last year I started making vague notes on my wall calendar, saying "Work on chapter 10 today" or something along those lines. That worked a little better. That at least got me more focused.

But things have really started to pick up now that I've got my 2012 calendar. It's a desk calendar, but it only shows one week at a time and has plenty of space for notes.


My calendar! (Notes area blurred to protect innocent plot points.)


It's fabulous. I've been able to schedule exactly what scene I'm going to work on each day. And during that day, that's the only scene I touch. So instead of spreading my energy out over as many scenes as I can humanly get to in my allotted writing time period, I make sure I focus my creative energy on one or two scenes so I get it right during my first edit, instead of having to go back over it three or four times to make it my best writing.

I've also started marking the day in green colored pencil when I make my goal for the day, or red when I don't. I'm hoping when I look back it will help me better understand my habits and how to schedule myself to get the most out of my writing time.

Also I love the extra blank space on this calendar. It means I can jot down that background character's name I can never remember (and that I need to know for my current scene) without having to pull out my bazillion pages of notes. I can draw myself diagrams for my fight scenes. Or I can draw sad faces while I'm stuck on a tricky bit of plotting.

In short, it's been a real time saver. I've been planning out my week in advance on Sundays and then adjusting as necessary (like when I get home from a long day at work and I don't have enough brain power to figure out what to eat for dinner, let alone to work on my novel).

If you're struggling with time management and getting the highest quality of work in fewer revisions, I'd definitely suggest trying out a weekly calendar!

Ps.(I got mine at Staples, but the company apparently also has a website here: Orange Circle.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Novel Updates

My blog looked lonely, so I decided I needed to put SOMETHING up here besides a picture of my crazy cat. Fighting with my work in progress has sucked up a lot of my free time and creative energy.

Wannabe Writers is a meme started by Sarah of the blog Confessions of the Un-Published!. I am using her wonderful idea to help track my progress as I wrestle with my novel manuscript.

Where I am in the writing process: I've got a full draft and have been doing major edits to the novel for about a year now. I've got about five more chapters to fix. (During the re-write I added a new character to the story which has caused me to have to re-write everything to accommodate his presence.) After that, I'm going to go back through and make some tweaks. Then I'm going to let some people read it and tell me what sucks about it so those things can be fixed.


Almost there! (Blurred a bit to protect innocent plot points.)


My current problem(s): Fight scenes. Ugh! I'm not good at them, and I'm at one of the biggest ones in my book, so it's slowed me way down while I try to get it right. To keep myself from freaking out, I've divided it into several different pieces and am trying to tackle one at a time. Baby steps!

The good news: I'm only a little less than 5 chapters away from having finished my major revisions! Oh, and there's one particular chapter that I love so much that I want to giggle and clap my hands every time I read back over it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not slacking!

I am not slacking again.

I am totally working on a post.

It will be here ... soon..ish.

.... QUICK, LOOK AT THIS PICTURE OF MY CAT BEING ADORABLE IN A PILE OF MY LAUNDRY! *runs away*


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Last year was a blast overall. I have major edits finished on 12 (almost 13) of my 18-chapter novel and have learned a lot in the process. I feel like everything is coming together nicely and can't wait to see what next year holds!

Here are a few of my hopes for 2012:

- Get back into a regular writing schedule.
- Find the best time of day to write.
- Finish my first novel, "God Haunted."
- Start the sequel.
- Find an agent and actually sell my first novel.
- Get through the books in my "to be read" pile.
- Invent a way to read three books at one time.
- Read more widely out of my favorite genre.
- Keep my apartment clean.
- Get my first house.
- Keep that house clean.
- Get back into drawing.
- Get back into a regular exercise schedule.
- Lose those 10 lbs I put on since Thanksgiving.
- Blog more than once every three months.

Well, I'm off to work on number three on that list. (Oh hey, I guess I just did some work toward the last one on the list, too. It's only Jan. 1 and I'm ROCKING this resolution thing!)

I hope 2012 is a spectacular year for everyone!
 
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