2014 So Far

Since I completed (and won :D) NaNo 2013, some interesting things have happened that I figure deserved a post of some kind.

My God, look at all that red.

My God, look at all that red.

I let myself have December off, and made myself start editing my NaNo novel in January. I’ve edited things before, of course, whether it be for school or on my own; it’s an essential part of the writing process (unfortunately). But never have I edited something like this before. It’s not even the volume that’s the problem, though it is a bit overwhelming, especially knowing I still have more to write. No, the real problem is what exactly is on the page: most of it is incoherent, repetitive, rambling, crap. And thus I have discovered the one downfall of NaNoWriMo – you’re so concerned with reaching your word count everyday that you pay less attention to the actual words. Sure, they say “you’ll worry about it in the editing phase, just get those words on paper!” I’m sure I even said that in my last post. Well, I’m in that editing phase now, and I am in complete and utter hell.

I’m about half-way through what I like to call the “Extreme Rough Draft” phase. Then comes the “Fill in Missing Plot Holes” phase, followed by “Delete Entire Sections of Horrible Dialogue,” “Remove Flashbacks Because They’re Stupid,” and probably ending with “Jump Off a Cliff Before I Read Another Word of this Shitty Story.” So if you’re editing your novel like I am at the moment, then I wish you luck, and pray you had the sense to keep your novel all in one tense back in November (unlike myself).

On a more positive note, I’m excited to share that I’ve won (and almost won), some literary competitions over at Writerstype.com. I took first place for my flash fiction piece “True Love,” first mentioned here, for December 2013. Not only that, but I received first-runner up in the annual competition. I may not have won, but second place out of twenty-four is pretty good, nonetheless.

So close, and yet....so far....

One place away from $225 to Amazon..my heart hurts. 

As far as reading goes, the most notable thing I’ve read so far this year is the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, which I have mixed feelings about. The first book is a pretty good read: the world building is excellent, as is seeing the main character, Tris, grow from being a meek, “selfless” mouse to an independent, strong, risk-taker. Plus, the love interest sounds super hot, (that’s always a plus). Sadly, that’s pretty much the end of the positives. But nevertheless, I finished it quickly and was anxious to pick up the next one.

The second book in the series, Insurgent, was hard to get through, and in my opinion, a little superfluous. Sure, some important things happened in terms of plot, but I was at the point of not caring. In my opinion, the plot was not exciting, overly dramatic, and I really just wanted to get it over with. As far as characterization goes, it was pretty stagnant. Also, I’m tired of every hero/protagonist subscribing to some noble idea that sacrificing themselves is their duty. All it does is make them sound pretentious and annoying, which is sadly what Tris ultimately became.

The third installment, Allegiant, other than having a rather stupid title, is a little controversial, the ending in particular. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but I happened to like it. I will say it was at least different from other books I’ve read, and that uniqueness is hard to come by. Whether it made the book better, I don’t know, but it at least did something original for the genre.

Divergent-series-by-Veronica-Roth

She certainly makes a lot of choices. 

Would I recommend this series? Honestly, I’m on the fence. I would say if you’re a fan of young adult fiction, then you should at least read the first one to test the waters. Just don’t think it’s going to be another Hunger Games.

Just read it. Plus, Christian Bale is in the movie. Enough said.

Just read it. Plus, Christian Bale is in the movie. Enough said.

Actually, on that note, if you’re into YA Fiction, (something I never thought I’d enjoy reading, let alone write about, guess now I’m being pretentious), then forget all these books, Hunger Games included, and read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s much better than all of those previously mentioned, has interesting and dynamic characters, absolutely fantastic and smart dialogue, not to mention a setting and plot that is more evocative than the world of Harry Potter. The movie, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is just as good as the book, which is rare to do. In fact, I can’t think of any examples of where the movie is as good as it’s companion novel. This is it.

So for the rest of 2014, I’ll attempt to finish editing that damn novel, (hopefully before November omg),  try to write something to get ahead of the guy who beat me for first place, (he won last year, too, damnit), and read a book that doesn’t make me angry. Here’s hoping.

Another Year, Another NaNo

nanopic

It’s November again, and that means putting life on hold in order to attempt to pen a 50,000 word novel. For me, last year was a lesson in humility. I thought I could wing it,  thought I’d have no problem being inspired, that the words would just pour out of their own volition. All I needed was a rough idea, a setting, bits of a plot, and the rest would come over the course of the month. I was so disgustingly wrong. It was one of the hardest things I have probably ever done. I was only able to hit around 16,000 words, and I was incredibly disappointed. Sure, that’s a lot of words in itself, but it’s not even halfway to the goal. Needless to say I really beat myself up, I hated everything I had written, and I questioned my own creativity and talent (and life). So to punish myself for my failure, I did what any normal person would: try and do it again!

Suck it, 2012.

Suck it, 2012.

So here I am, day 11, and I’m pretty much right on track to the goal. The exciting part? I’ve already passed last years word count. Do I like everything I’ve written? No. Will I use it all in the final product? Probably not. But at least I have something to work with, and that’s the point of NaNo. It’s all about just getting words down, get them out of your head so you can work with them later.

Since I’m having some more success this time around (hope I’m not jinxing it), I wanted to share some tips I’ve picked up during this experience. These are things I learned exclusively from NaNo, not from college (that’s a whole other post). First, I couldn’t be more of an advocate for Scrivener. It is beyond useful when writing something of this volume. Word just doesn’t cut it. If you haven’t tried it yet, you need to. There’s no reason not to, as they provide a free trial. You can even buy it after NaNo for a discounted price (more discounted if you win). So stop reading this and go install it (seriously).  http://www.literatureandlatte.com/nanowrimo.php

 

1. Write out of order

This is perhaps the best advice I can give. People think you have to write from beginning, middle, to end, but that couldn’t be more untrue. Limiting yourself for where you’re going to start is the number one way to get stuck. Maybe it’s due to my schooling, but I think of my stories in terms of scenes. I visualize something, and then I can describe it.  Do you think these scenes come to me in order? Hell no. They appear out of nowhere, and then I have to jerry-rig some kind of writing utensil to get them down before I forget, (tip 1.1: always carry a notebook). This is where Scirvener comes in handy. You can create entirely new documents for your various scenes, and then move them around later.

outoforder

Each scene as it’s own note card. Makes it easy to play with the order, or to delete them all in a fit of rage…

 

2. Pre-write as much as possible

prewriting

Yep, I pre-wrote something called “sexy time,” and I am not ashamed.

This is a touchy subject. Some people think you should just let it come to you, that when you sit down to write, your imagination and creativity will flow out through your fingers. Others will tell you that proper planning will go a long way. Because of my experience last year, I am definitely part of the latter group. Outline, take notes, come up with questions, research, do as much as possible. That way if you get stuck at any point, you can go back to your pre-writing and get inspiration from that. Is there a scene you haven’t written yet that was on your list? Is there a character you forgot about? This could add up to a whole day’s worth of writing, and all from a sentence you wrote down weeks ago.

 

3. Find inspiration

This goes along with pre-writing, but find visible inspiration if you can. I find this particularly useful when describing settings, or even characters. Having a physical example to use is a great place to start with description, and then you can let your imagination go from there. This is another way that Scrivener is invaluable. You can create whole documents of just your research, and not just words, but pictures as well. Then you can have 2 documents open, the picture and then the document you’re writing.

2windows

Try to avoid plagiarism: make it just different enough so you can’t get sued.

 

4. Use placeholders

Sometimes I’m writing and I come to a halt because of I can’t think of a name for something. Don’t let this kind of thing stop you; put in a placeholder. You can use symbols, like # or * to denote where you need to go back to later (to research more, come up with a plot element, whatever), or use capitals for placeholder names so they stand out. For example, I haven’t come up with my main character’s names yet, (annoying, I know). So far I’m writing about the adventures of GIRLNAME and GUYNAME. If I hadn’t done this, I would have stopped in the middle of my first paragraph and taken valuable time to research a name, time I needed to get my word count. Names are important, but you can come up with them later, (same with titles).

How romantic.

How romantic.

 

5. Avoid distractions

This is probably the most obvious, and hardest, goal to achieve, especially if you’re like me and have a one-bedroom apartment with a roommate. I have to have silence when I write, so having someone across from me screaming into their headset is not conducive to writing 1,667 words a day. If you write with music, just put your headphones on and go, (and know that I’m totally jealous of you). Try to write at times you know you’ll be alone. Get chores and errands done first so you can have time to write the rest of the day, with nothing else on your mind. Keep two browsers open: One for tabs pertaining to writing (things like the NaNo site, thesaurus.com, wikipedia, etc), and have one browser for everything distraction related. Only let yourself open that browser when you’ve reached a word goal. Also, try not to write blog posts when you should be writing, (oops).

Funny, amazing, awesome even, but it's helping with the word count.

Funny, amazing, awesome even, but it’s not helping with the word count.

 

But the best advice? Just do it. Even if you write 500 words, that’s 500 more than you started with. I didn’t win last year, but I did write 16,000 words, and that’s 16,000 more than I would have had if I hadn’t tried at all. Even 11 days in, it’s not too late to sign up. And hey, there’s always next year.  http://nanowrimo.org

Book Review: Sirantha Jax series

grim

Thus begins the cover inconsistencies.

I’ve already reviewed Grimspace, the first book of 6 in the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre, but now I’ve read them all and can give my overall review. In a word: amazing. This is mostly due to the romance, which is seriously beautiful. But these books are not perfect. The romance, however, completely makes up for it.

I’ll quickly recap my review of Grimspace in one sentence: Excellent world building, but I was off-put by word choices and hasty characterization. But even with that in mind, I had to finish the series. And I did. In a week. Some of these books I literally read in a day. A little embarrassing, but definitely a testament to how much I liked them.

So, I guess getting your hair hacked off instantly turns you butch?

So, I guess getting your hair hacked off instantly turns you butch?

Book 2 is called Wanderlust. This book is all about the journey, as the entire narrative is her trying to get to a destination she never reaches. In the romance novel world, there are two stories: when the characters fall in love, and when the characters are already in love. Not surprisingly, the “falling in love” story is almost always a more interesting read. There’s movement in the story, and there’s always a lot of tension. The story where the characters are in love is a lot more challenging to write. How do you prevent things from getting boring and repetitive? Since Grimspace was the “falling in love” book for this series, that leaves 5 books where Jax and March are in love. That’s a lot of ground to cover. One way to keep the tension up is to separate the characters, and that’s what Aguirre does in Wanderlust (and in the other books to follow). Being book 2, this is the first time Jax and March are separated (he does it out of duty, how cute), so it’s pretty heartbreaking when they do split up (but you eventually get used to it, and even come to expect it).

new-doubleblind

Hair certainly grows back fast in the future.

Book 3 is Doubleblind, and it’s quite a departure from the preceding two books. No more traveling, no more jumping, Jax is pretty much stranded on one planet. How does the romance stay fresh in this book? Well, March has become so ravaged by the war from the last book that he has completely lost himself. He’s become a numb, killing machine. He can faintly remember what he felt for Jax, but doesn’t feel it anymore. How convenient! Now we’re essentially reverted back to a “falling in love” story, where things are always interesting. I would say this is the peak of the series. Jax has to pretty much fix March, and then teach him to love her again. I also thought the the plot was the best out of any of the books.

killbox

Anyone else noticing every cover has a different girl on it…

Book 4 is called Killbox, and things sadly go down hill from here in terms of plot. The narrative is centered around a war with an alien race bent on killing (and eating) all of humanity, but it seems too sudden too take is seriously. Jax always seemed like a baddass out of necessity, but never did she seem like such a competent fighter that she’s militia material. And it’s not just her. Pretty much everyone in the militia goes from pussy farm people to hardened commandos in 2 months of training. But all of that is forgiven because of the romance. Now March is pretty much back to normal, so how can we keep the “already in love” story interesting? He is now Jax’s commanding officer, so to keep up morale with the men, they have to distance themselves from each other. Now, in real life, I can see not fraternizing in front of the troops a feasible choice, but in private I’m sure things would be much different. But in the book? They have forbidden each other from any special contact until the war is over. That certainly raises the tension (and my annoyance level, but in a good way).

aftermath

At least she gets a knife this time, though I’m pretty sure she never uses one.

Aftermath is book 5. Jax and March are separated a lot in this book. It begins after Jax makes a really stupid decision that she thinks will be lethal (but isn’t), that she doesn’t tell March about (he’s mad), and that she ends up in prison for (she get’s out). This decision also ends the war that was so hastily thrown together (how convenient!). March doesn’t wait for her to get out of jail, he instead goes off on a mission to find his missing nephew. Jax is hurt by this, but of course doesn’t tell him that for a long time (tension!). Because he’s off doing his own thing, Jax is left to develop her relationship with her alien friend Vel. Things start to get annoying here. They get way too close for comfort. Nothing sexual, but they are defiantly forming an emotional attachment. I guess the biggest plot point that happens in this book (and the stupidest) is that Jax and Vel accidentally step through a portal and are stuck in another world (or dimension? we literally never find out) for a few months on their end, but 5 years in the real world. It ends up being the home world (home-dimension? wtf) of the Maker’s, the people who created the jumping (ability to travel in space) system. Their 2 month sojourn in the jungle brings Jax and Vel closer together, and she learns to rely on him and trust him implicitly to protect her. Gag.  Also, they somehow gather intel while on the Maker’s home world that ends up curing an entire race of people (how CONVENIENT ! I seem to be saying that a lot). Anyway, when Jax finally makes it back to March, it’s been 5 years, and he has been faithful to her the entire time. Even knowing that, she just can’t put up with his nephew, not to mention living dirt-side, so in the end she leaves him to travel amongst the stars, and they agree to meet again in the future. This is the only time I cried in the series (I admit it). Their life together has been so heart-wrenching, you really just want them to catch a break and freaking BE TOGETHER FOR ONCE.

endgame

C’mon, they’re not even trying to make them look similar at this point.

Finally, the series ends with Endgame (how apropos). The plot of this entire book is pretty much the dumbest thing ever. I just needed to find out what happened to Jax and March; that was the only thing that kept me reading. Jax is in another war, this time for the people who she cured with the random Maker-info. March and his nephew Sasha conveniently(:P) get stuck on the planet she’s on, so luckily they aren’t separated for long. The war is long and drawn-out, filled with people dying who you don’t care about. The important part happens maybe half way through. Jax goes on a mission with Vel, and she has to completely change her appearance, which she does through a medical procedure. She isn’t just dying her hair and putting contacts in. She’s getting plastic surgery to completely change her face and even her hair. I almost stopped reading at this point (but obviously didn’t). This is something she did for Vel. She didn’t HAVE to go on this mission. He asked her to, and there was no way she could leave his side (but she could leave March’s just fine. Bitch). When she does see March for the first time after her procedure, he of course is the bigger person and still loves her because inside she’s the same person (adorable). The tension in this book mostly revolves around March thinking he’s losing the woman he loves to another man (I mean alien). In the end, he learns to live with it, and the three of them fly away into the space sunset. After all this build-up, tension, blood, sweat, and tears, this was not the ending I was expecting or wanted. What was satisfying in this book is the fact the Jax and March hashed out all their problems. It was good to see them finally say what they’ve been thinking to each other (which is kind of ironic since they can mind-talk).

Overall, it was the romance that drove this series, not the plot. As I said before, the world building is great. I totally wish I could live there, what with the space ships that seem so common you can randomly win them in card games, the replicator-thing that’s pretty much stolen from Star Trek, the implant that let’s you speak/understand any language, not to mention the wardrobe that let’s you create any piece of clothing ever. It’s the stuff that happens in it that is lacking. But I would still recommend this book to anyone who loves a heart-wrenching romantic story, as it is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

True Love: Flash Fiction

This story was inspired by the prompt: “You’re a serial killer. What’s on your DVR?” I hope it’s sufficiently creepy.

 

True Love

It’s dark in the small room. The walls are bare, just boards of flat wood painted a deep, dark hue. One lamp stands in the center, next to the make-shift couch comprised of two recliners. There’s a kitchen along one wall and a Murphy bed along the other. I don’t need much.

I wipe my hand across my mouth, chip particles floating downward to rest upon the plaid fabric of the arm chair. Some float farther still, nestling in-between the fringe of the brown carpet. My other hand grips the remote, the knuckles tense and white as my fingers play over the buttons.

“What do you think, Bev? You wanna watch Animal Planet?”

Bev doesn’t respond. Her eyes are glued to the screen.

“Fine, I know you never liked that shit anyway. Too boring, right?” I sigh and press more buttons, my eyes squinting in concentration. Bev always was picky. “Oh, this is perfect. I got Fight Club recorded. You’ll love it. Just give it a chance.” I glance at Bev. Her lips are set in a firm line. I place my hand over hers as she sits in the chair next to mine, and her lips seem to soften in response. She loves doing what I want.

The glow from the television spreads a light over her, turning her mousy brown hair into something glorious, almost projecting a halo. It shines into her eyes, turning their ordinary brown color into a golden, coppery shade that twinkles as the scenes change.

This is where she’s meant to be, with me. It was hard to catch her; a girl like Bev has men after her like fly’s on shit. But I knew she’d end up with me in the end. It just took her some time to realize it.

“You smell, Bev. You gotta take better care of yourself.” She doesn’t answer. She probably doesn’t like me pointing out the obvious. Bev is a woman who takes stock in her appearance. I’ve never met a woman with more lipstick and powders in her purse, but I guess it’s worth it. She’s beautiful, and she knows it. But I can tell her make-up is smudged, and her clothes are definitely disheveled, not the pristine and pressed that she likes. Maybe she’s just gotten comfortable with me? She’s letting me see her as she truly is. I smile at the thought, and my heart swells.

The movie ends, and I need a drink. Rubbing her hand in parting, I get up from my chair, stretching my back. I don’t like sitting for too long, it messes with my back. I realize I miss exercising, but I don’t want to leave Bev here alone. I can go on a run later.

I duck in the fridge and pull out a silver can. I didn’t pay attention to the label when I bought it, but it’s cold, and that’s all that matters. I savor the sound of the top opening, the hiss of the crisp carbonation. I take a swig. The liquid is cold as it dribbles down my chin onto the tile floor. I’d clean it up, but I don’t want to be away from Bev for too long. She needs the company.

I sit down on my recliner, letting all my weight come down hard. It jostles Bev’s seat a bit, and a lock of hair falls into her eyes. I don’t hesitate to brush it away, letting my palm brush against her cool cheek, just for a second.

“You thirsty, Bev? Nah, you never did like the stuff anyway.” I take another swig and she doesn’t seem to mind. I know she was a crazy party-girl in college. She wants to put those days behind her, I better not tempt her.

My hand snatches up the remote from where I left it on the armrest. I put on Seinfeld, certain the Bev will think it’s funny. Once the opening credits end, I laugh along with the laugh track, and glance over at Bev. She’s not laughing.

“Aw, c’mon, Bev! That was hilarious. Weren’t you watching?” Her eyes tell me she wasn’t. They’re glazed over, like her thoughts have taken her somewhere else.  She wasn’t even paying attention. I feel heat rise in my chest. Who does she think she is? Does she think she’s too good for this shit? I reach across and slap her across the face, the sound echoing against the empty walls.

Her head is turned a little toward me, and her eyes bore into mine. They glisten with hurt and regret. I can tell she’s sorry.

“Bev…aw, you know I didn’t mean it.” I rub the spot where my palm hit seconds before. I shouldn’t have gotten mad. Bev is too precious to waste time with. “How about we just watch something else, okay? Something you like, huh?” I smile, and her eyes shine in response. I place my hand back over hers and reclaim the remote.

Hours later, we’ve watched about as many Lifetime movies as I can stand. But I’d do anything for Bev. I glance at the glowing red number next to the TV. It’s late.

“Bev, it’s time for bed. I don’t know about you, but I’m beat.” Her head has lolled to the side even more, telling me it’s time.

“We just need to do one more thing, Bev. Then it’ll be time to sleep.” I walk across the room to the counter next to the fridge. Man, I really need to clean my knives after I use them. The blood has caked on the edges, and it really is a bitch to get off once it’s dried. I don’t worry about it now. There will be time after Bev.

I gather them up and head back to the TV. I just stand in front of the glow, peering down at her. I always get a little sad at this part; saying good-bye isn’t easy. But I can tell it’s time just by looking at her, not to mention the smell.

When I’m done, I gather up the bags that are now Bev and walk over to the fridge. When I open the freezer door, I’m a little annoyed to see how little room there is. I grunt in exasperation as I put her on the floor. I shift Carry and Emma to the right, but I have a hard time getting Sarah to fit on the left. “So fucking fat,” I murmur. Eventually I make room down the center, and Bev fits perfectly. I would expect nothing less from her. My hand rests on her for a few seconds more, savoring the feel of her one last time. It’s so hard to say good-bye to someone you love. But I remind myself as I have before, it’s not really good-bye. She’ll always be there for me when I need her, and true love lasts forever.

With that thought whispering in my head, I close the freezer door. My place is a mess, and I don’t want to make a bad first impression for the next one.

Book Reviews: My New Calling

I’ve been doing a lot more reading than writing lately, so I figured why not combine those two activities and write book reviews, (which I do anyway, yeah, I’m that person). So here are a couple I’ve done in the past on my Goodreads account, and from now on will hopefully post as they come about.

Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

flameReview Written: September 26, 2012

Standard Marillier, which means I loved it, because anything of hers is amazing. Anything set in the Sevenwater’s world is always a great read. But, as with the other books not of the original trilogy, it’s only okay compared to them. It’s almost like they’re younger siblings are always in their older siblings’ shadows. But still pick it up if you’re a fan.

What I both loved and hated about the book was the romance; it was unconventional. I loved that it was such a departure from the others. It kept things fresh, and helped the book avoid feeling like a formula. But I hated it because I didn’t get that same senses of romance as I was reading, which is such a great hallmark of Marillier’s writing.

Master of Crows by Grace Draven (AKA the worst book I’ve ever read)

masterReview Written: October 22, 2012

I can pretty much judge how much I like a book by how long it take me to read it. New HP? An afternoon. Master of Crows? 20 days! Unheard of!

Perhaps the biggest reason I didn’t like the book was the fact that I wasn’t drawn to either characters. How many times do we have to hear that Martise is plain? We get it. Is her appearance so important that it has to be constantly referenced? This put me off because the hallmark of a romance novel, fantasy or otherwise, is that the 2 characters find each other attractive BECAUSE they are in love, no matter what they look like. Even after Silhara is in love with her, the word “plain” kept cropping up, and it rubbed me the wrong way.

Beside the matter of her appearance, there wasn’t much else about Martise that I found to be positive. Okay, she’s good at translating, and she’s pretty smart. Is that it? I don’t feel like she developed at all during the book. Sure, she fell in love, but that’s it? What changed about her because of this? How did she grow?

I’m usually a fan of the tortured-past character archetype, but Silhara was not gripping in the slightest. We never learn why he does anything, only what. He eats oranges every morning, he tends to the grove, he has a servant and a dog, he broods about his mother…again, there is no development.

Then there’s the obvious: editing, repeating words, inappropriate word choice, etc, which were all just distracting. The plot I found to be totally cliche, tired, and predictable.

I guess I can say the one positive thing would be the theme of Martise’s voice. He didn’t find her appearance appealing, but there was one thing that initially drew her to him. There had to be a reason that he looked at her as more than a servant, and I thought her voice was an interesting and unique vehicle to do that.

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

sucReview Written December 3, 2012

I didn’t expect to like this book, as urban fantasy isn’t usually my thing. I got the Kindle sample, and bought the book immediately after reading it. And then I finished the book in 1 day. I then proceeded to buy the 2nd book, and finished that one in 1 day. So needless to say, I liked the book. :)

I enjoyed how Georgina isn’t your typical succubus. She’s not evil, she’s not mean. She doesn’t really enjoy doing what she has to do. She does it to survive. She avoids nice guys so she only hurts the bad ones. This made for an engaging read.

I did think the plot was a little predictable. I figured out what Roman was pretty early on, and Helena as well (figured out the major twist in the 2nd novel as well). But I still liked it. I’m not a big fan of the writing style either. It’s very casual, not very literary, had a lot of real-life references that bugged me. But even that didn’t make me hate the book. The character development drew me in and didn’t let go until I was finished.

I immediately was hooked by Seth’s character. Maybe that’s my author-fan-girl side coming out, but I just automatically loved him. I remember getting mad at Georgina for not understanding him at first, because he was perfectly clear to me. He was quite a departure from the usual hero-guy in romance novels, and I loved that.

Georgina was also really interesting and complex. I loved how we got her back-story in bits and pieces, so we slowly could understand why she is a different type of succubus. I wish that we even got a little more. There were only a few instances of her past in the 2nd book, so I’m hopeful the rest will fill it out.

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

songReview Written: April 15, 2013

This book thoroughly enthralled me. A lot of reviews I’ve read point out that they don’t like all the tech-lingo, but I think it’s great. It really solidifies the idea that this is a different world (or future). I liked trying to figure out what everything meant, and eventually it all became fluid.

Because I liked the world so much, I didn’t mind the lack of smuttiness! I thought the romance was perfect as it was. Sometimes I feel authors just throw sex into a story when they can’t think what else to do. Creasy had plenty to do with her story and her characters, and I felt every romantic encounter fit in perfectly and made sense.

Also, I liked it to so much I immediately read the sequel, and I thought it was just as good. Overall, these two books satisfied my sci-fi addiction as well as my romance novel one. It is rare to find a book that can intertwine these two genres and make it believable, without being cheesy.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

grimReview Written: April 19, 2013

I’ve been craving a new Science Fiction/Romance to read, and I’d read a lot of reviews about Grimspace, so I definitely had high expectations. What I discovered was an enjoyable read, but not at the level I had anticipated.

One thing that I didn’t like was the vocabulary. It’s written in a conversational and casual tone, which is fine, but then randomly there will be these large words that are too intellectual for the main character’s manner of speaking. It’s a fun and easy read, but having words that are out of place really pulls you out of the narrative. Of course there are words in every book I have to look up; that’s one part I love about reading. But since the book is written in first person, the vocab should match up with the narrator, and at times it just doesn’t.

One of my favorite aspects of any science fiction story is the world, and this book had a great one. It was easy to become immersed into the universe that Aguirre created. I always know it’s a good one if I wish I could experience it for myself.

I thought Jax herself was fine. She didn’t wow me, but I did find her entertaining. I’m always up for a brooding, mysterious love interest, so March was good in my book. I mostly liked Dina as well, except for one part at the end. I didn’t like when Dina said to Jax, “You’re my best friend.” It seemed a little contrived and forced. I do like how they started out hating each other and grew into friends, but I think Dina saying they’re BFF’s now is moving a little fast.

Overall, I liked the world enough, if not the characters, that I’ll read the rest of the series.

NaNo Epic Fail

So I opened my NaNoWriMo novel for the first time since November today. I’ve been avoiding it since I lost. I managed to get to 16,000, which is amazing for me, but is quite short of the 50,000 goal. I think my downfall was two-fold. 1. No planning whatsoever. and 2. My story’s scope was too broad. I chose to do science fiction, and creating a story while simultaneously building an entire world from nothing is pretty damn challenging. Anyway, I wanted to post the good that came out of that experience. And no. I won’t be posting the love scene I wrote. I still can’t believe I did, and it freaks me out. Though it is kind of good, naturally.

The following is just excerpts, nothing is back to back, but is kind of in “story order,” (kind of).

 

Start

It was never quiet. Not even early in the morning, when most of the encampment slept. There was always a bird chirping, soft footsteps running in the dirt, heavy, level breathing. But these were the normal noises of life, the noises you can easily ignore, and that can even help you fall softly into sleep. What jarred my eyes open every single night were different noises. They were far away, but that didn’t make them any less important. They were the sounds of bombings, gunfire, screaming. They were the sounds that reminded you that you weren’t in your own bed anymore, the sounds that reminded you of the dead. They were the sounds of a war.

I opened my eyes and gasped, the echo of the explosion still ringing in my ears. I put my hand to my heart, reminding myself of where I was. The sky was a swirl of colors. Reds, grays, and oranges mingled with the white light of stars and the blackness of the space behind. It had been like that since the Beginning. It had become a familiar, almost comforting sight, and it had become a ritual for me to trace the trails of the clouds with my eyes. I’d follow the stark redness into the nothingness of black, and then back into orange and gray. It always helped to restore my heartbeat to a normal rhythm, my breathing into evenness. But then I’d remember why the clouds were there, and I’d shut my eyes and rise out of bed.

This morning was the same as any other. I always arose before first light, so I had become accustomed to moving about in the dark. Careful not to step on those lucky enough to still be asleep, I made my way to the stream we had begun to use for washing and drinking. We weren’t always so lucky as to have an ever-flowing water source so close to the camp. I took my time this morning, floating slowly as I watched the sun leisurely pave a path through the crimson clouds. After scrubbing my head raw, I laid on the dirty shore and waited to feel heat on my skin. I must have dozed off, because when I awoke the sun was completely risen and I had to squint my eyes. I brushed sand off myself as stood up, and walked toward the voices of the encampment.

Of course, it hadn’t always been like this; sleeping without a roof, moving constantly, listening to death, it was no way to live. But it had become normal, ever since the Beginning. I remember a time when I had my own bed, one that I called mine every night. It seems a simple thing, but it becomes complicated once you don’t have one. Every morning I awoke to the aroma’s from the kitchen wafting around me, filling my entire room. Mother loved to cook breakfast for us. Somehow she always managed to wake up early and have it done before we even stopped dreaming.

But that was before. I can’t even remember what bacon tastes like now. I sat at one of our many campfires, eating what we always ate, liquidy, colorless grain in a bowl. The taste was almost nauseating, but luckily it was filling. We had come to calling it poison, affectionately. Some of the younger boys had made a joke of it at some point, and the name had stuck. It was fitting.

As I slurped my poison, I listened to the chatter around me. Old Henry was going on about how he didn’t know how he’d ever get sand out of his shoes, how his favorite hat had ripped and now his eyes hurt from the sun…the usual. I could hear Priscilla assigning duties to her officers, which would have been more impressive if their duties ever changed. Patrol the border, watch for enemies, collect any plant life. The first true were the only real true orders. There hadn’t been plant life on the plains since the Beginning. But it was an order that was always issued. I knew better. Nothing could survive out here, nothing but us.

“You’ve barely eaten any.” I looked to my left to find Tana perched next to me. She had her usual smile spread on her face. Her arms were wrapped around her legs and she rested her head on her knees. Her eyes were fixed on my bowl. She was about eight years old, we couldn’t be certain of ages anymore, and the only one in the camp who could never get enough poison.

“You can have the rest if you want.” I moved to give her the bowl.

“No. You need to eat it. It’s you ration.” With effort she pulled her eyes away from the grayish lumps that she loved so much.

“I won’t tell if you won’t.”

She looked over both her tiny shoulders, and then snatched the bowl from my grasp. I smiled as bits of the stuff flew in all directions as she shoved the poison into her mouth. The spoon lay forgotten in the dirt.

I always liked being with Tana. Somehow, she wasn’t as jaded over our circumstances as the rest of us. Sure, she had her demons like all of us. She had lost both her parents years ago and for some reason had latched onto me. There were years of her life unaccounted for, before she joined the camp. She never spoke of them, and I never asked. I knew what it was like to hold onto your past. Maybe if you never spoke the words, then it never really happened. Even so, she took all the horrors in stride, never showing anything but the brightness of youth. She was my reminder that maybe there would be a future after all.

When she was finished and the empty bowl, licked clean of course, rested between us, we sat in comfortable silence, watching the flames of the fire. It would be so easy to just sit here and forget. Forget I had duties to perform, forget what the sounds in the distance were, forget I had scarcely slept or eaten in days, forget that people, like Tana’s parents, were dead and gone. I blinked into focus, and remembered.

“We better get going.”

“Aw, man. I guess so.” Tana stretched up her arms, let out an ear-shattering yawn, and hopped up. “Let’s go then!”

I was always amazed at her enthusiasm. Most kids would find doing the same things every day boring and repetitive. Tana looked each day as a new adventure. I was grateful. I’m sure the tediousness would have driven me crazy by now if not for her.

Our first and last job for the day, as it was with everyone, was to look for any possible evidence of vegetation. Unfortunately, most people only gave half-effort in this endeavor. I didn’t blame them. How many days had it been with nothing? The human mind can only take so much disappointment. I’m sure I would have fallen into that category if Tana wasn’t around. This was her favorite part of the day. She loved to over-turn rocks, dig holes in the ground, follow bugs to their hovels, and I was with her through it all. We never would find anything green, but Tana was enjoying herself, and that’s all that mattered to me.

After an unsuccessful morning search, Tana reluctantly left the valley to com down to the stream with me to perform our next task: gathering water for drinking. The running water was clean enough for washing, but it required more preparation if it was to be consumed. Over the years, the natural water supply of our world had become slightly polluted. Debris from explosions, unclean conditions, we aren’t sure what exactly did it. Not only that, something had changed our natural biology. Our bodies had begun to reject water, clean or not. This was another unknown. How could something so basic to our survival be compromised? But it had been since the Beginning. Luckily, the cleaner and purer the water, the better chance we had at keeping it down. That’s why it was so important for us to collect as much as possible. Only a portion would survive the purification process.

I didn’t like to think about the meaning behind our actions, and I certainly wanted to spare that of Tana as well, so I always tried to make a game out of it. We’d race to the stream, see who could fill their bucket the fastest, who could make the smallest splashes, those kinds of things. Anything to distract her from the true purpose.

 

Around the Camp

The fire crackled in the darkness. Orange and yellow sparks flew up and made shapes and patterns as they fell back onto the singed wood. My eyes grew hazy as I watched them. Members of the camp always gathered here when it grew dark, to share a bowl of poison along with their stories of the day’s adventures. Tana sat next to me as usual, slurping her food as she listened to the others with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

I found it hard to participate this particular evening as I couldn’t get the image of Priscilla and the guard walking toward the command tent, the officer clutching whatever it was that he had found. Whatever that item was, Priscilla had failed to mention it in the nightly debriefing of the day. What could be such a secret that she would pretend it never happened? Not only that, but I hadn’t seen the officer the rest of the day. This wasn’t so unusual; their job was to be unseen, after all. But even now, when most gathered, he was not with the other guards. He’s just on patrol. Not every guard is able to come to the fire at night. It’s only that. But I had a feeling deep in my stomach that wasn’t true. I don’t know how, but I just knew that something had happened to him, and it was because of the object.

“Erin! Hello? Anyone there?” Someone was snapping their fingers in front of my face. I shook my head to rid myself of the image of the guard with a sword thrust through his chest. Nonsense, I was sure. I looked up to see the offending hand belonging to Edwin. He smiled when my eyes finally came into focus. “There you are.”

“Sorry.” I tucked my hair behind my ear. “How long have you been doing that?”

“Oh, not long. Just about twenty minutes is all.” He smiled, pleased with his attempt at sarcasm.

I exhaled a breath that had been caught in my lungs and rolled my shoulders. “I have a lot of my mind.”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

Should I tell him? Edwin would love this sort of mystery. Anything to break the monotony of our now present existence, as he liked to put it. He had a weakness for solving riddles, and most nights, when we sat around the fire, he would push me to come up with more and more difficult puzzles. I didn’t mind. It was healthy to exercise the mind with more than just physically-focused endeavors.

“No. It’s nothing.” I smiled. “Ready for one?” His hand rubbed his chin as I recounted a riddle I had come up with during the day. He didn’t need to know. It was probably nothing anyway. The officer had probably found an interesting insect specimen or a strange rock formation, and thought his commanding officer should know about it. That’s all. It was nothing. I was a fool to think our life here could change in the slightest. This was our world now, and nothing was going to change that.

We stayed up late that night. Edwin took longer than usual to solve the puzzles, either that or I was getting better at making them. I never liked retiring to bed; I didn’t like to be alone. The tents were separated by gender and by age, so neither Edwin nor Tana were my bedmates. I did have friends among those I slept next to, but nowhere close to those two. I had formed a bond with both of them, and it didn’t leave much room for anyone else. In times like this, we had to stick together, we had to look out for each other, and at night that wasn’t possible. I felt so vulnerable sleeping, even though it made no sense. We were heavily guarded at all times; Priscilla made sure of that. And I knew that my bunk-mates would never harm me. But I still was always on high alert.

 

Meet-Cute

“Erin? Erin! Wake up, wake up!”

The words sounded hazy, like they were very far away. I blinked. I saw the outline of Tana, but whenever I tried to focus on her face it would fade away, until I blinked again. I could just make out the wrinkles above her nose deepened as she mouthed my name. And then a black shape was behind her. It seemed to grow as it came closer, and a pair of blue eyes flashed brightly as I dropped out of consciousness.

-COULD HAVE DREAM SEQUENCE HERE-

“Why won’t she wake up?”

“Be calm. It will take time for her to awaken. You must be patient.”

“But what if she never does? She’s been sleeping for hours.”

“She will be fine. You have my word. See? Her eyes react even now.”

Something was stabbing the back of my head. I reached my hand up to feel whatever it was, but all I felt was something smooth; a bandage. This quickened my heart beat, and my eyes shot open to discover the owners of the voices I had heard float in and out of my dreams.

Tana was there, and she looked alright, thankfully. When her eyes met mine, she smiled enough to show crooked teeth. Whatever had happened, I was glad that she didn’t sport a matching bandage. But it was her companion that most intrigued me even more. He had dark hair, almost black, and it hung below his pointed chin. He wore a scowl so perfectly I imagined he did it often. He wore all black, and had a long sword hung across his back. The hilt was beautiful, a textured grip covered with different shades of gemstones, mostly reds and oranges mixed with black. His eyes I recognized. They were the beacons I had seen in my dreams, such a brilliant blue it was almost blinding.

“What happened? Tana? Where are we?” I sat up and couldn’t breathe. I inhaled sharply and coughed, clutching my chest. Gods, it hurt.

“Careful. You are not yet fully recovered. You require more rest.”

“I can’t rest! I don’t even know where we are! We have to transport the-” Trying to move had taken my breath away. I slammed my eyes shut as tears streamed down my cheeks. I was almost glad of the pain; it had stopped me from revealing the mission to a complete stranger.

“I’m afraid I must insist. You must remain lying down. You need time to heal completely.”

“Listen to him, Erin. He knows what he’s talking about. As least I think he does.”

I laid back down, though under protest. I had to admit, the pain did subside in a prone position. “Tana. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” And she really did look fine. Her hair was a little disheveled, more than usual anyway, and she was smiling her toothy smile she was wont to do. From what I could tell, she didn’t look worse for wear. I couldn’t say the same for myself.

“I remember someone was chasing us.” I eyed the newcomer with suspicion.

“We were, Erin. We were running and running. You were holding onto my hand, but I couldn’t keep up. I told you I would slow you down! You should have left me back at the camp.” Her bottom lip was shaking. I was always amazed at how emphatic a child she was. Her emotions were always tumultuous and unpredictable.

“Tana, stop it. You know that’s not true, and you know I would never leave you.” I squeezed her hand. “Now tell me what else happened.”

After an exaggerated sniffle, she continued. “Well, at some point I hit a branch, and we got separated. It was dark, I couldn’t find you again. I heard loud voices all around me, shouting, and they were getting closer. I knew I had to find you before they did.” She took a deep breathe. “But when I finally did, you were lying on the ground. There was a man standing above you, and the back of you head was red and dirty.” Her voice started to quiver and she remembered. Her eyes were far away. “The man was so scary. He was holding a stick, like the ones the guards at camp would have. And it was shiny and wet. I didn’t know what to do!” She started to cry then, the kind of crying that comes from your stomach, that takes over you and steals your breath away. Her throat made choking noises as she gasped for air, and I was able to lift my arm just enough to wrap it around her shoulders. She buried her head in the crook of my arm. I ignored the pain. She needed this.

I heard someone clear their throat above me, and I looked up to see the man with the blue eyes. I had forgotten he was there while listening to Tana’s recount of the events. That was bad. I should be more on my guard, especially in my almost incapacitated position.

“If I may, I believe I can pick up the story from here.” He eased on to the ground beside us, his eyes never leaving mine.

“Before you do, perhaps you can tell me who you are.”

“That will become clear once I recount the events.” He stared at me in question, eyebrows raised. I nodded, allowing him to continue Tana’s recitation. “With your assailant standing over you, the bloody baton in his hand, was precisely when I happened upon the both of you. Of course, Tana, I was not aware of your presence. Had I been, I would have shielded you from such horrors.” Tana sniffled in response. “I did not know who you or the man were, but it was clear you needed help, and his intentions were most assuredly not pure. I proceeded to disarm him and knock him unconscious.”

“What does that mean? I saw you fight him! You choked him with your arm, like this.” Tana demonstrated on me, wrapping her tiny arm around my throat. I’m sure it looked almost comical.

“I believe that’s what he meant by disarming him, Tana. Let him finish.” She sighed and sat back, but did not remove her arm.

“You’re quite correct, Tana. I chose hand to hand combat as not to injure him. As I sad, his identity was in question, and I do not take killing lightly.” For someone who looked like some kind of assassin I found that hard to believe. “When your assailant was down, I proceeded to check your injuries. You had lost quite a lot of blood from a head wound, and your stomach was badly bruised.”

I blinked. “My stomach? How could you tell?”

“Well, naturally I had to check you for injuries, those covered by your clothing and those not.” My head spun even more at the idea of this man lifting my shirt to “check my injuries.” But he seemed sincere, and from his ever-present scowl, I knew what he said was not in jest. He didn’t seem to notice my discomfort as he continued with the retelling unhindered. “I deduced you had broken ribs, and external trauma to the back of your skull. It is when I moved to lift you from the ground that Tana revealed herself.”

“I thought he was stealing you! I couldn’t let him take you without me!” Tana squeezed herself closer to me, if that was even possible.

“I can assure you, Tana. That was not my intent. My only wish was to transport Erin here to a more favorable location. But I am glad you revealed yourself when you did. It helps greatly to have another pair of eyes when one finds himself occupied.” Tana puffed up her face and beamed. Compliments had a tendency to go to her head. “Not much remains. I brought you both back my shelter and I tended your wounds. You were unconscious for a number of hours. I admit, I was worried you would not awaken.”

“I knew it!” Tana’s eyes bulged. “I knew you weren’t sure!”

“Forgive me for lying. I only wished to assuage any worry you had yourself, Tana.”

“Oh, well I-” I shushed her. I needed to hear more. This stranger had me mesmerized with his story. I couldn’t believe he had chose to help me, when killing me would have been the easier option. I hadn’t known such kindness was left in this world.

“You still haven’t told us who you are, you know.” He smiled at that, and his eyes grew a deeper blue than before.

“In that you are right. Then please, allow me to introduce my self. I am Davor.” He inclined his head. “And I believe I have already ascertained your identities. You are Tana, of course,” he nodded at my child companion, who beamed in return. This much attention must be intoxicating for her. “And you are Erin. I must say, it is truly a pleasure to talk with you, and not stare at your unconscious form in hope of your awakening.”

“And it is truly a pleasure to be conscious. Well, Davor, is it? I thank you for saving my life. If you hadn’t arrived when you did, I don’t doubt that man would have killed me.” I extended my free hand to shake his own. He stared at my hand for a second, squinting his eyes only slightly before clasping my hand with his own. But instead of shaking as was customary, he simply held it there. Heat radiated up my arm as the touch lingered. I looked up to search his face to find his eyes already seeking my own. I don’t know how long we stayed like that. It could have been hours for all I knew. What I did know was that staring into those crystal blue eyes before I had lost consciousness had changed my life forever. I just didn’t know yet if it was for better, or for worse.

NaNoWriMo: Because I Love to Torture Myself

So I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been pretty terrible at writing and posting things (I blame it on my short attention span). To combat this (and kick my own ass), I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo on the streets). I’ll attempt to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st through the 30th.

Here’s the thing: I have absolutely no idea what to write about. Should I do a genre and write some crazy fantasy story (sans dragons omg)? Should I write a serious story about some angsty teenage girl who is mad at her dysfunctional family? How about a guy who constantly cheats on his wife and thinks about all the different women on his train ride to and from work (I have no idea where that just came from)? It can’t be anything I’ve written before; it has to be completely original.

So here is my plea: Please! Anyone! Send me ideas. Anything at all is helpful at this point. If you don’t, I’ll probably end up writing another sad little child story (and no one wants that to happen). :)

Also, If you are also participating (you crazy bastard), feel free to add me, I’m lindsattack on the site. Peace!