Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Review~Half Upon a Time Series

(It has been far too long since I've reviewed any books on this little blog...)

Title: Half Upon a Time Series
Author: James Riley
Genre: Children's Fairytale-retelling/Fantasy
Rating: 5

Jack, son of the Beanstalk Jack, is your average kid smart enough to avoid candy houses, giants, and the Wicked Queen's wicked Eyes. That is, until a strange young royal who denies the very existence of magic (despite the lettering on her clothes which reads “Punk Princess”) drops unceremoniously out of the sky.

All at once, Jack is on the run from the Wicked Queen's Huntsmen on a horse that would probably rather eat him than bear him to safety. There's a fairy that hates him, giants that want to eat him too, a prince who wants to save the day and the princess, and the Wolf King who probably wants to eat everyone for some diabolical purpose or other. And all because Jack figures out that the princess's grandmother is the long-lost Snow White, a fact which leads him and his new friend on a mission to find her—which has the promise of making everyone happy, except for the Wicked Queen, who is decidedly unhappy about it and will do anything to stop them.

Take basically every classic fairytale (along with several of the more obscure ones), smash them altogether, get them to make infinitely more sense than they ever made on their own, and you have Half Upon a Time. There were so many strange things happening in the beginning that left my brain hurting from the wackiness, but they all had an explanation and the explanation was phenomenal. Aside from the old elements from Grimm, Anderson, and others, there are elements unique to the story itself (The Queen's Eyes, for example). And don't believe everything you've read in the fairytales. Because almost none of it is true, as heroines turn into witches, killers into family, and maybe even a punk into a princess.

James Riley is brilliant, that's all I can say. He baffles and surprises me, makes me laugh a lot and even cry a little. From Peter Pan and the Pied Piper, to Maleficent and Red Riding Hood, he takes the time-honored tales and turns them into something new—something completely magical.

I wholeheartedly recommend Half Upon a Time, Twice Upon a Time, and Once Upon the End by this talented author.

(Oh, and to those who don't devour every printed word in the books you read, especially the Acknowledgments, you are completely missing out. Because, yes, the dwarf thing made me way too happy, too.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Christmas Stories?

Almost every bookstore, especially secondhand ones, have a section devoted to holiday stories. Everything from the classics to dime romance novels with ivy wreaths on the cover. Good books, bad books, and in-between books. Do you have a favorite?

The one Christmas book I've gotten into the habit of reading every year is Donita K. Paul's novella, Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball.

It's short, lighthearted but at the same time full of heart, and a great read. It tells the whimsical, humorous story of Cora Crowder. One snowy night, she stumbles upon Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad's bookshop, where the mysterious matchmaking booksellers make a valiant attempt to bring Cora and her coworker Simon Derrick together for a breathtaking night of magic at the annual Christmas Ball. I'm not usually one for reading romances, but this one, full of faith, laughter, and family, holds a special place on my bookshelf.

So what's your favorite holiday novel? Is there one you make a habit of returning to each year?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

It's occurred to me that I may be taking this whole blogging thing too seriously. There's a time to be professional and a time to be irrational. I'm not sure if I've been professional or just boring, but now's the time to be irrational.

Where this list originated from is unclear, but a friend shared it with me once and I saved it for laughs. The original list was quite a bit longer, but these are my favorites:

15 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.
2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don't disguise your voice.
3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.
4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “In.”
5. Put decaf in the office coffee maker for three weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to Espresso.
6. In the memo field of all your checks, write “For Smuggling Diamonds”
7. Finish all your sentences with “In accordance with the Prophecy.”
8. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
9. Order a diet water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.
10. Specify that your drive-through order is “to go.”
11. Sing along at the opera.
12. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you're
“not in the mood.”
13. When the money comes out of the ATM, scream “I won! I won!”
14. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the parking lot, yelling “Run for your lives, they're loose!!!”
15. And the final way to keep a healthy level of insanity...share this with someone to make them smile.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo: 70K

At 11:51 on Saturday, November the 30th, I wrote my 70,000th word. That sounds quite epic and exciting—a real close call—until I add that it was am, and not pm. Now, the story wasn’t finished at this point, but I was writing the last bit of the climactic scene at the end, so I knew that it would be a small matter to finish the scene and tie everything up nice and neat and tidy.

My official 'validated' word count on the NaNoWriMo website is a little over 72k, but I'll need to finish wrapping things up this evening to consider it done. I'm writing the final scenes of the epilogue, and I can't want to write The End.

Congrats to all the NaNo writers out there who have achieved their goals! Whether you wrote 50k or 100k or 2k, be proud of yourself. The curse of the writer is not writing, and every word is a victory to us all. I know the game isn't over until midnight tonight, so good luck to those of you getting in your last words! (Here's hoping the NaNo site doesn't crash at some point, as it usually does...)

Until next year, then! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Week the Third

In word count, this third week has been excellent. If this were an ordinary NaNo year for me, then I would have already won. (I got my 50k in at 11:00 on Thursday night.) Wonderful, yes, but I still have another 20k needing to be written before the month is out.

On the other hand, TTW has progressed at a breakneck speed that leaves no time for anyone (character, writer, reader) to catch a breath. There is still so much that needs to happen. As usual, I now find myself forced to skim over a lot of areas that I simply don't have time to write.

Add to that the sparking of an unexpected romance, characters ending up right where they started, and one particular character who can't decide if he's good or bad to the point that his intentions are even confusing to me...Well, you can see the trouble.

I'd worried at the beginning of the month where my plot was, and if I had enough. Now, I'm pretty certain I have too much.

Oh, and did I mention I still haven't figured out the ending?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Week the Second...ish

So, this post comes a bit late, but honestly! I've been very hard at work! Okay, so I've been mildly working at a slightly-more-than-normal velocity...But it's been difficult.

My word count is not quite up to speed, but nothing to be concerned about. (I have 37k when I should have a little more than 39.) The story is going smashingly, and I somehow still love it. Ordinarily by this time in NaNoWriMo, I absolutely hate my Project. By this time next week, ask me again, and I'll have a different answer. But I'm enjoying my enjoyment while it lasts.

What I have not been enjoying is the fact that the 'M' key on the computer I use to write has decided to be a real pain. It only works when you hit it at a certain angle, and that of course is the opposite angle than the one I normally hit it at. *sigh* (And that's aside from my old computer's power problems, and the fact that it clicks and pops and whirs the whole time it's on.)

For those of you who are a bit curious about this story, feel free to visit my NaNoWriMo page here, or check out all the cool pictures and quotes for inspiration that I have here.

I dearly hope NaNo is going well for the rest of you out there, as I know that this is the part of the month that is so often the most difficult to get through. The elation and the emotional writer's high has faded and we're left only with the grueling task of writing, writing, writing. My advice, lots of caffeine and sugar. Don't worry, you're clever; you can come up with smart answers to your dentist's alarmed questions in December—blame it on something you had for Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 8, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Week the First

Ah, so it comes to the end of our first week in NaNoWriMo.

Things are going pretty well in this corner of the world. My characters are fascinating me, and the story is moving along at a nice pace. My biggest two troubles are that I neglected to do any hard writing yesterday and a several hundred words behind for today. Guess what I'll probably be doing at twelve tonight? The second trouble is that fact that my 'M' key on the computer keyboard is not working as well as it should and so I am continuosly going back to fix words that are misspelled.

All in all, Week the First has gone well this year. I'm looking forward to next week.

Beside my NaNo itself, I've been keeping a little writing journal in a separate document. I keep track of the word count goal, where I'm at, and how much I write each day. Also I've been recording story plot events, my favorite scene of the day, my favorite bit of writing of the day, something that happened 'in the real world' for each day, and what I'm looking forward to the next day. I keep the entries pretty brief, because I want to focus on the writing.

Here's an example from the first day of NaNo:

Day 1

How Many Words Today: 2,810
Word Count Goal: 2,334
Complete Word Count: 2,810
Favorite Written Bit Today:
Kar Gunt read again over his shoulder.
Heron slammed the book shut and let it fall into his lap. He glared at his prison guard. “You need a hobby.”
Favorite Scene Today: Heron’s first meeting with Creature.
Note to Self…: Should really have written more to get ahead in word count.
Current Favorite Character and One Reason I love them: Creature (or Flee) the cat. I knew I wanted Libre to have a pet or mechanical one, but I did not expect Creature, and I love the humorous bit of tension he adds to the story.
A Lesson Learned: The word ‘unfortunately’ is hard to type when you are not looking and in a hurry.
Story Plot Points: Introduction of Kar Gunt and mention of Reise’s leaving of the village and the members of the Company.
…In Life Today: Orchestra day, which means a long day and a hard one to get any writing done. It was lunch time before I wrote a single thing. Got to see my sister.
Got Through Today With…: The idea that it was only the first day and I have plenty of time left to write. Also pizza. And skittles.
Hoping for Tomorrow…: A much larger word count for the day to set me ahead. I always like to have that cushion I can fall back on if needed.

Hope everyone else's NaNo Projects are flourishing!

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013~ Day the First

Well, lookee here! It's November the 1st! First day of NaNoWriMo and I have gotten little done as of yet. (My word count is currently under a thousand and needs to be over two thousand. *rolls eyes*)

Really, I'm not too apprehensive. Not yet at least. It should soak in nicely by mid-afternoon tomorrow. 70k? No sweat, right? Right.

Even after all my planning, I still had no story outline until just Wednesday. I spent most of the day writing it up and was pleasantly surprised by how little I had to fill in once I plotted out the order of events on paper.

On a slightly less enthusiastic note, I still don't know how the story is supposed to end. Also, there is every chance in the world that the outline I have so painstakingly labored over will be of no use to me within the first five days of the marathon. My stories tend to be like that.

Good luck to you all, fellow writers in this endeavor.  I hope that whatever fabulous midnight kick-start parties you have planned go fabulously. And for those of you who do not plan to start writing on the stroke of midnight, here's hoping you get all the sleep you'll need for the next month because this might be your last chance to get it.

Happy November 1st everyone!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo~The Calm Before the Storm...

Today is October the 31st of the year 2013. Tomorrow, the national phenomenon called NaNoWriMo will begin once more. I have some long days ahead of me.

I'm excited about NaNo this year, truly I am, but having 'won the game' in my first attempt and holding to that three more times after, I'm beginning to wonder if...well, if it's too easy for me.

What you're now thinking: “50,000 words. In a month? And you think that's too easy. What brand of chocolate are you eating and where can I get some?” (Truthfully—and surprisingly—no chocolate is involved.)

Last year I held the number goal within a T-Rex's arm-length five days before the 30th. In 2011, my word count from the 29th read: 48,794. 2010's second-to-last day was 49,254. The only time I've cut it close was in my first year, writing longhand, when I had to make up about 6,000 words before midnight on November 30th.

I know it's crazy, and there have been tense moments in the past that I've worried about getting my 50k, but I have gotten it. Four times in a row.

NaNoWriMo is not hard enough for me. This is the conclusion I've finally come to.

And it's a frightening conclusion. Why? Because NaNo is a challenge. It's designed to push your writing output limits, and mine have not been significantly strained since 2009.

Here's my second conclusion. Since NaNo isn't sufficiently difficult, I need to make it harder on myself.

(In part, this has already been done for me. My trusty-rusty computer of choice has been even more unreliable than usual of late, and I'm not sure I can trust it, let alone be efficient working on it, this year. My second choice in computers is a fine model, but one with an unfamiliar word-processor with a poor automatic dictionary, and controls and tools I've no idea what to do with.)

Below is one of several options I have been considering, and the one I believe I have chosen to employ:

Raise the word count goal. Normally, the quota of words per day (wpd) is about 1,667 words. If my goal was raised to 60k, that would equal 2,000 wpd. If I aimed for 70k, I'd need to churn out roughly 2,334 wpd.

So, for this year's NaNo Project—The Turq Wars—I'm aiming for that high goal of 70k, but if this proves far more difficult than I've imagined, I have the cushion of the 60k to fall back on. Even then, it's an added 10,000 words written over the course of one month.

Here's to NaNoWriMo 2013, may your pen be mightier than the sword, and may your sword be useful in chasing off plot bunnies.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Liebster Award

What is the Liebster Award?  The Liebster Award, as best as I can figure, is a judge-less award/ chain-letter. Blogs can be nominated for the award when they have under either 200 or 3,000 followers/readers or somewhere in the bizarre between.

To accept the award, one creates a blog post which links back to the blogger who nominated you. Answer the list of ten questions they ask. And nominate anywhere from 3 to 10 others, ask them ten questions, and let them know they've been nominated.

Here are the questions Ophelia asked me to answer when she nominated me for the Liebster Award. (Thank you, Ophelia!)

1) What is your favorite thing you've ever written?
I'll have to go with the ballad "Stranger on the Wind". It's still rough in patches, but I love it.

2) What blog post on your blog has the most views?
That would be my NaNoWriMo Week Two post with a whopping 135 page views.  ;)

3) If you could meet any currently living author, who would it be?
*thinks* Well. My first pick would be Andrew Peterson, but since I've 'technically' met him already—at a concert—I'll go with someone else: Gerald Morris, not to be confused with Gilbert Morris. I love the Squire's Tale series and it'd be so amazing to talk to him about Arthurian legends and writing stories.

4) What is approx. the most words you've written in a day?
I record that during NaNoWriMo and have no clue the rest of the time. On November 27th of last year, writing The Last Storming, I clocked in 6,210 words.

5) What is the last book you read?
How to Catch a Bogle, by Catherine Jinks. I enjoyed reading this children's book-the idea was original and interesting, the writing was clever, and I finished it quite happily. However, for a kid's book, it had rather one too many foul words, so I probably wouldn't recommend it. :P

6) If you could demand a rewritten ending to any book, which one would it be?
Green, by Ted Dekker comes to mind. Or perhaps Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, the last as of yet in this series. And that's exactly why. I don't believe Mr. Sanderson has any inclination to tell us the ending of the story.

7) Do you have any books/blogs on writing that you'd recommend?
Yes, definitely. My favorite books on writing so far are Wordsmithy, by Douglas Wilson; No Plot? No Problem!; by Chris Baty; and James Scott Bell's Conflict and Suspense. 
As for blogs, I recommend that of Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Currently one of my favorite authors of Christian Fantasy and a prolific blogger, her Friday Tidbits are especially wonderful.

8) What book to movie adaptation do you find the most annoying? ;)
Prince Caspian. (Yeah, you never saw that one coming did you?) It's too dark—remember that whole extra battle where everyone died? Also, Caspian was one of a very few characters Lewis ever described, a description the filmmakers utterly ignored. Then there's Susan falling in love with Caspian and—in my mind, the worst of these deviations—Peter's greed over Caspian's throne, which was opposite of the book.

9) What genre are you least likely to read?
Paranormal Romance. (Anything paranormal or romance, actually.)

10) If you could write a book based off of one song, what song would it be? ... And if you'd like to answer, Why?
Legend of McBride, by Mark Schultz. Hands down. The song is already an epic story and one I have tried and failed to recreate multiple times. It's just too perfect in the song to do anything with to make it better, but I would so love to write it as a novel. This is one of those very few songs that I can listen to and then instantly restart at least five times. I never tire of hearing it.

Now, I get to nominate other bloggers—the rules for the Liebster Award are rather jumbled, and the specific numbers are different in every place I look. I nominate:

So, my dear nominees. Here are my questions:

1)      Who is the earliest Main Character of a story that you can remember writing?
2)      If you had the perfect place for reading/writing, what and where would it be?
3)      (spring-boarding from one of Ophelia's questions because, as she said, it's just so good:) Name one song that is a perfect theme for one of your stories, or for a story you wish you could write.
4)      Who is the one person you believe to have inspired your writing the most?
5)      Name one specific location (a museum, shop, house, mountain peak, etc.) that you'd love to visit.
6)      What is your favorite book you've read this year?
7)      You're at a costume party with friends. What is your costume?
8)      Name five actors you would cast as five of your characters.
9)      Who is your favorite character in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy?
10)   Lastly, I'm going to use one of Ophelia's again: If you could meet any currently living author, who would it be?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Save the Jewels of Anniera (or) A Story Finds Its End

Hullo, all!

I am here (once again) to tell you about my favorite author/singer/songwriter on the face of this wide, green earth and of the absolutely wonderful Christian Fantasy he has been creating for us over the last few years.

A tale that is soon to find its ending.

(Best bookstore ever...)

The Wingfeather Saga consists of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or be Eaten, and Monster in the Hollows. Due to the spoiler-effect it might have on those who have yet to read these fabulous treasures (and if you haven't, you must), I'll not say here what the title of the upcoming fourth book is.

I regret that I've not been following author Andrew Peterson as closely as perhaps I much as I should be of late, or this post would have come a whole lot sooner:

(Beware the Toothy Cows!)

The Wingfeather Saga, now being published by Rabbit Room Press, is in the final stages of a terribly exciting Kickstarter Campaign for Book Four's upcoming release. For those who pledge their hard-earned cash towards helping the book along, a whole passel of extras are being added to the package. (Including pre-release digital copies of Book Four, signed copies of select books, hardback editions, exclusive illustrations, and more. Lastly, the two I'm most excited about: audiobooks read by the author himself, and your own copy of Pembroke's Creaturepedia!)

I can't tell you all how much I am fan-girling over this series right now. It's probably not healthy...

I encourage all of you to read these wonderful stories, as well as help raise funds for the fourth book over these last few days—while simultaneously getting your hands on all the fabulous extras to reward your support!

Teaser for Book #4:

Rallied behind [spoiler], the [spoiler] of Anniera, the people of [spoiler] are prepared for war. But high atop the Killridge Mountains in Castle Throg, Gnag the Nameless broods over dark secrets, and those secrets may prove more than a boy, even a [spoiler], can bear. 
While Leeli, Podo, and Nia, fight to save [spoiler], [spoiler] and [spoiler] strive to overthrow the Fangs of Dang and liberate the long-enslaved people of Skree. 
But [spoiler] and [spoiler], will be driven into darkness to face a nameless evil (that has no name). Dragons will rise. The Jewels will shine. And in the end, a [spoiler].”
(Okay, I just could not resist doing that.)

Seriously, though, check out the Wingfeather Saga. You won't regret it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Many Happy Returns!

Wow. Do you realize it's been one entire year since the first post on this blog? The Novel Season: November was published October 7th 2012, which makes today...

Transcribing These Dreams' First Official Birthday!
*noise makers go off*
*throws streamers and glitter in the air*
*hands out cupcakes*
*kazoo chorus buzzes 'Happy Birthday'*

I didn't know what I was doing when I started and—surprise, surprise—I still don't. But it's been so great this first year. I've learned a lot about blogging, reviewing, and writing in this time and I hope TTD's second year has just as many lessons in store!

So now I'm going to share some boring stats, because this is the only time I get to do so:

Followers: I have, to this date, 8 wonderful followers! Thank you all for making this much more fun!

Posts: 48 posts! This crushes my original hope of having one post a month. :D
* 20 book reviews (not including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and counting Floors and 3 Below separately). This is probably twenty percent of the books I read this year--and none of the classics I read ever got reviewed!
* 18 writing articles—basically just me ranting about the things I've discovered in the hopes that it will somehow be helpful.
* And 9 'other' posts, about owls and books and writing contests and the like.

Page Views: A whopping 2,629 page views! Isn't that fantastic?

Most Popular Post (besides book reviews): 
NaNoWriMo: Week Two and a few extra days... Viewed 111 times.

My Favorite Post:
Ah, this would have to be Far-Fetched Fairy Tales: The Goose Girl (originally posted under the title: 'Friday's Tale: The Goose Girl'), mostly because of my ridiculous rendition of the fairytale and the even more ridiculous original. And also because I love Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern series.

My Favorite Book Reviewed: I have to go with the most recent: The Runaway King.

Favorite Blog Images:
I just love this picture of Bo, the Barred Owl we rescued. It's a grainy photograph, but you almost see the expressions on Bo's face as he peers up at the camera. (From the post Hospitality for a Feathered Friend.)

I found this one on Pinterest, and just love it so much. The little astronaut in his pajamas, reading books up by the moon. (I used this one in the post A Day in the Life of a Bibliophile.)

Some Interesting Factoids:
1) When Google searches for my name, this blog and my ApricotPie account are the first results—which isn't saying much, but it's cool seeing my name at the top of any Google search. :D
2) TTD's Audience: According to my Blogger stats, the country with the second most views of my blog besides the United States (which has 1,341 page views) is Germany (at 171). They are followed by Russia(153), China(136), UK(102), France(54), Canada(53), India and Poland (tied at 29), and Ukraine (at 25.

3) Lastly, my blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award! (post upcoming)

(I just thought this was an amusing picture.)
The Best is Yet to Come”
Paul Colman

Oh come hear a story, oh come gather friends

I'll tell you a tale, though is isn't done yet

You saints and you sinners, you daughters and sons

The best is yet to come...

So lift up your glasses, yeah raise them on high

Here's to the failures we're leaving behind

Cheers to the future, 'cause it's just begun

Oh the best, oh the best, oh the best

The best is yet to come!

Yeah, this is our story, but not where it ends

As long as we're breathing, it isn't done yet

Let's toast to the battles we haven't yet won

Because the best is yet to come...

So happy first birthday, Blog!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Last Storming & The Turq Wars

September ended rather sooner than I would have liked. And while I'm disappointed that I didn't finish editing The Last Storming before October, I am glad to see how far the story has come.

The Last Storming, where it stands right now is approximately 37,000 words in length. (After some major cutting of lengthy sections from NaNo...)

There are still gaps in the information, chinks in the armor if you will, but the holes are being slowly patched up as best as I am able to do so.

Even though the story still needs work from where it stands now, the time for editing has passed, at least until December. For this month, my writing goals are set on world-building, character-building, and plotting for this year's upcoming NaNoWriMo Project: The Turq Wars.

The Turq Wars promises to be a fascinating tale—we'll just see if it lives up to that promise. Sequel to TLS and another exploration into the steampunk genre, I'm excited about the open world of possibilities here, as well as the rather uncommon elements to be included.

TTW happens partially inside the city from the last novel, but half of the story is played out on the ravaged plains of an African-esque countryside. That's right. Lions and rhinos and elephants—oh my! :D

This amazing mechanical cheetah was created by the genius of Andrew Chase and it, along with some of his other creations, inspired The Turq Wars into existence:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review~The Runaway King

Spoiler Warning: This review contains some spoilers for anyone who hasn't read The False Prince, the first title in the Ascendance Trilogy. If you haven't read it, well, you should—it's fantastic.

Title: The Runaway King
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: Medieval Fantasy
Rating: 5

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen continues the story of The False Prince, the first book in the Ascendance Trilogy, and follows young King Jaron who must choose between saving himself, his friends, and his country—all while masquerading as one of the low-life pirates hired to kill him, who also happen to be working for the nobles who assassinated his family. Palace intrigue, chases, sword fights, and Jaron's deviously clever plots abound in this second installment of the trilogy.

Every rare once in a while, I will be reading a book and will have to look away from the page—or perhaps get up and pace—because everything is just so epic and cool and the plot is running everywhere and I'm starting to figure things out and I just can't bear the suspense. I have to take a breather from reading a book.

The Runaway King is one such book. The characters and Nielsen's style give it such heart and drama and humor that it was impossible for me to put it down—other than the aforementioned pacing. Frankly, some of the twists I saw coming, but Nielsen's brilliance lies in using the twists to cover up the bigger twists and I'm still left surprised.

Cons of the story: As in its predecessor, The Runaway King contains multiple references to 'the devils' (and some regarding 'the saints'). Jaron, having been a thief and an orphan and still being a mischievous character, often talks about whether or not the devils will smile at him and allow his actions to pass. In the context of the story, these 'devils' seem to represent luck. The logical conclusion is that the devils are the harbingers of bad luck, and the saints for good. However, since the main character lives his life in a gray area, its the devils that are brought up the most. As if, by amusing them, he might somehow appease them.

On the brighter side, I don't think I've come across one foul word, and the content of these young adult fantasies is surprisingly clean.

Truly, I loved The Runaway King and have high expectations for the last installment in this series.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Some Sneak Peaks

As I am going through The Last Storming, I come across scenes which I like for one reason or another, but which I know will be useless in further drafts. They simply don’t forward the story enough. But they were fun to write, so I'm going to share a couple here:

Heron Skye is the rich grandson of Lieshellyk City’s Founder, and Reisoni Klift is a thief living in the bottom of the City, the Corridors. Their relationship is rocky, to say the least. Early on in the story—and for a great deal of its length—the two continue to distrust each other, despite a tremulous bond.

In this scene, Heron’s school friend Finn has met Reise and agreed to do some spying for her. Unfortunately, this is not something he is very good at, although his efforts do provide a curious bit of information which will become important later...

Scene #1
Heron held up one finger as if he were a toddler asking a question.
“Yes?” said Reise.
“Finn found out something else…something strange. I thought maybe you might know the answer.”
“I might if you would cease blathering on and simply tell me.”
“Right. Finn said he spied one of his mother’s guests writing on a notepad. A lot of it was either illegible or words that didn’t make any sense to him. This one intrigued him more than the others and he wrote it down.” Heron dug through a pocket and eventually pulled out a small slip of heavily perfumed paper. Reise thought with an ironic smile that she sometimes knew how to maneuver another person’s pockets than they did themselves.
“What’s with the scent? Trying to vaporize everything good in the world?” She glowered at the offending stationary.
“Finn apologized for that. It was his mother’s and the only paper he could get a hold of at the time. But look at what it says.”
“‘Turq’?” she read. “You’re right, that doesn’t make one lick of sense. I’ve not had any formal education, of course, but I don’t even think that’s a word.”
“That’s what Finn and I said.” Heron replied with some disappointment. “I never said we would make good spies.”
Reise tried to imagine a spy hanging around a suspect for days and collecting all sorts of useless information—such as what type of fish he commonly fed his cat—and believing it all of extreme importance. It was an amusing picture.
“Let’s talk about what we do know, Mister Espionage.” She filled him in on the information she had gleaned from her own observations. Then she explained the operation she had in mind and watched his eyes light up with the sound and feel and taste of it.
“That’s an awfully neat way to…well,” Heron glanced around as if fearing for their privacy. “To do that sort of thing…you know.”
Reise rolled her eyes. “Yes. I know. Trust me, my friend. It’s better than making a mess of it before you even begin. Usually it’s a mess by the end.”
Heron stared at her like she had grown a massive secondary nose.
“What is it?”
“You called me ‘friend’.”
“Don’t get carried away by the flippant speech between two conspiring partners, Bright Eyes.” Reise told him, standing. Heron stood also, like any decent gentlemen. “Our relationship is strictly business.”
“And will remain so, I trust.” Heron added. He was studying her.
She studied him back. “Naturally.”

Of course, these two find out that nothing is that simple when their two worlds—so close and so far apart—collide, with them at the center.

Later, Heron helps some of the Corridor people in a prison break-out. It’s the Point of No Return through which he is shoved from his nice, comfortable world into the mystery of the Stormings and the war of the Corridors.

Scene #2
“Stop.” Over all the noise, one might not have noticed that one forceful word barked from the mouth of a tall, brown haired girl dressed in the strangest assortment of clothing imaginable. Heron, however, was looking for her, and noticed at once. She also held a gun—thankfully one not pointed in his direction—which helped.
No, instead, she was pointing it at the spur who escorted the prisoner.
The spur made as if to reach his gun and the girl kicked out at his knee, causing him to lose his balance. She then struck him in the head with her pistol.
Seconds later, the Corridors girl and the prisoner—an accused arsonist and suspected traitor—vanished into the chaos, into the Corridors, and into oblivion. With his help.
Heron was now, officially, a traitor himself.

On some days, I needed to creatively boost my word count. I decided my city would have a way communication system via vacuum tubes which carry short messages all across the City. I then gave my MCs a cryptic conversation.

This is a good example of what NaNoWriMo can be like:

Scene #3
Reise opened the little curl of paper and read the note.
Might I have a secret name of my own? ~H
Not entirely certain that it was truly Heron, or whether or not she could trust him, Reise’s response was cryptic and she signed with her alias:
So long as you never make it known. ~Lady Kuyn
His response was long in coming and Reise had begun to worry she was addressing the wrong person. The slip that arrived at long last made her chuckle.
I can’t come up with anything good. ~H?
Smiling, Reise adjusted her seat and pecked out a new note on the type set, pulled it off, and fed it into the tube.
It would greatly surprise me if you should. ~LK
Do you have nothing of worth to say? ~H
Yes, and we haven’t go all day. ~LK
Stop that. ~H
Pardon? ~LK
You were saying everything in rhyme. ~H
A neat practice, if you’ve the time. ~LK
Stop! Tell me what you want to do. ~H
You informed you wish to come through. ~LK
Through where? ~H
Down there. ~LK
Truly, that’s getting annoying. ~H
You waste time and paper with your toying. ~LK
I, toying? ~H
Indeed. With bothersome worries employing. ~LK
I shall simply ignore it all, then. ~H
Come you to the hall, when? ~LK
You tell me. ~H
Tomorrow’s day in hours three. ~LK
The rapid fire messages paused.
Then we’re understood. ~H
And that is very good. ~LK
Reise had to admit to herself that she was enjoying the word play too much.

^ I can still smile at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Let's finish with the news:

I've gone back and written an acceptable beginning—though I still don't like it very much. Meanwhile, ideas for this year's Project, The Turq Wars, have been slowly accumulating. There are still major sections of TLS which simply do not exist, however—due to skipping over them in November. I'm making progress, but it's a tough and sticky trek.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Fall of the Crowned Ones" New Story Idea

“I'll be dead in thirty minutes,” said the prince to me over lunch. “Please pass the sugar.” Funny how those two sentences could be spoken in the same tone.
My instincts warred inside of me to do two things:
One. Assess the threat and neutralize it.
Two. Pass him the sugar.
My body reacted by standing abruptly and reaching for the sugar bowl at the same time. I missed and sent it rolling, scattering its contents all over the table before it landed on the floor. It didn't break, thankfully, but now there was sugar everywhere and the prince was looking at me with his eyebrows raised.
“A bit clumsy this afternoon, are we?”
He was calm. Why was he calm? He wasn't in jest—I knew him better than that.
My eyes swept the room. No dangers that could be seen. Then my gaze fell on the lunch platters and, finally, the tea trays.
Of course.
So begins my newest story, a planned 'strict medieval fantasy' that started brewing in my  head a little over a week ago.

(possible villain)

Allow me to point something out. Something which might surprise you. Something which frustrates me. Something I really think you should know. I don't get new story ideas very often.

It's true.

Early this summer I jotted down some notes for what I'm referring to as a Retro Fantasy, a project I am looking forward to writing...once it has more plot. Before that, my latest story idea was from sometime in the spring: a retelling of the Pied Piper. Three story ideas in almost nine months. That's all.

I've heard of writers who get one idea, write it, and then wait for another one, but these seem a rare and almost insincere breed. I also have friends who come up to me on a regular basis—daily, at least—and say, “Guess what awesome idea I just had!” (You know who you are.) Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately—take your pick—I don't belong to either group.

Besides the fact that most of my ideas come without plots, the ideas themselves take an eternity to show their faces. (And I don't mean full blown book concepts, I mean little inklings of a fresh something.) Part of me thinks this is good, since I can avoid being utterly sidetracked five times a month. Still...it'd be nice to have a larger quantity of fresh material on hand.

But I digress.

This particular story comes from one of my Screen Saver Thoughts (a concept I'll probably make up a separate post for in the near future) and is the first of its kind to originate that way. It is also, I've realized, my first strictly medieval tale. (Castles, royalty, swords, political intrigue, etc.) Others like it have either included dragons, magic, or have had the feeling of a medieval tale but with no castle or royal family in sight.

And I am very excited about it.


New story ideas give me the same sense of euphoria as a kid on Christmas morning.

(a lady of the enemy court who promises to be a fascinating character)

The project's working title is Fall of the Crowned Ones, in case you didn't guess that much. And the reason I'm so excited about this one is that, along with its spontaneous arrival, this one came complete with plot! Most of my ideas are more of the here's-a-cool-setting/character/scene/creature/thing-but-it-doesn't-fit-any-of-my-stories-so-let's-invent-a-plot-for-it variety. FOTCO—which rather sounds like a filling station—actually has a plot! (Aside: This is a major accomplishment for me.)

Basically, the MC  in Fall of the Crowned Ones is the bodyguard to the crown prince  and there is a threat to the prince's life, a threat which the prince discovered and then was made to forget. (Exact properties of this are still in question.) The threat is on the rest of the royal household as well, which should keep my characters busy.

Considering the time frame the prince has given, I'm hoping that about the first half of the book will be a mad dash to figure out what's going on and to save the prince in those deadly thirty minutes. This will be tricky, but wonderful if I can somehow pull it off.

I know a few more details than that which give the plot more body and complexity, but that's all I'll say for now. Oh, and neither the prince nor the MC have names just yet. Lucian or Lucius are possibilities for the MC, but I just don't know.

(this quote fits the story nicely)

So does the hero figure out the assassination plot in time to save the royal he's sworn to protect? *sneaky grin* That is the question, now, isn't it?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review~The School for Good and Evil

Title: The School for Good and Evil
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Children’s Fairytale/Fantasy
Rating: 1-2

Best friends Sophie and Agnes have different views on the fabled School for Good and Evil where children are taught to be fairytale heroes and villains. Sophie longs to be chosen and with her natural beauty she’s certain to be a winning princess. However, Agnes wants nothing more than her solitary graveyard house and occasional visits from Sophie.
Taken to the School, they find themselves in a hairy predicament: Sophie arrives in the sewage of Evil, while Agnes arrives via flower-blooming into the courtyard of Good. As the friends try to convince the teachers they’re in the wrong place, and to change the mind of the secluded Schoolmaster, they find that not all is well and good in the School for Good (or appropriately foul in the School for Evil).
Making new friends on both sides, Sophie becomes more and more desperate for her prince to choose her despite her placement—but the prince keeps choosing Agnes—and the two fight for a chance to escape the school and almost certain death if their fairytale begins and their Nemesis is chosen.

Okay, I’m reviewing this book primarily because it’s in ‘my genre’—fairytales and children’s fantasy. Newcomer Chainani is a wizard of words in his own right and for the first half of the book I was loving it. Admittedly, it’s a big book and took me a while to get through. When I was done, my jaw was hanging open and I realized I had just wasted my time. Basically, do not read this book.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. There had been several little jokes in the early stages of this book: a secondary prince made himself look like the main Prince character and someone commented that Main Prince A should just go marry himself for all his arrogance—meaning, of course, the Imitation Prince B. It was a joke in poor taste, but I let it pass. But by the last couple chapters of the book I was beginning to worry. While I won’t go into detail, allow me to just say that the book ended (SPOILER) with the main two characters deciding ‘who needs princes for a happily ever after?’ I was flabbergasted. And grossed out. Just a bit.

Soman Chainani is a talented writer. He had me excited about the book—and really enjoying it—until the unsettling end. It was not a very happy book as the mixing elements of good and evil brought out most of the tension and it was pretty grim and dark throughout. There were moments of hilarity, and I picked it because I always love a good ‘school’ story. I’m sorry to say that this is not one I can recommend on any level.

Because it is in my genre of reading/writing I feel obligated to review it—and I did read the whole thing—but as only as a warning. I found it woefully inappropriate and amoral. I sincerely wish I could give this book a higher rating and a more pleased review, because it does show a good deal of promise. However, I cannot in good conscience. If my child came up to me with this book I would say ‘Honey, that is a bad book. I’m sorry, but go put it back on the shelf.’ And that is the sum of my review.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

About a Deadline...

Ah, so it’s August now, is it? That’s wonderful. I like August. Summer is coming closer to its end and autumn is just around the corner with its crisp cool breezes and the turning of the trees…

I like August.

But where did July go? Or June, for that matter?

September comes after August, does it? Oh dear.

“I plan on writing the sequel for NaNo this coming November, and if that’s the case, a more clear background and solid foundation is needed. So I made a deadline for myself: [TLS will be edited by] September. I wrote out a to-do list for writing this year, things I felt I had to get done. TLS was at the top of the list, even though it’s ‘due date’ is later in the year.”
(From the ‘Writing with Foresight and Hindsight’ post.)

Um. Yes. Right. Obviously.

Summer has been crazy. You would think it’s the time for things to calm down, but I’ve been away from home—and thus, my writing habits—more often than at home this summer, and TLS has suffered. The funny thing is, some of my other projects (Carousel, Island of the Kahts, and a new Retro Fantasy project) have seen a significant ‘reboot’, which is great for me and them…but less great for The Turq Wars, this year’s coming up NaNoWriMo story.

It’s not the method that’s my problem. Going backwards has helped significantly, believe it or not. It confuses the timeline a bit, and I’m uncertain of the order things should happen in, but I get to write the climactic and important scenes and then foreshadow them in the earlier sections. It’s actually brilliant.

It’s time. Isn’t it always? And I’ve more time than many. So, really, the biggest problem is ‘other books’. Libraries are damaging to my health, I always say. It’s true. Very true. I have a pile of 17 books, mostly novels and mostly library books and mostly off of the New shelf with early due dates, stacked by my bed.

If I truly want to stick to my plan of completing the edits of TLS by September’s end, then I’ll need to be editing and fleshing out almost a chapter every day. Now, the good thing—the relieving thing—is that I have an extra month between my deadline and November, which was intentional. So anything I still need to work out by then, I should have time to do so. But that means the end of procrastination.

And I like procrastination.

(Some pictures I've found via the Internet that look like some of my characters:)

(Young Reisoni Klift, one of my MCs, and her friend Maewyn)

(Heron Lieshellyk Skye, my other MC, although he usually looks happier.)

(One of the bird automatons in the story)

(Darvis Lieshellyk, Heron's grandfather, as I imagine he may have looked in younger days)

I’ll try to update this blog through the month, to show whether or not I’m reaching the deadline.

Until then, here’s a rather lighthearted teaser for the tale I’m speaking of:

This story begins with a mapmaker—well actually, that’s not quite right. This story ends with a mapmaker. Hmm, well…that’s better, but still inaccurate. Truth be told, this story has an awful lot to do with a mapmaker. Except he isn’t really a mapmaker, exactly. He’s an architect who also happens to make maps. In any case, he is a very important character in the story. Just not the main character.

So, this story is also about a thief girl. Now she is the main character of the story. More or less.

But then there’s the grandson of the founder of the story of which I am speaking. He's also the main character.

And, more than that, I suppose, there’s the Founder himself. Ah, yes, you could say that this story starts with the Founder. And, in all probability, it ends with the Founder, also.

So, then.

This is the story of a mapmaker who isn’t a mapmaker—named Teliod—and a thief girl who isn’t the main character—named Reisoni—and the grandson of the Founder, who is the reason the thief girl isn’t the main character—and his name is Heron—and of the Founder who started it all, kind of, and who just might end it all, kind of—and his name is Lieshellyk.

This is a story about birds and fires and the remnant of humanity living in a city, cut off from the rest of the world and protected from the raging storms outside. This is a story of love and friendship and betrayal and traitors and mysteries and secrets and power and greed and salvation and hope.

This is the story of The Last Storming.