Thoughts On SHATTERED MIRROR

Hello, hello!  It’s that time again.  Time for another book review!  I got another Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from NetGalley, so I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  This month, I requested access to Shattered Mirror (An Eve Duncan novel) by Iris Johansen, which was released on the 24th (yesterday).  It’s a thriller/mystery; genres I seem to be drawn to lately.  What I didn’t realize when I requested the book was that it’s the 23rd in a series.  That means I’m coming into a bunch of established characters and relationships that I know nothing about, which is always a little difficult no matter how well the author explains existing situations.  With that in mind, I’ll get into the review now.

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Interesting cover.

Shattered Mirror opens on a lake cottage where Eve Duncan (one of the top forensic sculptors in the world), her husband Joe Quinn (ex-SEAL, current cop, and who knows what else), and their six-year-old son Michael (basically a wise old man in a kid’s body with a touch of ESP or something) live.  The scene is serene until a gold box containing a burnt skull and a two-sided mirror shows up in the passenger’s seat of their jeep.  As Eve starts the reconstruction, she and her family are drawn into a psychopath’s trap.  Throw in some family members that were sort of adopted along the way (Cara, an eighteen-year-old violin prodigy with a tragic past, and Jock, a retired assassin) and a Russian mafia leader (Cara’s grandfather, Kaskov), and things get volatile pretty quickly.

First, let’s talk about the plot.  It’s a pretty standard revenge plot, and a portion of the story is from the psychopath’s (Norwalk’s) perspective, which I liked.  The story actually starts in his POV, which threw me a bit because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know him from previous books or not.  When I figured out what was going on, that it was going to be told from multiple points of view, I settled into the rhythm quite nicely.  In the end, I would describe it as Criminal Minds and Bones meets *insert any ‘over-the-top action film with lots of explosions and a hero who fails to take the kill shot just to extend the action’ of your choice*.  In other words, it’s fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

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We’ve all seen this scene in action flicks, the kitty just does it better.

Then, there were the characters.  I actually found myself focused on Cara and Jock more than on Eve and her immediate family.  You have this young girl who was saved as a child by this super attractive ex-assassin with a Scottish accent and they’ve been best friends ever since.  Well, now she’s older and totally in love with him.  Except he’s kind of a manipulative dick.  I mean, the guy ignored her for three months then showed up and expected her to drop everything and talk to him because he was ready to talk.  And she did.  The mysterious bad boy routine would probably have intrigued me when I was younger, but now I just keep hoping she runs away from that crap (spoiler: she doesn’t).  And, if I’m being honest, all the men in this book were jerks to some extent.  On the flip side, the women felt a little flat until the last third of the book when they seemed to finally come alive.  Maybe if I had read the series from the beginning, I would feel different, but coming in at this point left a lot to be desired on the character front.

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Except Cara is too sweet to be sarcastic with Jock.

As far as the writing goes, I enjoyed it.  Johansen introduces the characters and gives new readers all of the pertinent information without it feeling heavy handed or like an infodump.  She’s wonderful at manipulating the pace through sentence structure (something I need to study and work on).  I found myself reading this book like a writer and noticing useful techniques that I can try out later.  I also really liked how she wove a supernatural thread through the story by giving Michael and Eve a kind of spiritual connection.  It didn’t feel awkward or forced like those things sometimes do.

Ultimately, it’s not my favorite series and, since I didn’t connect to the characters, I don’t really have any desire to hunt down book one to start there.  But it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

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Overall, I would give it three stars.  It’s kind of corny and over-the-top, which was fun, but the characters just didn’t draw me in.  If you like thrillers and mysteries, give it a shot.  If not, you’re not missing anything spectacular.

The Revision Struggles Begin…

Hello, hello!  It finally happened.  On Saturday, I wrote THE END on the shitty first draft of novel attempt number three!  Yay!!!  I celebrated by doing nothing productive whatsoever on Sunday.  Monday, I slowly dipped my toe into the revision pool by revising a micro fiction piece before sending it and another piece out into slush land.  Which brings us to today (because I’m writing this on Tuesday).  Now, the real revision struggle begins.  Sure, I have a short story that needs to be doubled in length and smoothed out.  That’s my immediate focus.  But then, I have to decide which novel attempt to revise, two or three.  And that’s what I plan on rambling about today.

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I try.

Option 1: revise novel attempt two (LR from here on out).  In my head, I know this would be the smart choice.  For one thing, it would give me a break from the one I just finished, which is always encouraged so that when it comes time to trim the fat away, you won’t be blindly attached to it.  I’ve had more than enough time away from LR to be able to make the hard cuts.  I’m still super excited about LR, so that’s a plus.  And I really do miss being around those characters.

The downside of revising LR first: while I love it, I’m not really sure it has much potential in the way of attracting agents.  Are dragons even “in” anymore?  Or are they passé?  I know I shouldn’t worry about stuff like that, and I should work on whatever my heart tells me to, but it’s something I think about.  I’ll have to do some research on the trends right now/where the trends seem to be headed.  Plus, I’m concerned that if I get caught up in LR’s world, I’ll lose steam in the other one.

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Don’t worry, Toothless.  You’ll always be cool.

Option 2: revise novel attempt three (DS from here on out).  Some of the advantages include that the plot is fresh in my mind and I still remember what all my little revision notes mean.  From that perspective, it makes sense to dive right back into DS.  It’s also a genre that’s always in high demand, but with a supernatural twist.  So, I feel like it has a better chance of catching an agent’s eye.  Plus, I’m completely in love with these characters and their stories.

The problem with starting with DS is that I wouldn’t have much time away from it, so I would probably still be super attached to all the fluff that needs to be chopped out.  I have trouble decluttering my room because of sentimental values, decluttering a story isn’t any easier.  It would also mean more time away from LR, which has been randomly popping into my head the last couple of months.  Plus, I’m not entirely sure if the supernatural elements will be attractive in this particular genre or if it’ll be confusing and off-putting.

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I’m being indecisive and procrastinating all at once.

I guess I’ll read through both of them and see which one pulls me toward it more.  Until then, I have a short story to focus on.  What about you?  How do you decide which projects to revise and when?  What’s your method of making these kinds of choices?  As always, please feel free to leave your comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages!

The Lessons of Writing Every Day

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone’s April going so far?  Are you keeping up with all of your goals?  I actually want to talk about how I’ve been doing with that whole “write every day” thing that I mentioned trying back in March.  It’s been working!  Every day in March (including Sundays and those days when I really didn’t want to), I wrote at least 50 words.  Sometimes, I even made it up to 1,000 words.  When April arrived, I upped it to at least 100 words a day.  So far, I’ve kept at it!  And I’ve learned some things from my experience thus far, which is what I’m going to ramble about right now.

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Well, a computer.

Thing the first: Sunday will never be a good writing day for me.  Right now, Sunday is set aside for things that take up most of the day, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with even 50 words.  I did.  Even 100 words has proven to be doable.  But I don’t think I’ll ever do more than that on Sundays.  It’s actually kind of annoying writing on those days.  I miss my day off.

Thing the second: I still write better at night.  I’ve tried for a long time to adjust to writing in the late afternoon/early evening with mixed results.  Sometimes, words flow easily and I finish my 1,000 words before I even realize it.  A lot of times, writing the words is like pulling teeth.  But, I’ve found that when I open a story around 11ish at night to write my words on those days I’m too lazy to do it in the afternoon, the words always flow.  Granted, I’m usually only aiming for 100-150 at that point, so it might just be that I’m not pressuring myself with a difficult goal.  It’s just something I noticed.  But I’ve always been a night owl, so this is no surprise.

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Pretty much.

Thing the last: writing every day is not a stress reliever for me.  A lot of people I know say that they feel so much better after they write their words for the day.  It’s like a catharsis for them to get words on the page (even if it’s just 50 words).  I am not one of these people.  I usually feel the same or worse after I write, unless I hit one of those rare days where the words tumble out onto the page almost by themselves.  Most of the time, I’m just happy that I can play games or read or watch anime or whatever without feeling guilty.  At least until I realize that it’s too late to do any of that stuff, then I’m just annoyed that I don’t have a day off to do any of it.

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When you finish writing and realize you don’t have time for anime.

In other words, my experiment with writing every day is going well.  I’m about halfway through the last chapter of my current novel attempt (hoping to finish by the end of the week).  When I switch to revision mode, I’m not sure if I’ll keep up with writing every single day, but I’m glad I’ve done it.  I admit that setting low goals for each day is a helpful way of getting back into the sway of writing.  Do you have any experience with something like this?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Celebrating National Poetry Month

Howdy, howdy!  It’s (already) April once again.  Can you believe it?  A quarter of the year has passed us by.  As many of you know, that means it’s National Poetry Month.  I admit that I haven’t given poetry much of my time this past year, but I want to change that.  At least for a month.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until my Facebook friends started posting daily poems.  So, I thought I would devote this post to a few of the ways that I hope to celebrate this month.

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1. Write a poem.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote one.  But I recently had a nostalgia moment where I read through some of the ones I wrote as an undergrad, and that made me really miss the structure that poetry provides.  I used to love writing villanelles and haikus and sestinas.  Anything with strict constraints.  I liked looser forms as well, but they weren’t as challenging.  That little trip down memory lane even resulted in me submitting a poem to a contest.  Send good vibes!

2. Read a book of poetry.  Maybe I’ll read an anthology filled with different authors writing about the same subject.  It’s always interesting to see how different people tackle the same basic topic.  Then again, maybe I’ll read a collection by one author.  I like to see how a collection connects from one poem to the next (or doesn’t connect at all).  Hell, maybe I’ll read both kinds.  It’s still early in the month after all.

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3. Base a story off a poem.  I’m almost done with my current novel attempt, so I’m hoping to work on more short stories and flash pieces, that way I have more things to submit.  I know I use art a lot for inspiration, but I’ve also been known to use songs and poetry in the past as well.  It might be an adaptation, or it could just be loosely connected, but hopefully it’ll be something good.

4. Take the time to listen to some poetry.  I don’t know of any upcoming readings around here, but YouTube has plenty.  And there are always podcasts.  I’m sure if I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations, I’d come away with too many options to check out in a month.  Feel free to shoot me some podcast or other ideas for places to listen to poetry here as well!

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5. Look back at some of my old favorites.  I used to have a few poems memorized, but I can’t get all the way through any of them anymore.  From Ai to Donne to Poe, there are a lot of poems I should probably revisit.

That’s my plan for celebrating National Poetry Month.  What about you?  Are you going to read or reread some of your favorite poems?  Maybe you’ll write some of your own poetry.  What about my visual art friends?  Have you thought about making your art based around a poem?  Feel free to share your plans here or on my social media pages!