Thoughts On THE SCORPIO RACES

Hello, hello!  Since I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for blog post topics, I’ve been thinking about doing a monthly book review to ease my blog load a bit (I’d still be my usual random self the rest of the time).  Maybe the last Wednesday of every month starting in September.  Would that be something people are interested in?  Of course, I would review more recent books or even ARCs (advanced reader copies of things soon to be released) when I can get my hands on them, because I realize that I’m totally reading older stuff right now.  Anyway, feel free to let me know if it’s a completely stupid idea or if a different day would be better or whatever.  You can do that here or on my social media pages!  Let’s get on with today’s actual topic.

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On Sunday, I finished reading The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which came out in 2011, so I’m late to the party.  Anyway, my initial reaction, posted on my personal Facebook, consisted of: Might’ve spent three hours finishing reading a book today. There were probably tears. Strong, manly tears. Definitely not an ugly cry. Okay, maybe a little ugly.  To which a friend inquired about what book could inspire such a “glowing recommendation.”  I’m so glad I have friends who understand me, even when I ramble about things making me cry.  Because I loved this book.  Yeah, there were things left loose at the end and stuff I wasn’t entirely sure about, but it’s still one of the best books I’ve read lately.

It’s a YA fantasy, so there’s a lot going on in the background from romance (okay, that’s technically one of the major plot points) to family drama to life on a small island.  But the whole reason we get introduced to this world is because Puck’s (the female protagonist’s) brother says “I’m going to do this thing!” and Puck responds with “Well, you can’t because I’m doing this other thing!” without thinking about the consequences.  And everyone one the island tries to talk her out of it because she’ll probably wind up dead or they try to intimidate her into not doing it because it’s a man’s sport, but she keeps insisting that she has to do the thing even before it becomes a necessary thing for her to do.  Meanwhile, in her head, she’s thinking “Why did I say I was doing the thing?  How stupid can I be?” which is really relateable and endearing, especially when the majority of YA protagonists refuse to admit they’re being stubborn idiots.  Puck acknowledges it and does the thing anyway.

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How pretty much every YA novel starts.

At the end, I admit that I was left with a lot of questions.  What was the point of the subplot between George Holly and Annie?  Who was dressed as Epona?  What happened to Brian?  Because it was looking like there was going to be a little love triangle for a minute there, and then he just disappears.  But all of my questions were little things that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme, so I can get past them.  Otherwise, the ending was satisfying.  You get the feeling that life on the island still goes on, even though it’s a standalone novel, which has kept my thoughts traveling back to Thisby the past few days.  But there’s still this sense of closure, like this part of their lives is done and they’re moving forward.

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It’s a little like we get to see one of those moments and then life goes on without us.

Also, I wanted to mention the writing style.  The Scorpio Races was one of those books that feels poetic without using a bunch of words no one knows and without using an excessive amount of words in general.  It flows, kind of like the sea.  Sometimes, it’s smooth and relaxing while other times it’s short and choppy.  In other words, not only was the story itself fun and engaging, but it was easy to read.

Ultimately, I’d rate it a 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone who likes YA or love stories or horses or good books in general.

Until next time!

Five Things I Couldn’t Live Without As A Writer

Howdy, howdy!  Lately, I’ve gotten back into a pretty steady writing and reading rhythm with this new book.  My current novel-in-progress is something I’m still excited about, even after the “new” has worn off.  I’ve also found a book that I’m enjoying reading, so that helps a lot.  But even though my writing rhythm has changed during this new process, there are still a few things that I couldn’t do without during my writerly time, things that have stuck with me through all of my writing processes.  I thought I would take a minute to share them with you.

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1.  Writing stints.  Most writers call them sprints, but that implies a race and I’m not comfortable with that since I type fairly slow.  Anyway, these are when I get together with a friend or two, we set word count goals for ourselves, then write for an hour, check in with each other, and start all over again for a second hour.  It’s not a regular thing anymore, but it really helps on those days when writing is hard.  And we don’t have to do it at the same time (though it’s more fun when we do), as long as we check in at some point.

2.  Eye candy or regular candy, I’m not picky.  Writing is surprisingly draining, so it’s important to refuel and relax occasionally.  For me, that includes music videos with my favorite pretty males.  Chocolate also helps.  And yes, I totally use the post-writing haze as a rationalization to objectify people (males and females alike) and indulge in sweets.

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3.  Specific t-shirts.  I swear I’m not one of those people who have a writing outfit or something like that, but I do have a few shirts that seem to improve my writing mood.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to write when they have Cthulhu on their chest?  I tend to be more productive when I’m wearing either of my Cthulhu shirts.  My Little Mermaid shirt is also showing promise given how much I achieved the last time I wore it.  Some shirts just seem more energizing than others.  Don’t judge me until you try it.

4.  Mirrors.  This is probably just a weird quirk of mine, but I have trouble focusing when I can’t see what’s going on around me.  The easiest way for me to do that is with mirrors.  If I hear a funny noise behind me, I only have to glance to either side to see what it is.  It cuts down on excuses for me to turn away from my computer when I’m working, which helps when I’m looking for a reason to avoid writing.

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5.  A severe dislike of phone calls.  Focusing on writing is so much easier when you have zero desire to make a call or answer a ringing phone.  I don’t mind texting, but admit that I don’t answer them right away when I’m writing or reading or eating or unless it’s some kind of emergency… no wonder people rarely text me.  Anyway, being an introvert helps with writing time.

What about you?  What are five things your writerly or artistic side couldn’t live without?  Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

See you next week!

Thoughts On KUSHIEL’S DART

Hello, hello!  Welcome to August.  Where has the year gone?  Recently, I’ve been trying to read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which was on my short summer reading list.  While it’s a relatively long book (900ish pages), the fact that I’m still stuck around page 100 doesn’t bode well for me finishing it.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be reading the rest of it.  I feel bad, because a good friend recommended the book, but I just can’t get into it.  So, I thought I would give my thoughts on it thus far before I stash it away, deep in my bookcase, and grab something else to read.

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“Sophisticated” = too mature for me, I guess.

First, I want to say that I had high hopes for this novel.  The plot sounds really interesting and the way the main character, Phedre, was described to me made her sound amazing.  I’m sure when she grows up (she’s currently 16 where I stopped), she’ll be a badass.  But there’re a lot of things that I just can’t get past about this world.

For starters, the Court of Night Blooming Flowers.  It’s basically a bunch of high-end brothels, which I am totally fine with and was intrigued by.  At least until it started getting into the details where the children that the houses take in, either because the parents can’t care for them or they’re born into the house, are coerced (they make it sound like it’s a choice, but the kids are groomed for it from day one) into learning the “ways of Naamah” (sex) when they hit the age of 14 in order to pay back the debt they incurred by being raised in the specific houses.  Granted, Phedre escapes this by being purchased by someone who puts off her actual training until she’s older (she’s 16 and still a virgin when I stopped reading).  If it were a normal bodily exploration thing, I wouldn’t think twice about it, but these are kids being used to make money. I can’t get over the icky feeling I get from it, even though I understand that this is the norm in that world.

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This is me trying to read this book.

There’s also the background story about how an angel, Elua, decided to go on a walkabout to find people who would accept him and was followed around by some companions because even other angels worshipped him.  While on this walkabout, Naamah prostitutes herself to get the stuff Elua needs (from his freedom when he’s imprisoned to his food).  Because that’s what women do, apparently: they sell themselves to take care of a perfectly able man.  Thus, prostitution became a holy act and that’s why the Night Court exists.  Which is actually a pretty cool story (except the whole doing it for a guy part).  And no one is supposed to be forced into prostitution lest it sully the act.  But, like I said, when a kid is groomed for it their entire life, it certainly feels like coercion to me.

Despite all of that, I would probably keep reading for the main storyline, but the writing style is what’s really stopping me.  There’s a lot of flowery, purple prose.  It seems like every sentence contains at least one adverb.  Most of the time, I feel like the author is just trying to show off how big her vocabulary is.  And that’s a huge turn off for me.

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It’s true.

I apologize to my friend and anyone else who loves this book, but it’s not for me.  Maybe it gets better.  Perhaps in a few years, I’ll be mature enough to appreciate it for the “sophisticated fantasy” it’s claimed to be.  But for now, I’m putting it away and turning my attention elsewhere.

Always Changing

Hello, hello!  As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was planning on starting a new novel in order to respark my writing passion.  I started it on Saturday and have worked on it regularly since then.  I admit that I’m still not up to my usual word count per day yet, but whenever I open the file, I’m filled with the desire to move forward instead of dread.  That’s a win!  But, as I noticed with my last novel attempt, this novel has its own flow and wants to create its own routine.  I don’t remember having to adapt to new writing habits with every new short story I wrote, but apparently novels are different beasts entirely and each one is going to require special treatment.  Today, I wanted to ramble a bit about how my routine has changed with this novel compared to the other two of which I have (at least) completed first drafts.

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When you sit down to start a new novel and everything is perfect, then the novel decides your previous routine isn’t good enough…

My first novel was written completely in pantser mode.  Music from my iTunes (which basically runs the gamut of styles) played in the background for almost every writing session.  When I hit snags, I usually figured everything out after random bursts of subconscious ideas.  And in the end, the first draft was an unreadable mess that took another year or longer to clean up.  It was fun.  It was hard.  It was draining.  But I got it done with plenty of help from my Stonecoast mentors and compadres.  Honestly, if I hadn’t had help and people telling me that I had to finish it, I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep going.

The second novel that I actually finished (I started one between them, but got stuck halfway through because I stepped too far outside of my comfort zone), was wildly different.  I had the first half plotted out and knew where it would end, but switched to pantser mode to connect the beginning and end.  It was written mostly in silence because music distracted me.  When I got stuck, I’d actively plot things out in my head, but rarely thought about it otherwise unless I was working on it.  I wrote it in about seven months, a record for me, with little help.  Only a handful of people have actually seen any of it.  But when I read it to start revisions, I was surprised that it made sense and flowed as well as it does.  It still needs a lot of work, but I’m happy with how it turned out with that routine.

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When you’re down and don’t want to do anything, but the new novel idea won’t leave you alone.

Again, I started and stopped a novel before deciding to switch to my novel-in-progress.  I was in a position where I didn’t want to write anything when this idea started pestering me.  I’ve got the major plot points figured out and there hasn’t been a night that’s passed by without me laying awake in bed plotting out the next scene.  It’s a little scary to think I might be turning into a plotter on this one.  I’ve tried writing with iTunes and in silence, but neither feels quite right, so I’m going to try my CDs (my teenage anthems sprinkled with some more recent music) next.  I’ve also had the urge to find reference pictures for my characters, which is something completely new for me.  I never needed pictures of my characters before, so part of me thinks I’m just looking for excuses to feed my need for eye candy, but I’m going with the flow and looking for some.  Granted, this is just the beginning of the process.  I might revert to pantser mode later on.  But the new process feels right so far.

Hiro from Nocturnal Bloodlust is basically Jyou (one of my protagonists).

Maybe I’ve just been refining my technique with each new novel or maybe my routine really will have to change with each new novel.  Either way, I’m just happy to be enjoying writing again.  It’s been a while since I could say that.  What about you?  Do you notice changes in your writing routine between each novel/story?  Or have you found something that works consistently for you?  Share your thoughts, comments, questions, or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Shaking Off The Rust

Howdy, howdy!  Yesterday was Dad’s birthday, so I want to say another quick happy (belated) birthday to him!  Feel free to leave him a greeting here or on my social media pages and I’ll pass it on to him.  Anyway, this week, I want to ramble a bit about figuring out when to switch projects and when to power through the slow points, which is something I really struggle with.  I was always encouraged to finish a project before moving on to the next one.  But what happens when you try to push through the mental wall blocking you from the story and three months later you’ve only managed to move forward thirty pages?  When is enough enough?

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It’s kind of like when your EVA goes berserk and tries to smash through the wall, but there’s just more wall behind that wall, until it finally it runs out of energy and you, the pilot, are left a bleeding and broken mess.  Yeah, like that.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little (okay, extremely) stagnant when it comes to my writing.  I fully admit that I haven’t been working on that front as much as I should, even though I have no excuse not to be writing.  But the words refuse to come.  I know the storyline and everything, but the novel doesn’t excite me at the moment.  In fact, it doesn’t instill any emotions in me.  That’s not to say that I’ve given up on it.  Not at all.  I know exactly why I’m lacking any emotional investment in this book (it’s the second book in my Demonic Jewels series, the first of which I’m querying agents with and I can only take so many rejections before I start questioning the entire concept of the series, but that feeling will eventually pass, I hope).  And I’ve been trying to push through all of this for the better part of three months, but it’s proving impossible.

I’ve tried a number of tactics to get past the wall.  I wrote some short stories then tried to go back to the novel.  Didn’t help.  I worked on revisions to a different novel then tried once again to get back to Bailey and her crew.  No luck.  I even tried just plotting everything out in my head so I’d know exactly where I was going when I sat down to write (a method that has worked well in the past), and still nothing.  What else can I do?  Seriously, I’m open to suggestions.

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I don’t think dropping an anvil on me will work, but you can try!

However, over the past two weeks, some characters who have lived in my head for many years (at least 12) have been pushing their way to the front of my mind.  Normally, they only bring vague story ideas with them, but this time they have something concrete that I’m actually super in love with.  It’s well outside of my wheelhouse, combining fantasy (I can do that) with a cozy-esque mystery (not so sure I can pull that part off) and a dash of romance (will probably fail miserably at that part).  But I’m excited just thinking about it, and the last thing I felt this way about I finished in record time.  So, I’ve decided to put Bailey on the back burner again while I revise my other novel-in-progress and write this new one.  Is that a stupid decision?  Maybe.  But if it gets me writing, who cares?

wish+me+luckWhat about you?  What do you do when you can’t get past a block on a project?  How do you know when it’s time to set things aside and try something else?  Leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

Avoiding Becoming The Token Cripple

Howdy, howdy!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful week.  Today, I want to talk a little about some of my struggles with deciding how much to reveal about myself when submitting to publishers and/or agents.  I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, especially with Garnets and Guardians, because being cripple is the best asset one can have when writing cripple characters, right?  But, honestly, it’s really difficult to know how much to reveal about yourself and how that information is going to influence the people who are ultimately judging your talent (or lack thereof).

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There’s a thin line that I don’t want to cross.

When it comes to submitting short stories to various magazines, I don’t bother mentioning my disability.  Mostly, I keep it to myself because it has no bearing on the stories I submit.  There aren’t any cripple characters in my short stories, so there’s no point in mentioning it.  But, I also keep it to myself because I fear the concept of a pity pub (getting published because they feel sorry for me).  I understand that these are professionals who are supposed to be above such actions, but years of “cripple perks” (earning awards in high school for simply doing the work I was assigned, being called “inspirational” at college just because I preferred classes on campus instead of online, etc.) have made me wary of succeeding in subjective areas.  It’s just something I will always be worried about.

However, when I began submitting Garnets and Guardians to agents, I was forced to reevaluate the choice to keep my disability out of things.  On the one hand, I don’t want to take the chance of people judging my writing less harshly just because I’m cripple.  I also don’t want agents to become intrigued by me even if they aren’t enthusiastic about my writing.  I’m not interested in being anyone’s token cripple.  On the other hand, the protagonist of my novel has a disability, so my own crippleness gives me a unique perspective into her development as a realistic character.

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We can’t all write Timmy and Jimmy.

In the end, I chose simply to mention my disability in passing in my query letter.  I don’t know if it’s the correct decision or not.  Sometimes, I wonder if I should go into more detail, but then I worry it will seem like I’m hoping for special treatment, which I also want to avoid.  I was raised to never expect or ask for special treatment beyond the accommodations I need (but not to turn it down in certain cases either).  But ultimately, a brief mention of it to establish that I have knowledge about cripple experiences feels necessary.  Besides, if my query letter intrigues an agent and they decide to look at my website or blog, they’re going to find out about my crippleness anyway, so it’s not as if I’m hiding it.

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I try, but how much of myself should I be?

So yeah, while I don’t technically hide my disability from people, I remain wary about announcing it in a professional (virtually anonymous) setting just in case it will cause people to think differently about me.  What about you?  Is there anything you refrain from mentioning because of similar reasons?  What about completely different reasons?  Feel free to share here or on my social media sites!

Until next time!

Writing Cripple Characters

Hello, hello!  I hope all of my US and Canadian friends had wonderful independence days!  Mine was quiet.  It was spent writing this and playing mindless games, because I was a little tired and didn’t feel like doing anything else.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.  I wanted to tell you all a bit about the protagonist of my current series-in-progress and why I chose to make her cripple (this is my preferred term, so if it offends you… sorry, not sorry).

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I wish I had cupcakes.

Garnets and Guardians is the first book in my Demonic Jewels (working title) series.  The series follows Bailey Donovan, a thirteen-year-old who has recently been diagnosed with Limb-Girdle disease, as she struggles to cope not only with her illness, but also with moving to a new town and the dark discovery she makes there.  Despite everything, she remains fairly stoic, which occasionally causes drama within her family.  And yes, unlike many protagonists in the fantasy genre, Bailey’s family remains whole and supportive.

So, why did I choose to write about a young girl who is newly cripple?  I’ve actually heard a lot of theories on this in various workshops.  The one I get the most is that I’m writing what I know, or that Bailey’s a fantasy version of me, or similarly weird things.  In a lot of ways, she is like me.  She doesn’t do well with emotional displays and she likes to handle things her own way.  But her disability is nothing like mine, so she has to cope differently, which really means she’s a completely separate person from me.  There’s also the theory that I write cripple characters because they are few and far between in genre fiction and I want to see myself reflected in these genres I love.  I’ve covered that before: yes, diversity is important, but I (personally) don’t need or want characters to be cripple in order for me to identify with them.

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Apparently, this is a thing?  Interesting.  Chose to share because of number 3.

All of that is great and I’m sure it’s why some people choose to write cripple characters, but it’s not why I did.  Honestly, I just wanted to write about a hospital full of demons.  What better way to do that than to give my protagonist a chronic disease that forces interaction with such a place?  Yeah, I chose a disease within my realm of understanding, but that’s only because I hate doing immense amounts of research.  So, for me, writing a cripple character has less to do with crippleness itself and much more to do with what fits the story and me being too lazy to look stuff up.

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Writing is hard enough without the research.

Have you ever written a cripple character?  Did you do so for the sake of diversity or was it just something you wanted to try out?  Have you wanted to write a cripple character but chose not to?  Why?  No judgment here, so feel free to share your thoughts and stories and reasons below or on my social media pages!