Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ICARUS Release Today!

I'm excited to announce that today is the release day for ICARUS by J.S. Chancellor. To celebrate, the author and her publisher, Rhemelda, are hosting a "Twitterview" where anyone can hop into the action and ask questions. This event will rock the Twitter world for more than 10 hours as J. S. shares not only her love for this novel but also her passion for the writing craft. Anyone will be able to ask questions of J.S. Chancellor on Twitter using the hashtag #Icarus. Be sure to follow @Rhemalda and @Jschancellor on Twitter to be part of this awesome event.

About the Book:
ICARUS is a paranormal romance: a love triangle between vampires who need a substance called Icarus to process light. In this richly drawn world, Jessica Slate is kidnapped by vampires who claim that Trinity, her “bad boy” lover, is the Anti-Christ and they take away her source of Icarus. With the clock ticking, can she escape her kidnappers—or will she discover that she belongs with them and that they’re right about Trinity after all?

J.S. Chancellor is the popular author of the Guardians of Legend trilogy (Son of Ereubus, Blood of Adoria, and Eternal Requiem). ICARUS is the first book in The Kindred series. Matthew Robert Best called ICARUS, “… a refreshing take on an otherwise exhausted genre, leaving me more than a little pleasantly surprised …. Such a fun read, with much more substance than I’m accustomed to in paranormal fiction.”

About the Author:
J.S. Chancellor, whose personal motto is, “woe is the writer who mounts their merit on the masses,” started writing stories when she was still in grade school, and finished her first fantasy novella at the age of 14. She drafted chapter one of the Guardians of Legend trilogy when she was a freshman in high school, sitting on a stool in front of a piano bench, in her parents’ den. It wasn’t until she was 25 when a resident at the apartment complex where she worked lovingly made a casual remark about her procrastination that her passion for fantasy fiction took center stage. Since then she’s focused all of her efforts on writing, to include leaving her full time job in September 2009 and actively maintaining a blog dedicated to the art of crafting fiction. She currently resides in Georgia with her two beloved dogs.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Desperately Seeking Reading

Don't let the title of this post fool you. I read plenty, and not just the random stuff that I edit for work, but real fiction. This, of course, not only includes published books, but my own work (over and over and over and over and over and...) and the work of my critique partners. So, yeah, lots of fiction.

However, in terms of the non-work (i.e., non-editing and non-critiquing) reading, I have strayed from the YA genre as of late. I've been reading all kinds of books, but none of them seem to be the standard YA that I love and adore.

Not really sure what happened there. But, seriously, it's been a while. Welcome to my YA drought.

Okay, no, I know what happened. I was given books by several people that I either need to share with others who I will see over the holidays, or I've just had them on my shelf for so long that I'm starting to feel guilty that I haven't given them back. So, trying to clean off the shelves, so to speak. 

Anyway, so in my personal pining, I just wanted to share with you what I *want* to read, especially over the holidays or as soon as we get back from the holidays.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Nope, haven't read a one of 'em yet. I know. I must be the last vestige of lameness around. It'll happen. My nephew owns book one at the least (*ahem* bought it for him last Christmas *ahem*), and possibly more, so we'll see if I can speed my way through at least the first one.

UPDATE: I just discovered that the entire trilogy is available through the Kindle Lending Library for free. Granted, you can't "borrow" more than one book per month, but, heck, how awesome is that?!?

Fallen, Torment, and Passion by Lauren Kate. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a cover, but I can't tell you how much I want to read these books. Over the summer, I almost picked up the first one from the library, until I remembered the five book reviews I had promised out in the next several months, and couldn't justify it. Really, all I want is to curl up with them on my Kindle. Want to hear something ridiculous? My local library only has #2 in ebook format. I have no idea why.

Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, and Endlessly by Kiersten White. Yup, really want to read these, too. And, yes, I know that Endlessly isn't out yet. I don't care! You know, a few months ago I hosted a give-away, and ended up sending out a copy of Paranormalcy to one of the winners. Oh, that hurt, when I SOO want to read it, too. *sigh*

Okay, enough for my whining about what I want to read. Now I just need to do it. I really think that come the new year I'll be able to read more along these lines. Here's hoping, anyway. :)

What do you want to read right now? What are you reading? Is there anything you've been dying to read but haven't been able to get your hands on it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jumping Off the Cliff

That's what my boss calls it, anyway.

The time has come, since I haven't made the announcement official yet in the blogosphere (though, if you're my friend on FB, this may not be news to you).

I'm pregnant, having a boy, due March 16th.

While I'm super excited (and not at all ready, so I'm glad I still have three months), I'm also trying to be practical. This involves wanting to finish reading work by my author friends before then, finish some heavy editing on my own work, and even possibly start querying before March. I think *fingers-crossed* if I can get my novel in good shape by March, querying can happen at, um, SOME point while the baby's super tiny. Then, if an agent actually picks me up, I'd be willing to bet it wouldn't be while the baby's still so little and I'm so exhausted that I can't open my computer.

Right? *whimper*

So in the next few months, I'll be slashing and burning a minimum of 5K (hopefully closer to 8K), critiquing, blogging, and fitting in as much as (if not more than) physically possible before I jump.

Any suggestions on how to juggle babies/small children and writing and jobs would be both helpful and gratefully accepted.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Temptations Involved in Self-Publishing

If you saw my semi-ranting book review on Tuesday, you may remember that the book in question was self-published.

Now, don't go jumping to conclusions. I've read plenty of self-published books in my time, and several of them are quite good. Sure, perhaps they shouldn't be judged the same way as one would evaluate a traditionally-published book (although some indeed can, e.g., Michelle Davidson Argyle's Cinders), but they tend to be good...

...if the author puts in the proper amount of time, energy, and possibly money.

I think there's a strong temptation these days to hop too quickly into the self-publishing route. I know I've thought about it, and I'm sure I'm not alone. There can be several factors involved in not having a book accepted by an agent or an editor that have nothing to do with the quality of the work: it's not the right time; the market's already flooded with similar stories; there's no market for similar stories; the agent/editor was in a bad mood that day; it got lost in the slush pile; etc. But, we all know that sometimes it IS the quality of the work that's the problem.

For many of us, we go back to the drawing board, edit, slash, burn, revise, repeat.

Some, though, may go the self-publishing route.

Again, I'm not saying this is a bad option. It's hard to get a break in this industry, we all know. But with self-publishing comes heavy responsibility to make sure that your book can attempt to stand among the more traditionally-published books.

Taking that book that never sold and publishing it as-is on CreateSpace is not the way to go. And just because you're best friend/spouse/neighbor/mother/sibling/cat think it's the best story ever written doesn't mean the general public—a.k.a. those people who don't know you from the annoying neighbor who doesn't clean up after his/her dog—will agree.

So, what needs to happen in the route of self-publishing? Here are my top three recommendations.

First, good critique partners. I suggest people you don't know in the real world, i.e., people who won't be afraid to tell you the truth. All of my critique partners, I've met online through blogging, and with most of them I don't even discuss my personal life. It's all about the words. Keep the relationship professional and potentially brutal. It's the best way to get honest opinions. They should spot technical and factual errors, comment on awkward phrasing, and tell you when the pace slows, when they're bored, or when you've strayed too much from your original story. Take those opinions and edit, slash, burn, revise, repeat.

Second, after you've ripped and shredded—which you might think you did before querying, but, hell, do it again! what could it hurt—hire a professional editor. You may think you know grammar, but this professional, if properly doing his/her job, will make you question how you managed to pass elementary English. This editor should have strong opinions on the Oxford comma (either pro or con, doesn't matter, as long as it's a strong opinion—and here's mine) and a sharp eye. S/he should not only cover your manuscript in so much red ink that it makes your HS English teacher blush, but this person should also once again be reading for factual and technical errors in the content. An editor that only edits for commas and typos isn't worth the money, unless you specify (and, dear God, why would you?) that that's all you want. A good professional editor is worth his/her weight in gold nuggets, so be prepared to shell out accordingly. In the end, it's worth it.

Finally, don't let your 12 year old design your cover. You may firmly believe in his/her talent, as do your spouse and the 7th grade art teacher, but, again, the rest of the world is full of brutal cynics like me who will take one look at the cover and decide never to read the book. Paying for a professional artist who has experience in cover design is worth the money. Don't think you can cut costs on this just because your brother's best friend's ex-girlfriend's roommate had a minor in art in college ten years ago. Just pay the cost.

Do you have any experiences in self-publishing? What do you think of the self-publishing option these days? Have you ever considered it? Would you?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Murder Most Trivial

A few months ago, I won this on Goodreads. I don't normally read mysteries, but this one touted itself as a YA mystery. With fond memories of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I though, why not? Upgrade the mystery (I'm pretty sure Nancy never investigated serial murderers), and it should be a pretty good read, right? Ideally...

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Murder, is that your final answer? High school senior Jason Greevey seems to think so. When winning contestants from a local restaurant's trivia contest begin turning up dead, runner-up Jason worries that he will be the next weakest link!

Now, I'm not one to look down on self-published novels. In fact, I've read my fair share (by Michelle Davidson Argyle, Allen Russell, Carol Riggs, among others). They generally have to be judged within their own category, and not in comparison with books edited by agents and publishers who rip books to pieces (for the betterment of the book, of course) for a living.

And, yes, I checked. This book was published by DPL Books in VA. I found their blog, and their listing on a self-publishing consortium. Honestly, I didn't even find a company website. Beyond those, it was mostly links for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I find this odd.

But I digress...

Unfortunately for L. K. Ellwood, all those other self-pub'ed books left this one in the dust. Overwrought with typos and factual errors, this book floundered on its way to finding the end-game--which I had difficulty believing. I found myself skimming way too often as I had to read random bits of backstory about minor characters who hardly play a role (e.g., I don't need to know that Mrs. Rice somehow managed to run all of the volunteer committees at church while raising 5 kids when she only appears in a phone call and the final scene of the book). What this story needed was a good editor, and I don't necessarily mean from the publishing house. The author needed a solid, tooth-and-nails critique partner or set of critique partners who weren't afraid to rip the story apart. It's really too bad that this author didn't have have one (or several) to point out that, for example, a morning newspaper goes to press well after the 11pm news, or that a person who has designated herself as an organ donor would not have anything taken from her if she died from an allergic reaction to drugs administered in the hospital.These are only a couple of several examples of factual errors, not to mention the list of typos and awkward turns of phrase that appeared on almost every page.

Oh, and did I mention the constant head-jumping? At one point, the POV changed so frequently between father and son that I no longer knew who the "he" was. Even mid paragraph the shift in POV would occur. Extremely disconcerting.

The bottom line: Don't bother unless you're sending a heavy list of edits to the author. And since the pub date is from 2002, I doubt she wants to see any.

By the way, I'm not only planning on complaining. Stop back on Saturday for some of my thoughts on the temptations involved in self-publishing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back from the Brink

Oh, boy, folks, have I had a crazy few weeks. Grab a cuppa coffee/tea/wine/beverage of your choice and let me tell you all about it.

So I needed a mini break of blogging because I hadn't quite figured out how to manage my writing, my "new" job, family, life, and blogging all at the same time. I think I've figured it out now, so we're gonna try a trial of me blogging on Tuesdays and Saturdays for a while, and see how it works. Please bear with me as I reintegrate myself into the blogosphere.

This is your brain on editing.
Any questions?
Then there was the writing. In late October not only was I trying to manage some pretty intense revision on my novel (currently listed on my WIPs page as FIGHTING FATE, though I plan to change the title to IN FLAMES). I wanted to get a full round of revision finished before NaNoWriMo started, while also juggling my NaNo prep. That took a LOT out of me, and I edited until my brains turned into liquid goo. Seriously. It was messy.

My own personal NaNo shield
On November first, having finished that round of editing, I was happy to accept my NaNo fate. I greeted it with a warm, strong handshake. And on the fateful afternoon of November 1st, I had an extra meeting with my boss, wherein he asked me to work overtime in preparation for our display at an upcoming conference (I work for a small, specialty academic publisher). And in my inner ear, I heard my NaNo plans go *squish*. My boss and I negotiated trading the days in early November for days around Thanksgiving, so not all was lost, but it put some stress on my NaNo plans nonetheless.

As of November 12th, one-third of the way through the month, I had only written about 14K over the course of 4 authentic writing days. Ouch.

On the morning on November 13th, as I'm leaving my house to pick up a friend, I grab my phone to let her know I'm coming, and see that I have a missed text message from my boss--who, I might add, never sends me text messages. It said, more or less, that he was in the hospital, post-surgery after having had a heart attack. Everything okay. Call to talk about conference prep. SERIOUSLY. My boss is in the intensive care unit on a Sunday morning and wants to talk about conference prep. Now, granted, the conference started on the 17th. My boss isn't really all that Type-A, but we did still have a lot of work to do, and that essentially took the editorial side of our house from 3 to 2 employees doing the bulk of the work (we have a few work-study students, but regular employees, we are three). So now add more overtime work to my schedule over the next three days, making the first day of the conference (Nov 17th) day 5 for writing. Not a good sign.

See how the Jell-O powder gets all goopy with a little water?
Not to mention that on the 17th and the 18th I was about as worthless a writer as an uncooked box of Jell-O, from working 10hour days three days in a row, and the emotional turmoil of talking to my boss on the phone while he was doped on morphine and falling asleep. Yup, powdery Jell-O.

Somehow, though, I managed to pull a few days writing between 5-6K. Don't ask me how. Perhaps some superhuman feats of strength that even kryptonite couldn't squelch. Who knows? But I have to attribute at least a little of my success to Hart Johnson and her stupendous idea for hour-long sprint-writing sessions. I think those were ultimately my saving grace. Coordinated over Facebook, I would periodically join Hart, among others, on these sprints, and both the time and the community support helped a ton.

And, imagine, through all of that, I actually won!

Granted, according to my word verification, I only have 50,002 words, but I don't care! I'm 2 words over what they need (although, according to my Scrivener file, I have 50,019), and that's what matters.

Anyway, now it's December. A little over two weeks until the holiday break comes, which will entail lots of time with family, friends, and fruitcake. I'm already celebrating by eating too many sweets and listening to Christmas music while I cook and bake. And, dangit all, I am MAKING these cookies if it kills me. I just have to find some sweet rice flour first...

Be seeing you around the blogosphere!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: String Bridge

If you don't know Jessica Bell from her blog, I suggest you check it out, or at least read my interview with her from a couple of weeks ago. She's a great person, a talented musician, and a fabulous writer. So when I got a notice saying I could sign up for her blog tour and get an ARC of her new book, String Bridge, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits.

Melody's struggle follows a difficult trajectory, one that the reader struggles through with her. At almost every step, I found myself feeling the same emotions felt by Melody, wanting her to do the things she wanted to do--even when they weren't the best choices for herself or her family. I identified with Melody throughout the entire novel, fighting and crying and yelling when she did.

I love the way that Bell develops her characters. Each of them felt like a real person that could have stepped out of my own life and settled into print. I especially loved the way Melody's daughter, Tessa, came to life, as I think it's sometimes difficult to capture the wonder and excitement of children. In this case, I never once doubted the authenticity of the little girl's voice.

Another aspect of the book that I loved was reading Melody's songs. It's wonderful that Bell is such a talented artist, in that she both writes beautiful prose and beautiful music. A soundtrack to the book is also available (from iTunes, Amazon.com, Amazon UK).

String Bridge is a wonderful, heart-wrenching read. Anyone who enjoys a strong, character-driven novel should not hesitate to pick this up.

Bottom line: Read this book!

Also available from Barnes and Noble.

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review of Exiled

I'm super excited today to tell you about RaShelle Workman's new novel, Exiled, as a part of the Dark C.A.R.MA Blog Tour.

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Stubborn, sixteen-year-old Princess Venus of Kelari wants one thing, to become a kelvieri, that is, until someone exiles her to Earth, kills her irrihunter and takes her family.

Now she wants revenge.

First she’s got to get home. But before she can return to Kelari, the Gods have commanded her to help an arrogant boy named Michael find his soul mate. Only she doesn't know the first thing about love.

Rather quickly, her inexperience with human emotion is obscured by other matters—alien-controlled psychotic teens that are out to kill her, and a government group that is set on capturing and dissecting her.

Worst of all, Venus will suffer a painful death-by-poisoning, thanks to Earth’s atmosphere, if she remains on the planet longer than one week. Still, Venus is a Princess and she's got a plan. Surely, with her help, Michael will fall in love with a human.

But time is running out and Michael is falling for the wrong girl—her.

What a fantastic read! For days, I didn't want to put it down (though life got in the way). I found myself mentally enveloped in Venus's world, thinking about it whenever I couldn't be reading. Her journey and struggle capture the imagination long after the story ends.

Workman develops a fascinating world of upheaval and betrayal that force Venus into exile on Earth. Workman's prose donates extra flare to the story, weaving together vivid images of setting and characters. And her exceptional storytelling seizes the reader and doesn't let go.

My only complaint about this book is that it's a part of a series, and I have to wait to find out what happens next. I'm not exactly known for my patience.

Recommendation: Read this. It would make a great holiday gift for anyone who loves a good fantasy novel.

RASHELLE WORKMAN lives in Utah with her husband, three children and three dogs. When she gets a quiet moment alone, she enjoys reading about faraway places. And, in case you were wondering, yes, she does believe there is other life out in the Universe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

#StringBridge Chart Rush!

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrackMelody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:


She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are
not familiar with String Bridge,
check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative. 
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel … String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.”  
~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.” 
 ~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Please TWEET and/or FACEBOOK this post using #StringBridge!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with Jessica Bell

It's my extreme pleasure to have Jessica Bell, author of the new novel String Bridge, to my blog today. First, a brief introduction:

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood traveling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.

So, without further ado, please welcome Jessica!

Rosie: First, congratulations on your novel coming out. I really enjoyed it.
Jessica: Thank you! I’m so glad.

Rosie: Can you tell us a little how this novel came to be? What was your inspiration in bringing this story to life?

Jessica: Even though music doesn’t define me as much as writing does, it is still a big part of my life. And the idea for the book came about when I was thinking about a time in my life when music was all I ever wanted to breathe. Even though my priorities had changed, I still wanted to write about the power music has over someone who is so passionate about it. But I think music could be replaced by any sort of passion in String Bridge, because basically the story is about needing something more than you need yourself.

Rosie: How long did it take you to write String Bridge? From inception to its current state?

Jessica: I spent about five years writing it because it went through about seven different revisions. Although it wasn’t the first thing I’d ever written. I was still learning along the way. And you know what? It still doesn’t feel finished to me. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas on how to improve it. That can be a bit annoying actually, because now it’s impossible. Ha!

Rosie: Like Melody, the novel’s MC, you yourself are an Australian ex-pat living in Greece. What brought you to Greece in the first place?

Jessica: My step father is Greek, so I’ve pretty much grown up with the best of both worlds (Australia and Greece). I’ve been coming here since I was two years old.

Rosie: Tessa, Melody’s daughter, is so well written. As you wrote this, you seemed to really understand and connect with the minds of young children. How much time do you spend with children under the age of five?

Jessica: I used to teach 6-7 year-old kids in an English school here in Athens, but overall my time spent with them was not more than 45 minutes at a time, a couple of nights per week, over the time frame of about a year.

I remember quite a lot about being that young, so I think my own experiences as a four-year-old, mixed in with a few instincts helped me to create Tessa. For those who don’t know, I don’t have kids, so I sometimes doubted whether Tessa was going to be a successful character. I’m so happy she is!

Rosie: Throughout the novel, Melody struggles to balance her love life, her parenting, her music, and her career. As a writer and a musician, you must also have similar struggles in your life. How do you find balance between all the different facets of your life?

Jessica: I don’t think I struggle too much in comparison to those that have families. Sometimes I complain that there isn’t time to do everything I want to do, but I think that’s because I want too much. So it’s not a matter of balance for me, it’s a matter of slowing down and giving myself some quiet time where I don’t have to do anything. I find I really need those moments to revive the stamina and keep up with my day job and my novels, poetry, and song writing, and of course, spending quality time with my partner.

Rosie: There are several songs written within the text of the novel. Do these songs appear on the album that you recorded to go with String Bridge? Are there other songs on the album? How long did it take you to write the songs to accompany this novel?

Jessica: Yes, the five songs that appear in the book are on the album, plus four extras that I wrote for it to become a full-length CD, rather than just an EP. It took me about a month to write them all. Mind you, I didn’t work on it every day and some songs took me days to perfect and others about ten minutes. It’s up and down like that with song writing.

(an interjection: You can access the soundtrack through iTunes, Amazon, or Amazon UK)

Rosie: Can you tell us a little about your experience working with Lucky Press? And how did you come to connect with them?

Jessica: This is a whole other blog post. Luckily, for those who are interested, I’ve already written one about it! Just go to: http://thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-i-believe-small-presses-are.html

I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago that you’re considering forming a band. How would you describe the music that you play?

Jessica: Visceral atmospheric grunge I think is the best way I can put it.

Rosie: What kind of upcoming projects do you have planned? Either musical or literary?

Jessica: My second novel, Bitter Like Orange Peel, is about a twenty-five year old Australian archaeology undergraduate named Kit, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. She feels misplaced and comes to the conclusion that meeting her father, Roger, will make some sense of her life, despite him being worth the rotting orange rind in her backyard. Well, at least that’s what she’s been conditioned to think of him by the three women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clich├ęs, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed professional archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania, who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and who named her daughter after intravenous. Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger, but in doing so, discovers he is not the only rotten fruit.

My third novel, Muted, is set in Arles, France, in a totalitarian society where it is illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it's also illegal to sing without accompanying instruments. Concetta, a famous Italian a cappella singer from before “the change,” breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope with living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river, clothed in a dress stained with performance memories from her hometown, Milan. But Concetta's suicide attempt is cut short as someone grabs her by the throat and pulls her to the surface. Is it the busking harpist, who encouraged her to feel music through vibration, acting as saviour? Or a street warden on the prowl for another offender to detain? From this moment, the reader will discover how Concetta came to be in this position, and what will happen to her after the suicide attempt.

Muted will explore a variety of themes such as overcoming loss, coping with mental illness and disability, dealing with discrimination, loss of freedom, inhibited self-expression, motivation to succeed, escaping oppression, expression through art and music, self-sacrifice, channelling the thoughts of the deceased, and challenging moral views and values.

Hopefully I’ll create a soundtrack for this one too.

Rosie: And one random question: If you were a bumblebee, what kind of flower would you most like to hang out in and why?

Jessica: Um … I don’t like flowers much because I get really bad hay fever … Aaachooo!!! You know of any flowers with an air filter installed?

Thanks, Jessica!

If you're interested in Jessica's novel, be sure to stop by on Nov. 18 for my review of novel, String Bridge. Would you like a teaser? Check out her book trailer.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

#NaNoWriMo KickOff and Update

You know what today is :) The first of November is a celebrated holiday in my house. Er, well, it is for me.

Especially since the month of October ate me up. Work's a little insane, meaning I've had to bring projects home over the weekend and work on things in the evenings, too. I work for a small, academic publisher, and we're gearing up for a conference that starts in about 2 weeks. So now's the last push to get these projects finished and printed before the conference. Which means overtime. Which means more money, sure, but it also means less writing time.

My hope is to make it through to about the 15th or so, then attempt to reenter the blogging community. I think it's possible.

In the meantime, I'll be NaNo-ing again. Starting at about the time this blog post goes up. If you'd like to add me as your buddy on the NaNo site, my user ID is Rosie-C.

Good luck with NaNo this year, everyone. I'll see you soon :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review of MONARCH by Michelle Davidson Argyle and Contest Winner!

My first ARC came in the mail a few months ago, before my move and my new job and everything else that caused social upheaval in my life. "Giddy" doesn't have enough force behind it to describe how I felt when I tore open the package and found my very own copy of the novel in my hands.

And it only got better from there. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Nick's life as a CIA spy should be fulfilling, but it has only given him unhappiness, a wife who committed suicide, and two daughters who resent everything he has become. Now, stuck in the Amazon on the last mission of his career, he must track down Matheus Ferreira, a drug lord and terrorist the United States has tried to bring down for years. If he succeeds, he'll have the chance to start his life over again. Just when he's on the brink of catching Ferreira, he's framed for a murder that turns his world upside down. His only chance of survival lies in West Virginia, where Lilian Love, a woman from his past, owns the secluded Monarch Inn. He's safe, but not for long.

Okay, let me try to explain my experience with this book. You know how, when little kids get a piece of candy that they love, they eat it and swallow it so quickly that an observer isn't even sure they tasted it? They didn't savor the gooey chocolate or the refined nugget core. But the love of it just inspired them to INHALE the candy.


Yes, this was me with MONARCH. Not because I knew I would like it before it landed in my hands, but because with every page, I enjoyed it more. It grew to the point where I couldn't stop reading. It became compulsive. And like all good things, it was soon over. Maybe 48 hours later? Too soon, that's for sure.

And after having devoured the novel, I remembered, "Oh, right. I agreed to write a review."

So, in order to write something of more substance than "Dude, this novel ROCKED!", I decided to read it again. Not a hard decision, really, seeing as I enjoyed it so much the first time. And guess what happened.

Yup, I devoured it again.

So, clearly, this says something in its own right about MONARCH: it's a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller that is unput-downable. All of the characters went straight to my heart as soon as I opened the cover, and all I wanted was for everyone to survive. Davidson Argyle weaves tension like an expert loomist, with almost every scene inspiring nail-biting reactions. "Real" time and flashback move seamlessly back and forth, creating a vivid full picture.

On top of it being a great story, I think I can learn things from Davidson Argyle's writing as well. If you read my interview with her from last week, you may remember my asking her about a group scene at the climax of the novel. I have rarely read a scene with so many characters that so flawlessly came together. I had a clear image in my mind of where everyone was and what they were doing during each moment of the tense scene, while the tension never abated. It's just one example of the skill Davidson Argyle brings to the craft.

So, would I recommend this book? What do you think?

YES! Holy cow! Read. This. Book.

Thank you so much for Michelle for letting me participate in her book tour, getting me my first ARC, and writing such a great book.

And one lucky person from last week will receive a copy of MONARCH. Random.org chose number 7, which led to:


Congratulations! Please email me soon at rlconnolly01 [at] gmail.com so we can get your copy to you.

Didn't win? Do you want to read it, too? There are several other ways you can read the book.

Direct from Rhemelda Publishers (they're having a sale right now on their recently published books).

Or from Amazon below:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview with Michelle Davidson Argyle and MONARCH Giveaway!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was when I signed up for my first ARC—a copy of Michelle Davidson Argyle's debut novel MONARCH. When it came in the mail, I was giddy with excitement. And, honestly, since then I've read the novel twice because I enjoyed it so much (come back next Wednesday for my full review). So, to be able to interview Michelle as well is a great, exciting honor for me.

Also, because this novel is so fabulously amazing, it HAS to be shared. Want to read it? Keep reading below for more information on how YOU could win a copy of MONARCH!

For those of you who don't know her, let's start with a brief introduction:

Photo and biography courtesy
of the author's website
Michelle graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor's Degree in English/Creative Writing in 2002. Her short fiction has been published in the University of New Mexico's national literary journal, Scribendi, 2002, the Rose & Thorn Journal, 2010, Suspense Magazine, June 2011, and Stories for Sendai Anthology, 2011. She served as the editor-in-chief of Utah Valley University's literary magazine and has won awards for her short stories. She is also an editor/publisher of “The Literary Lab Presents…” series of anthologies.

Michelle is a mother, artist, and writer who lives in the Rocky Mountains with her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter. She writes contemporary, literary, and fantasy fiction. Cinders and Monarch are two of her published novels. The Breakaway will be released in 2012 by Rhemalda Publishing, and Bonded (which includes Cinders) will be released in 2013 by Rhemalda Publishing, as well.

Michelle likes peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. And cheese. Lots and lots of good cheese.

(Can I just say, me too! You can never have enough cheese!)

So a warm welcome to Michelle. *applause*

Rosie: First, congratulations on the release of MONARCH. It's a wonderful novel.

MDA: Thank you! And thank you for interviewing me today.

Rosie: So much of MONARCH is influenced by monarch butterflies, and there's even information at the beginning of the book on how the reader can learn more about them. Is this a personal interest that you've had for awhile, or something that developed while writing the novel?

MDA: I’ve always loved butterflies, but the idea to include them as the main theme in a novel came about when I was reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She has a section in there all about the monarch butterflies, and it’s absolutely brilliant and beautiful and it touched me in a way that really stuck. I got the idea to include monarchs in a novel, and of course I decided to include spies into the mix because I like to shake things up like that.

Rosie: One of the main characters, Nick, has worked as an undercover CIA agent in Brazil. How much research did you put into living the CIA undercover life?

MDA: I did quite a bit of research on the CIA, but there’s only so much you can find out about the CIA online! They’re kind of secretive about some things. So I turned to some biographies from former CIA officers. I loved one in particular – Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran because it was personal and entertaining, but full of some really great information.

Rosie: MONARCH is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and I couldn't put it down. This doesn't happen to me very often. Unless it's a secret you'd rather not reveal, how long did it take you to write MONARCH, and how many rounds of revisions did you go through to get it to its current (amazing) state?

MDA: From conception to publication, Monarch took me seven years to complete. Actual writing time, however, is probably more like a year. I began the book in November of 2008 for National Novel Writing Month and submitted it to Rhemalda Publishing in October of 2010. That’s two years, but a good portion of that was also spent writing and self-publishing my novella, Cinders. Monarch  then went through edits with my publisher. I must say, however, that Monarch was a bit of a challenge for me. It was a complete disaster after I finished it in 2008. After a few revisions I chucked it all and rewrote the entire book from scratch. I’ve learned a lot from writing Monarch!

Rosie: One of the suggestions to writers seen around the internet these days is to write scenes that contain no more than 4 people. However, your climax scene not only has several important players, but it's also done so well that it doesn't feel crowded or confusing. Do you have any tips on writing group scenes?

MDA: As I always like to say, I don’t believe in rules like only including four people in a group scene (although I can understand that from a new writer’s perspective). Still, talk about limiting your storyline and storytelling skills. I tell the story how it needs to be told and the scene you are talking about in Monarch that meant including more than four people. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise because the entire point was to bring everyone together for that climax.

If I have any tips on group scenes I’d have to say plan everything out in every possible way you can imagine. For this group scene I drew out a picture of where everyone was, where they moved during the scene, and where they are at the end. I then had my husband help me figure out the fighting sequence (yes, I had to make it more complicated with fighting, hah!). I also told the scene from three different points of view over the course of several chapters, but that was what I had done for the entire book, so it worked.

These kinds of things in writing are completely dependent on the author’s skills, the point-of-view of the storytelling, the style of the novel, and other such factors. I don’t think there’s any magic formula for it except for practice and experience.

Rosie: What authors and/or books would you consider your strongest influences?

MDA: I adore The Awakening by Kate Chopin, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I also like Dostoevsky, Virginia Woolf, and Flannery O’Conner. Those are the classics I love that have influenced me. As far as contemporary, I’d say Marilynn Robinson, Tom Clancy and John Grisham. I’m kind of eclectic, can you tell? I’ve slowly been opening my door to more fantasy and I hope to add some of those to my favorites list.

Rosie: This is your first novel with Rhemelda Publishing. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to work with them?

MDA: I found Rhemalda Publishing when one of their authors, J.S. Chancellor, contacted me about reviewing my novella, Cinders, soon after it was released in 2010. She adored the book and when I looked up more about her I found her publisher and decided they might be a good fit for Monarch. After some intense revisions I submitted the book in October of 2010 and voila! Here I am. If only it was as quick and easy as I make it sound. *laughs*

Rosie: What upcoming projects do you have in the pipeline?

MDA: My young adult/new adult novel, The Breakaway, will be coming out next year (2012) from Rhemalda — hopefully late spring. It’s the story of a girl kidnapped by a family of jewel thieves. In 2013 my novella collection, Bonded, will be released by Rhemalda Publishing. This collection contains my novella, Cinders and two other fairy-tale inspired stories – Thirds and Scales. After that, I’m not sure. I currently have an idea for a young adult historical (possibly considered paranormal) novel set in Scotland. I don’t stick in one genre, can you tell? I hope that this project will release late 2013 or early 2014.

Rosie: And a random question to keep you on your toes: If the all the world were set up like Pangaea and all you could road trip anywhere, where would you go and why?

MDA: If all the world were set up like Pangaea I’d have to choose to visit anywhere by the coast! I dearly love the ocean.

Thank you so much to Michelle for letting me interview her. Once again, I'm very excited about MONARCH, and I want everyone to read it. Of course, giving away a copy to everyone would be an incredible (or incredibly expensive) feat. But, I can at least offer one copy for a lucky reader to win.

Want to win a copy of MONARCH for your very own? Leave a comment below. Want to be eligible for more entries? Tweet, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn links will all give you one extra entry toward winning. Just be sure to leave me links in the comments section, and feel free to tag me in any posts.

Entries close at 8PM EST (US) time on Tuesday, October 11. The winner will be announced here on October 12.

Good luck :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Pseudo-Hiatus

Hi folks.

This picture will never die
because it says so many things.
You may have noticed my absence last week. I almost wrote a post about the week that swallowed my soul (because, really, it did) and then spit me back out, but I didn't think you wanted to read all about my worries and woes. So I kept it to myself.

Unfortunately, I'm still in recovery. While I love blogging, and miss you all terribly, some things have to give. So I'm taking a pseudo-hiatus for a little while.

What does that mean? Well, it means I will be blogging irregularly—probably once a week—through the end of October. I have a few blog posts promised for various reasons, and those will happen. But I'm not sure I can handle more than that.

To Campaigners in my groups, I owe you an apology. I didn't realize how hectic things were right now, and I probably shouldn't have signed up. I will still come visit you (if I haven't already), but I can't be the active Campaigner that I had hoped to be.

So, the bottom line is that I'll be around, just not as much as I'd like. Here's hoping things settle down a little more by November, so I can NaNoWriMo again!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Power Ballads

Review of Power Ballads by Will Boast

From Goodreads:
Real musicians don’t sign autographs, date models, or fly in private jets. They spend their lives in practice rooms and basement clubs or toiling in the obscurity of coffee-shop gigs, casino jobs, and the European festival circuit. The ten linked stories in Power Ballads are devoted to this unheard virtuoso: the working musician. From the wings of sold-out arenas to hip-hop studios to polka bars, these stories are born out of a nocturnal world where music is often simply work, but also where it can, in rare moments, become a source of grace and transcendence, speaking about the things we never seem to say to each other. A skilled but snobby jazz drummer joins a costumed heavy metal band to pay his rent. A country singer tries to turn her brutal past into a successful career. A vengeful rock critic reenters the life of an emerging singer-songwriter, bent on wreaking havoc. The characters in Power Ballads—aging head-bangers, jobbers, techno DJs, groupies, and the occasional rock star (and those who have to live with them)—need music to survive, yet find themselves lost when the last note is played, the lights go up, and it’s time to return to regular life. By turns melancholy and hilarious, Power Ballads is not only a deeply felt look at the lives of musicians but also an exploration of the secret music that plays inside us all.

Boast's ability to wield these narratives is awe-inspiring. Beginning with a preteen tuba player who wants to polka, through rock stars and their loved ones, through choir masters and rapping teens, each story echos with musical truth. These stories take the music industry and make it universal, accessible.

Several of the stories have common characters, revolving around Tim, the drummer trying to make it in the Chicago music sphere, and his girlfriend Kate. They way these short stories are independent and yet interwoven provides almost a novel-like quality. This includes 6 of the 10 stories. A 7th is tangentially related, similar to the stories interwoven in Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. Admittedly, I had read the final story "Coda" in Narrative Magazine several months ago. While I enjoyed it then, I found it much richer and a more fulfilling read this time, prefaced by several other stories about the same characters, giving more depth to the emotions therein. The emotions that build over the course of the stories is also quite powerful. After "The Bridge", I had to stop reading. Fiction almost never makes me cry, but this story was one exception.

The other stories show other aspects of the music industry. Perhaps my favorite of these, "Sidemen", examines the life of a touring rock musician's wife and the difficulties with that lifestyle. The sorrow Boast captures in this story resonate with me, someone who has no connection with the music industry. Yet the feelings of loneliness are common and approachable.

I love all of the stories in this collection. Congratulations to Will Boast for winning the Iowa Short Fiction Award. From this selection of his work, it is clear he deserved it.

Recommendation: Read this now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Watching Willow Watts Launch Party and Review

Congratulations to Talli Roland. Today's the launch day of her new novel, Watching Willow Watts.

In celebration, she's hosting an "If I could be anyone, I'd be..." party.

So, here goes.

Photo Credit: Leah Tannen
If I could be anyone, I would be Audrey Hepburn. Not only was she beautiful and talented, she cared deeply for the people and the world around her. She was a beautiful person, both inside and out. When I was younger, I wanted to be just like her. I even had the long cigarette holder.

Why are we talking about this? Because of the fantastic book, Watching Willow Watts, in which the main character (inadvertently) becomes a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. (Gosh, wouldn't I love for someone to decide the spirit of Audrey had been bestowed upon me and everyone thought I was the next Audrey. *swoon*)

First, I want to say that I love Talli Roland's style of story-weaving. Her creativity never ceases to amaze or amuse me. The sense of humor in each scene always keeps me laughing. Several moments in this story move toward dark humor, and maybe I'm not laughing out loud then, but I'm still entertained and ready to read more.

The story progresses through several weeks as Willow Watts struggles with her own identity and her new life as Marilyn Monroe. One of many facets of this story that make it great is Willow's strength and perseverance through these tough times. We can all take a little something from Willow's strength, which she finds within herself throughout the story.

If you like a good, fun ChickLit tale, you should definitely read this (and anything else by Talli Roland).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with Will Boast

I've recently had the pleasure of reading Power Ballads, a collection of short stories by Will Boast. I'm very excited to welcome Will to talk to us today about his new collection—now available—and life in general. Stop by on Friday for my review of the collection. But first, a brief introduction.

Photo courtesy of willboast.com
Will Boast was born in England and grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin. His story collection, Power Ballads, won the 2011 Iowa Short Fiction Award. His fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices 2009, Narrative, Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, The American Scholar, and Five Points, among other publications. From 2008-2010, he was a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University, and, this fall, will be a Charles Pick Fellow at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

So, without further ado, I'd like to welcome Will Boast.

Rosie: Congratulations on winning the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Can you tell us about the process of your being considered and how you found out about the award?

WB: Thanks! The Iowa Short Fiction Award has been around for about twenty-five years and, along with the Flannery O'Connor Award, is considered one of the most prominent book contests for story collections. In my experience, readers of literary fiction love short stories, but the publishing world, mostly based in New York, perceives them as a tough sell to a larger audience. (Mention your story collection around an editor or agent and watch how fast their eyes glaze over....) My agent felt that trying to publish my stories wouldn't be a good first step for me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I got lucky, because the Iowa Award was the very first place I sent my manuscript! The nice thing about the Iowa Award is that it's read blind and is juried and judged by writers. So, their primary concern, really their only concern, is the manuscript itself and whether it's a good and satisfying read.

Rosie: Which authors would you say have most influenced your writing? In what ways?

WB: Tough question! A few years ago I discovered (along with all the rest of the American reading public!) Roberto Bolano's novels and stories. I haven't tried to emulate him--because mimicking such a distinctive writer is probably a bad idea--but I love the way he creates an alternate world for himself in which all of his fiction takes place. His world is populated with writers and poets (mostly failed, failing, and distinctly minor writers and poets), some real, many more invented. So maybe I borrowed that approach for Power Ballads, but reduced the size of the world to something more like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio

Rosie: Your short stories focus on different aspects of the life of musicians. What made you want to write about the music industry?

WB: I spent a couple years in Chicago playing music, going to see shows, working with musicians, and drinking with musicians. In college, I played a lot of music (too much, really), and when I moved to San Francisco, I became involved with the music scene here as well. The musicians I've met have all been dreamers, and their desires and obsessions almost always put them in compromised positions--financially, artistically, romantically--even the ones who have ended up having a lot of success. I knew that, for the most part, I didn't want to write about rock stars, because I find that story pretty boring. The musicians I most admired were the obscure and deeply uncool ones, and I wanted to write a sort of fan letter to them. That said, I don't really think of Power Ballads as ultimately being about music or musicians. Music is maybe just the way, the entry point, to address other things.

Rosie: Several of the stories in Power Ballads revolve around two characters, Tim and Kate. Have you ever consider expanding their story/stories into something longer? More of a novel format? In fact, 7 of the 10 stories directly or indirectly revolve around Tim and or Kate's lives. Why did you decide to include these stories in this collection, instead of focusing more or less on Tim and Kate?

WB: I think that Power Ballads is that longer thing! I'd been thinking about writing stories about journeyman musicians for a while and had a couple stories that more or less fit that bill kicking around. It was somewhat accidental that Tim found his way into as many stories as he did, and Kate came in even later. It seems like a story often has a life of its own, and you just end up following whatever thing seems the most vital or interesting or fun at the time. That said, both Tim and Kate appeared in "The Bridge," one of the oldest stories in the book. Something about Tim as a narrator continue to resonate for me, and several more stories revolving around his obsessions and short-sightedness ended up coming out in fairly quick succession.

Rosie: What other kinds of projects do you have lined up?

WB: I'm working on a novel and a memoir. I'm also trying to make a start in narrative journalism.

Rosie: Where else can we read your work?

WB: There's a list of publications and links to online stuff at willboast.com. Recently, I've had stories out in the American Scholar, the Literarian, Narrative, and ZZYZZVA.

Rosie: And a random question, just to keep you on your toes: If you could be any insect, which one would you be and why?

WB: Not being the most insect-friendly of people and despite the fact that getting stung is a bummer, I'd have to say a honeybee. No other insect goes to such obsessive extremes of behavior--forming a colony, building a hive, making honey, serving the queen. As a bee, you'd know your place in the world, and you'd get to feel useful.

Thanks so much, Will, for joining us today. If you're interested in Will Boast's book, again be sure to stop by on Friday for a review of Power Ballads or click on the link below.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Campaigner Challenge

I normally post MWF, but we're heading out of town tomorrow, so I thought it would be best to put this up now. I won't have any post tomorrow.

As I'm still struggling with my writing mojo, I'm not sure if I love this flash fic or not, but here goes nothing. It's exactly 200 words (yup, I'm a geek like that.)

As always, I'm open to any and all comments you may have. And thanks in advance for reading.

The door swung open, and Samantha stared into the darkened study room. She'd planned to meet her friends here at seven before grabbing dinner. Just the three of them. No crowds, no hoopla. Just dinner and quiet company.

But the room was black, empty.

Something felt wrong. Lewis was as punctual as a tightly wound watch, and Cheryl thought "late" meant arriving twenty minutes early. So where were they? Her imagination whirled. Had someone or something attacked them?

Was it still there waiting for her?

Inside, carpet fibers rustled. Samantha narrowed her eyes, searching in the darkness while refusing the cross the threshold. What made that noise? What was in there?

It felt wrong.

While her impulses told her to run, her feet wouldn't move. Curiosity plucked at her attention. Against her better judgment, she reached inside for the light switch. Blinding florescent lights flickered to life.


Swear words ran through Samantha's mind as hands gripped her arms and dragged her inside. She spotted Lewis and Cheryl at the center of the crowd. She had felt more comfortable thinking her friends were hurt.

Trapped. Now she was trapped. She glanced around, searching for an escape.

The door swung shut.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome to my first post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. And, if you're new, welcome to my blog.

This is something I've written about a lot lately because, well, it's apparently something that's been bothering me.

Recently, we moved. For the record, we did it all ourselves, with no packers or movers. Several weeks of packing, days of moving, a week of homelessness, a day of moving, and weeks of unpacking. To say the least, it was difficult to find the mojo to write during all of this.

Now I'm back to work, writing every day in the morning and working part-time in the afternoon. I started with major editing of my WIP. And I found that editing wasn't helping get my mojo back.

So, this is my concern. Once I actually regain my mojo, will editing and revision still kill my writing mojo? Does anyone else have this problem? I know that some people really enjoy the editing and revising. But if not, how do people manage their writing thrill and the revision process?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Struggle and Persistence

I have a relatively new crit partner, and in addition to trading work and brainstorming with each other, we've also been trying to keep each other accountable on weekly goals. Last Sunday when I sent her my goals for the week, I was horrified to see that I had 15 rather serious goals to achieve. She challenged me to completely mark 5 off my list. I'm happy to say that I crossed off 10 (which included writing this blog post).

One of my goals was to write for at least an hour per day on my new project. This proved to be harder than it seems.

My permanent desk muses:
one of my cats and the PowerPuff Girls
Saturday in particular was a day of writer's block. I struggled, staring out my window, messing with my cat, hoping that the PowerPuff Girls would save my from my strife. I stared at the words I had already written and though, "Eh. Who cares?" It was a rough day.

Then I came across this blog post from one of the fellow Campaigners. It helped me remember that my first draft doesn't need to be perfect. No one else has to see it. As long as I keep at it and keep working, it will come together in the end. And then I can come back and cut out that superfluous scene where they're watching a movie, right? :)

As long as I remember to edit the life out of it before I start sending it out to my poor crit partners. *innocent whistling*

We all have those days when it's hard to get the words out. But on a first draft, it helps to turn off the perfectionist inside. Let's just hope I can keep it up.

What do you do when you run into writer's block? How hard do you try to polish the first draft? Do you edit while you write? Or revise everything later?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: Entwined

This book has been getting a lot of hype lately, and so when a friend recommended it, I thought, "Sure, why not?" It's got a beautiful cover, which sometimes is enough to suck me in, and the promise of a cute, light fantasy always draws my attention.

Review of Entwined by Heather Dixon

From Goodreads: Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it. 

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. 

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest. 

But there is a cost. 

The Keeper likes to keep things. 

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

This book carries lots of promises: fighting against her entrapment, struggling for freedom. And, yet, I had several problems.

First, I have no idea how old Azalea is. Maybe this isn't the most important complaint, but the expectations a reader has about a character's maturity changes greatly whether the character is 15 or 18. There's a lot of life experience that can be packed into those few years, and so not to give her a specified age--only to state that she's "of age", which isn't defined until well into the story--made me think her about 18 and therefore REALLY immature for her age. Come to find out through some general mental figuring, she probably turned 16 through the course of the story. However, as the oldest of 12, she'd probably still be more mature than she came off.

Second, until about 300 pages into the 470+ page tome, Azalea doesn't WANT anything. She's simply reacting, moving and swaying the current but not trying to GO anywhere. She struggles against her confinement, but she doesn't take any major steps to do much about it. Actually, no, I take that back. The poor girl is confined in mourning and all she wants to do is dance. But what's her goal? Where's she going? Does she want to teach dance at the local girls school? Does she want to do something other than have temporary bits of fun? Not that I can tell. 300 pages in, she finally has a goal, and she starts to work toward an end game, but in the first 60% of the book, her struggle is aimless and meandering. And therefore left me wondering why I was reading it.

Lastly, characterization was lacking. Azalea felt somewhat flat to me, even overshadowed by her next two sisters' personalities. Perhaps it was due to Azalea's lack of goal? I'm not sure. It didn't help that there were 12 sisters all between the ages of 16 and newborn (and, might I say, OW!), their mother, their father, the Prime Minister, Keeper, the love interest, and several other men throughout the story. Sisters melded into one another in my brain, as did the male suitors over time. I can't figure out why she needed 12 sisters, because it made several points in the plot confusing, unless it was to explain the mother's illness (this is not a spoiler; it's in the first chapter). I think, had more attention been focused on who Azalea was and what she wanted instead of trying to juggle dozens and dozens of characters, this would have been a richer read.

With all this complaining, I must say that Heather Dixon creates a beautiful world with well described imagery that sucks the reader in. While I wondered several times why things were happening and what I wanted to get from this read, some of the beautiful images captured my imagination. I also enjoyed the slow development of Azalea's romantic interest, though there were times early on when this got lost because he would disappear (through understandable circumstances within the story) for close to a hundred pages at a time. In fact, her romantic interest was probably my favorite character of all. Maybe he should have his own book :)

Recommendation: Light, summer read, but if you've got something else you'd rather read, stick to your instincts.

Have you read Entwined? What did you think?
Related Posts with Thumbnails