Tag Archives: books

Growing as a Writer: Read!

If you want to write, you have to read. There’s no getting around it. Writing without first reading is like trying to paint a watercolor without having ever seen one, or trying to compose a song without every hearing one. If you want to get a sense for the style and genre you want to write, you have to first explore it by reading.

If you’re like me and the whole reason you started writing was because you loved reading, then you’re probably thinking that reading isn’t going to help you grow as a writer: you already do it. But I’m not just talking about any type of reading. There are two types of reading that will really boost your writing skills.

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1. Read books on writing

While reading fiction is useful in learning the craft, there are just some things you aren’t going to absorb subconsciously by reading fiction. You can get a sense for the kinds of things that done in a story and the kinds of things that are expected in your genre, but sometimes you need someone to just tell you.

You can see from reading a story, that the characters change from the way they were at the beginning of the story to the way that they were at the end, but you may not notice all the subtle ways they were changing in the middle of the story or the way the author artfully set the character in situations where they were forced to confront their flaws.

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You may have a pretty good handle on the flow of dialogue from all of the fictional conversations you’ve read, but not know the tricks authors use to get inside their characters heads to make their dialogue authentic. You may know that a plot is needed for your novel, but be lost when coming up with one.

The list goes on and on.

Sometimes we really just need someone who’s done this novel-writing-thing before to tell us how to do it.

 

2. Read books outside of your genre.

Remember when you were a kid and you would skip around from mysteries, to literary fiction, to comics, to manga? You didn’t know what your favorite genre was, so you didn’t limit yourself.

For some reason, when we get older, we stop exploring. We know what we like, so we stick to that–especially if we start writing in a certain genre. We think that we need to accumulate a vast knowledge of every book ever written in that genre so we can write the best (name of your genre).

While it is wise to know the ins and outs of the genre you’re writing in, it can actually stifle you to only read in that genre. This is where we fall into the danger of using over-used tropes of that genre such as the old-man-with-a-grey-beard mentor character or the chosen-one-whom-the-prophesy-spoke-about-will-save-us-all plot.

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We need to read outside of the genre we write to give us fresh ideas, to keep us from using what’s already been done, and to give us new ways of looking at things. And who knows? You may decide to write in a different genre.

Do you read a lot of different genres or do you stick to the same one? I tend to read a lot of fantasy (both high and all the sub genres) because that’s what I write. Yes, I’m guilty of this too. 😉 I do love a good historical fiction novel too.

Speaking of reading…my book is coming along nicely and it looks like it will be out in August! So put The Hashna Stone on your reading list because it will be available soon! 🙂

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The first 20 to become patrons will get their name mentioned in the “thank you” section of my book. This is regardless of which tier you select. That means you can get your name mentioned (which is something only the highest level patrons get) for only $1. Yes, one dollar will get your name in my book!



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Book Review: The Rose Society

The rose society marie luAs amazing as The Young Elites is, the sequel is even better. (If you haven’t read it you may want to read my review of book one in this trilogy Book Review: The Young Elites.)

 

The Pacing

There was never a dull moment in this book. I was always on the edge of my seat, waiting for Adelina’s next move. Even with multiple view points, the story didn’t slow down. I never found myself rushing past a different character’s point of view to get back to Adelina.

 

 

youngelites_teaser-adelina-by-mree-closeupCharacter Arc (***Spoilers***)

Adelina wants revenge on the Daggers and on the inquisition, but what she needs is to realize that in spite of how she feels, there are those around her who love her. She goes through the whole book reminding herself that love isn’t for her and that power is the safest option, when all she needs to do is recognize the love her sister has for her, and open herself to Magiano’s love. (He’s an elite she recruited to follow her.) Charismatic Magiano manages to tug on her cold heart and even get her to feel a few rare moments of joy. But in one of the final scenes, someone (I don’t want to give too many spoilers :P) dear to her completely rejects and crushes her, confirming her belief that someone like her could find love.

In the end, she gets the revenge she was looking for, but it only makes her feel empty.

 

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Other Characters Worth Mentioning

I thoroughly enjoyed Magiano, one of the Elites in Adelina’s new group. I love the careless way he plucks at his lute, even in dangerous situations (even when meeting Adelina for the first time, right after witnessing her power). And the way he slouches and moves in an unconcerned manner like an impish wanderer, but wears a wild assortment of rich clothing that would make royalty jealous. He is equal parts wise vagabond and treasure-seeking prince. This colorful dichotomy makes Magiano a fun and unforgettable character.

 
Villain

The Villain

The villain of the story is a bit tricky. Is it Adelina? Is it Teren? Is it Raffaele?
To figure this out, I’ll start with what all of these characters have in common: abuse.
Adelina was horrifically abused by her father. Teren is abused by his father as well, then later by Giulietta. Raffaele is abused by the very clients that claim to love him and is treated over and over again as an object of pleasure in spite of his own wishes.
How each of these characters handle their abuse shapes the decisions they make.
Both Adelina and Teren use their abuse to fuel their own selfish desire; Adelina wants revenge on the Inquisition for what they did to her and absolute power over the kingdom and Teren wants to absolve himself of being a malfetto. These desires lead both of them on a dark path pathed with destruction and hate.
Raffaele on the other hand, doesn’t go on a killing spree or aspire to gain more power. He wants revenge like Adelina, but why he wants it is different. Adelina wants revenge for what’s been done to her. Raffaele wants revenge for what’s been done to the malfettos and Enzo.
This ability to look outside of himself and have compassion for others is apparent in his first scene where he is using his power to calm a frightened girl after she has been abused much in the same way he has been. He takes time to comfort the traumatized malfetto refugees even though the Daggers chide him for taking the time when there is so much for him to do as their new leader.
While this sole trait isn’t enough to draw the line between who is a villain and who isn’t, I think it goes a long way in shedding some light on the question.
Observation gifInteresting observation
None of these characters seemed to have truly escaped their abusers. Though Adelina makes a brave getaway from her father, and even killed him, she carries his ghost around with her. He is constantly feeding her the same words that he did when he was alive.
Teren may not be a child trapped under his father’s critical, condescending ways, but he chooses to stay with a woman who is controlling, physically abusive, and only keeping Teren around for what he can give her.
Raffaele stays a consort through all of book one and only escapes when he is forced to flee the country and become the new leader of the Daggers. But he immediately finds himself back in the same role. (I won’t say much more because of spoilers 😉 )
This makes the profound statement that, many times, those that are abused aren’t necessarily free from their abusers simply because the abuser is no longer present.
I can’t wait to start the last installment in the series. Rose Society gets five stars from me.
five stars

 

 

 

Book Review: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

My last few reviews have all been five stars– probably because I’m excited to talk about books I love–so today I thought I’d talk about one that was less than stellar.

It’s a little different than the normal fictional books that I review here, but it is on relationships, and this month the month of hearts and candy so this is a good opportunity to bring it up.

So without further ado, here is the review (I didn’t mean for that to be a cheesy rhyme 😛 ).

 

 

men are like waffles women are like spaghetti

This book had some good information but their classification of men and women is a bit too cliché.

I like their advice on communication and overcoming problems. They suggest that couples make a list of things in life that are important to them: successful careers, having a clean house, maintaining a healthy body, spending time with children, alone time, time with one another, hobbies, having a nice car, etc…. Then each person would give it number from one to three. One meaning it’s very important and three meaning it isn’t. This is very helpful in seeing the differences and similarities in what you and your partner value in life so you can see where conflicts may arise.

The part I didn’t like about the book was the way that men were portrayed as neanderthals who could think of nothing but sex and how women were portrayed as mindless creatures who rambled on and on about nothing.

While I do agree that men and women have differences, they were exaggerated in this book to the point of being insulting. Men, just because they are men, are not incapable of conversing. Women, just because they are women, don’t constantly feel the need to jabber endlessly.

There are plenty of men who talk more than women and plenty women who don’t de-stress by immediately getting on the phone to gab to their friends while cleaning something (an actual example from the book).

Some women (me included) would rather retreat to a “man cave” and not be bothered while working on a project. Because (guess what?) some women are introverts!

They also seemed to think women get their self worth from their kids and the condition of their house. As a woman who plans to never have children and who feels a lot more satisfaction after writing a blog post or finishing a painting than cleaning the house, I just can’t relate to that, nor do I think that every woman sees home and kids as the ultimate goal in her life.

I’m not even sure I buy into the whole “waffle box” and “spaghetti” thing. They say that women are great multitask and will have no problem doing several things at once, but I can’t stand being interrupted and want to do one thing at a time and finish whatever I’m working on before moving to the next task.

Women are also supposed to jump topics in conversation more while men want to focus on one thing at a time. This sounds more like an extrovert/introvert type thing. Extroverts typically cover a broad amount of topics while introverts will talk about one topic for hours.

I feel that they are “dumbing down” men and women by lumping them into stereotypical categories rather than helping them.

This book has some good exercises, like making a list of free ways to make your partner feel loved and the one I mentioned above, but if you are looking to understand your partner better, it would be more helpful for each of you to take the Myers Brigg personality test and discuss your results.

Book Review: King’s Dark Tidings

Book Review: Free the darkness King's dark Tidings Kel KadeThis book grabbed my interest when Reskin’s delirious, dying master croaked out that the most important rule for him to follow was to “protect and honor your friends” when he was supposed to say “your king.” All of a sudden the cliche fantasy story of a hero trained from birth to become a killing machine and be sent out on a grand mission becomes the story of a trained killer making it his mission to find these friends so he can carry out his purpose and protect and honor them.

When he comes across a girl who casually uses the word “friends” to describe the two of them, he immediately makes it his top priority to protect her and her traveling companion. He thinks his higher ups assigned him a network of friends and that his purpose in life is to find and protect them. This makes for a comical scenario because anytime someone uses the word “friends” Reskin thinks, “Another one? But how will I protect this friend when my other friends are traveling in a different direction?”

Reskin is good at everything he does. He can fight with any weapon, he can use herbs to heal, he can break into even the most heavily-guarded banks, he knows every fact in history, he knows all the rules of high society and can act more noble than the nobility. Every mission he carries out goes smoothly and others admire him in every social interaction (even though he is doing it from a strategic stand point rather than an organic understanding).

A character so good at everything would usually make me put the book down in a heartbeat, but I find Reskin enduring because of how naive he is to normal life and everyday interactions between people. Growing up in such a harsh environment with such strict rules, he is baffled that so many people don’t know how to defend themselves, that they walk around completely unaware of their surroundings, and is confused that they somehow reached adulthood without mastering “the rules.”

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It is hilarious to watch him assess social interactions. For example, he sees a man and woman at a table looking deeply into each other’s eyes. He disproves at how unaware they are of their surroundings, thinking they could be attacked from any side and wouldn’t noticed until it was too late. He notices that the man is holding the woman’s hand and thinks it must be because he is restraining her. Perhaps he doesn’t trust her and thinks she will pull out a weapon. Maybe that is why he is looking so deeply into her eyes; he wants to discern if she answering his questions truthfully.

I cannot do the comical moments in this book justice. I’ve never read a book that had me laughing out loud as many times as this one did. The misconceptions the other characters have about Reskin and the situations they get into are hilarious. The author has a unique way of letting us into the other characters’ thoughts at just the right moments to see the irony of their perceptions of Reskin. The switch in point of view is done seamlessly and in a way few authors can pull off.

I only have two complaints. As I said earlier, Reskin never fails to accomplish what he sets out to do and rarely even has any complications. I would like to see Reskin in a situation where his many skills aren’t quite enough and he really has to work to get out of said situation. I do have a feeling that this will happen in one of the next books, since I feel the story is building to a big confrontation.

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My second complaint is the lack of competent female characters. Every single female character, from the maid to the sword-baring “warrior” instantly falls for Reskin and spends the book fawning over him and fighting each other for his attention. This does make for a lot of comical moments since Reskin is completely oblivious and is confused by the woman’s actions. I don’t begrudge any of the current female characters and their actions, but it would be nice to have at least one female character who didn’t have little more on her mind than a romantic night with Reskin.

In spite of my small irritations, I’m still going to give this book 5 stars. The author did a wonderful job of turning what began as a cliche story of an orphan boy trained to be a power-house killer into an enjoyable and anything but predictable story. I could not put this book down. Not to mention, it made be laugh so dang often.

 

 

Book Update: Good and Bad News

Two weeks ago, I talked about how I wanted to throw my manuscript in the trash, but my novel writing journey hasn’t been one big discouraging experience.  I had a lot of moments where celebration bells went off in my head as I finished certain milestones:

  • When I came up with a plot some unplotted chapters after pacing for an hour
  • When I finished my first draft!
  • When I finished reading through and marking up my first ever manuscript in paper
  • When I wrote my first query letter
  • When I queried the first agent
  • When I got my first rejection letter (yes, I saw this as a badge christening me as “a real writer.”)

I’ve grown so much since that day I first decided to write a book, and each of these milestones gave me the motivation to keep going. But there’s one milestone that REALLY gave me a supercharged boost in motivation.

And now for the drum roll….

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An agent from Writer’s House asked to look at my manuscript!

Yes, you read that right. It isn’t a typo or me being a writing and making up stories. 😛

She didn’t choose to represent it, but it was just about the best news I’ve received all year. It meant that at least something about this story was worth interest. It also meant that I must be writing my query letters right too. 😉

The agent said that The Hashna Stone was an “original concept” and that I’d “done a great job creating a novel with a strong voice and engaging characters.” She said that she didn’t connect strongly enough with the book to represent it though.

This agent’s interest gave me more than just a ray of hope that one day, someone would represent it. She gave me an opportunity to look at my work, yet again, and be a little more critical.

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Her email left me thinking, “What made her say no?” It could truly be that she loved everything about the book, but its style wasn’t quite something she wanted to represent. But most likely, there was something flawed about the story.

It wasn’t the idea, the overall story concept itself. She said it was an original concept.

It wasn’t that a lack of voice or that I had flat characters. So what was it that turned this agent away?

As I started thinking about how the story unfolds, I realized that I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending, and chances are, if I’m not happy with it an agent wouldn’t be either.

It needed to be bigger, there needed to be a few more scenes, the other viewpoint character has a last scene that just doesn’t seem to wrap everything up as nicely as Dalan’s.

There was a LOT of work that needed to be done. And here I was thinking it was finished. *sigh*

So, that is what I’m working on now, dear Epic Dreamers. Sending to agents has been put on pause so I can rewrite about ten of the last chapters (which also means rewriting quite a bit in the first and middle, because it has to reflect and foreshadow what happens in the end). I’m excited about these changes because it’s making The Hashna Stone a better story, and hopefully the next time an agent asks to read my manuscript, she’ll say yes.

 

Book Review: The Young Elites

Book review: The young Elites Marie Lu

While most characters in a fantasy obtain their magic by learning it or simply by being born with it, Marie Lu came up with a wonderfully unique way for her characters to get their powers. They have to survive a blood fever that leaves them marked in some way. They have a purple splotch on their skin, locks of blue color hair, or unmatching eyes.

Not only did the fever leave Adelina with silver hair, but it took one of her eyes as well.

The society she is in sees her as an abomination, not because of her missing eye, but because she is a malfetto, an abomination cursed by the gods. And some, the Elites, rumored to have supernatural power.

I love the twist that those with magic powers are feared and hunted down rather than revered. It creates a perfect backdrop for Adelina’s story to unfold. The story of an unloved girl, who thinks she has found acceptance and love in a group of people similar to herself, only to be betrayed.

This isn’t the story of a hero being made, but a villain being created.

Adelina truly tries to please her new friends, hoping to gain the acceptance and affection she’s longed for since childhood, but because of circumstances mostly beyond her control, she is labeled a traitor and loses the chance she had at belonging. This leads her to believe that there is no love or friendship for her.

What makes this story so powerful is that each one of us can empathize with Adelina. We’ve all felt unloved, been an outcast, or been abused. And maybe sometimes fantasized at getting revenge on those who have done us wrong.

This is the tale of a girl who has lost so much, she is forced to take from others. Who has had pain inflicted on her so often that she can’t help but inflict it on other. Of a broken girl who becomes a villain.

 

Stars: five out of five.

 

 

Book Update: Can I Throw it in the Trash?

Hey there Epic Dreamers!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Just Chatting” post and it’s been even longer since I’ve shared any news about the book I’m working on. So I thought today would be a good day to spend some time chatting about my book.

For those of you who are around here, I’ll give you a quick history of how this book got started. About two years ago, I posted chapters of a story I called The Hashna Stone that ended with a decision to be made and a poll so readers could vote on what would happen next.

By the time we reached the end of this little story, I realized that this could be more than a choose your own adventure. With a little sprucing up, it could be a book.

So, I spent a year writing and rewriting and rewriting some more to turn this little story into a novel-sized story.

At the beginning of this year, I announced that the manuscript was finished and I was ready to send it off to agents.

Woohoo! All my hard work has finally paid off and I’m going to be rich and famous from the product of my labor!

Okay, that’s not exactly what I thought. At that point, I’d read tons about how difficult it was to get an agent and have a book published. I knew it would be tough, but I was hopeful. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it could still happen right?

Fast forward to eight months later (now) and I’m about ready to chuck the thing in the garbage and finally accept that I’m only good at writing short stories for my blog. (Okay, not exactly… I could never destroy something that I worked on for that long  😛 )

I did set it aside after finishing the third draft, which is what I sent agents. The break was good for me though. It allowed me to look at the story more objectively and see some problem areas.

I haven’t sent a query letter to an agent in months, partly because I got burned out after so many rejection letters and partly because I realized that the story could be better, but didn’t know how to fix it.

At the moment, I have some ideas about the new direction I should take the story in, and I’m slowly (VERY slowly) making the changes needed in yet another draft. I’m going to finish making all these changes before I start sending to agents again. I don’t want one to ask for a manuscript that isn’t finished.

I’ll give you a little more detail in another post, but for now I just wanted to do a quick update so you wouldn’t think I’d forgotten about it or threw it in a river somewhere. 😛

Until next time Epic Dreamers!

 

 

The Fellowship of the Ring Book Tag (Part Two)

Here’s part two of the book tag created by my friend Nandini. This tag takes members from the Fellowship of the Ring and has them each represent a different type of book. It’s my favorite tag ever! 🙂

Last week I did Frodo, Legolas, Gimli, and Merry. Today I’m doing Pippin, Boromir, Sam, Aragorn, and Gollum.

Pippin – A book that made you laugh

Free the Darkness (King's Dark Tidings, #1)

By the cover, you’d never guess that this book is funny. The comedy comes in when Reskin’s delirious, dying master croaks out that the most important rule for him to follow is to “protect and honor your friends” when he is supposed to say “your king.” All of a sudden the cliche fantasy story of a hero trained from birth to become a killing machine and be sent out on a grand mission becomes the story of a trained killer making it his mission to find these friends so he can carry out his purpose and protect and honor them.

As you can imagine, this puts him in quite a few humorous situations. He takes this “duty” so seriously that even a casually mention of friendship sends his head spinning. Also, growing up in a secluded area leaves Reskin clueless about everyday social interactions. It’s hilarious to watch him try to analyze what every detail of an interaction means.

 

Boromir – A book/series that you think ended too soon

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Technically this series hasn’t ended because the author is still working on the last book, but I was crushed when I got to the end of what I thought was the last book and found out that I had to wait another who-knows-how-long

until I get to find out what happens.

At the same time, I’m exited to have another book to read set in this world and with these characters because both are phenomenal.

So, it ended too soon because I want the last book out right now. 😛

 

 

 

Sam – A book with memorable side characters who stole the show

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Warbreaker is about two Idrian princesses, Vivenna and Siri. Vivenna was contracted through treaty to marry the God King of rival nation Hallandren. Instead, Siri is sent to marry him.

These two characters are far from boring, but when you throw in a mute God King and a god who doesn’t believe in his own deity, they can’t help but steal the show. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

Aragorn – A good book with a bad/average cover

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It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, but really enjoyed watching the antics of the main character even if I did figure out right away what was suppose to be a big reveal at the end.

The cover isn’t bad. Just so-so. It’s definitely a better read than the cover makes it look.

A nobleman in the court rounds up some orphan boys off the streets who look similar to the prince who went missing a few years ago. He trains them to act like royalty, quizzes them on members of court, and so on. One of them will emerge a puppet prince whose presence will settle the civil war that is brewing.

 

Gollum – A book that had great potential but disappointed you in the end

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This book could have been such a good story (not to mention it has a beautiful cover!). A modern twist on Ester or Cinderella… A common girl gets the chance of a lifetime to become a princess through a competition. If she wins, she marries the prince.

I was disappointed from the opening.

First, there was the info dumping. One of the first things you learn as a writer is to never dump a bunch of information in the first chapter (or really ever). The first few pages of this book give throws a bunch of random information to the reader about the main character’s family. It would have been much better if they’d been introduced as the scene unfolded.

I could overlook that. Sometimes good books have bad beginnings.

But then it got worse. It was so bad that once I started writing, I realized that it was too much to put here. So, I’ll probably write a review on this later. 🙂

 

Well, that’s the end. Thanks Nandini for tagging me. This was a lot of fun!

I’m going to tag

joyroses13

Writing Block

Tales from Eneana

Forever Aspiring Writer

Here’s a link to the original post so you can see all of them together.

I hope you all get do it! It’s so fun!