Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just for Me

*Dusts off blog*

Okay, so I realize it has been nearly two weeks since I posted anything. I also realize that I don't have very much of an excuse. I have written a decent amount, though, so I haven't been completely lazy. Just frequently lazy.

Anyway, today I want to write about Incarnate by Jodi Meadows. This is another one that just has one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen. I promise not to have spoilers in here, because I want everyone I ever know to read this book. So that means you have to read  about how much I loved it, and then you'll want to go read it too, right? Isn't that how this is supposed to work?

Well, one can hope.

Let me start by giving you a spoiler-free overview, similar to the back cover of the book. Incarnate is a YA fantasy. It takes place in a land called Range, where one million souls have been reincarnated over and over again for thousands of years. Until Ana is born. A new soul. Or, as her mother would claim, a no soul. She leaves her home for the city of Heart, where she hopes to find out just where she came from, and why.

Here's what I told my husband when he asked what I thought about the book: I feel like if someone reached into my soul and pulled out a book that was written just for me, this would be it.

I related to Ana perhaps more than I've ever related to a character in my entire life. I understood every single thing about the way that girl's mind works, the way she feels about things, the way she reacts to other people's words/actions/etc. I absolutely adored her. I never questioned why she did what she did, because it was always what I would have done. I thought the plot was beautiful. I thought the very idea behind this book was beautiful. I thought the writing itself was just so damn beautiful.

This is, hands down, one of my favorite books of all time. I cannot recommend it enough.

If you've read Incarnate, I'd love to hear what you thought. And how about you? What are some of your favorite books? I'm always looking for recommendations!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Dream House

I found out today that A.A. Milne's house is for sale. It also turns out that it's just about the prettiest house I've ever seen. (Click here for pictures.)

I think I've mentioned once or twice that I have a great and resounding love for Winnie the Pooh. Just in case any of you didn't believe me, it really, really is very true. I wear a Winnie the Pooh necklace every day. I have more Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals and figurines and snowglobes and movies than you can possibly imagine. I have a Winnie the Pooh themed office, complete with Winnie the Pooh paint colors. The walls are "Pooh's Favorite Things" and the little bumble bees I stenciled along the top of each wall are "Hunny Pot Purple." I even briefly toyed with the idea of getting a Winnie the Pooh tattoo (and went so far as to have an artist friend draw it for me) before I decided that tattoos and I just aren't meant to be. One of the readings at my wedding was from, you guessed it, Winnie the Pooh. Then we went to Disney World on our "Hunny-moon" (and yes, my husband let me call it that), where I literally cried tears of joy after I got a hug from my favorite silly old bear. Here's a picture of me and Pooh Bear:

Don't let the shirt fool you. I wasn't grumpy at all.

I'm telling you all of this so you can understand just how truly and utterly excited I was when I found out that A.A. Milne's house is for sale. For me, living there would be like living in a fairy tale. I honestly cannot think of a single place in the world I'd rather be. Even if it means I have to move to another country. Below is the conversation I had on gchat with my husband immediately after finding out.


husband:  ????


husband:  tell you what
you find the 3.22M (legally) and I'll move

me:  damn you and your parentheses! 

husband:  here's the plan
find a wealthy investor who likes your writing, tell him or her to buy you that house for inspiration and you'll write whatever book they want

Which brings me to the ultimate point of this post. There isn't any chance that any of you, my beloved followers, are billionaire philanthropists, is there?


Oh well. It was worth a shot.  ;)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Amanda Hocking's Trylle Trilogy

Status: I've now written two chapters of my new book! Definitely need some work, but I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty. If I could, I'd work on this book every waking moment until it was finished. But there are just so many other things that demand my time. Alas.

Number of queries sent: 36
Number of form rejections: 19
Number of detailed rejections: 3
Number of requests for additional materials: 3

So I would be very surprised if there are any writers (aspiring or otherwise) out there who haven't heard of Amanda Hocking and her Trylle trilogy. She's basically the poster child for self publishing an e-book. I've known about her for a while now, and actually send a link to one of her blog posts to people from time to time. This is always in response to someone sending me some article about self publishing, usually with a *wink, wink* kind of note. These people seem to think that this thought had never occurred to me, so they are doing me a great favor. I'm not quite sure why people constantly think I live with my head buried in the sand (this kind of thing happens often, and not just with self publishing). But that's a different matter altogether. 

Here's the link to Amanda Hocking's blog post, which I think sums up my feelings on the matter quite nicely: These two lines, in particular, describe why I'm sticking with traditional publishing: "I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn't writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me." And she has since signed a traditional publishing contract, which I think speaks volumes in and of itself.

Okay. On to the books themselves. It probably would've been cheaper to buy these books on my Nook instead of going for the recently released paperbacks, but the covers are so freaking pretty! Let us all admire how lovely they are.  

I honestly can't think of any book covers that I've ever thought were more beautiful. Especially Switched. That color of red just draws my eyes to it, and I have trouble looking away.


And now I shall actually talk about the books themselves. To give some basic background for people who have not read these books, but are still reading this despite the fact that there will be spoilers, these are paranormal books about trolls. Except not creepy, under-a-bridge, ugly trolls. Very, very beautiful trolls. With cool magic. The main character, Wendy, learns early in the book that she is a member of the Trylle tribe of trolls, and was switched at birth with a human (something the Trylle tribe generally does with their babies). Now it's time to leave her human family and go home.

I can honestly say that I very nearly didn't read the second or third books (but I'm super glad I did...more or this in a bit). I had so much trouble relating to Wendy in the first book. Frankly, she annoyed the crap out of me. I just didn't understand why she made the vast majority of the decisions that she did. Nearly every time she spoke, I wanted to smack her upside the head. And why the hell was she so in love with Finn (another Trylle troll, who was more or less her body guard)? Why, why, why? I just didn't get it. To be perfectly honest, it seemed like she went from, "Ew, he's a creepy stalker person who isn't even attractive," to "OMG! He's so frickin hot! I want him! I luuuuuuuuuuuurve him!!!!" in a matter of seconds. And no, she doesn't talk like a 13 year old texter. But that's the impression I got nonetheless, and it drove me crazy. Finn was an ass. End of story. When push comes to shove, I liked one character in the entire first book: Rhys. The human child that Wendy was switched with at birth. And he wasn't around nearly often enough to make me happy. 

So why did I read the other two? Well, at the very end of book one, Wendy finally made a decision that I thought was logical. It intrigued me enough that I went out to Barnes & Noble and bought book two. And after that one, book three. So I could have the pretty covers. 

And Torn and Ascend were so much better! Yay! Wendy started acting like a person I could actually like. Finally, I was able to understand this girl and how her mind works. I understood where she was coming from, instead of constantly thinking her thoughts and actions came out of left field (or were the result of her being a crazy person). Also, early in book two: enter Loki. Now Loki is a romantic hero I can get behind! He's interesting and funny as all holy hell, and he's willing to risk everything for Wendy. Finn wasn't willing to risk a God damn thing. He just strung her along, and then got all hurt when she finally told him to shove off (Yay! One of the many decisions I understood and liked!).

Unlike book one, there were a wealth of characters that I truly liked reading about in the later books. Most of them were in the first book, too, but they actually became likable in the other two. I really enjoyed Tove, Willa, and Elora. Finn didn't even bother me quite as much, which was nice. Plus, Duncan showed up in book two. Honestly, I think he was my favorite character in the series. He was just plain adorable. And hilarious. He kind of replaced Rhys for me in the latter two books, since Rhys (sadly) wasn't around much.

The ending of book three was very predictable. But that didn't make me enjoy it any less. The plots were, overall, fun and exciting. And, like I said, I really got behind a number of the characters. That's what really did it for me. I don't care if a plot is predictable if I want to spend time with the characters. 

So would I recommend these books? Yes. Absolutely. Others might not have as strong of a reaction to book one as I did. Actually, most people probably won't. They are, after all, best sellers. And it was totally worth it to me to get through book one so that I could enjoy two and three. Kudos to Ms. Hocking for writing about trolls instead of vampires or werewolves, or any of the other popular choices of the day. Also, I mentioned that they have cool magic, right? I'm talking super cool magic. Me gusta mucho.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Onwards and Upwards

Status: So for anyone who was confused by my last post, that was my entry in a multi-blog contest called The Writer's Voice. I realize it was an epic fail on my part to not have some sort of explanation or lead in. Sorry about that. I was having quite a lot of (very frustrating) technical issues the night I entered the contest/created that post, and was not thinking particularly clearly. Sorry! At any rate, as of today, all of the finalists have been chosen. I was (alas) not one of them. But I've had one hell of a contest run for the past month or two, so I'm not that worried about it. Honestly, it was the not knowing part that bothered me more than anything. So hopefully I'll sleep well tonight. 

Number of queries sent: 35
Number of form rejections: 18
Number of detailed rejections: 3
Number of requests for additional materials: 3

Okay, so as you can see in my status, all of those numbers have gone up. In the...two weeks...since I last...yeah, okay, I've been a bad blogger all around. I admit this, I apologize, and I hope you will all forgive me. At any rate, some exciting stuff is going on. As I mentioned before, I'm so very excited about my new query. I think I finally got it. Which, of course, is why I sent out another round of queries. I also re-queried some people who had already form rejected me, since I did a round of rewriting that changed quite a lot about the book. And one of them asked for a partial! Yay! This is the very first time I've received a request from an unsolicited, slush pile submission (the other two were through contests), so I'm way beyond ecstatic. This was over a week ago. Which is a testament of how crazy busy I've been, that I didn't blog about it until now.

Also, as you can see, my detailed rejections went up. Basically, that agent would love me to query her again if I ever write a YA contemporary. Which is something I've been considering for quite some time now. As you all know, I have long been all about the fantasy. That's mostly what I read, and has been pretty much exclusively what I write. But here's the thing: my last two books were about people from right here on planet Earth. My beloved MC from flawed book #3, Evie Banning, got mixed up with some vampires. And the light-of-my-life MC from Diamond Tears, Emma Singer, realized there's quite a lot of magic in her family history. But Evie was still a girl from Maryland, just like Emma was from Connecticut. They thought like people from our world. They talked like them. They had, mixed among more magical or paranormal issues, normal teenager-growing-up-in-America issues. And I loved writing those books way more than I did the two traditional fantasy books I wrote before. I think, when it comes down to it, I connected with the characters more. I was able to understand everything about them. And, as a result, they had stronger, more interesting voices. 

So, to sum up that rather long paragraph, I feel a connection to the contemporary YA aspects of my two most recent books. Then, on top of that, in all of these contests I've been entering, guess which other entries I've been most drawn to? The contemporary YA ones. A sign, perhaps? I'd like to think so. Besides, writing a cotemp today doesn't mean I can't write fantasy tomorrow. I see no reason not to try anything that gets my creative juices flowing. 

And so it begins! I made the decision to try writing this new book on Monday. I have since spent quite a lot of time working on the plot and characters. I even wrote my first chapter! It's a bit rough, but then, that's what rough drafts tend to be. It felt so wonderful to be writing something new again. The last time I wrote the first chapter of a new book was November of 2010, so it's been a while. Always so exciting to be at the beginning! 

A question for all you other writers: do you branch out with your writing, or do you tend to stick to one genre? Have you tried anything new recently that you really enjoyed? Or, on the flip side, that you hated and don't ever want to do again? How do you feel when you first start a new project? Like the world is your oyster, and your creativity is ready to flow forth from your fingertips? Or is the very idea of having a word count of zero daunting?

Okay, that was a bunch of questions. Again, forgive me. And hopefully answer some of them in the comments!    

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Writer's Voice

Title: Diamond Tears

Entry #104
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 65,000


When her father does things like slam her head into the fridge, sixteen-year-old Emma Sullivan copes the only way she knows how: she steals her mom's pain meds and piles on extra makeup. What really hurts is that her mom would rather pretend she's a total klutz than admit life is less than perfect. Emma has no one in her corner until she meets her late grandfather's best friend, Ed Rossi. Certain that her grandfather would've done anything to stop the abuse if he'd known, Ed helps Emma run away and promises to keep her out of her father's hands.

Ed's plan goes to hell when Emma finds a magic key that belonged to her grandmother and ends up stranded in another world. Things only get worse when she meets some of the locals—people who think having a key that'll always take them home is worth killing for. Won't even be all that hard for them, since they can all shift into animals that could literally tear her apart. Except Robin, who's been bullied ever since everyone realized he's just a robin (hence the nickname). Robin sees Emma as his ticket out and plans their escape. Given the mob of shifters out for her blood, joining forces with Robin is her only real option. They begin searching for a key that can lead Emma home, all the while trying to find Robin his fresh start.

Emma knows going home, where magic is nothing but fiction and people don't even know about the keys, is the logical choice. Ed promised her the safe and normal life she'd always dreamed of. But as she moves from world to world, she can't decide what she really wants. Sure, magic can be super dangerous. Any member of the fairy royal family could probably kill her with a thought. Or there's the Shakespeare-obsessed firebird, who has a tendency to set things on fire when he gets frustrated. But she's just as fascinated as she is afraid. And as Robin shifts from reluctantly accepted partner to the most important person in her life, she has to decide just how safe she really needs to be.

First 250 Words

When my left temple slammed into the refrigerator door, I knew I'd have to get up extra early the next morning. It would take forever to do my makeup and hair so no one would see the damage. My vision blurred to a whitish haze for a couple of seconds, and I took that opportunity to go limp, dropping to the floor. Not because I needed to. No, I could take much more than that without going down. But because he lost interest when he thought I was out for the count.

"Emma?" my father muttered, nudging my side with the toe of his three hundred dollar shoe. I didn't react in any way. He cursed under his breath, and I heard the sounds of his footsteps through the floorboards when he walked away. "Grace!" he shouted as he moved toward the back of the house. "Emma fell again and hit her head! She's in the kitchen!"

I could hear the murmur of my mother's voice, but couldn't distinguish any words. I knew the gist of her reply anyway. Oh, poor, clumsy Emma, always hurting herself. Of course I'll go help her. Why don't you relax and have another glass of wine, dear? Even if that wasn't what she said, it was close enough.

Thanks mom.

I heard the door to my father's office slam, followed by my mother's hurried steps. I waited long enough to make sure he didn't change his mind and come back, and then picked myself up off the floor.