Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lost My Mind Again

Hi all! This is just going to be a quick post. And, may be my final post until December. More on that in a minute.

First, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! I've spent the month of October prepping for this fun and fantastical holiday. For example, I decorated my house with things like sparkly spiders, skull lights, and a Winnie the Pooh Halloween flag. I've also worn Halloween socks every single day this month. Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I have a great and resounding love for vanity socks. Especially Christmas socks, but those obviously aren't appropriate for October (I do wear them the rest of the year, though).

I never got around to getting a pumpkin this year, alas. I was thinking of carving Jack Skellington, but I guess it'll have to wait for 2013. So I'll just post a picture of my pumpkin from last year, instead.

Other pumpkins from past years have included a witch stirring the potion in her cauldron, complete with smokey tendrils, and the epically awesome Darth Vadar. I probably have pictures of these at home, so maybe I'll post them later if I think of it.

Anyway. Back to the main point. Why will I probably not be posting in November? Well, it's the same reason for the title of this post: I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. As I posted
way back when I epically failed Camp NaNoWriMo, I went about it all wrong last time. And I very nearly lost my mind. (Only kind of kidding...) But I think that if I pace myself a little better this time, and given the fact that I'll now have Fridays off (Starting this week! Hurray!!!), it might actually work. Also, when I tried to get Twitter and my husband to talk me out of it, it backfired. All responses on Twitter were along the lines of, "Doo eeeet," and here's the gchat conversation I had with my husband: 

Husband: I think you should do it, because you have Fridays to yourself to really work on it and your goals, and you're just far enough along that you could realistically finish it during NaNoWriMo. Then obviously you'll have to go back through and edit it, but at least you'll have gotten the plot and major events down...

Me: Grr! You and Twitter aren't helping. I want to be talked out of it, not into it!

Husband:  Okay. You were a wreck last time. And miserable. And hated the quality of work you were producing. And got so fed up you dumped the entire project...and almost turned into a zombie. Seriously...I had to act dumber around you so you didn't think I had a big, tasty brain. 

Me: if I'd ever think that. OOOH! SNAP!

Husband: My plan is obviously working...

So now I have to prove that I can do this without nearly turning into a zombie. And it helps to know that he'll support me completely through the whole process. Even if I go crazy again. 

Wish me luck! Also, if you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, add me as a writing buddy! It'll be awesome to cheer each other on. (I'm NHNovelist.) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EVER Blog Tour: A Review of the Awesomeness

So do you remember a few weeks ago, when my blog was hijacked by a ghost? Well, that was because Ever by Jessa Russo was coming out. Not only did I want to help her get the word out then so lots of people could read her awesome book (okay, you got me...I let Frankie hijack my blog with his ghostly ways), but now I'm also going to be an official stop on her blog tour. Isn't that banner up there super pretty? Ever easily has one of the prettiest covers I've ever seen. And I believe I read in an interview that Jessa herself played a big part in figuring out what the cover would be. That's one of the coolest parts of working with a smaller press, in my opinion: the level of input you, as the author, get on your own book.

Okay, let's not get sidetracked. I'm writing this post today to review Ever. Which I loved, by the way. But more on that in a little bit. First, let me give you the blurb about the book, so you'll have an idea of what it's about.

Seventeen-year-old Ever's love life has been on hold for the past two years. She's secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he's completely oblivious. 

Of course, it doesn't help that he's dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible. 

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor, Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever's life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer. 

Some girls lose their hearts to love. 

Some girls lose their minds. 

Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul. 

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? Now do you see why I let Frankie hijack my blog, and why I so readily agreed to take part in this blog hop? So now that you know a little about the book (which you should totally go read, by the way...I really did love it), let's get into my review.

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago, where I talked about how the ultimate deal breaker for me with books is to not make me care about the characters? Well, that sure as hell wasn't the problem here. If anything, I cared too much (though don't think I'm complaining; that is never a bad thing). I loved Ever Van Ruysdael from page one. She had such a wonderful, and such a true and real, voice that it made me feel like I was sitting in a room listening to her tell her story instead of reading a book. She was interesting. She was hilarious. She had problems that I related to and understood. Yes, I just said that I related to and understood her problem of being in love with a ghost, and yet also finding herself falling for hot neighbor Toby, which comes with a price. Have I ever been in love with a ghost? Nope. I can say with all honesty that I've never seen a ghost, and I don't even believe in them. Have I ever been in love with two guys at once, and had to deal with figuring out that craziness? Nope. That one hasn't come up either. And I've certainly never been in danger of losing my soul (to the best of my knowledge, anyway). am I relating to this girl and her problems, you ask? Because that's what good writing does, ladies and gentlemen. It puts me smack dab in the middle of a situation unlike anything that's ever happened to me, and it makes me think what the character thinks. It makes me feel each and every thing that the character feels. And let me tell you, when it comes to emotion, I ran the full gamut in this book. I laughed out loud (always fun for scaring the dogs when I've been silent for a long time), I cried until I couldn't breathe, I got so angry that I wanted to hit something, and there were more than a couple of literal jaw dropping moments. And let's not forget the sexy, sexy make-out scenes. I was so involved in this book that I couldn't put it down. I absolutely had to know what happened. Once again, a sign of good writing.

And I've been focusing on the main character, Ever, since the book is written from her point of view. But there's a full cast of characters that I just loved, ranging from Ever's best friend to her dad. Not to mention the ghost of her heart, Frankie, and hot neighbor Toby. You know how you read a book with two possible love interests (a la Edward and Jacob in Twilight, or Peeta and Gale in Hunger Games), and you have a very clear preference for one over the other? So if she picks that one, you're all excited, but if she picks the other one, you never quite get over it? Well, Jessa Russo managed to make me fall for both of them. Do you know how hard that is? I'm Team Edward and Team Peeta all the way, people. No one can convince me to even give Jacob or Gale a second glance. And yet, I got all the way through this book and still couldn't figure out what I felt. Or rather, which one made me feel more. I can't wait to spend more time with these characters so I can figure it all out.

Let me just close this review by saying this: the second I finished the book, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I grabbed my phone and tweeted Jessa. The content of that tweet? I absolutely had to know if there was going to be a second book. (It's actually going to be a trilogy! Hurray!) If your first order of business upon finishing a book is finding out if there will be more to the story? Yeah. That means it's a damn good book.

And, last but certainly not least, I want to give you a little info about the author herself, the lovely and awesome Jessa Russo.

An unashamed super fan of all things paranormal romance, Jessa Russo reads, writes, and breathes paranormal YA, rarely straying from her comfort zone. When not writing or reading, Jessa enjoys making memories with her awesome family and amazingly supportive friends, while secretly planning her next trip to New Orleans. She's won a few flash fiction contests and had a short story published, but feels her greatest accomplishment is raising the coolest kid ever - a little girl with a Tim Burton obsession and a desire to save every animal she sees.

Jessa will always call Southern California home, where she lives with her husband Jon, their daughter Faith, Bronco the Great Dane, and Lola the Chihuahua.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Changes (Awesome Ones)

So you may or may not have noticed the new word count meters I've added on the left. Aren't they cute? (If you're a writer and have a blog, and would like some meters of your own, I got mine here.) Anyway, as you can see, my new book has a title: Luminary. At some point, I'll tell you more about that and what it means. As you can also see, I think it'll round out to about 75,000 words. It may actually be a little longer than that, which I think will be just fine. I've had a couple of people express concern about Diamond Tears, thinking 65,000 words was a little too short for a fantasy. So as long as I don't get too close to 100,000 words, I think I'll be just fine.

I also have a weekly word count goal now, which is pretty awesome. Remember way back in
this post, when I was talking about how Camp NaNoWriMo very nearly killed me? Okay, maybe I didn't use those exact words. Mostly, I was talking about pacing, and how trying to write with all of my spare (read: not at work) time was burning me out. And I said that if I could figure out a better pace, one that fits with the way I like to write and still gives me down time with my beloved husband, I could actually write a book fairly quickly. Maybe not in a month like the whole NaNo thing, and I don't intend to sign up for NaNo in November. But certainly a lot faster than my previous record of one year, three months, and two days.

Hence the weekly word count goals. This makes sure that I write regularly, rather than taking off a month or two at a time (as I'm known to do). But it's not exactly the grueling, strenuous pace I set for myself back in June. In fact, my entire weekly word count goal is the same as a single weekend day during NaNo. That's something I can keep up with. It's also something that has me finishing this book about three months from now. Not too shabby. 

I've even been doing a pretty good job of sticking to the goal. Well, I mean, sort of. This is my third week with the goal in mind, and only the first one where I actually met it. (I was only a few hundred words short in week one, though). I realized that just writing whenever I felt like it after work/on weekends was a little hard for me. I fell back into the same problem I had during NaNo. To put it simply, I missed my husband. So I kept wanting to spend all of my free time with him instead of writing. Not very good for the whole getting this manuscript written in three months thing (though quite wonderful for my ever so wonderful marriage!). So what's the most logical solution? Instead of using the time I already had but don't want to give up, just make new time. Every day this week I got up at (more or less) 4:45 in the morning. This gives me a little under two hours every morning to work on my book. And then I still get to relax with my husband when I get home from work at night, and my brain is fried. That weekly word count goal is looking pretty attainable right now.

HOWEVER! (And this is a big however, so that's why it got its own all-caps sentence, and even an exclamation point.) I might actually be upping my word count goal in November (not related to NaNo, I promise). Why, you ask? Well, I have even more changes to report. After a good deal of discussion with my husband, quite a few work-place trips to the looney bin, and a heart-to-heart with my boss, I have decided to switch to part time. I will now be working four days a week instead of five, and Fridays will be for me. All for me. Just me in my office with my laptop, losing myself in my writing. I can't even begin to express to you how much this means to me. When my boss gave me the thumbs up, I felt like about six million pounds of pressure lifted off my chest. I could breathe easier. I was instantly happier. So November 2nd will be my very first of weekly writing days, and I absolutely can't wait.

See? I told you my changes were awesome ones.  :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ultimate Deal Breaker

As I mentioned in my last post, this one will be about my #1 deal breaker when reading a book. If a book has this problem, I won't ever read another book by that author.

Drum roll please.

The ultimate deal breaker is not making me care about your characters. For example, if someone important dies, and I just don't give a shit, that's not ever a good thing. If I get to the end, and my first thought is that all the characters could die and I still wouldn't give a shit? That's extra bad.

This can happen in a number of ways. I've included some examples below of books that just couldn't make me care. It will contain spoilers (some mild, some not so mild), but I have a picture of each book's cover before I describe anything about the book itself. So if you haven't read that book and intend to, just skip the paragraph right after the picture.

Maybe the book is completely plot driven. It's all fine and good to have a plot-driven book, but when the only interesting thing about your book is the plot? That's just not enough for me. (Honestly, some of these types of books don't even have plots that I find very interesting). The primary example I have for this?


People went frickin' nuts about this book. If I recall correctly (it did come out long ago), it got a ton of publicity because it was written by a teenager. Included in the masses of people going nuts? My husband. Who bugged me for years until I finally read the whole thing. (He had to keep bugging for that long because I tried about 5 or 6 times to read it before I finally just forced myself to power through it.) This is a book where every single person could have met a horrible, painful, nasty end, and I wouldn't have done so much as raise an eyebrow. In fact, one of the main characters, who was basically in a mentor/replacement father figure role, did die. And I felt nothing. Nothing. I didn't know enough about these characters to care what happened to them. All I saw was what was on the surface. And that's not enough to get me emotionally involved. Needless to say, I didn't read any of the other books in the series. (My husband loves all of them. He also thinks some of my favorite books (all character driven) aren't "cool" or "exciting" enough. So there's that.)

Then there are books that don't really intend to get you emotionally involved with the characters. They are driven by a combination of plot and humor. And I don't necessarily hate these books. But I don't tend to read them, either. Example?

I do actually enjoy the random humor of this book. As far as humor goes, random and clever/smart/historical are my favorite types. And I actually quite enjoyed the movie, in spite of Zooey Deschanel, who I don't think could act if her life depended on it. But in the movie, I got to see the characters. I got to see reactions and facial expressions and feelings. This was particularly the case with Martin Freeman, who I love and adore. (By the by, have you gone to watch Sherlock yet? If you don't understand the segue, you clearly haven't. Get on that.) At any rate, I didn't get those things in the book. Instead of caring about Arthur when the world blew up, I got randomness and ridiculosity. Which were both vaguely enjoyable. But not enjoyable enough to make me read the next book. For me, humor can only carry you so far in a novel.

And, last but not least, you can have just plain shit writing. When this happens, I don't even get far enough into the book to find out if I could possibly care about the characters. Now, someone without any grasp of spelling or grammar wouldn't get a book published by the traditional routes, and I haven't read more than a handful of self-pubbed books. So that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about are books with absolutely no voice or personality. Stilted, boring writing. Mayhap an overabundance of pointless descriptions that make me want to tear my eyes out and fall asleep at the same time. The best example of this?

I know, I know. How can I be a fantasy writer and not like Lord of the Rings? How can I be a fantasy writer when I've never even finished Lord of the Rings? Well, sorry folks, but this book is, in my opinion, the biggest freaking snoozefest in the history of the fantasy genre. I've tried to read it at least a dozen times. I've gotten a little further each time, but no matter what, I end up asleep in the middle of the afternoon. I realize this is an exaggeration, but it seems like he'll spend 5 pages describing a freaking leaf on a tree. I suppose that's very literary and beautiful and sophisticated, etc, etc. But whatever. It's so bogged down in descriptions of things that don't matter that I have a hard time weeding out descriptions of the things that do. Like who the people in this fellowship are and why they've decided to do this insanely dangerous and brave thing. In the movies (which I absolutely adore), I get that. I can see it. I can feel it. And if there happens to be a pretty leaf on a nearby tree, fine. I can see it out of the corner of my eye as I focus on the faces and words of the characters. 

So how about you? How do you feel about the books I mentioned (if you've read them)? What are your ultimate deal breakers? And which books have been the most guilty of the things you hate?