Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Snazzy Snippets

I saw this thingy and decided I wanted to do it, for two reasons: (1) it looks fun, and (2) this blog needs some new content at this point even if it is just a linkup. So. You people get to read my lovely first draft writing today.

Click on picture to go to linkup.

Your First 500 Words
This comes from Taken, since this is probably the piece of writing I've revised most in my short writing career and is probably a little bit better than other portions I could share.

“So who are we meeting again?”

Tyv’s eye twitched as he restrained what would have been the fifth eye-roll of the short conversation. The sun was hot and dry, and he was too deep into the cobbled network of streets to feel the sea breeze. The sun was setting, but it was still high enough to scorch Tyv’s eyes over the plastered buildings. He had to squint to see, and sweat was sticking to his skin under his threadbare shirt. He wanted to eat, and he needed a drink, but he’d get neither until he made it back to the abandoned inn. He wouldn’t be able to go there until he had gotten through the day’s work, which wouldn’t be over for another couple hours. All this meant he did not have patience to deal with Nitri.

Nitri didn’t notice and tossed his knife into the air, effortlessly catching it on its way down. He glanced at Tyv, waiting for an answer.

Tyv withheld a growl. “The two brothers you threatened a couple months ago.”

“Sh. I made a deal, Tyv.”

“There is a difference between those two words, you know.”

Nitri grinned, his impossibly white teeth providing stark contrast with his dark honey skin and curls of hair black as pitch. 

“Not where I’m concerned!”

Tyv couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes that time.

Nitri just grinned a little wider, satisfied that he’d provoked a reaction. Then he looked away and gave his knife another toss. 

“I think I remember them. Scrawny?”

“We’re all scrawny.”

“Speak for yourself, scarecrow,” Nitri said, using his free arm to flex his arm muscles under his black captain’s coat.

Tyv resolutely stared straight ahead and sped up the pace, feet brushing over the bumps of the cobblestones and hands hovering over the pair of knives he had sheathed at his own belt. His eyes darted around, watching for danger - they were in their home turf, after all. The twisting alleyways and dead-end streets coated in layers of dirt were littered with broken crates and barrels, piles of rotting cloth, splintered buckets, frayed scraps of rope - anything that was so broken that not even the homeless could find a way to use it. The lowering sun created dark shadows in the side streets, places for people to hide. Tyv’s skin crawled as he felt invisible eyes watching.

“Aw, come on Tyv!” Nitri said, slapping Tyv on the shoulder and making Tyv jump. “Lighten up. We’re collecting tribute!” He gave Tyv a moment to respond, which Tyv did not take advantage of. Nitri continued. “It might be some food! We’ll have a good meal tonight.”

Tyv had to admit that that would be nice, but he wasn’t optimistic.

“We don’t know what it is.”

Nitri sighed. “It had better be good. I don’t leave them alone for nothing.”

“This isn’t exactly leaving them alone.”

Nitri waved away the correction. “I’m not attacking them, am I? Taking everything they get by force? They should be happy to give me things.”

A Snippet You're Really Proud Of
This comes from later on in chapter 1 of Taken, and yes, I just love Tyv and Nitri banter. They're the best and that is why I love this scene.

“Come on,” Nitri said, putting his hands in his pockets and strolling down the alley. “Let’s head to the docks. After that we’ll be done for the day and we’ll head over to the market. Ambyr is down there, isn’t she? You can snatch her a knitting needle or something.”

Tyv jogged a few steps to catch up, then slowed to a walk next to his friend. “Ambyr wouldn’t have much use for just one knitting needle.” 

Nitri slung his arm over Tyv’s shoulders, and used the other arm to gesture as he spoke. “Whatever. Steal five if you need to. I’m sure that you’ll cheer up if she gives you one of her oh-so-pretty smiles.” Nitri grinned and leaned his head on Tyv’s shoulder, then looked up and Tyv and batted his eyelashes.

“That was a really bad imitation of her,” Tyv said, fighting a grin and shoving Nitri away instead.

“Oh yes? Well how about this then?” Nitri stopped walking and placed his left fist on his hip, then pointed at Tyv with his right hand. “Tyv!” Nitri’s voice was comically high-pitched. “Why do you insist on stealing? It’s wrong! Why have you let that dashing Nitri lead you astray?” 

Nitri struck a dancer-like pose, with the toes of his right foot pointed and barely touching the ground and his weight entirely on his other foot. He pressed the back of his right hand against his forehead while his other hand stayed on his hip, and he turned his head away from Tyv dramatically.

Tyv struggled not to smile, or worse, laugh. He wasn’t going to give Nitri the satisfaction. Instead, he leveled a glare at his friend. 

“That was even worse.”

Nitri’s pose dissolved and he pouted. “I thought it was pretty accurate.”

Tyv started walking again. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard Ambyr call you dashing.”

It was Nitri's turn to jog in order to catch up.“Well she thinks it. Everyone does.”

Tyv snorted. “I certainly don’t. And I doubt that Ambyr would find any thief dashing, despite how supposedly handsome you are.”

Those two are my favorite duo ever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I'm Sorry for Going M.I.A. / Holidays

I am such a terrible blogger.
I feel awful for abandoning this little corner of the internet for such a long time, and I apologize to all of you wonderful people who think this blog is good enough to follow. Unfortunately, there's this thing called college, and college isn't designed with bloggers (or writers of any kind, actually) in mind. Until further notice, posting is going to be sporadic. I just don't have the time (which is very sad, truly), especially if I actually want to get enough sleep to function during the day. I also feel bad because I still haven't done those interviews with Mara. I will try to get them done, I promise. I just have no clue when.

For now I will leave you with something to think about when you work on your world building.
Around this time is when the Jewish people celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I only know this because I happen to be studying Judaism and Israel this year in college, and my professor told my class about some Rosh Hashanah customs today. One thing he focused a lot on was the food of the holiday. Challah bread, a braided loaf with sesame seeds baked into the top of the crust, is a typical food, along with pomegranates, and apples dipped in honey. There are lots of sweet foods going around which is related to the idea of looking forward to a "sweet" year ahead. Rosh Hashanah is about getting clarity, making things clean and new so that the next year will be sweet. So between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (I hope I spelled that right), people go around fixing relationships, paying overdue debts, etc, in order to "clean up" and make things shiny and new and whole for starting the new year.
So here are a few questions to help you think about your world building some more:

  1. What holidays (originally "holy days" - think about that) does your world's cultures celebrate? (e.g. Rosh Hashanah, "new year.")
  2. Do the nations have any holidays in common, or is every one completely seperate? Why? (e.g. Rosh Hashanah is a specifically Jewish holiday, but I'm sure there were holidays similar to it around the same time of year in ancient Middle-Eatern cultures.)
  3. Where does each holiday come from? (e.g. Rosh Hashanah is an agricultural new year since it is in the fall, when a new cycle of agriculture begins.)
  4. What are the ideas behind it? (e.g. Rosh Hashanah is about making the coming year "sweet")
  5. What customs are associated with it? (e.g. dipping apples in honey and eating sweet pastries.)

I'm not an expert on Jewish holidays so if I made mistakes in my info, I'm sorry. I did try to remember it all as well as possible. But seriously, consider what your created cultures celebrate! What matters to them? How would they celebrate that? Why? How? Brainstorm and tell me your ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Doesn't Help Writer's Block . . . Plus a Dash of Motivation

(Alright, this post started out as a "I'm stuck in a hole and can anyone relate" and somehow turned into the motivational speech of a drill sergeant - read on at your own risk).
I'll say it right out: if you're anything like me, you can not stop writing unless you admit that you will stay stopped for a very long time. 
Has anyone experienced this besides me? You're plowing along, writing happily, making lots of progress, and then suddenly something happens to break your flow. Motivation goes AWOL, you hit what seems like an unfixable plot hole, or life itself throws you a plot twist. Point it, you get stopped dead in the water.
And then you can't get the boat's engine to start again. Maybe you make a few valiant attempts to restart that writing streak you were on - a hundred words here, a thousand there. But no matter what you do you can't seem to get back into that flow. You're stranded, all forward momentum lost, and you want to just give up because hey, if you can't do it then that's that, right?

If you've ever been there, gosh, I feel you. Because confession time, right now that is where I am. With writing (yeah, two projects and I haven't touched either since Camp NaNoWriMo flopped) and with blogging. Truth is, my writing motivation went AWOL sometime in July and hasn't shown signs of returning and I've had no time at all to write blog posts lately because, haha guess what, I'm starting college on Friday, and that means shopping and packing and paperwork and banks and emails and phone calls and general stress.
A blog sort of begins to feel like a very tiny priority in the middle of all that.
*flops onto floor and cries*
"So what can be done about this situation?" I ask myself. Well, I could have forced myself not to stop writing despite all my craziness but that would have probably been bad for my mental health. Truth is, there are more important things than writing and blogging and we all need to make sure we have our priorities straight. Things like family, life responsibilities, friends in need, and keeping up a relationship with God are much more important than writing up two to three blog posts a week and over a thousand words of a novel a day. While it may be nice to fool around with some lighthearted writing in the midst of all that to give your poor overworked self a break, it isn't okay to put your writing schedule over things that are going to really impact your life significantly like education and your relationships (unless writing is actually your job . . . then it gets a little more importance).
Okay, that's pretty obvious, but what about actually getting out of a writing stall?
Well I only have one answer I can think of, honestly. And I'm sorry, it doesn't involve sitting around procrastinating while waiting for your away-without-leave motivation to come back, or for the inspiration to hit and get your going after that life plot twist. Because guess what? In all likelihood those things will not come back unless you make them come back. You have to take action if you want to get out of your writer's block. It's your writing and guess what, you're the one who has to make the move to get going again. Those attempts to get back into the writing groove? You can't stop no matter how pathetic they seem. Those times when you've got nothing else to do but decide to browse Pinterest instead of write, even though the idea of writing is niggling at the back of your brain? Guess what, Pinterest probably won't help either - but opening up that word document and forcing yourself to start typing something - anything - could.
It's great to tell yourself that maybe you'll see a pin that will add to your story and give you more ideas to work with. Sure, sometimes that happens, but what are the chances? More likely than getting hit with a brilliant bolt of wonderful writing-inducing inspiration you'll end up wasting two or three hours looking at jokes. You'll be no further along and you won't feel proud of yourself afterwards.
You can be proud if you do the hard thing and face that novel though. It doesn't matter if you only write a hundred words. Who cares if you're not doing as well as you once were. Point is that you are DOING it.
It will be painful. It will make you want to throw your laptop across the room in frustration because the words just won't come. It may even make you cry and want to quite writing completely but you cannot give up because giving up gets you nowhere and that novel, no matter how much work it needs, does not deserve to be abandoned. You owe it to yourself - for all the hard work you've already put in, and for the satisfaction you'll have when that thing is finally moving along again - to keep going.
So what are you doing here? What am I doing here! Let's WRITE!

Oh um, but if you could take a moment to pop over here and leave a few questions for Mara that would be much appreciated.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Characters Interviews: Ask Mara Harrod

So the first thing you'll notice is that the blog looks quite a bit different . . . and that is because a wonderful girl named Niki Agoston redesigned my blog for me! Big round of applause! Thanks so much, Niki!

But now, it is time for another character interview! This one is going to be a little different . . . Mara is a unique character because really, there are two versions of her. Her character arc is so drastic that, depending on the time period we're talking about, she's pretty much two different people. For that reason, although I'm only taking questions once . . . I'm going to post two interviews. The first one will be Mara at the beginning of her arc -
- and the second will be Mara at the end of her arc.
Drawn by Annika Smith.
You can address questions to either version of Mara or to both, but since I know her storyline I reserve the right to choose which questions get applied where to make the interviews good. Got it? Okay, here is Mara's bio.

Mara Ebony Harrod was my original protagonist in Shadows and Light, despite her character type actually being more along the lines of "villain" as opposed to "hero." She is about 5'2", has naturally silver hair, and at the start of the book she is a little younger than eighteen years old and trying to finish up her high school education. Her dream is to be a neurosurgeon and she is hopefully applying to colleges, but isn't having any luck in getting accepted because of her Destiny.
Speaking of which, Destiny is the major influence on Mara's life, just as it is in her twin brother Ace's. Mara's birthmark makes it look like she is crying blood, and the Destiny it symbolizes is (simply put) that she will kill someone. For this reason she is rejected everywhere she goes - she can't make friends, can't get a job, can't get a volunteer position at the hospital, can't can't can't. Her Destiny throws up roadblocks at every turn but Mara has been doing her best to fight it since she was old enough to comprehend her situation. She fiercely defends the idea that she can live her life without fulfilling her Destiny, despite the fact that no one has ever been known to do something like that. Her only friend Gabriel Young encouraged her in that dream.
Mara even styled her appearance to contradict the impression made by her Destiny. Her favorite outfits (at least as first) were frilly skirts and tanktops and flip flops. She never wore eyeliner for fear she'd look too gothic. Her favorite color is pale yellow. At this point in life Mara is an optimistic but emotionally unstable INFP.
After Mara met Tempe is when things began to change. Mara began to let the bitterness created by repeated rejections take over her determined positivity when Gabriel had to leave for a multi-week time period and Mara was left with Tempe as the only person who seemed to be befriending her. Mara even agreed to start learning illegal magic in this time period to empower herself to stand up to Ace, should she need it.
Arguments with family, bullying at school, Gabriel's absence, and college rejections snowballed along with Tempe's subversive influence to make Mara snap, creating the bitter and dark sorceress she is at the end of the book. She starts dressing in dark reds and blacks to highlight her birthmark instead of trying to hide it. She becomes obsessed with getting revenge on the world which rejected her. She mentally replaces her real family with Tempe. And she becomes Tempe's apprentice in waging a two-woman war on the Mage League (still working on renaming that by the way). 
At the end her Myers-Briggs type isn't even the same - she becomes ISFP when she loses her idealism.

Remember, there will be two interviews, one for INFP Mara and another for ISFP Mara. As I said above, address questions to either one individually or two both. You don't have as much time to ask questions this time around, since I'll be at college in two weeks. Therefore, you've got a week to get questions in. Then I'll use the next week to get the interviews finalized and they'll be  scheduled to post the week after questions close. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fear: What, Why, When, and How

Tomorrow (today by the time this is published) I am having my wisdom teeth removed. This got me thinking about fear, and namely, how different people experience fear in different ways. (Yes, I intend you to apply this to character creation).

Take my own upcoming experience. I could be scared about being put to sleep using anesthesia, or about having a doctor I don't know making incisions inside my mouth, or about something going wrong during surgery. However, I find myself scared of how I'll be affected by the pain medication I'll be on after the surgery itself, because I am scared I will lose a certain amount of control over myself. Although right now I am not feeling nervous, I probably will be tomorrow right before I go to sleep for the procedure. If things happen as per normal, I will feel those nerves first through my stomach and those physical sensations will clue me in to the fact that I'm actually nervous at all.
So there are three main things to take note of there:
  1. What the person is scared of and why
  2. When they will feel the effects of their fear/nerves
  3. How they will feel their anxiety
So let's talk about point one. Everyone has different core fears. One of mine is lack of control - from that core fear comes my fear and/or dislike of boats, ice-skating, letting people see me when I'm overly tired, and being put on medication which is known to make people a little crazy. If you identify even one core fear for a character you can find multiple surface fears to use in the story to torture them  to advance the character arc!
Point two - everyone gets hit by nerves at different times. They could obsess over an upcoming stressor for months or feel fine right up until they are actually facing their fear head-on. They could have "moments" for weeks ahead of time when they suddenly feel scared and then they feel fine again, or they could live with a constant sense of fear for a long period of time. When would your character be feeling the effects of his fear?
And now we come to three. People feel fear in a myriad of different ways. Some get nauseous, I get gassy, some get shaky, some just start snapping at people verbally, while in others it will be completely unnoticeable until they break down either in public or in private.
Brainstorm and figure out how your character feels fear uniquely.

I am sorry this post is so short today. It was last minute and I don't have time to add anything more to it before my surgery. 

What are some of your characters' core fears? And what are some more surface fears that stem from them? What about the timing? Also, how is your character affected mentally and physically? 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, Half Blood

Finally, another book review post! These books weren't even read this week but over the course of July. Rather pitiful as there are only three but . . . no, stop looking at me like that! I've been reading a nonfiction behemoth in preparation for college instead! . . . *grumbles* Let's get on with this.

Reading an old book is always an odd experience for me. The descriptive and advanced vocabulary words and complex sentence structure make the writing style is always so different from the concise and simple words and sentences pushed as good writing nowadays. With my head attuned to the modern novel it can be hard to understand or even enjoy a classic. So understand that when I give this book five stars, it is for completely different reasons than I would award a more modern book the same rating.
So, why did it get five stars from me? At points I had trouble understanding sentences or was a little lost as to what was being described. However, I think that that is my fault (or maybe the culture's) and not Stevenson's.
I gave Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde five stars because I WILL NOT FORGET IT. Unlike many books that I pick up, avidly enjoy, but then forget within a year or two, this is a book I won't be able to forget despite that it wasn't a thrill ride or an emotional roller coaster. Instead, it explored a very hard to answer question: what is human nature? We all wonder what makes up identity and about the balance of good and evil in us, and it is because of this that the story if Jekyll and Hyde is so fascinating.
Are we largely good, or largely evil?
How much control do we have over ourselves when we are tempted?
How many faces can an individual wear, and which is his "real" self?
If you want to explore those questions, read this classic. It isn't that long (the actual story is less than 100 pages).
(Five stars.)

WHAT EVEN. I enjoyed the book completely but the ending left me very VERY confused. I feel like Toten should have taken more time at the end to wrap things up more because now I have no idea how Adam is doing or ANYTHING and this bugs me, but I suppose the fact that it bugs me is evidence of how good the rest of the book is.
This book was about a teen guy with OCD who has a "love at first sight" experience. His parents are divorced (mother is a hoarder and his father is remarried) and he is beginning attendance at an OCD support group where he meets Robyn. The whole book was very cute but serious at the same time and was a fantastic read. 
Just . . . the ending. Ugh.
Go read it yourself.
(Four stars.)

First off, I loved the chance to know Jace's backstory. It made his character so much more real. Second, the book was well-paced and didn't lose my interest. I liked reading it and it was enjoyable.
However, I was expecting something more. I'm not sure what but this short book didn't really pop. I feel like Knight may have been hesitant to get dark, so I felt like the book lacked some of the depth and emotion I was hoping for.
That said this really does add to my perception of Jace as a character in the Ilyon Chronicles series - I just don't think it would do well if it had no other books linked to it. It was a good short backstory novel but I don't find myself with all that much to say apart from if you like the Ilyon Chronicles you'll probably enjoy this short book. I give it three stars.

Not a fantastic reading month but not a terrible one as far as quality of books go. Any of these familiar to you? What's your opinion?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Unpopular Opinions Tag

I am very sorry for missing the Tuesday post. While I apparently was prepared for July I am not prepared at all for August. Bear with me.
Opal over at Opal Swirls tagged me for the Unpopular Opinions tag, which I've been watching going around the blogosphere and have been itching to get into because I'd like to display some rebellion against bookish culture because why not. So thank you for the tag, Opal.

A Popular Book/Series You Didn't Like
So everyone seems to adore this book. All reviews are good and I haven't seen anyone complain. And I can't complain about most of the book either, but I absolutely HATED the ending. Despised it with all my being. At the time, though, I thought it was a stand-alone novel. Now I realize that there is a second book out and I'm going to read it to see if the series will redeem itself.
The Mortal Instruments also fits into this category.

A Popular Book/Series Everyone Hates but You Love
I don't think that there is really any book but Twilight that is popular but everyone hates. That kind of thing shouldn't be possible . . . *ehem* anyway. So this book isn't popular - it's pretty unknown, actually, but it gets a lot of reviews saying it is too dry or too boring. But I remember finding it at a used book sale and devouring it, despite historical fiction not really being my thing. It's about a mute Briton boy in the time of the Norman invasions of England. I absolutely love this book and frequently reread the very memorable parts.

A Love Triangle Where the Protagonist Ended Up With the Person You Didn't Want Them to Be With
I mentioned this love triangle two weeks ago in my post on the YA love triangle cliche. I was so unhappy about the result of this love triangle but I saw it coming from a mile away . . . basically I thought the guy she ended up with was just a bad choice morally all around. Unwise, plus I didn't think the triangle was well done in the first place.

A Popular Genre You Hardly Read
Technically this isn't even a real genre, but a sub-genre. Still, at one point it had it's own section of shelves at Barnes & Noble so I think it counts. I have tried to read one or two books in this category but I couldn't finish them. (City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and I tried The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, but there was witchcraft/seance type stuff in it and I try to stay away from that kind of content. I didn't finish City of Bones either.) My issue with this genre isn't the paranormal stuff like vampires - it is the romance and the witchcraft. I've formed a few more reading rules since I read Hex Hall (above) and at this point I wouldn't have even read that trilogy.

A Popular/Beloved Character You Dislike
Every Character Except Fang from Maximum Ride.They seemed too . . . annoying. I didn't like Nudge, or Gazzy, or Angel, or even Max. Maybe the audiobook's voices turned me off but I just couldn't enjoy any of them. Fang was the only character I was even marginally interested in. Once they got to the arctic and became a load of kids taking care of penguins my patience expired and I ditched the series.
I also am not a fan of Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars. I read the first few pages and her attitude was extremely off-putting. 

A Popular Author You Can't Seem to Get Into
There are a lot of these. However I rarely try more than one book because if I read a book and it was uninteresting enough that I'll drop it it isn't likely I'll pick up another by the same author. 
  • Cassandra Clare (dropped The City of Bones)
  • James Patterson (dropped Maximum Ride after three or four books, dropped Confessions of a Murder Suspect because it got me freaked out)
  • John Green (dropped The Fault in Our Stars because Hazel's attitude gave me a bad attitude)
  • Maggie Steifvater (tried The Raven Boys but put it down due to communing with the dead and other magic which struck too closely to real witchcraft for my comfort)
  • Becca Fitzpatrick (put down Black Ice because I hated the idiocy and niavete of the two female characters within fifty pages, bought Hush, Hush used but haven't stirred the interest to pick it up and read it yet)

A Popular Trope You're Tired of Reading
"*insert uncommon/made-up female name here* *insert normal but rare family name here* is a normal girl who lives in a society where everyone must do blank and blank is against the law. *uncommon/made-up female name* goes along with the system until she meets the mysterious *insert exotic male name here*, who shows her that everything is not as it seems." (Blah blah blah.) 
"But then she meets *insert second exotic male name which no father would think was masculine here* and begins to fall for him. Her heart and her loyalties are torn. What will she ever do?" 
Poor girl - actually, I couldn't care less. Every time I see a back cover blurb that resembles this in the slightest I re-shelve the book immediately. So. Done. And what is with the main focus of fantasy and dystopias being romance nowadays anyway? If I wanted a main plot of romance I'd go into the romance genre!

A Popular Series You Have No Interest in Reading
There are many -
 - but that list will have to do for now.

A Show/Movie Adaptation You Liked Better Than the Book
I just mentioned I didn't get very far into The Fault In Our Stars and didn't like the few pages I did read. I did like the movie, though. Quite liked it, actually.

A Popular Style of Cover That You Can't Stand
I realize those look quite different but I'm tired of the streaky light and/or tech theme. Think of something more original for sci-fi, please.

All the blogs I follow have already done this tag - I'm late to the party. So I'll just open it up to anyone who thinks it would be a fun thing to do. If you do do it, leave a link to your post in the comments!

Well that was a long tag! I have a few more to do which got neglected during July but maybe they're short enough to combine into a single post so the rest of August's Friday posts aren't taken up with tags and I can get to that character interview I mentioned. *takes moment to catch breath after long sentence*

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? Any of them I should try to give a second chance? What is a trope you're tired of hearing about? How about genres - what is your favorite and what is one you stay away from?

Friday, July 31, 2015

July Recap

Ah . . . July. Thou hast been an intriguing month. I'm not really sure what I have actually done during these last thirty-one days. Hmm . . . let's take a look at that, shall we?

Blog Happenings
All this month's blog posts were scheduled ahead of time and it was lovely. Because of that I managed to give you all four full weeks' worth of posts (minus my Sunday book reviews) so you may all thank the scheduling feature of Blogger very much.

(All links to Goodreads)
This month I finished three novels. Not as many as usual because of Camp NaNoWriMo . . . even though, considering how that went, I really don't have much of an excuse. *sigh* More on that later.

I didn't post reviews of anything this month but they're coming, I promise!

My bookshelf stock has increased quite a lot for some reason this month as well, and now I have about twenty books all piled up to read in August.
My favorite book of the month was probably Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde just because of its depth. I didn't really have a least favorite, though I expected more from Half Blood.

Camp NaNoWriMo!!!!! Errr . . . failed. I think I mentioned already that I doubled my word goal to 100,000 words. I swear I was doing excellently for the first week. Then something drained my motivation reserves and I just . . . stopped. *headdesk* There were a few valiant efforts to start again but none of them stuck. Still, I did achieve over 29,000 words (the vast majority in that first week) so it wasn't a complete waste. I just can't really consider it a success either because I didn't meet my goals.
A few character quotes popped out this month from Ace, so I'll share those. They're in chronological order. Click to enlarge.
Ace is my new baby and I love him so much. *cuddles him* This month's Beautiful People was done on him (again, I know) and you can read that here. I'll try to do next month's on someone else, I promise.

Other Internet Happenings
  • Krissy Aleman @ Words in My Soul had a wonderful idea to use a song lyric to describe each MBTI type. It's the beginning of a series of posts done in such a way and I love the idea. Check it out!
  • So I found out that my online Christian writing group has a Facebook chat group. And I got myself added to it and . . . it's awesome. The group is amazingly supportive and encouraging, I became a dragon, we're plotted world domination, and I got married to a fictional character. So that happened.
  • Popular Science published a short blurb on the future of warfare. Here's a jumpstarter for people writing war in the future. 

    Favorite Pins of the Month

    What Is to Come
    • As of right now the only post I'm certain I will be doing this month is Beautiful People and a couple linkups I was tagged in. So those are coming.
    • I want to do another post or two on cliches - but I don't have topics. Give me every cliche you can think of in the comments!
    • Also, I think it is time for another character interview. I'm thinking Mara. Look for that soon!

    Questions I Now Want You to Answer:
    1. At least in the comments, the cliche posts went over very well. What was your favorite thing about each one?
    2. As stated above: which cliches would you like to see me write a post on in August? 
    Is anyone else gearing up to head to college? Or prepping for the start of school? Any of those books look familiar to you? Tell me about them. And for you Camp NaNoWriMo goers - how did it go? Congrats if you did well and my sympathy if it didn't go as well as you hoped. I feel you.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    The Chosen One Cliche - When SHOULD It Be Used?

    Harry Potter, Harry Potter. Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars. Tris Prior, Divergent. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games. Eragon, The Inheritance Cycle. The Pevensies, The Chronicles of Narnia. Every Protagonist Ever, Warrior Cats. All these main characters share something: each is somehow the only one in the entire world who can solve the war/galaxy/society/government, despite being a pretty average Joe. Oftentimes they are special because of a prophecy, but there are occasionally other reasons. But the underlying concept is always the same: this (sometimes only seemingly) average protagonist is the only one who can fix the overarching plot problem. Commonly, this gets called "the chosen one" cliche, and it can either go over really well or really, really badly.

    Hahahaaaaa . . . not in Star Wars. But more on that later.

    Many people get annoyed with this particular cliche. After all, why is that girl/boy, out of millions, the one who is special? Why couldn't anyone else just step in and beat up the big baddies, whoever they may be? Sometimes, these people are voicing valid questions - why couldn't someone else have been the "chosen one"? But other times, when the story is well done, there is a legitimate reason for the "chosen one" cliche. It all depends on the individual story.
    Take Harry Potter (SPOILERS for The Order of the Phoenix and onwards ahead). In this series' case, the cliche was well used. Harry was "the chosen one" because of a prophecy which clearly was talking about him - but there was actually more to it that that. Harry really was the only one who could have finished off Voldemort, because: (1) he was the only parselmouth apart from Voldemort, thereby allowing him to stop Voldemort's return in book 2 and claim the sword of Gryffindor, (2) he was the only one able to sense the horcruxes and therefore find them, (3) he had the sword of Gryffindor because of point 1, which allowed him to actually destroy the horcruxes once he found them, (4) he had to die in order for Voldemort to be kill-able (although, why Voldemort had to do it himself I've never understood), and (5) he was the only one Voldemort couldn't kill in one shot. So, in the Harry Potter series's case, there were reasons apart from "because this prophecy said so" that Harry was "the chosen one." (SPOILER END.) Because of that, the use of the cliche worked and no one complained.
    Basically Harry Potter.
    Now, let's look at Star Wars (minor SPOILERS for Episodes I-III ahead). Anakin Skywalker is "the chosen one" in this case, as we are told in Episode I (a real disappointment of a movie, actually). We are told via the Jedi that the Chosen One is prophesied to bring balance to the force. Yes, another one of those pesky prophecies (maybe that's another cliche to talk about later?) - they always seem to be messing up people's lives, don't they? Any-hoo, while I adore Anakin and the ability of his character arc to make me cry, the whole "chosen one" thing was really quite unnecessary in my opinion, and therefore is just an annoying cliche instead of an actual plot device. Why? Well, in Episode I (bleagh) Qui-Gon Jin discovers Anakin's super-high midichlorian count, which makes him think Anakin is the Chosen One, thereby getting Qui-Gon to break a whole load of Jedi tradition to make Anakin a part of the Jedi Order. Because of Anakin's midichlorian count, we'd expect him to be really powerful in the force - like, maybe moving starships, or something. However, as far as powers go, Anakin seems to be just like every other Jedi.
    So much for special.
    Here is where the problems start. If we'd seen evidence that the prophecy meant something, and that Anakin truly was special because he was super-powerful, then we would have had evidence that Anakin was worthy of being "the chosen one," subject of a prophecy. As it is, the prophecy is expected to create its own importance . . . which in my opinion, wasn't very successfully done.  Next comes problem two: because Anakin doesn't appear to be special, the prophecy doesn't seem to play any part in the entire rest of the series, and "the chosen one" thing isn't really mentioned after Episode I, the only reason for the entire "chosen one + prophecy" set-up in the first place was to get Anakin inducted into the Jedi Order. Which is a really bad excuse to use a cliche, especially if you aren't going to back up "the chosen one's" chosen-ness with actual tangible evidence or utilize the prophecy and/or chosen one thing much at all in the rest of the movies. (SPOILER END.)
    Except for that one time when Obi seemed to remember it.
    It didn't stop me from crying over Episode III, but still. Poorly done, Lucas. The prequel trilogy would have been much better if Anakin had been unusually powerful. And look, most Star Wars fans don't even like the prequel trilogy, or at least Episodes I-II. I wonder why.
    That was a mistake no fan would have made.
    Another poorly done "chosen one" cliche was in Divergent. Tris is never named a "chosen one," per se. However, she is supposedly special (SPOILERS ahead) because she is Divergent. However, she wasn't the only Divergent! There were hundreds of them. Roth's main problem with this was how she set up her world. How had so many Divergents gone under the radar if they were being hunted? Why is the majority of the population so limited in admirable traits? Why was Tris the only Divergent who took action? (SPOILERS end.) All these questions caused the idea of Tris's special-ness to fade, and had readers doing a little bit of head-scratching.

    So, don't use "the chosen one" cliche unless:
    1. You'll use it as a plot device more than once.
    2. There is a reason apart from prophecy that this character deserves to be labeled special.
    3. The character takes actions or possesses abilities no one else can manage.
    4. There is literally no one else in society who also shares the character's specialness.
    The Chosen One can be done really well and used to create a really fantastic story (look at the sheer success of Harry Potter!), but you need to make sure you're not just using it as an easy excuse to propel the plot forward or as a cheap way to set your protagonist apart from others.

    What do you think? Do you agree with my assessments of Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Divergent? Do you think that this cliche shouldn't be used at all, ever? If you don't, when do YOU think it SHOULD be used? I'm interested in what your guys' opinions on this are, guys!

    Want more posts on cliches and how to put a twist on them? Click here for all my posts on cliches, or click the label in the sidebar.

    Friday, July 24, 2015

    The Requisite Cat Post

    Today we derail from topics of books and characters and words, and instead focus on fur and fluff. I give to you: my family's cast of cats. They are often reading friends, but writing distractions. 
    This post was requested by one of you readers. I did not come up with this idea on my own. However, I love my fluffies and will take this chance to show you all how adorable they all are. Got it? Good. Now go adore those cute little photos.

    This is Cutie, also known as Fluffy, Fluffum-Squish, Fluffles, Fluffer-Nutter, Squishy, Squooshy, Moosh-Ball, Space Cadet, Mushum-Face, Allergies, and a host of other nicknames. At this point, even we're not really sure what her name is. She's about nine years old and we've had her since kittenhood, when she used to quite literally bounce off walls. Now she just spends her time sleeping and messing up our typing by walking on keyboards, stretching her paw onto my laptop trackpad, and falling asleep on our arms (as she has done to me as I write this very post). She will sit and/or fall asleep anywhere not normal: in boxes, in baskets, on top of backpacks, on shelves, or even just on a piece of fabric that has been left on the floor. In the last couple days she has made a habit of escaping from the three boy cats by jumping from our counter to the top of our fridge and then to the top of the kitchen cabinets. We aren't certain whether this was a stroke of rare genius on her part or another example of her daftness.
    This picture doesn't really do this cat justice. Meet Joshua, who is officially "my" cat, since I chose him and named him when he was a kitten (my sister chose Cutie, in case you were wondering - they are the same age and we adopted them at the same time). When we first got him he was the biggest scaredy-cat out there - hiding inside our office desk, only walking around the edges of rooms, etc. Now he's the most arrogant and in-your-face of all our pets. He just gets this look in his eyes that clearly says, "I couldn't care less about you and if you disturb me, I will not be happy." If you pick him up, he is likely to hiss, or at least growl if you're lucky. He doesn't bite though - unless you're a mouse or a bird. Then you might be in danger. Joshua has killed dozens of small critters and kindly leaves them on our porch for us to clean up. He even killed a small snake once and captured another. He rules the kitty roost.
    This is Derby (pronounced Darby, like Derbyshire in England). We adopted him when he was a kitten about four or five years ago, along with his brother Bromley (below). He is my cuddle buddy but is terrified of absolutely everyone else. He eats like the world is going to end if he doesn't finish his meal within 1.6 seconds, and likes to meow at us while we all eat dinner. He will carry out a conversation with you if you bother to meow back. For some reason, he enjoys the flavor of grass. He mostly just tries to stay out of Joshua's way.
    Lastly, we come to Bromley. He is Derby's brother, and the biggest cat in the house (although, that could be due to the volume of fur on him). We think that one day he'll coup Joshua for the position of superiority. However, he hasn't killed any critters yet, and he's gotten this paranoid streak in him since he received a few smacks for not knowing where the litterbox was. He'll have to grow a bit more of a backbone if he wants to overthrow Joshua. Bromley is my sister and mother's favorite, having attained the nickname Brom-brom (pronounced more like Breeium-breeium if you want to get technical). He likes to hide in our linen closet and will automatically collapse on his side if he walks through a patch of sun. 

    And now, a few more pictures, just because I probably won't do this again and my kitties are adorable and characters unto themselves:

    Oh yeah . . . she fell asleep partially on my shoulder once.
    So there they are, my messed up little group of kitty friends. I think one day I'll write a story featuring human versions of all my cats, just for the heck of it. I think their personalities are character-worthy.

    Do you have pets? What kind? Do they hang out while you write/read? Tell me about the animals - especially the furry ones. 

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    On the Young Adult Love Triangle Cliche

    I'm pretty sure that if you've been reading Young Adult for any decent amount of time, you've noticed this cliche. It is pervasive in every genre - fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, romance, dystopia . . . you get the gist. No matter where you go, it will appear sooner or later. Love triangles are not necessarily bad. However, there is one specific kind of love triangle which has become cliche and is, quite frankly, boring me to death with how cliche it has become.

    The Hunger Games. Matched. Uninvited. Twilight. The Naturals. Hex Hall. The Vampire Diaries. They all feature a very specific breed of love triangle, the one that I now consider a cliche. It features a female main character being presented with the choice between two handsome guys (although, obviously, one will be blond and the other will be dark-haired, and thus, they'll be handsome in different ways) - one of which will be sweet and sensitive, and the other will be more broody and tough.
    It looks something like this.
    This can come off really well, in some cases. But in other cases, the characters aren't unique enough and/or the two guys aren't equally attractive enough (I'm not just talking about physical attractiveness here) to make this set-up work. Honestly, I can't figure out why this particular love triangle has become so popular - maybe our culture is gravitating to the idea of a woman having the ability to decide who she'll be with without any complications such as, ya' know, one of the dudes not actually liking her.
    Which leads me to . . .
    This is not the only kind of love triangle out there. And I really wish more authors seemed to know that and take advantage of the different kinds of romantic set-ups there are.
    For instance:
    1. A love triangle with a boy as the central character, who has to make the choice.
    2. A love triangle in which the girl is in love with one guy, but he is not interested in her at all. Instead, another love interest is pursuing her and she ignores him.
    3. There isn't a love triangle at all - perhaps a love square? A girl likes two guys, but maybe they're both interested in a completely different girl . . . or maybe they're both interested in both her and another girl, creating three interlocking love triangles.
    There are so many ways to layer love triangles to come up with unique romantic setups, which is why it is so frustrating to see the same love triangle repeated over and over again. There are so many opportunities to be had here, people! Can't we mix things up a little? 
    And if we aren't going to mix up this guy-gal-guy love triangle, can't we at least change the characters involved? Do the two guys have to be such complete opposites? Wouldn't it be interesting if they both shared one big flaw, but were different in other areas? That flaw could make the FMC's decision much, much harder. Maybe, in the end, she wouldn't choose either of them!
    Lastly, one last thing I urge you not to do under any circumstances: don't make the MC's choice for her (him if you're being blessedly unique). In the Hex Hall trilogy, a typical cliche love triangle was set up between the mysterious guy and the sweet guy. While I disliked this particular triangle with much gusto because their were several issues with it, the author made one big . . .mistake, I think. The FMC found out that her father had betrothed her to Mr. Sweet, a guy named Cal. I didn't think that was such a bad thing - it may have even provided a lot of tension, had it been used right. However, the author relied on this betrothal to create all the tension of the love triangle - which wasn't much, since Cal was almost never around and the FMC was clearly enamored (physically, at least) with the dangerous Mr. Mysterious. It was so one-sided. 
    Even so, the situation could have been salvaged. I held out hope throughout the trilogy that the FMC would see how much of a better guy Cal was than the other option, push away the dangerous unknown dude, and accept Cal. Even if she hadn't done that I may have been satisfied (although disappointed in her lack of common sense regarding strange, mysterious, and obviously dangerous guys who creep around your school). However, the author completely ruined it by (SPOILER ALERT) killing Cal at the climax of the last book, (SPOILER END) making the FMC's choice for her. What was worse, the FMC wasn't even that torn up about it, and was just something akin to "well, now that my fiance is dead I don't have to feel guilty about liking Mr. Dark-Dangerous-and-Mysterious."
    And so the love triangle was ruined, once and for all. Any tension that may have existed dead as a door-nail, with no hope of it being revived by a re-read.  

    So to recap: please don't automatically set up a cliche love triangle. Try to mix it up and go with some other arrangement. If you do go with the common love triangle, at least change up the characters involved a bit. And certainly, do not make the MC's choice for her/him by killing or otherwise conveniently getting rid of one of the love interests. Take advantage of the variety available for romantic setups, and create an equal attraction to both love interests to make sure that the love triangle is doing what it was intended to do: create tension and conflict.

    What are some love triangles you know of that were really well done? Really badly done? What are your thoughts on it? Do you think the love triangle I was talking about is cliche? Do you want some more variety too, or are you happy with the current state of things? Also, check out my guest post on Aimee Meester's blog, To the Barricade!: "One Simple Way to Add Dimension to Your Characters."

    Want more posts on cliches and how to put a twist on them? Click here for all my posts on cliches, or click the label in the sidebar.

    Friday, July 17, 2015

    The Problem of Too Many Books

    Most bookworms will have an immediate reaction to that post title. They'll say, "There's no such thing as too many books!" Well, I beg to differ. I have come to the conclusion that there is indeed such a thing, and it has very frustrating effects.

    Warning: this is something of a rant.
    You see, when I first started reading at bookworm-levels, I would start a series and read until there were no more books published in it. I'd only read a few series at a time since I'd read large Young Reader's series that published new books fairly quickly - none of these YA trilogies with a year and a half in between each book being published. So I wouldn't be reading a whole plethora of different story lines at once. It was very easy to keep track of and I could throw all my emotion into a single story at once. It was great.
    . . . at once.
    Then I grew out of the Young Readers' section in Barnes & Noble and moved into Young Adult, where long series seem to be an endangered species and it takes a year or more for each successive book to be published. It has become impossible to read through a single series in only one or two reading binges.
    This is problematic. To compensate for the lack of lengthy series, I had to read more and more series at once. So now, I find myself in the middle of dozens of series of books, with some sequels out and waiting to be read, and others waiting to be published. In addition to that, there is a huge stack of stand alone novels and series-beginners I want to read, which will inevitably lead to even more books being added to my to-read pile as I decide I like an author or that first book in yet another trilogy.
    Does anyone else relate?
    Entering the blogging world didn't help, either, because now not only am I getting books to read from browsing bookshelves and Goodreads, I'm getting book reviews every week recommending this book or that book.
    Oh, and Library, you aren't helping with your splotchy coverage of series, and World, your prices on paperbacks are thievery.
    So, I have resolved that I will try my hardest once again to read all the published books in a series at once before moving on to another story line. Even if some books haven't been published yet, at least I won't have a cloud of "those-two-sequels-are-out-already-and-you-need-to-read-them"s around my head all the time. No. I'll just have a cloud of single books whizzing around which I have to find a way to get from my under-stocked library or buy dirt-cheep online or purchase full price using a precious Barnes & Noble gift card. Heheheh, the cloud of books will go away eventually, won't it? I'll just have one book at a time to read?
    Oh. A bookworm's curse, I suppose.