Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For Better or Worse...

For better or worse, technology has changed the way we communicate - the way we reach out and touch someone.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with it, frankly, and now that I'm in my thirties, it's more hate than anything else. Facebook, for me, is an idiot-proof portal to the lives of lots of folks I don't get to see enough anymore, so I stick to that.

And it was because of Facebook that I learned last week that a long-time friend died in a hit-and-run.

Kerri was a year older than me, but it seems that our social circles - as much as you can call them that in elementary school - always intertwined. She grew up in my neighborhood, though she went to a different elementary school. We were in Girl Scouts together. In junior high, we sang in chorus (and where I come from, this was big - we competed nationally and internationally and won medals!) In high school, field hockey bonded and kept us in each other's company. And later, after college and years had passed, it was social media that brought her back into my life, if only virtually.

Even though she was only a year older than I (and by the calendar, only about nine months separated us), she always had this quiet, mothering way about her. Maybe she saw I needed the gentle guidance when we were younger. Maybe she was like that with a lot of us. She was probably just naturally nurturing, and so it leaked from every pore. She was always smiling, and her dimples only magnified the gesture. I know a lot of people always say this when someone they love has passed, but Kerri really was a ray of good ol' sunshine.

Though I can't claim we were BFFs or even particularly close, her sudden death hit me like the worst gut sucker-punch. I've lost other school friends - good people who were most definitely taken from this earth before their work was done - but Kerri's death, for some reason, felt different. It took me a few days to realize why:

Death had not changed. It is still a whisper in everyday life and a scream within us. It is one of the few things that, in this day of instant gratification and hurry-hurry-go-go, still has the power to stop us in our tracks, to silence us.

But I had changed. And so had Kerri. Gone were the carefree days of school; gone were the childish fears of life in a bubble. We were grown, with spouses and children and knowledge.

Kerri left behind a husband who now has to figure out how to get up every morning and re-learn living without her. She left behind a young daughter who can't possibly yet grasp what it means. Kerri left behind a richness, a fullness of life that can only come from time, maturity and the things we didn't possess when we were younger.

So when I look at my own family, and I ponder the weight of life and death and the gravity of each moment of every day, I know this one's different - to me.

I'm thankful that I found Kerri again, and that we could stay connected by discussing the mundane and ridiculous. And though there are a lot of things I detest about social media, I'm grateful that, for better or worse, it led me back home. Home to my memories and my roots, and to what's really important.

For those of you wondering, that's me at the left looking like a lemon, and Kerri is smack in the middle wearing the white tee and jeans.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rainy days never get me down

Today is a perfect day to write - while buried under blankets and with a steaming cup of hot soup within arm's reach.

But that's not what I'm doing today. Unfortunately.

Heck, I'd be content if I cracked my laptop, got all snuggled in, and then promptly fell asleep. That's what rainy days are for, after all. But I can't even do that.

And so I am bitter.

(something like this, or some combination thereof, please)

It's not that I can't sit down and write later: after the kiddo is in bed, after the dishes are clean, after the laundry is folded and put in a pile in the corner of the bedroom -  I refuse to put it away immediately - and after I do Hip Hop Abs because I cling to the minuscule hope that it WILL transform my middle section and magically re-produce the abs I used to have. But then it's late, the rain has stopped, I'm tired...

You see where I'm going here?

The opportunity is lost. The moment is gone. It's like trying to decide if you want to get a Bomb Pop from the ice cream man and when you finally decide that Yes! you will, you run outside and end up choking on fumes from his truck as he rounds the corner in search of other little kids with their parents' money. Damn it!

Bomb Pops

There's no point in chasing him around the corner. You missed your chance. Besides, no one wants to see a kid running down the street after the ice cream man - it's just sad.

So, today, while I am thankful that I have a day job that keeps me from sitting in my PJs all day, I will look out the window longingly tonight, thinking of how good that soup might have tasted... and wondering what creative goodness I might have missed out on, too.

Do you like to write when it's rainy? Is there a certain type of weather that stirs YOUR creative juices?
Tell me about it!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review - Bitten

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, #1)Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Perhaps I've grown a bit tired of the mostly-exposition books out there, now that I know more about writing (and good writing at that). I cannot say how many times I skipped ahead to the action - forget that, even some dialogue would have sufficed - in this book because I lost count. It was one long-ass info dump as far as I'm concerned. Shame on the author for what I consider "phoning it in." And shame on the editors and agent for not demanding more from this book.
I found this book (and the other books of the series) in the comments of a blog post asking for people's favorite urban fantasy books. They're apparently pretty popular, though based on this first book, I can't really understand why. Maybe they get better as the series progresses, but I'm a believer in first impressions, and this one was a limp handshake at best. Let's review my pet peeves, shall we?
- mixed verb tenses (sometimes in the SAME SENTENCE!) - I really can't stand this one. It's frustrating to read and distracting enough to pull me out of the story to wonder what the hell the author thought was okay with mixing tenses. Example: "That sounds worse than I intended." And it's not a thought, or at least there's nothing to denote it as thought. This one's a gem (it immediately follows): "What I meant was that he was accustomed to following the plans of others." More narrative, neither is dialogue, and beside not lending anything to the story, if the author feels like her character needs to explain herself with FURTHER narrative after narrative, there's something wrong here, people. Oh, wait, there's more right after that: "He was an enthusiastic lieutenant and a loyal friend, but he wasn't exactly -- how do I put this nicely -- not exactly a deep thinker." Okay, last time I knew, the hyphen used like this should add another little nugget of information and the sentence around it should make sense if it's taken out. As you can see, this hot mess does not make sense. Again with the mixed tenses. Again with the further explanations that do nothing for the story. Based on these things alone, I'm really to poke my eyes out with my red pen.
But, because I'm a glutton for lit punishment, I continued.
Something else about this book and plot that bothers me is that Elena is like the sun here: her world and the characters in this book completely revolve around her, and are only in the story to serve her and provide her with muscle. I don't give two shits about any of them - not Elena or Clay or even Prince Charming, pansy-ass Jeremy - and again, there's something inherently wrong with that, people. I read the entire book, and all I felt at the end was relief that I didn't have to listen to Elena's annoying narrative in my head or wonder why the eff none of these "wolves" ever felt the need to assimilate. I mean, really. You LIVE in the human world, but being polite and celebrating christian holidays escape them? Oh, but it's okay - they're independently wealthy, live on this big-ass estate where no one bothers them, and no one in town has ever confronted them about their weirdness or asked them why they don't pay taxes or support the community at all, or even interact? Methinks no, author. Notsofastmyfriend. The author throws in some half-baked attempt at answering those questions, but it falls short.
Suspending my disbelief for additional, precious minutes, I'm also concerned for Elena. See, she's like Smurfette in the Smurf village: the only chick in a world of horny, leg-humping doggies (or Smurfs, if you're still following my little imaginary analogy). Wolves, whatever. Don't even TELL me they haven't ALL tried to hit that. And that somehow Clay's the only one who's gotten any bootie from her. And that they're not all scratching the shit out of her bedroom door trying to get in. Uh-uh. Not buying it for a second.
The one thing that IS missing from this info-dump (and it is the ONLY thing) is a glimpse into Elena's mind when it comes to Clay. Okay, she says she hates him but they share this bond, but it just doesn't explain the manic way in which she treats him. Elena literally smiles at Clay and then slams a door in his face. They fight and then they hump. I'm dizzy. And not all that interested. You gotta make the crazy compelling at least.
My biggest gripe with this book is that it read like a book report. Look, this is something I'm still trying to learn, but I'd like to think that by the time I get my own book published, I will have at least cracked the treasure chest that is great writing, and will know how to inject emotion - gut-wrenching, unadulterated, mind-blowing, life-altering - into my story. I want to read the kind of book that changes my view on things. I want to believe that the author had his or her own life-changing moment and how could it NOT spill out onto the pages? I know. It might be a bit silly, but I've read books like that, and I want that every time I begin a new one. I expect the same from my own writing. It's asking a lot.
But I don't care.

P.S. I suppose someone might read this review and notice most of my others are rather critical, too. It's true that the more negative ones come more easily than the reviews full of praise, but when the book's fantastic, it stands on its own. What can you say in that case other than, "I love it."

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When you outgrow your outline

When writing - whether it be a short story or an epic novel or series - do you outline or not?

Do you surrender yourself to the creative process, letting your mind take you wherever it desires, even if you get lost? Or do you like to take at least a general road map - a picture of how to get from Point A to Point B (or Z)?

I think I'm somewhere in between. Maybe you are, too. When I began my urban fantasy work I started with what I considered a detailed outline: chapters numbered and labeled, with a short synopsis of what I hoped to accomplish in each one. I created a different character list and summary, adding backstory, motivations, problems and character solutions for each person in my story. Hell, I even named their horses.

But now that I'm entering double-digits in my writing (this is a big deal to me, considering how long it took me to get here!!), I find myself going far beyond the confines of my little outline. As I've written according to my own rules, other events and motivations have taken shape in this story - things I never imagined possible in the world I created. And I'm happy about that. To think of the adventures, complications, miscommunications, snark, humor, tension and other fun my readers would have missed out on had I simply stuck to the outline!

So, to outline or not to outline.

There seem to be two distinct groups on this issue, one on each side of the argument.

At Daily Writing Tips, this is made clear, along with the pros and cons of creating and adhering to an outline. Some of the highlights of the pro-outline argument:

  • you won't get lost 
  • writing with a sense of flow 
  • knowing if the story is good or not 
  • freedom to stray if a better way presents itself 

Now, some of the anti-outline arguments:

  • it spoils all the fun 
  • the story idea wasn't as good as you thought 
  • doesn't fit with your writing style 

I'm sure you can guess what I'm going to say here, and it's what everyone else says, too: there is no right and wrong in writing. It just IS. So if you like to plan ahead and feel secure in your outline, go for it. If you like for your process to be completely free of restraints and welcome the infinite possibilities associated with free-styling it, you should do that.

Or if you're like me, having a little structure to start might help you determine if your plot baby has legs, if it has enough of the right stuff to become a great story or novel, or if you're going to run into a word-block after chapter five. I think outlining is helpful for those things: conceptualizing your book and getting ideas on the page starts those creative juices working. So when you open your doc or page, you don't just stare at it, wondering if you should just do some laundry. For me, writing the outline energized me and excited me. I had a beginning, a middle and an end and I couldn't wait to get started.

But recognize it's okay to stray from the outline. I certainly have - and thank goodness. And if your inner control freak is yanking on her (or his) hair and munching on pencils, add to your outline, even if it's after the fact. I've done that, too. Even though it's cheating a bit.

They're my rules, after all, so it's okay if I break them.

Happy writing! 

Tell me what YOU do - outline or no outline?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review - Sex and the Single Vampire

Sex and the Single Vampire (Dark Ones, #2)Sex and the Single Vampire by Katie MacAlister
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What drew me to this book was the paranormal element - Summoner Allegra Telford is under the gun to produce a ghost for her boss... or she's out of a job. So the idea of introducing a vampire wasn't so far-fetched and I went with it. Apparently there's a first book that I missed in this series, but frankly, the info dumps led me to believe I didn't miss anything by skipping it.
Which unfortunately brings me to the substance of my review. This book was a hot mess. And not in a good way. Aside from the aforementioned (and numerous) info dumps throughout the book - and done in a way that was much too convenient for the lazy plot - the book just seemed to be all over the place. Like it didn't know what to do next, so it just did everything. Verb tenses changed A LOT - sometimes within the same sentence. And I'm sorry, but as a fellow writer (and an editor, I just cannot condone that. The dialogue was ridiculous in places, with characters talking over each other about completely unrelated things. Seriously, what purpose do Joy and Roxy serve except as really obvious comic relief? They are not integral to the plot AT ALL. Allie would have met Christian all on her own and she's a smart girl - she would have gotten a pretty quick read on his situation.
Let's take a moment and ponder names: I'm sorry, but since 50 Shades of Crap, I'm forever allergic to a name like Christian. And I must admit at times this book read like reworked fan fiction. So it made me wonder... And I looked up Love Spell online and found out it was defunct. It was also published by Harper Collins ebooks, but I have to wonder about the circumstances. I also found a number of silly typos (things like typing a z instead of an s). Not to mention so many awkwardly worded and way too long sentences that had me doing double and triple takes to see if I'd read them correctly.
Technical edits aside, I feel like this book could have benefited from a good developmental edit. Plot points seem to tumble out as after-thoughts, explained away via info dumps and long narratives. Magical "rules" in Allie's world are explained only when she's doing something and the reader doesn't know why or how. It's certainly a good lesson for other writers: get your world-building and lore down BEFORE you get working on the book. Talk about wasted opportunity. Also wasted is a potential glimpse into Christian's likely-sordid past. Nothing! Oh, Allie mentions as a side-note that somewhere along the way, he told her he was once a knight. Seriously? Just throw it in as explanation for his "heroic" qualities? I'm not buying it.
And regarding C.J. Dante's "charms" - seriously, people, when are we going to stop worshiping men who prefer to dominate and control their women? I do find it redeemable that Allie doesn't put up with his crap, but it's only because she was the victim of spousal abuse. Really?! Why does everyone have to have the sob story? Why can't women just be strong when they want to be, and men be flexible in relationships? Why do we romanticize these things? But I digress.
Another thing that kind of bugs me about this book is the title (and the cover design). Frankly, this book has little to do with sex. Or a single vampire. It has to do with the relationship and connection between a Dark One and his Beloved. Are there female Dark Ones, I wonder? Don't know. The book doesn't focus at all about Christian's world. I'm throwing in my vote for this book to be renamed to something like... Beloved? The Bloodsucker and the Ghost Hunter?
Thankfully, this book didn't take long to read. Now I'm going to check out Chuck Wendig's recommendations for good reads. I'm tired of stumbling around in the dark.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday Aequitas Teaser...and slugs

Hi, everyone. Well, obviously I missed my Monday teaser, so I'll deliver that today.

In addition, there's something I just need to get off my chest:

Ignore the negativity - in life and in your writing. 

 I know, easier said than done. 

 But something happened to me, and I came to the realization that allowing negativity to influence me and have power over me makes ONLY MY LIFE worse. The person who's spreading it? His or her life is already in the crapper. They're also probably so used to it that they can't see the forest through the trees, if you know what I mean.

Let's metaphor this, shall we? Let's call the mean person a slug. A slug is a slug. It can't help what it is - a slow-moving, slime-trail-leaving garden pest. They are content to travel from yard to yard, eating anything that looks remotely tasty, leaving nasty little slime wakes and vegetable carnage. You shake your fists in a bout of exhausted rage! No slugs allowed! But still they come.

Why let it devour your lettuce crop?  Why let the person have the power to undercut your hard work and sanity? Instead, put out your little containers of beer, or dance around your yard with some salt if you're feeling particularly aggressive! Don't let the slugs into your garden!

We alone have the power to enact change. This applies to our ability to shut others out who would do us harm. Put up your defenses and get rid of those slugs.

Life is too short for slime.

P.S. By the way, did you know there's actually a web site about slugs? Yup. Check it out here.

And now, your Tuesday Teaser of Aequitas, #4. Enjoy. 

Undead creatures sure do bleed a lot, Themis thought as she swung her scythe, slicing one of the things in half and sending both pieces slumping to the ground. Others littered the city’s empty street in writhing little piles of dead flesh, spoils of her efforts. The artificial glow of the streetlights lit the blood pooling on the sidewalk and street. The sun would take care of that evidence.

Plucking a silver lighter from a hidden pocket in her cloak, she tossed the small flame onto the pile of body parts she dragged into a nearby alley and crossed her arms as the makeshift bonfire roared to life, the satisfying burn of acrid smoke in her nose. Snowflakes began to swirl in little dervishes, sucked toward the heat, and the winter wind blew wisps of her long hair around wildly.

No time to admire the carnage, though; the remaining vampire jumped on Themis’ back, attempting to sever her head from her spine. She dropped her weapon, burying the unbreakable blade in the strip of broken up asphalt under her feet before reaching behind her to dislodge the pest. Themis grunted under the strain, but finally the vampire’s grip on her cloak and leather armor faltered, allowing a shoulder throw. They sparred again, the bloodsucker landing more like a cat than a reanimated corpse. Watching the undead move had always fascinated her, Themis thought, as she flicked back her thick red braid and pushed the wayward strands out of her face.

The vampire hissed, baring its fangs at Themis and stepped forward. These things really have no sense of self-preservation.

“Frightening,” Themis said dully. The lack of recognition confirmed her foe was another newly-made vampire. The lack of experience was a plus for her, but the strength of a new vampire could not be underestimated. Both moved in a blur of blocks and strikes, showcasing their speed and inhuman strength. If Themis could grow weary, she would have. Lacking a biological imperative for oxygen had its advantages. Would either of them ever tire—

A searing pain lit her belly aflame, and she watched as the vampire withdrew a blade, now covered in a viscous black liquid.

That was Themis’ first mistake. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Aequitas - Teaser #3

Happy Friday, everyone! To all of my many followers (you know who you are *wink wink*), thank you for being you and for being here!

To celebrate the end of the work week, and just because I feel like it, here's another teaser of my work Aequitas, again picking up where we last left off. Enjoy - preferably with a beer! :)
funny gifs
Themis sighed heavily. She couldn’t even enjoy the sights, sounds and smells around her now. At first they had been a delight; that much she could recall. Slowly, over her time as a reaper, the bloom faded. Now, these castle walls triggered the same panic in Themis as her dreams did. Reapers did not dream.
How long had she been a soldier of Death? That she couldn’t remember. Time meant nothing to them anyway. Still, she wondered. Themis closed her eyes once more, dipping into the knowledge she could summon at will. Ah, yes. The memory invaded her senses—sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste—as if she were reviving the night she entered the Great Hall for the first time.
Themis had a sense of endless, timeless drifting, brought to a halt when she opened her eyes. Blinking furiously, she scrambled to make sense of what was in her field of vision: an ivory-colored ceiling—not dirty white, but more like marble—which seemed to stretch up to the heavens forever, and a man’s smiling face. His bronzed skin stood in contrast to his straight white teeth and his wavy blond hair fell over her, creating a partial curtain of privacy between them in that moment. But his eyes were kind. And somehow understanding, though he couldn’t know her.
“Welcome,” he had said as he helped her to sit up. “I am Hyperion.”
“W-who am I?” Her mind was full of cotton, as was her mouth. She glanced down and stretched her arms out before her. Leather cuffs covered her from wrist to elbow. Her hands flew to her leather breastplate, molded to her like a second skin and displaying an intricately carved image of a blindfolded woman holding a sword and scales. Justice, she thought. Was that her name?
            “Where am I? What happened to me?”
            The man named Hyperion put a warm, thick hand on her shoulder. Its weight immediately calmed her, and she had a brief flash of the sun upon her face. Same warmth. Choppy images flooded her mind, too jumbled to make any sense. She shook her head as if to clear them.
            “Be at ease. You are a Reaper, a soldier of Death. That is all you need to know for now. The rest will come.”
            “But… why?” she’d asked him. Hyperion had smiled, as if he’d been anticipating the question.
            “Death is neutral. She takes no side. And she has always served as a mediator between her brothers.”
            Her head spun. “Brothers? Death… is a woman?”
            Hyperion chuckled low and it lit up his already radiant features. “God and the Devil. And yes. Why not? So, have you decided on a name?”
            She decided at that moment she liked Hyperion.
            “Themis. Justice.”
He trained her, as he did all the others like her, to fight like a warrior. While Sanctus, another reaper, schooled her in the ways of ferrying souls, Hyperion taught her all manners of combat and prepared her for her other duty: as slayer of all things unnatural. He told her of vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghouls and other creatures who sought to throw the balance of good and evil, light and dark. She trained for endless hours, wielding her scythe, until weapon and warrior became one.
Themis borrowed her namesake, as they all did, from gods, goddesses, titans and giants of Greek myth. The scrolls containing legends of reapers’ origins suggested the first of their kind had chosen names in deference to the oldest, most advanced civilizations of man, and likewise, selected Latin as their preferred, formal tongue—once they had need for speaking.
She had slain so many of those things he’d told her about. Themis had also ferried hordes of souls. Many went up; many went down. Somewhere along the way, things changed for her.
Was it just this—an infinite stream of souls, shepherded from one plane of existence to the next? A never-ending fount of blood pouring from the blade of her scythe? Was any of it making an impact? Should she even ask these questions?

            “Oh, what am I doing?” she asked the heavens. Themis had work to do, and these quandaries accomplished none of it. She filed them away, along with the increasingly vivid images from her dreams, into neat little compartments in her mind. Then she slung her weapon into the holster against her back and strode out of the courtyard.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Flexing those writing muscles

One of the members of a writing community I belong to today posted an entry from Chuck Wendig that really resonated with me.

Click here for the link to his post.

As a fairly green writer (in the world of fiction, at least), I tend to rely much too heavily on some sort of "divine" inspiration. My muse sounds a lot like Wendig's horse, too easily spooked and very nervous. It's tough to coax decent material out of that kind of muse. I always seem to be too busy dangling carrots, trying to soothe my muse/horse, and waste time when I should just be writing. I tell myself, "Just do it, woman." And then I open my doc, stare at it, and then get distracted with other things.

I freely admit and often pronounce that my muse is a fickle bitch. Well, I suppose I'm making a confession about my own character. And when it comes to my writing, I'm easily distracted and make excuses for my procrastination. There, I said it. Let the healing begin!

This community post got a lot of response from members, some calling it "Writer's Distraction," and "Writer's Procrastination." Most definitely. And it's a lot like going to the gym, this writing thing.

Depending on what you read, research states it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days (but the average was 66 days) to form a new habit. I've heard everything from 21 days to 90 days, so pick a number that you like.  I think I'm going with 60. Two months sounds about right for me, based on other habit-forming experiences.

Okay, so back to my analogy. Before I had my daughter, I committed myself to getting rid of extra weight and getting healthy. I told myself I'd give my new exercise regimen two months - 60 days - and if I didn't like it or if it didn't produce results, I'd try something else. By the time those 60 days were up, I'd stopped counting the days and was in the thralls of my Crossfit habit. I dropped nearly 30 pounds and felt great.

Writing is a habit we must create in our lives. We alone hold the keys to our success in getting the writing accomplished. We alone can psych ourselves right out of it. There's always a reason NOT to write, just like there's always a reason NOT to work out- too much laundry or too many household chores to do; a good program on TV or a game we're itching to play; a book that keeps us away from our writing (though that's not always a bad thing); kids, spouses, parents, family; work; and life in general. There's never enough time in the day - no one will argue against that.

But making the time to write is like making the time to work out. And both come down to a simple key: discipline

In writing and ultimately getting published, it's a game of numbers and simple math (I cannot believe I'm using numbers or math in a post!): the more time we put into our writing, the more we write, the more likely we are to come up with some material fit for our book! And the more material we have, the more likely it is for some of it to be good! Damn good!

So in the spirit of writing and working long-ignored muscles, I'm pledging to quit making excuses. Now is the time for action. Sure, the laundry might pile up, the dust bunnies might threaten to attack, and it might get a little crazy in my house for a while, but I'm committed. (insert bad joke HERE)

Are you?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Aequitas - Teaser #2 (Because I hate Mondays)

Because it's Monday and I loathe Mondays, I've decided to take the easy (and hopefully more rewarding) route for all of you, and post another excerpt from my urban fantasy, Aequitas. We're picking up where we left off. Enjoy, and come back tomorrow for some wit. I was fresh out today.

To hasten their progress, Themis gathered Michael’s soul into her cloak and whisked them both away, scattering their particles to the In Between where she and the other reapers resided—and where Michael would be judged.
They reformed in the Measurement Room, where she willed the soul to part from her body. Michael staggered and fell before the elevated dais in the center of the cavernous room. Themis ignored the carved images above her head, though they always comforted her, and focused on the other reaper in front of them. Sanctus stood on the dais, arms extended, as he always did. Whatever the outcome, souls were always welcomed to the In Between, the plane of existence between Heaven and Hell. This was neutral territory.
Themis bowed quickly with her fist over her heart and closed the hulking, ancient wooden doors just as the screams reached her ears. She’d never witnessed what happened when a soul was claimed for the light or the dark, but the oratory differences were stark.
Wandering down the halls of their stone fortress, she passed a series of identical rough-hewn wooden doors leading to reapers’ quarters and other appointed rooms. Her long, pale fingers skimmed along the corridor’s rough, hand-chiseled stone, before walking through an arch leading to a grassy courtyard. No matter what seasons befell the people on Earth, here the grass remained green. She and the other reapers used this place as a jumping off point before they departed, unless they were leaving on horseback. Instead of heading to the stables to visit her stallion, Themis stood in the center of the green expanse with her face upturned.
It all looked so… normal. The sky over her head was robin’s egg blue and free of clouds. Their fortress and homestead, the In Between, belonged in the Scottish Highlands, complete with moss-covered hand-hewn stones and turrets. The grass smelled fresh and clean and gave under Themis’ leather-clad feet. Even she and the other reapers wore skin, in addition to their leather armor, projecting an image of humanity rather than their true form. Who would prefer gaping into a skeletal face with floating eyeballs staring back?

Mirage. Illusion. Fabrication. All of it. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Good Editor...

A good editor is well worth the investment. (Yes, it IS an investment). If you truly want to produce a great work of fiction and get it published, I firmly believe you also need a good editor. Nay, a great one. One who will tell you what works and what doesn't, make changes and suggest others, slash through sections of your manuscript that you were too afraid to cut on your own, and point out any short-comings in your manuscript, but do it in a way that doesn't leave you wondering what happened to your beloved novel. I promise you – we’ll work on it together!

As a writer, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the wisdom out there about editors: You want it to be great? You want to be a serious author? You want to be a better writer? You want to get your work published?

Then you absolutely need an editor. Maybe even two.

And as an editor-in-theory who is trying to establish herself as an editor-in-practice, too, I see it rather simply: you need me. I need you and your work. Together, at first, we might make a cacophony and there might be times where you're convinced all editors are the devil reincarnate, but it DOES get better. Slowly but surely, we'll weed out the instruments that are out of place in our song. We'll tune up the ones that need to stay but first must be polished up a bit. We'll move some chairs around, straighten some ties and lift up a few elbows in our orchestra. I'll give you the baton and show you how to wield it. And before you know it, we'll have a beautiful sound - a symphony to make the audience cry - and you'll be off and running!

This is my guiding principle: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But delivered in a tactful way.

I want to get to know you and you me. And I look forward to working together. Let's make your manuscript the very best book it can be!

Click here to visit my services page, which includes pricing and other details.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review - Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Honestly, I expected much more from this book than what it delivered. Kind of like a supreme cheese pizza with loads of toppings... when what I got was some cold, stale cheesy bread sticks.
I have my doubts about the ability of two different writers to write one book together and have it be cohesive. Not that I could pick out which parts were written by whom, but most of the time I found myself skimming through large sections of narrator exposition to get to the action.
When all was said and done, there wasn't much action. and the climactic battle was a little disappointing.
Most times, though, I got distracted by all of the filter words and the general poor editing in this book. Forget about the fact that Lena is largely unlikable for me as a MC and Ethan is a girl in a boy's body. What high school boy would know the names of the two town dress shops, styles and terms for all of that dress junk, or be so in touch with his feelings? Sorry, ladies, not believable for a moment.
In the end, this book has a great title and that's about as far as the "great" goes. Talk about great expectations... and disappointing ends.
I probably won't read the other books in this series, because I frankly don't care what happens to Lena and Ethan. I'm a little curious about the bad guys, but not enough to keep reading. Oh well.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Slow and Steady...

When asked what my strategy is to writing, I'm often at a loss for words. Ironic, I know. You see, I don't really have one. Often I pledge to write a little each day, even if it's only a paragraph. Some days, I deliver on that promise. Others, not so much. Life has a habit of getting in the way of my writing, but I'm okay with that. Because it's in those missed writing opportunities that I embrace the wonderful chaos that is my life. This is the source of my joy:

My little ball of energy is Abigail, and she'll be two in August. She and my husband are pretty much the only two people who are allowed to pull me from my writing (without a scowl, growl or nasty expletive). Alas, they do often, but what is a writer to do? There are times when I wish I could simply park myself in front of my laptop and let the world slide away, but then I'd miss this precious little face.

So, I guess to answer that question, finally, my strategy is: slow and steady. A little each day when I can, or as much as possible whenever I'm able and the mood strikes. I don't have the luxury of time and unbroken solitude that others might, but that's okay with me. Never do I doubt that I will finish my first novel. And in the end, my persistence will win. I am sure of it. Slowly but surely I'm working, chiseling away the stone to fashion something from nothing but an interesting idea. I'm excited as hell to see the finished product. And I promise you, it WILL happen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review - Once Burned

Once Burned (Night Prince, #1)Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the Night Huntress series, despite some choppy writing, mixed verb tenses and other minor editing issues. The characters were well-conceived and the plot worked. I cannot say the same for the first of Vlad's books, however, and I feel like I need to avenge the poor guy.
Here we have such an opportunity to really have fun with the infamous Dracula, and the book falls flat. Leila's character is one-dimensional and at best, annoying. At worst, she's barely thought out, flip-flops at the drop of a hat, and thinks WAY too much, making no effort to shield her thoughts from her lover.
The narrative is boring, wordy and awkward, and I constantly felt like the events were being reported to me. Never did I feel pulled into the book or its action. Even when Leila goes to a club, which is attacked by bad guys, the place set on fire and her legs are BROKEN do I feel even an ounce of fear, adrenaline or pain for her. To me, that's just poor writing. The sex scenes are truly laughable, and the vocabulary was overused. Too many times I read about the color of Vlad's eyes. Words like loins were overused, as were ridiculous descriptions throughout. And "blade of flesh" - seriously?
This book featured a whole lot of awkward sentence structure, peppered with strangely large words that seemed out of place in contrast to Leila's rather simple mind. It made me wonder if it had been edited at all. There were also many instances of information being relayed almost as an afterthought - like the revelation that Leila blamed herself for her mother's death. Up to this point, we know very little of her, so for the characters to have this information feels like it was concealed from the reader. It was for this and the reasons above that I stopped reading this at chapter 27.

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Book Review - A SEAL's Seduction

A SEAL's Seduction (Uniformly Hot SEALs #1)A SEAL's Seduction by Tawny Weber
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to say, this was pretty much in line with my expectations of Harlequin. And they're set pretty low. I don't know much about the Navy SEALs, but it appears neither does the author. And she didn't bother to do much in the way of research, either, in order to write a book about NAVY SEALS! Part of what makes a story good, to me, is believe-ability. This totally lacked that. From the generic lingo (sorry, but throwing in a few mentions of BUDs does NOT an authentic SEAL-grounded story make) and ridiculous plot, to the conversations between the characters, and the cringe-inducing flowery language in the sex scenes, it made my head hurt. Made me roll my eyes countless times.
So while some might have enjoyed this quick, light read, I won't be delving into any more of these books. Thanks, but no thanks, Harlequin. I'll take frenzied, messy, REALISTIC sex any day.

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Good morning.

Last night I was working on my soon-to-be-posted page advertising my freelance editing services (stay tuned for that), and I realized there's really a lot I don't know about the biz. I really hate that realization - when you get all jazzed up about a new endeavor (especially one you think you're qualified to take part in!), only to discover there's way more you don't know. Crap.

So I've decided to learn as much as I can about types of copy editing (in college I thought copy editing was just that, and in my editing class for journalism it might have been, but fiction is a different beast), which ones I can competently and realistically do for my clients, what the going rates are, how much of a time commitment it might be for me, and some of the other, more mundane details (like how to set aside money for taxes and how much, and how to collect payment - eek!). Keep in mind, this is all in addition to the full-time job and the little tidbits of time I cobble together into some semblance of a life. I might be crazy for trying to do this. But I'm willing to give it a go.

I've been editing in some form since college. And I've been writing since junior high. I was managing editor of my university's school newspaper, and then immediately after college got a reporting job at a small-town newspaper that afforded me lots of opportunity for editing and layout. We got paid pennies, but I wouldn't trade the skills I learned or the people I met for any amount of money. At my current job I do a lot of editing of scientific reports, draft regulations and a lot of self-editing of press releases, articles and other public outreach materials, since I'm a one-woman PR show here. Occasionally I even get the chance to edit something coming from outside these walls for our partners. I like to think that the practice has kept me sharp. Aside from my day-job, I worked for a fan fiction site for nearly three years, editing the fics that were submitted. I've also done a lot of gratis editing (from basic all the way up to developmental) for friends who write fan fiction and original fiction.

I love doing it. It satisfies my inner perfectionist, and gives me a unique satisfaction.
People genuinely seem grateful for my "services." The real test will be to see if people will actually pay for it. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Welcome... and a little teaser

Welcome! This is my first official post on my new blog. I hope you all enjoy it.
This blog will largely be dedicated to posts about my quest to write and publish my first novel, teasers from my works-in-progress, reviews of books I've read, information about my foray into freelance copy editing, and general observations about the life of a writer living in the smallest state in the nation (yep, that would be moi).

To provide you with a warm welcome of sorts, let's begin with a little excerpt from my current urban fantasy work, Aequitas.

Summary: Themis is a Reaper - a collector of souls and a keeper of the balance between life and death, good and evil. She's good at her job, but she's always felt like a misfit. She meets Caelan - a vampire and her enemy - and suddenly puzzle pieces start falling into place. If that wasn't confusing enough for Themis, there's a war coming, and she's forced to play a major role. 
Will Themis learn her truth? Will she be swayed by the enemy? Or will she prove that Justice, in the end, must be truly blind?

Excerpt: Rhythmic beeping from the machine slowed and then stuttered to one long blare in the otherwise quiet room. Themis watched, detached as always. No one cried for this man. No wife clutched his hand, whispering for him not to leave her. No grown children clung to each other for support at this, the worst day of their lives.
“Time of death, eight-forty-seven.” The doctor said nothing else and left the room.
Beside Themis, the dearly departed stood in his Johnny, visible only to her, as the nurses quietly moved around the body, disconnecting the machines. He was hers now. But just for the journey.
“So, now what?” His tone and expression professed cockiness, as it had in life, but Themis knew better. Reapers always knew a soul’s truth. It was a last unveiling of sorts—a preamble to Measurement. His lack of surprise in seeing her also revealed his past: this one had seen Death before. She closed her eyes briefly, dipping into the well of shared knowledge among reapers. Yes, he had come close to dying twice before. The bullet hole and knife scars testified to that.