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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews
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.