You Can Only Pick One!

Erm ... I've got no idea what this is.
Erm … I’ve got no idea what this is.

If you could only read one genre in your life, what would it be?

This question isn’t hard for me to answer. I’d choose historical. Okay, I love spec(ulative) fic. But most of my favorite books are historical (Les Mis, The Robe, The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Tale of Two Cities, etc.) and I can only imagine my future favorite books will include mostly historicals too.

Although in saying historical, I am generally referring to books that could have been considered contemporary during the author’s lifetime. I don’t really know what else to call these, except classics.

That said, I’m glad I get to read my spec fic!

If you could only write one genre in your life, what would it be?

Well, now I’ll choose spec fic. As much as I like to read historicals, writing one requires an enormous amount of research, and I just don’t have the patience. And somehow my contemporaries never seem to work out. But I think there’s another factor at play. I like to write stories on a grand scale. There’s war. There’s government and monarchy. There’s a worldwide mission. There’s a new race of people. So, yeah, there’s such a thing as creative license but I can’t help taking it too far!

If I had to be even more specific, I’d choose fantasy because the story I’m writing now is fantasy and if I could only ever write one story, it would be this one.

What would you choose?

 

Life Update

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I’m writing this post at night and everyone else is either sleeping or about to sleep so I’be got to rush this out. I thought I’d give a little update because there are some cool things I want to talk about.

For instance, this empathy test. Of course it’s a test. What else would I be doing? So, I got a score of 43 out of 80, which is average but closer to the average man’s empathy than the average woman (42 vs 47). You can take the test and tell me your score in the comments. You can find it by typing “empathy test out of 80” or something like it.

I found out about the test from Miriam Joy’s YouTube channel. I have been whittling away my time watching her videos because they are cool and funny and she is an awesome person, so check it out if you like that kind of stuff.

I’m writing my fantasy novel and just short of 6000 words. I realized I write much quicker on paper than on the computer or iPad. It could be because there’s no internet in easy reach for me to procrastinate with. Or it could be that my thoughts simply flow quicker when I have a (paper) notebook in front of me. It’s probably both.

I am absolutely determined to become a passable French speaker. Of course, I’d like to be an awesome French speaker but it might be too much to hope for so I’m going to be a little more realistic. But I’m going to be taking French in school next year and I’m determined not to start as a total beginner, because, seriously, how can I show up for a French assessment with a stilted, “Bonjour. Comment allez vous?” and draw a blank look at the oh so professional reply “Bien, merci. Prend ce papier et ecrit une histoire” when I have passed THREE years of French (with As) and the teachers know that? I don’t even know if I wrote all that correctly. The truth is, much of my French has gone in one ear and out the other, so I desperately need to practice. I’m planning to write a French novel and put myself on an English writing ban until after 7pm.

I’m also planning Christmas presents and because my family doesn’t read my blog, I will share them with you. But if you are one of my family members who for some reason decided to read this, STOP RIGHT NOW!

Okay, here tis. I’ll crochet a cake, draw a comic book, make an ampersand card, make some hanging earrings, do some looming, and draw a totally realistic portrait. None of this sounds very elaborate but it will take up a heap of time. Believe me, it will.

The last few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve listed all the books I read this year on my Goodreads (you’ll find it on my sidebar) but the abbreviated list includes The Silmarillion (much easier to read than it was when I tried a year ago) and Code Name Verity (very good but I couldn’t feel the emotions AT ALL and that’s a pity). I got some free books from iBooks (thanks to Cait @ NotebookSisters for pointing out the free books!) and a library haul.

Oh, and I suddenly am able to whistle! I have been trying to whistle ever since I reached the age of reason. Now I’m sixteen and finally I can do it. I don’t really know how it suddenly clicked, but I was bending my head down and sipping tea when I finally whistled so perhaps that has something to do with it. I’m probably driving my family crazy with sounding like a steam train but I am just so satisfied. Whistling. I can actually whistle.

And that’s about it. Good night (or good day if it’s your daytime. Or bonjour.)

PS Now is the right time for me to launch into song. And a un, deux, trois:

Bonsoir, mes amis, bonsoir.
Bonsoir mes Amis bonsoir
Bonsoir mes Amis
Bonsoir mes Amis
Bonsoir mes Amis bonsoir
Au revoir

Teens Can Write Too Blog Chain (Sep 2014)

imageThe prompt: “What are your favorite book beginnings and endings?”

These prompts always help me learn about myself since I don’t usually know the answers. In this case, I’ve realized I don’t like beginning of novels much. Most of the time, I’m alright but I am just reading through waiting to get hooked.

A common piece of advice is to include action in the beginning. But that doesn’t quite work for me. Maybe the story begins with a man being kidnapped. Of course it’s a horrible situation but I’m not invested in the story. Why should I read about this man’s kidnapping? That’s the tricky part of beginning – the readers don’t yet care so how do you get their attention?

I’m not too fussed about this since I know I’ll be invested eventually if the book is good. But it does mean the rare beginnings that hook me right away don’t tend to be action packed. For instance, there’s the classic Pride and Prejudice opening: “It is a universally acknowledged fact that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife.” This quote is witty and ironic, revealing a nice voice. It moves on to the scene of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett arguing – a typical occurrence for them – and the humor carries it through.

“The Book Thief” has a great beginning because it’s narrated by death. And learning about death, as morbid as it sounds, is interesting and intriguing. Plus, death has a nice sense of humor and an ironic voice, tinged with cynicism.

That answers the question of what beginning I like – those with humor and a strong voice. Bizarre beginning do catch my attention too. Case in point – in “The Sea of Monsters”, it begins with Grover (a (male) satyr) getting a wedding dress. Of course I read on. But it can’t just be kidnapping or new world weird. It has to be best satyr buddy wearing a wedding dress weird.

Now I’m going to talk about endings. I won’t give any spoilers but I’ll talk about my emotions after reading so tread carefully!

Endings is simpler for me to answer. I love endings that make me cry. Well, okay, books never make me cry. But I get teary. “A Tale of Two Cities” was one such story. I didn’t quite tear up at the end of “Les Miserables” but I was close. Now, I did tear up at one point at the end of “The Book Thief”. It wasn’t where I expected but I don’t want to give spoilers. If any of you want to talk about these amazing endings, mark your comment with a spoiler warning.

No tragic ending discussion would be complete without a mention of Robin Hood. I read “The Adventures of Robin Hood” a couple years ago and it tore my heart into tiny pieces. I’m not just being dramatic. I moaned to my brother about my pain for the next three weeks or so.

And yet I love these endings. I am crazy.

Still, sweet happy endings have their place too. I love the endings of books like Behold the Dawn, The House of the Seven Gables, and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Finally, here are a couple endings that don’t quite fit into these categories. There’s the ending of E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” – it’s amazing and makes me love the whole story. A real five star ending. The ending of “The Lilies of the Field” is ambiguous but not so that I’m bursting with suspense. It has a warm feel and wraps up the story nicely. I like the ending of “Mockingjay” mostly for the last lines but also for the melancholy, dreamy feel.

What are some of your favorite beginnings and endings? Want to talk about some of these?

Also check out the rest of the blog chain.

7th – http://vergeofexisting.wordpress.com/
8th – http://zarahoffman.com/
9th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/
10th – http://www.elizamcfarlish.weebly.com/
11th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/
12th – http://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/
13th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/
14th – http://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/
15th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
16th – http://magicandwriting.wordpress.com/
17th – https://ttkesley.wordpress.com/
18th – http://www.brookeharrison.com/
19th – http://www.freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/
20th – http://roomble.wordpress.com/
21st – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/
22nd – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/
23rd – http://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/
24th – http://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/
and http://www.paperdaydreams.com/
25th – http://write-where-you-are.blogspot.de/
and http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/
26th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/
and http://anmksmeanderingmind.wordpress.com/
27th – http://semilegacy.blogspot.com/
and http://dynamicramblings.wordpress.com/
28th – http://oliviarivers.wordpress.com/
and http://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/
29th – http://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com/
30th – http://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/
and http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

What’s Wrong With My Brain – Argh!

a scene from one of my drafts - no, it's not LOTR fanfiction
a scene from one of my drafts – no, it’s not LOTR fanfiction

That was … the title that came to my head. And yet I’m not actually that frustrated. I’m just a little worried. I can’t come up with a plot line I’m satisfied with.

Case in point – my WIP I call FS (fantasy story). It’s been stewing in my brain for maybe four years. I began plotting and writing years ago. I revised the plot numerous times. I wrote the beginning multiple times. I did worldbuilding.

Over the next few years, I made some drastic changes. Then, around March 2014, I got to work and wrote the whole thing. I gave it a reread later and promptly revamped the whole thing. I got stuck in a rut after 10,000 pages of the new draft and, while reviewing the plot, realized it just didn’t cut it. So – you know the drill – I plotted again and this time finished the thing in July.

And now I’m back to the drawing board.

I don’t actually mind doing this but I’m wondering just how “normal” this is. Should I be concerned that I’m forever changing the plot? Maybe I’ll never get a novel published at this rate? Let me give you an idea of just how much I’m changing it.

First it was about a fanatic and the displaced heir of the throne. There was eradication, multiple kingdoms, and magic jewels, and a frightening mentor.

Then it was a portal fantasy, with a science professor always causing trouble, a displaced heir to the throne, a fanatic merged with the mentor, and fire. Lots of fire.

Then it was an alternate world fantasy without magic, with an illegitimate child, an unhinged woman, a jail escapee, guerrilla warriors, a loud mouthed guard, treachery, and court sessions.

Then it was a fantasy with a dark brooding man, a murdered woman, revenge, spying, soldier training sessions, escapades, and plenty of death.

Now it’s a huge saga with tons of plot lines, love stories, and war.

But I can’t tell myself to stop being critical of my work and just write because I know my plot is not something I want to work with and I know it can be much better.

If it’s just my inner editor telling me all my work is trash, then that’s sad. But what can I do when I don’t have the passion? I do believe this is the only way I can go – the long long way paved with rows and rows of replotting, revamping, rewriting, revising.

It remains to be seen if I’ll ever write a draft I want.

Behold the Dawn

imageK. M. Weiland writes incredibly helpful posts on writing at Helping Writers Become Authors and I couldn’t well pass up on the opportunity to get a FREE review copy from Story Cartel of her historical novel, Behold the Dawn.

I’ll dive right into the details. But first, check out the blurb.

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Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

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Truth be told, I don’t know if I’d have read this book on the blurb alone. But the story proved to be excellent. I loved it! 5 stars.

The story is slow at first. The tourneyer Marcus Annan meets an old friend, Gethin, who wants him to get a certain Matthias Claidmore to kill the corrupt Bishop Roderic. Annan steadfastly refuses. I couldn’t get myself to like Annan initially or the fanatical Gethin. But I liked Annan’s indentured servant, Marek, from the beginning. He’s funny and good hearted and it was nice to see his relationship with Annan strengthen through the course of the novel.

It’s when the paths of Marcus Annan and the Lady Mairead collide that the pace quickens. From then on, I was hooked. The plot is unpredictable and I love the plot twists. I’d better move on before I give them away!

POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD

Annan and Mairead fall in love. Not sure if that’s a spoiler but I thought I’d warn you since it’s not completely certain. It was when the romance started that I began to like Annan and I came to really ship the two. Weiland writes excellent romance scenes. That’s all I can say. If I try to describe it … I’m just going to end up tripping over adjectives. When they started to realize their feelings for each other, I may or may not have smiled wide. When Mairead finds him at the inn and they finally reveal the truth to one another – it’s hard to believe that I, of all people, love that scene so much but tis truth. They had to be together.

END OF SPOILERS

The story is told in third person with multiple POVs. It worked well. I didn’t feel jarred and the pacing was good, after the first hurdle. I also love the moral ambiguity. As in all life, there are many gray areas. None of the characters are perfect – neither are they, despite their cruelty, monsters. They are human and it was interesting “seeing through their heads”.

I can’t be sure about the historical accuracy but I had a good picture of the times, while not being bored by the descriptions. There are just a few instances of unbelievable good fortune.

SPOILERS

Marek is dropped from a balcony onto stone and he survives! What’s more, not long after (couldn’t have been near a week), he is up and sword fighting with guards! That’s the most unbelievable. But Annan’s good luck in all his fighting is rather surprising too.

END OF SPOILERS

Christianity and Christian values play a large part in the story but a reader will, I think, also appreciate the story for its plot and scenes. The story covers topics like redemption, guilt, sin, and justice and Annan and Mairead’s story is a beautiful one.

God Behind the Movie Screen

image(I received a free review copy of this book from Story Cartel)

This short book is told from the point of view of a Christian evolutionist and discusses the concept of God using science for creation and miracles, with analogies and examples from movies. It’s an interesting and unique idea and worth a read. You may not agree with everything author Allen D. Allen writes, but it’ll make you think. However, there were a few passages that are potentially offensive.

For instance, Allen writes that our bodies are not perfect, whether or not the reader is “too conceited” to admit it. Is it necessary to label readers as possibly conceited? Then Allen says that Christians “might” be more likely not to kill people at the instigation of a person in power. Is this true? I don’t know, but it would have been more accurate if he mentioned that atheists (and other deists – he didn’t include them) can have a strong moral sense outside of society.

Overall, it’s an interesting read if you’re curious about Christianity and science.

The Source

image(I received a free review copy of this novel from Story Cartel.)

I began this story knowing nothing of what I was getting into. “I’ll be adventurous,” I thought. I’ve never read a mystery thriller like this – the closest I’ve been is with the spy novel, Graham Greene’s The Human Factor, which is pretty different. But The Source was a great story.

An FBI agent’s obsession with his late father’s secret sets him on a collision course with a past he has carefully avoided, shadowy enemies he never suspected, and a most unlikely friendship with an autistic man who sees reality in ways no one else can. Will Jackson Barrett’s determination to unlock secrets his father took to the grave save or ultimately destroy one he only knows as — The Source?

I called t. e. George’s The Source a mystery thriller. There are secrets. There’s action. There is a team of FBI agents. You could term it spiritual fiction – even Christian fiction. There is no mention of Christ and could be considered deistic but it could easily be Christian influenced. That came as a surprise to me, since the blurb and the description said nothing about spirituality. I liked that aspect – but while it wasn’t preachy, it does play a crucial part, so you might want to skip this one if you’d rather not read about such things.

The story is nicely written, albeit with a few typos. The plot was gripping and the mystery had me hooked. What is this source Jackson Barrett is looking for? And how in the world does the savant Manny know so much?

There’s a diverse range of characters, including an autistic savant, a Serbian refugee, and a Korean geek. Let me elaborate on the autistic savant. I trust the author did his research but it did surprise me since autism has always been … less extreme in my mind. Doubtless, some of my friends throw the term about too loosely – I’ve been called ADD, ADHD, “aspie”, and autistic before, when I don’t score on the actual tests. Manny is the savant. He has incredible drawing and number skills. He is a fascinating and sympathetic character and it was an interesting experience learning of him.

I don’t know if it’s just me or I’ve been reading good romance these days, but there’s something so satisfying about seeing a fictional couple get happily together. A mild spoiler? – Jackson and his ex Jennifer get back together. Cue broad smiles.

I liked the protagonist Jackson, as well as the other characters like Jennifer, Hu, and Dr. Sanford. Senka Batik was compelling. The little cultural references were fun to find – it’s not often I read phrases like “penny for your thoughts”. And Jennifer said her father used it so … I think that’s pretty realistic!

This is getting nitpicky but there were a couple of strange anachronisms. For one, there could have been more contractions. And then there’s a scene when someone kisses a friend’s hand. Am I just ahead of the times? Do people still do that?

All in all, the book is a page turner with diverse, likeable characters, a sense of mystery, and a unique premise. The words thriller and spiritual sum it up fine. If that interests you, it’ll be worth your while.

Emma

imageOne of my favorites parts about Emma is the mystery. Reading the story, I didn’t know if Emma would marry or not, and if so, who. I didn’t know what Frank Churchill was up to. This novel is often considered a precursor to the mystery novel. While this book is very different from a whodunit, the mystery element is there. If you don’t normally like romance or Jane Austen, I’d say you should still give Emma a go.

The story features a cast of colorful characters: brutally honest but caring Mr. Knightley, poor naive Harriet, chatty Miss Bates, the mischievous Frank Churchill, elusive Jane Fairfax, and Mr. Woodhouse, the hypochondriac who takes a stance against wedding cake. Then there is Emma herself. Sure, she is snobbish and annoying and makes a mess of things. But I can’t help liking her.

As with all Austen’s novels, this book is well written and the pacing is good – probably her best pacing after Pride and Prejudice.

The edition in the picture above is from Story Cartel (http://storycartel.com) and includes a number of essays about Emma. The format is tidy and easy to read. If you’re so inclined, you can pop over to Story Cartel and grab a review copy of Emma while it’s available.

Gates

image(I received a free review copy from Story Cartel of Gates, by G. S. Luckett, in exchange for an honest review.)

I’m not sure, honestly, if I like this book or not. I’m rating it three stars but that in no way describes it all. So I’ll give my thoughts on this book below in as detailed a way as I can.

First things first, let’s have some cover talk. I wanted to read this book both from the blurb but primarily from the cover. I like the atmosphere, illustration, and the way the tag line is printed. The blurb is below.

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Some of God’s instruments are tarnished.

A death row inmate, known as The Brit, on an isolated island is able to escape from his execution during a freak thunderstorm. Now, he finds himself fighting his way through the prison and protecting the very people who jailed him. Pursued by prisoners and guards that will not die and a mysterious inmate from his nightmares, The Brit has to lead the others to escape in order to save their souls and possibly his own.

This is the first installment of a series where we find out how, The Reaper, is chosen and that he does more than shepherd lost souls. He maintains the balance between Heaven and Hell, that is threatened to be destroyed by an ongoing war. Can a condemned soul becomes God’s weapon?

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I have hardly read paranormal so I don’t know if this is a unique concept or not but I have not heard of it before and the uniqueness of the premise impressed me favorably. And the plot carried through; it was unpredictable and didn’t lag.

However, I did not like the writing so much. It was choppy in many places and had lots of telling. There were typos and awkwardly phrased sentences.  The pacing was quick – too quick. The story was altogether too short. And this is probably why I couldn’t feel for the characters, especially the Brit. They were likeable enough but I was never afraid or sad for them. I liked the Pastor though.

Overall, this is a story with a good premise and a promising plot and characters. But because of the writing, it didn’t work so well for me. However, “okay” is not exactly the right rating. I would give it 2.5 stars, rounding up to 3.