Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wicked Wednesday, Word Count, Another Review...

So, as I suspected, I didn't get any writing done at ALL over the past week.  My book Compis came back from type editing, and I wanted to get through it, because after starting the next book, Aeris, I realized there were a few minor tweaks I wanted to make before uploading it to Amazon and B&N.  It was a good week, but with that and Easter(which is the reason why didn't do a Sunday check-in) it did not get done.

Actually, I've been having a hard time getting anything done lately.  When spring comes to our house, we get out our tools and start some much needed yard maintenance.  We live on 2/3s of an acre, so there is quite a bit to be done. Weeds, weeds, weeds... they are not so easy to pick when you are 6 mths pregnant.  Go figure.  We did some work on the back fence, weeded the iris and bachelor button beds, and cleaned out the sticky weed behind the grape arbor.

I'm not even half done, either, because I have to get my butt out to the front yard and pull up all those morning glory shoots so the tortoises don't eat them.  Yes, we have two tortoises.  Apparently they are deathly allergic to morning glories.

Enough of the domestic whining.  I actually do enjoy weeding, when I can ignore my huge growing belly.  Being outside in the spring is the stuff of magic here in Northern Cali.  My son takes after me, and we put on our big boots, weed the yard and garden, and slather on the sunscreen.  Much fun.

In other, more interesting news... please tell me you haven't tuned out YET...  I got my map back from the artist.  Isn't it pretty???

My artist, Lindsey Anderson, for those of you who are curious to know, is AMAZING and whenever I get the opportunity to work with her on a project, I know she will be professional, timely and give me an end result that will blow me away.

So now, Compis has a map.  It has about 30 pages left till my final tweaks are finished, then it's off to formatting before it gets uploaded.  Honestly, this is the part I love BEST about being an indie.  I get to see all the aspects of the pipeline firsthand, because I'm involved every step of the way.  That may not be for everyone, but man, it works for a control freak like me.  :)

This is going to be a long post, because now I have to take an abrupt turn to the land of reviewing and have a quick discussion about ethics in reviewing.  This topic has been all over the Kindle boards, lately, and much on my mind.  There are several things being discussed, but I'm going to throw out all but the ones that involve my life as a reader/writer:
  1. Anyone can push that "like" button at the top of the page.  How can I trust that as a system of rating?  Well, you can't.  Sorry.  I have been to forums where people sign up to "like" each other's books.  That hasn't happened in Kindle boards, I am happy to report (at least that I've seen), but it happens elsewhere.  I am against it completely as a reader and writer.  I think it is misleading and I really wish that Amazon hadn't put this up on their site.  So, my answer is, read the reviews.  They are less likely to be shills, because it takes time and effort to read and review someone's work.  I have clicked the "like" button on books at Amazon, but ONLY if I've read them and liked them.  That is, however, a personal commitment.  I can't comment on the ethics of others.
  2. Indie writers only give good reviews to other indie writers because they want other indies to look good.  I can't say that I've heard about this anywhere.  When I review an indie book, I try to give as honest review as possible, just like I do for mainstream books.  If I don't like something, I'm going to point it out, probably with a lot of capitals in my sentences and some obnoxious opinions.  That is who I am.  I don't think I've pulled any punches on ANY of my reviews (go to goodreads and look at my record), but I do tend to be generous to ALL authors, simply because I respect the craft and how difficult it is.  I don't think I've given ANYONE a one star review, because to get something like that, I think a book would have to be filled with two word sentences, the same word typed over and over and over again endlessly or some other weird thing that could get published in a book.  It would have to be a pretty bad book to make me go that far.
  3. Indie writers write bad reviews to competitors so that their own books look good.  This one, unfortunately, DOES happen out there.  There are some confused and sad people who find themselves suddenly the recipients of a CROWD of one star reviews, not because they deserve them, but because some schmuck gets a bunch of friends together and they do it on purpose.  It is evil, it has been documented by those authors, and Amazon has had to interfere.  This makes me sad as a writer and I think it denigrates the entire indie industry.  Again, though, for my personal reading, I give a rating that I think is fair.  There are some crap indie books out there, but I have yet to read one of them, mostly because I wait around till a book gets a lot of reviews before I buy it.  Not so I can have something positive to say about an indie, but because I feel like it's been vetted.  I don't have a lot of time, so I don't like to waste it.  This may change in the future, but for now, I'm reading stuff that I think I'll have a CHANCE of liking.  I do that with non-indie books too, so I don't think it's a crazy idea.
Mostly, the talk on the boards was sad to me, because I felt like I needed to reexamine my goals in trying to review indies.  For a minute, I thought about giving it up altogether.  Then I looked at my track record with non-indie books.  I've never hesitated to review a book or tell what I think about it.  Why should indies be any different?   I'm reviewing them as a READER, not a writer.  I think I've earned the right after my many many years of reading to review any kind of book I want.  

On that note, onto the review.  If you've gotten here to the end, you are amazing and I hope it's worth it.  :)

Today I'm going to review Wings of Evil by JR Tomlin & CR Daems.  After reading this book, I did a bit of research(you'll see why in a moment) on the authors.  I couldn't find anything on Daems, but JR Tomlin has another book out called Freedom's Sword that is a Scottish Historical novel.  I haven't read it, so I couldn't tell you who did most of the writing for this book.  Perhaps you could check out the other book yourself and see, I don't know.  I've got a full plate for reading right now.

I was really confused by this book. I had to re-read the synopsis just to make sure I hadn't missed something, but I think the authors would have done well to label this a juvenile book: ages 11-14.
The storyline is a good idea: A girl makes friends with some persecuted creatures and makes it her mission to save them. She travels through three countries, makes friends with a spy, and finds herself dodging evildoers every step of the way.

Unfortunately, this is not a book that would appeal to those in the YA genre and definitely not adults. The language, descriptions and dialog are simple, as though they were written for a younger person. When I was reading it, I was reminded strongly of Jenny Nimmo's Charlie Bone series, which is another example of writing to a specific audience, in the language that audience can understand.

Yet nowhere is this book labeled as YA or juvenile fiction in the description (I later found it under Amazon's categories as teen fiction). As a result, I think it will have a hard time competing in an adult market. The plot and characters don't seem to understand complex situations, for instance, at one point, Liada is almost kidnapped by what is certainly a child molester (or teenage molester?) but she has no idea why he would be interested in her, even though she knows that he makes a habit of taking young attractive girls.

She several times refers to herself as a woman or adult, yet when she is apprenticed to a master cook, she spends most of her time composing snarky comments in her mind and sticking her tongue out at him when he's not looking. These are not the actions of a woman, but more like a jr. high school girl.

Yet, I also find it hard to believe that the one part of the story that fascinated me, the cooking scenes, would be palatable to a juvenile reader. They go on in such detail and few children are interested in such domestic things, that I have to wonder where exactly the authors were hoping to place this book in the fantasy market.

My advice, adult readers, pass this book on by, but if you have a girl, 11-14, I think she will actually like this book. The creatures are interesting, the world is inventive and definitely a different take on the average fantasy genre.

Just do yourself and don't go by the book cover and the title, because I feel like they are also completely misleading to the actual content.

That's all for now.  Hope to have good news on the Sunday update!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Windsday! (At lease in my neck of the woods...)

Today is Wed. check-in, and despite a sick kidlet and husband, I have made some progress on Aeris since Sunday.  I added about 3,000 words to that.  I probably won't find time to write today, however, because I got Compis back from type editing and there are a few things I need to decide on, change, and fix.  I'm so excited, because my world map should be finished this week, too!  That means all I have to do is stick it all together, format it, and then I will FINALLY be able to upload the first book in my Five Tribes series.  I've been wanting to do this for a while now -I'm not the most patient person on the planet- so this is big news in my life.

I was on the Kindle Boards yesterday and someone posed the question about people's once-a-year books.  As in: what book do you read every year?  I found the answersand also the time of year that people re-read their books to be so interesting.  A lot of the people who answered always read the same book at Christmas time, whether it was A Christmas Carol or Pride & Prejudice.

My answer was once a year I read a Jane Austen book.  Could be the above mentioned Pride & Prejudice, but I'm also partial to Emma (which is hilarious, in 1800 terms), Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion.  Jane Austen is probably not Shakespeare, for her time or any other, but her characters are worth loving and her love stories are always based on the characters getting to know each other over time (*gasp* it takes TIME to fall in love?  Who would have thought???).  Most people read Pride & Prejudice as their first Austen novel, but I tried that one in high school and it didn't connect for me.  A few years later, I picked up Emma and it was love, love, love for me.  So Emma is actually the book that made me love Austen and it is the one I always recommend to those wanting to try her out.

The other book I read every year is The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery (she's the author of Anne of Green Gables, for those of you who don't know her).  The goodreads description doesn't do it justice, so here is my version:  Valancy Sterling is 29, TWENTY-NINE and nothing good has every happened to her.  She gets sick every year, she's never been in love, and she lives with her mother and old maiden aunt.  Every Sunday she is subjected to family dinner with all her relatives, who she must please because they are all rich and she is poor.  The poor thing isn't even allowed to read novels!!!  One day she goes to the doctor is told that she's dying of a heart condition, her death could happen at any moment, and it will for certain in a manner of months.  Needless to say, Valancy decides she's had enough and a hilarious set of circumstances ensue.
This book makes me laugh out loud every time I read it and my sister and I have an unspoken pact between us to read it every year.  I highly recommend it!

An interesting side note to this story:  Colleen McCullough (author of the famous Thorn Birds) has a book she wrote about 80 years later called The Ladies of Missalonghi that is a complete ripoff of this book.  Old maid, lives with mother and aunt.  They are poor, and always dress her in brown.  Her relatives are all rich and she has to be nice to them, and she has a pretty cousin who gets everything while she gets nothing.  She even goes to the doctor and gets her heart attack warning.  It's still a good story in its own way and I own a copy of it, too, but it is EERY how similar these two books are.  I digress.

Are you a person who reads a book once and walks away or do you have a book(or two) you read every year?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One down... (Yet another word count)

Okay, so sorry I missed Wed. check in.  I was traveling Wed. and Thurs. so those days were a major setback.  Then my husband got home from a week long trip yesterday morning, and we did a bunch of much needed yard work.  To top it all off, kidlet is much miserable with allergies and didn't sleep most of the night.  I ended up putting up our aerobed and taking him with me.  My poor husband was sleep deprived from waiting up all night for a late flight, so I shut the door and spent most of the night keeping my kid's foot from connecting with my face.

This is all to the say, that I didn't get as much writing as I wanted done this week.  That is the bad news.  The good news is, I finished The Demon & His Lover, though I'm still not super happy with the ending (I have a hard time with endings of short stories.  I tend to make them abrupt.) and I've started Aeris -this is the tentative title for the second book in the Five Tribes series.  I also did some chatting with my super talented sister and I now have a new look for my blog (goodreads readers will have to see the actual blog if they want to view it, since I usually post there by rss feed) and a new website (so pretty!).

I want to take a rabbit trail here to talk about my sister.  She is amazing!  She really is.  She has designed all of my covers (you can see the cool cover for Compis on my website): Six Keys, The Angel & Her Gun, The Demon & His Lover, Compis. She designed my website as a school project.  Oh yeah, did I mention, she's still in school???  She's got an amazing amount of talent as a graphic designer and I am very very lucky that she does stuff for me for free because she likes me. :)

That's all for now.  Hope to have better news on Wed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Word Count and What I've Learned About Writing...

Thus far, I'm about 200 words a day past my daily goal.  My goal was 875 words per day, and I'm there.  My writing has been spotty, though, because at least one of the days I was traveling.  I am also visiting relatives right now, so there have been some impediments to writing.  Right now, I'm at 6,412.  The Demon & His Lover is almost entirely written and if it's possible, I'm loving it even more than its predecessor, The Angel & Her Gun.  Some day I'm going to have to write an actual book about these characters.  I love them so much, but I'm afraid to ruin them, you know?  Silly, yes, but admit me my foibles.  I am a writer. :)

So, I am a veteran of NaNoWriMo -National Novel Writing Month- to those of you who are unacquainted with  it.  The first year, completely unaware of what awaited me, I joined excited and hopeful of finally finishing my book Six Keys.  I had a few chapters of it, and a general outline, but school, marriage, and a job had prevented me from furthering it.

I mean, how hard could 1667 words a day be?  So simple.  So easy.  Excuse me, while I laugh at myself. ahahahahahahaha  It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  Pulling the words out was agonizing and often times I felt like I got lost and didn't know where the story was going, despite my outline.

I got about halfway through the book, 50ish thousand words (having finished NaNoWriMo) when the unthinkable happened.  I had a data loss that sent me back to about 30,000 words.  All my work, ALL of those 20,000 gut wrenching words were gone.  That was it.  I tossed the book aside and didn't look back.  I couldn't deal with trying to write them over again.

Then I met someone who liked to write, as I did.  She was entering a short story contest and encouraged me to join in.  That's when I wrote Perfect Man Plus.  It is a strange story to be sure, kind of like a gender switched Stepford Wives, but writing it reminded me why I love writing.  So I screwed up my courage, pulled up my Six Keys file and started the long hard process of reevaluating what I had left.  In the 3 mths leading up to the next Nano, I did a lot of edits and cuts.  I pared it down to about 17,000 words, wrote another 3 chapters, and joined up again.  This time I wrote through November and December (This was in 2009) and when I was done, I had my first book.

Talk about a light bulb moment.  It was like the heavens opened up and angels sang, "Look, you CAN finish something.  You ARE indeed a writer.  Go forth and multiply."

Six Keys was the hardest thing I've ever done.  Writing it, editing it, and rewriting it required a level of dedication from me that I don't think I've put into anything before.  But I learned that I CAN do it.  I CAN write and I can write a lot if I have to.

This time, with Compis, writing was cake.  I had a story and characters I was passionate about, but most of all, I had experience at my back.  Getting to the goal isn't hard when you have a story to tell and you know you can do it.  That sounds like bragging, but for me it was like freeing a part of me that had been held captive for years.

So now, I've joined another writing marathon and in comparison to the 1667 that Nano requires, this is far less intimidating a goal.  It will still be a lot of work.  I laugh at anyone who thinks writing is easy.  But at least now, I know that it's not impossible.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How Many Words AND Another Review...

I've gotten so used to using this blog to vent about my reader experiences that it feels weird to talk about my writing again.  Compis has moved into type editing(YAY!!! No, seriously, YAYAYAYAYAY!  I hate editing past the 3rd round or so, when you're not cutting or fixing plot issues and just nitpicking) and when I get my spiffy world map from my spiffy artist, it will soon be released.  I'm hoping for the 3rd week in April, but we'll see how long the final edit takes.
And on to that 80 days thing, I've written... (have to go check my word count...) 4,376 words.  That is two things:  First, the next short story in the Angelic Agents series.  Can't get enough of Gideon and Samora.  And of course, the sequel to Compis, which has no title yet, so I will call it the next in the Five Tribes series.

And now that we've moved past the business portion of the program, let's talk about my next indie review:
At this point in time, I have Marked by Kim Richardson on the agenda.

So Marked (book 1 in the Soul Guardians series, book 2 of which will be out in May, hopefully!) is the story of Kara Nightingale, a teenage artist living in what I assume to be Canada (which is an assumption, but there's a lot of French stuff around and the author is from Canada, soooo... I think it's a safe assumption).  Up until the story starts she's lived with her crazy mom who says she sees demons and avoided making friends for the most part except Mathieu, the one guy who can seem to deal around her mom.
On her way to a major presentation of her work, one that could mean everything to her future career, she is hit by a bus and that is when the real story begins.  Kara wakes up in an elevator, staring down a grumpy chimpanzee elevator attendant, and after realizing that she is stone cold dead, she is thrown into her new life as a Guardian Angel (GA).
This book is has one of the most interesting worlds I've read about in a long time.  My mom found it confusing, but then again, she comes from a more strict religious background.  There are several religious elements at play in the story, you have guardian angels, archangels, reincarnation(not in every case, though), the Chief (who I assume is God?) and of course, multiple levels of demons.
The GA's job is to in the best case, prevent their assigned case file from dying, at worst, save the souls from the dead mortal.  The demon's job is ALWAYS to kill and eat the mortal's soul, thus making themselves more powerful, and to capture and eat the GAs, if they can.
Kara is a Rookie GA, meaning that she's in training and she's been assigned to David, super hot GA with a cocky charm and flirty wit.  He takes her through all her first case files, teaches her the ins and outs of demon defense.
So that is the basic story.  Without going into spoilers, my overall impressions.  I liked the characters, David cracked me up, he was pretty funny.  The author does some great jokes about his addiction to winking at pretty girls.  Kara comes off more as a quiet girl with deep reserves of strength.  She was much better to me than Meghan in the first book of the Iron Fey series.  Kara didn't whine much, she felt understandable pain at her short life, but she also sucked it up and did her job as best as she could.  I thought her reactions in situations were realistic and I didn't once think, "What the crap?" like I did when I read Hocking's first book in the Trylle Trilogy, where she discovers she is in love with the guy after like a WEEK.  Seriously.
Let's talk about love here.  What I really really liked about this book is even though the main characters liked each other, even though there is obviously a love interest hinted at, and some really great boy-girl moments, there is NO RUSH to declarations of love.  That is my biggest pet peeve with YA books I've read lately.  It used to be in a story that a high school girl met a high school boy and you know, they DATED for a while before they fell deeply in love for all of eternity.  These characters were so normal and likeable in that respect.  Very impressed on that note.
I also, having read a lot of more serious YA fantasy of late, appreciated some of the more lighthearted aspects of this book.  The various simian elevator attendants were hilarious!  Not to mention the forgetful oracle office workers.
My only wish for this first book in the series would have been more backstory on Kara's mother, her art(which seemed like a fascinating part of her former world that I would have like touched on) and more on her friendship with Mathieu.  Like maybe some flashbacks?
Anyway, that's my review.  This book gets four stars from me and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel.  Can't wait to see where the author takes this series!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

So, um... there's this thing I'm doing... It has 80 days...

I heard about this writing thingy, A Round of Words in 80 Days.  And now I guess I'm supposed to be posting what my goal is:
70,000 words

As usual, I messed up EVERYTHING and referenced only my blog, so now I'm going to have to keep this entry here until the 4th of April, I guess.  *sigh* Will I never learn to read directions properly?  I'm the type of person who pulls the cake out of the oven and wonders why it is flat and takes like baking soda.

So because this is going to be here a while, I am also going to post what was going to be my NEXT blog entry, a review of Amanda Hocking's Trylle Trilogy.

Over the next few months I want to take the opportunity to highlight some of the indies I've enjoyed.  No one is sending me these and asking me to read them.  These are books I've gotten ahold of by asking or borrowing or (in rare cases) buying.  I'm not going to talk about grammar or type errors because I find them in the non-indies frequently. (Anna & the French Kiss anyone? And the Alanna series that I just reread, holy crap.)

Anyhow, onto the show.  As usual, the first book in a series is a rough one for me.  I don't know what it is, but the introduction of a set of characters and a new storyline is always jarring for me.  It's the toughest thing to sell me on, as a reader, but if I can into a story in that first book, I'm a fan till the end.  That's how George R. R. Martin has earned my never ending frustration... PLEASE finish your book, George.  I'm dying over here.

The Trylle Trilogy is the story of changeling Wendy Everly who replaced a human boy in the arms of his mother -who has never forgiven or forgotten that offense.  When her psychotic mother acts out on this hatred and tries to kill her, the rest of Wendy's life is turned upside down.  Her aunt and brother become her protectors and they move her from place to place, trying to find somewhere their family can forget the memories they've left behind.
So that is the setting, now, my impressions: Wendy is pretty much the epitome of a spoiled brat.  Every time they move to a new school she acts out, gets herself expelled and they move on to a new school.  No one likes her, except her family (not her mother, remember) and she doesn't like anyone either.  Any believe me, I didn't like her.  I wanted to shake her several times and the friends she makes are so odd.   Honestly, the first half of the story puzzled me to no end, and I guess that's what kept me going.  I just had to find out where all the oddness ended up.
So, here is where I dig into the rest of the series.  She ends up meeting this guy Finn, tracker of the changelings and now, all her freaked out behavior starts to make sense.  She's not SUPPOSED to fit in, because she's not human.  She's Trylle.
Before I go into the spoiled portion, I just want to say that by the third and final book, I was sold on this series.  Wendy really won me over and the other characters shined, each in their own way.  The ending was the kind I like -no tragedies or loves lost.  Just a nicely rounded out, complete and ended story.  I recommend it, if you can read past the first book.  My mom got through it, though, so I have high hopes that others will.  :)
Overall, I give the series 5 stars, but rated alone, the first book is a 3, and the other two are a five.

So what is Trylle?  Well, I simply DETEST the author's explanation so I'll tell you my take.  Trylle are like wood elves.  They are almost strict vegans who are grounded in the elements and have powers associated with the elements: wind, clouds, weather... some odd ones like telepathy, persuasion and telekinesis also enter in, but they don't seem out of place in the story.  Oh yeah, and they go barefoot everywhere and they have crazy untamed hair.
Again, this first book irritated me, because there really wasn't anything to LIKE.  Her "host" mother sucked, her "real" mother sucks, being human isn't possible, but being Trylle bites the big one.
The second book, however, was a joy to read.  The story was much more compelling, the plot gets taken much further, and some genuinely great characters are introduced to the story.  Wendy really starts to come into her own and by the third book, I really knew which love interest I was rooting for and where I hoped the series itself would end up.  It did not disappoint.

It's a high recommend from me.  I just read this series, and there is a part of me that wants to go back and reread it.  That's how good the story is.