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fits and starts

I actually sat down and wrote a couple of pages the week before last. Not an astonishing amount, I know, but actual writing, so I’m good with it. Then school started last week, and my “free time” dwindled to “none”. I didn’t work on The Fall at all last week. However….

Did I mention I’m taking Creative Writing this session? I’m less than thrilled about it, as I knew it would involve writing short stories and poetry—a.k.a Things I Hate to Write—but it’s required, so what are you going to do? So I actually did two writing assignments last week, of a couple of pages each, plus discussion board postings. So I wrote. It just wasn’t fiction.

This week, I totally intend to remedy that Lack of Fiction Writing in my life…starting today.

Is This “Working”?

So, I may not have instant Internet access (and probably won’t for several more months—UGH), but I do occasionally get the chance for perusal of blogs and writers’ sites. I’ve noticed something a few times lately, and it’s made me wonder: a Donation Button (i.e. a “please give me money” link).

I don’t recall having seen these before the past couple of months. It caught my eye, along with the number of people who seem to be making a living from blogging, which is intriguing to me. I’m not sure how I feel about asking for monetary support, even though saying “buy my book” is more or less the same thing, albeit you get something in return with that transaction.

I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s not easy to make a living as a writer (or to make any kind of money at all). Writing is hard, and in the era of self-publishing, the market is crowded with everything from utter rubbish to absolute gems, with no way to sort through the dross. E-books are generally cheaper than “real” books, so a high price means just that many more cheaper books to take away the earning potential of your book. The phrase “starving writer” is probably just as true now—if not more so—than it ever has been. And writers need to eat. Just because we’re artists doesn’t mean we get to ignore the mundane in favor of the magic.

On the other hand, well…seriously? Asking people to give you money and get nothing in return? It seems like asking for a handout, and with the number of people undeservedly on government support (the ones who are totally capable of working but who are LAZY!), do we really need to encourage people to ask for handouts? We’re already fostering an attitude of entitlement. If people need help, we should give it to them. But if they’re merely asking for help in the interest of not working…I’m not a supporter of that. (and I’m not saying writing isn’t working, because it definitely is.)

What are your thoughts on this? Give, don’t give, do away with the “donate” button entirely?

 

 

The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)

The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)

Kady Cross is the best-selling author of the Steampunk Chronicles, a series set in London in the late 1890s. She combines magic and technology with the urban English culture to produce an intriguing and well-detailed world. The Girl with the Windup Heart is the final installment in the series.

Mila was a childlike part-automaton girl when she first came to live at Jack Dandy’s house. Now she’s developed a fierce personality and desires and interests of her own. When Jack refuses to see her as she is—a woman in love with him–her heart is broken and she runs away to create a life for herself. She ends up in the West End, amidst the flamboyant characters of a dazzling circus. But danger straight out of Jack Dandy’s past haunts her even there, and she will need Jack’s help if she is to survive.

Griffin King is hot on the trail of London’s latest serial killer, but he never expected his search for the murderer to lead him where it does: to the Aether, and the lair of his nemesis, The Machinist. Soon Griffin is trapped and being tortured for control of the Aether itself. If he breaks, everyone will suffer, especially Finley Jane and their ragtag group of friends.

The world of the Steampunk Chronicles is the most fascinating aspect of this series, filled with magic and technology that has never existed in our world, but set in the English culture that is ruled by manners and class-consciousness. Ms Cross’s characters are distinctive and intriguing, without being unbelievable or unrealistic, despite their unique backgrounds and abilities. The camaraderie between the group offers a solid support against the dangers of their world and the powers of their enemies, both human and other. The Girl with the Windup Heart is well-written and flows between wildly different settings with ease and grace.

(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen via NetGalley)

Out of curiosity, I always check out Goodreads to see what other people think of a book. I may not agree with their opinions, but they have a right to them. However, this time….I found one of the first reviews was overwhelmingly negative, with the reviewer not liking the world, the writing, the relationships, the characters, basically everything about this series. Nothing positive to say whatsoever. Now, this is the ONLY book of this series I’ve read. I enjoyed it. But you can bet that if I had disliked the first book in a series as much as the reviewer claims to, I would not have read farther. So tell me why, at the end of this scathing review, does the reviewer make it clear that he/she has read EVERY SINGLE BOOK in the series? Just a question: if you hated something this much, why did you continue reading it?

The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)

The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)

secondsbeforesunrise-2-copy

Seconds Before Sunrise, by Shannon A. Thompson, is the second book in the A Timely Death series. Ms Thompson is the talented Indie author of several other novels including Minutes Before Sunset and Take Me Tomorrow. She is also the recipient of a Goodreads award, and blogs frequently about writing and life.

Eric knows that his duty to the Dark—his people—is far more important that his own desires. That’s the only reason he went along with the plan to make Jessica forget everything she knew about their people, and their love. But he had no idea how hard it would be to be forgotten, to have to watch Jessica go about her life as if they’d never met, never loved each other. It is enough to drive him crazy, and he cannot afford distractions now, so close to his 18th birthday, the day the fate of the war between the Dark and the Light will be decided.   So he withdraws from everyone, even himself.

But a horrible accident serves as a frightening wake-up call, and he realizes he cannot do this alone. He must turn to those around him, those he loves, if he is to survive and not surrender.

Jessica knows something is changed; she just doesn’t know what. Her memory is gone. Her desire to find her parents is gone. And her self-confidence is gone. She feels like she’s lost a piece of herself. The only thing she has is the boy from her nightmares, and she wants to find him, even if it drives her crazy.

Seconds Before Sunrise keeps up the fast-pace of Minutes Before Sunset, with twists and turns that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. The characters are even more compelling, fighting their dual natures as they strive to remain true to themselves. The action takes several unexpected paths, leaving the reader guessing. Ms Thompson has done a superb job of bringing both of her worlds to life, both the magical, and the mundane. Seconds Before Sunrise is an engaging read sure to appeal to fans of both fantasy and young adult, with a twist that makes it different from other novels in these genres.

I haven’t talked about writing in a while. I haven’t written in something like 15 months. To be honest, I’ve barely managed to do anything besides work the day job, do school stuff, and try to rest and recuperate from both those things. Writing…has more than fallen by the wayside. It’s dropped completely off the radar.

I had started to wonder if the Muse inhabited that part of my brain that was damaged by my stroke. I’m happy to report that it doesn’t! Yesterday, I was at work, and walked by my boss’s office. He had Enya playing, and I felt the Muse sit up, take a deep breath, and stretch. It was like she’d been resting for a long time. (Apparently, she moonlights as Rip Van Winkle.) Now she’s awake, and ready to play. And all it took was some Enya to shake her up and get her moving again (I’ve written to Enya a lot in the past.)

Now I can feel her in there, tinkering with the edges of The Fall, teasing it with her tiny, ever-moving hands as she searches out the bits that no longer fit, so she can rip them to shreds and build something new and shiny. She likes shiny, and at this point, The Fall is pretty much new and pristine, so it counts. Plus, she knows we have a lot of work to do to get it into shape for our new vision of it. It’s no longer going to be the same old dystopian zombie tale. It will still have zombies and be dystopian. But now it will be more.

I’m glad the Muse is back. I’ve missed her.

dark-fairy-fairies-12296485-500-461

The Devil’s Hour

I was supposed to read The Devil’s Hour, by Raymond Esposito, months ago and post a review, however….well, having no Internet since the end of April has put a cramp in my style (whatever that is). My limited Internet time went for school. Now that my summer classes are over, I’m hoping to get caught up on a lot of things. My apologies to Raymond for the delay.

The Devil's Hour, by Raymond Esposito

The Devil’s Hour, by Raymond Esposito

Raymond Esposito writes stories tinted with edge-of-your-seat horror, and that also explore the darker, hidden side of people. He is the author of the Creepers Saga, which currently consists of You and Me Against the World and All Our Foolish Schemes. His newest work is The Devil’s Hour, a book certain to keep the reader up at night.

Sam Drake has a pretty good life…if you consider being divorced and supported by your ex wife while you write about thing that go bump in the night good. He has a big house in a nice neighborhood, neighbors that he likes, and a few he doesn’t. Life, so far as Sam is concerned, is good, now that the divorce is behind him and he’s finally moved on with his life. But “good” vanishes in moments when a car crashes in Sam’s neighborhood, and a wall of black smoke wipes out the outside world.

The car crash is bad enough. The things inside the wall of black smoke are worse. Suddenly, being outside in this crazy new world is more than Sam and his neighbors can handle. But not everyone makes it back inside. And those that do must face creatures from their worst nightmares. Sam’s neighborhood is no longer a sanctuary from the world. Now it’s a demented funhouse filled with terrifying things that used to be familiar and ordinary. And not all of the nightmares came from the cloud of black smoke. Some of them were hidden in the neighborhood all along….

The Devil’s Hour is not for the faint of heart. Creatures straight out of nightmares haunt these pages, stalking both the characters and the reader. Fear comes alive on the page, as the reader becomes comfortable with Sam, a man haunted by fears like any other person. Except his fears live and breathe, instead of merely keeping him awake at night. The pages fly by, racing from one crisis to the next, leaving the reader breathless with adrenaline… and fear.

###

Raymond….I know I told you I don’t do horror very often, being something of a chicken (More accurately, I have an overactive imagination and a lot of things scare me that shouldn’t. Chickens, for example….) But seriously? This book creeped me out a lot. I found myself staying up way too late reading it…and flinching every time the air conditioner clicked on. You took some of my worst fears and brought them to life. (Clowns AND dolls? Are you kidding me? Are you a mind-reader? Maybe I need one of those tinfoil hats…) In all seriousness, this book scared the crap out of me, but I couldn’t put it down. Well done, sir. Well done.

I moved at the end of April, and have not yet successfully managed to find an Internet company that can get us service in the house that is just outside the city limits and in a slight valley (making it impossible to get a signal from the towers).  I need recommendations for satellite internet company!

***

City of Heavenly Fire, by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

City of Heavenly Fire, by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

City of Heavenly Fire, the sixth and final installment in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, released in May. Cassandra Clare has also written The Bane Chronicles and The Infernal Devices, series also set in the Shadowhunter world. The first book of The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, was made into a movie, as well.

I am coming.

Half threat, half promise, the words Sebastian left behind haunt Clary as they will soon haunt all Shadowhunters. Along with Jace, she and her friends are the only ones who realize just how dangerous her brother, Sebastian is, just how ruthless he can be. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants: power and Clary at his side. Even when the first Institute falls, the Shadowhunters still refuse to listen to Jace and Clary, despite the horrors Sebastian visits on them, using the Mortal Cup.

Nothing in this world can stop Sebastian, so Clary and her friends must leave this world behind as they search desperately to find a way to destroy Sebastian, who is threatening the uneasy peace between Shadowhunters and Downworlders. With their world crumbling around them, and those they love falling to darkness, Clary and Jace must find a way to put a stop to Sebastian for good, before he destroys everything the Shadowhunters have fought for over the centuries.

City of Heavenly Fire brings all the promises from the first five books of the Mortal Instruments series to life in this riveting final chapter. The fear and despair of the characters breathes from every page, laced with adrenaline and whispers of hope. Love is lost and friends fall as the Shadowhunters battle the evil and darkness of Sebastian and his allies.

The action is non-stop in this final installment to the best-selling Mortal Instruments series. The characters readers have come to love are all here, although not all of them will make it out alive, as the Shadowhunters battle Sebastian in the final face-off.

War of Wings, by Tanner McElroy (Brown Books)

War of Wings, by Tanner McElroy (Brown Books)

Tanner McElroy is a local author who grew up in Lake Highlands, Texas.  His first book, War of Wings, hit shelves March 21st.  In it, he combines biblical knowledge, epic adventure, and angels in the tale of how Lucifer fell, and the first war in heaven.

Life in Heaven is idyllic and peaceful, full of beauty and praise for God.  The angels spend their days in productive work and honoring God.  Everyone is happy.  Everyone, that is, except Lucifer and Gabriel.

Gabriel, the archangel, is bored with his building projects, bored with war games, bored with how perfect everything is in Heaven.  He wants more.  He’s not content with the status quo like his brother Michael, and he thinks he must be the only angel that feels this way.  Then he meets Arrayah, the virtue angel, and he starts to question everything he has always believed.  Soon he’s on the edge of the most profound decision he will ever make.

Lucifer is the highest of the cherubim, admired for his worship songs as well as his beauty.  He’s not content with being the highest of the angels, though.  He wants more:  to be promoted to God’s equal.  But when he finds out that God intends to promote a Son instead, Lucifer turns to reason over faith.  Convinced that he is as powerful as God, Lucifer’s followers divide Heaven as the angels take sides in the first war ever known.

All of the angels in Heaven must choose a side:  their faith and God, or Lucifer and his new ideas and reason.  No matter which side they choose, Heaven will never be the same.

War of Wings is an epic story on the grandest scale imaginable.  The rich details of life in Heaven make a vivid backdrop for larger-than-life characters with desires everyone can relate to.  Though the setting is more than most can imagine, McElroy does a fantastic job of bringing it to life, and his angels are not images of perfection, but characters with real thoughts and feelings.  The glimpses into the different hierarchies of the angels are fascinating, just as his views of life in Heaven are, and even the dramatic Fall of Lucifer and his supporters is drawn in vibrant color for the reader to appreciate.

So, I know I said I was going to do some writing-related work every week and post about it here to keep myself accountable, but…that just didn’t happen last week.  At first I felt guilty.  I had an entire week, why couldn’t I carve out some time for writing?  Then I thought about it:  I was busy last week.  Really busy.  It wasn’t like I did nothing last week.  I just didn’t have enough hours to fit in everything I had to do, much less the things I wanted to do.  I have valid reasons for not getting to the writing.  I may not be happy about the situation, but it is what it is, and I’m in the process of making my life more conducive to doing things I want to do, instead of merely what I have to do.

My (excellent list) of (valid) reasons I didn’t have time for writing last week:

1)  I worked an extra day at the day job.

2)  School. (And registering for summer classes, which I wasn’t planning on taking.)

3)  I started packing my apartment in preparation for moving in 3 weeks or so.  (Blech.  I HATE packing.)

4)  Pre-vacation planning and packing (I leave on Thursday.)

5)  Extra schoolwork so I don’t have to do it while on vacation.

To me, those are excellent reasons (not excuses).

I did just sign up for a webinar Thursday with Holly Lisle and Booknook.biz about e-book formatting, so I’m counting that as writing-related for next week…

Also, I took a few hours out to go see Divergent.  I haven’t read the book, but I loved the movie.  I thought it was really well-done.  Also, since my WIP (which currently stands for Work I’ve Paused) is dystopian, the movie got me thinking about the genre, which seems to have gotten big with the success of things like The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead (yes, I’m counting that here).

So, I’d really like to know:  why do you like (or dislike) dystopian stories?

 

busy

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there hasn’t been much going on around here except for the occasional book review.  That is mostly true of my life of late, too.  It’s been 9 1/2 months since my stroke, and I’m still not 100% yet.  To be fair, I may never be 100% of what I was, so I just need to adjust to my new normal.  That has been…harder…than I thought it would be.

Yes, I still work three days a week (3 days that are 11-16 hours each), on my feet in a fast-paced environment.  I love my patients, but it’s overwhelming at times.  Plus, I go to school full-time (online at Regent University now).  I’m taking some great classes, but it is a teensy bit exhausting at times.  I’m trying to start working out again (right now, “working out” means some light walking and strength training).  Writing hasn’t sorted itself completely yet.

I’m trying to blog on something like a consistent schedule (which, let’s face it, right now, that’s once a week, if I’m lucky).  I’m also trying to work my way through Holly Lisle’s Create a World Clinic to get the writing juices flowing again.  But it’s hard.  So hard, sometimes.  Some days, dragging myself out of bed is a monumental task.  On my days off, I should be able to sleep in a bit (where “sleep in” means staying asleep until after 6 a.m.).  But no.  This morning, I was awake before 4 .m.  Seriously?

But yes, that’s my goal:  one blog here a week, and I intend to have some sort of writing progress to report weekly.  And, if anyone has any sort of suggestions at all….I’m all ears.

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