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So, I got feedback from my other essay yesterday, the one I was wondering about while waiting for feedback from the first free-form essay. It was highly favorable. The professor loved it, except for my next-to-last-sentence, which was, he said, the only one he would change. That sentence was a cliché, which slip into my writing without me even noticing.

Should I have caught it? Definitely. Was he right? Absolutely. Am I upset about the feedback? Are you kidding me? I’ve learned a lot from this class, especially from his comments. I got very detailed feedback, several paragraphs long, on this essay. He took the time to tell me how much and why he liked my voice, my setting, my characters…and what I did at the very end that erased all of that hard work. Knowing the positives about the essay, and what negated them, allows me to actually learn this lesson, instead of just getting the grade.

The point of his feedback:  cliché= laziness. Laziness is bad and undoes all of your hard work. So….don’t be lazy:  avoid cliché!

The Wicked City, by Megan Morgan (Courtesy of Lyrical Press).

The Wicked City, by Megan Morgan (Courtesy of Lyrical Press).

Megan Morgan writes fantasy and paranormal romance. She’s an airport lounge bartender as well as a writer, and knows a thing or two about people. Her latest novel, The Wicked City, is the first book in the Siren Song series.

June Coffin is tired of the jokes about her name. She’s tired of people judging her for her tattoos and her smoking habits. She’s tired of being judged for being a Siren, able to influence people with her voice. But when her twin brother, Justin, is kidnapped by Chicago’s Institute of Supernatural Research, her attitude has a whole new focus.

Desperate to rescue Justin, June takes a walk on the dark side. To oppose her powerful enemies, she’ll need some powerful friends, so she teams up with a non-paranormal man who’s always supported paranormals. Too bad his wife just died, and June accidentally erased his memory. Oops. Her other teammate is a troublemaking paranormal leader who wants a little publicity for his cause, and isn’t afraid to go to great lengths to get it. With friends like these, what could possibly go wrong?

The Wicked City is a gritty paranormal romance with an intriguingly different premise. June is feisty and foul-mouthed, full of attitude, covered in tattoos and piercings, but she has a good heart and will stop at nothing to save her brother. The setting is dark,and the novel is steamy and sassy, with a twist.

(Galley provided by Lyrical Press via NetGalley.)

(I do not own this image. Image by Alquiler de Coches courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.)

(I do not own this image. Image by Alquiler de Coches courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.)

It’s funny to me, just how big an effect your brain can have on the creative process. Like, I have no problem at all with conjuring up worst-case scenarios. They often keep me awake at night, actually. You would think that being in a mental funk wouldn’t interfere with the brain’s ability to be creative, since it’s so good at picturing horrible things.

But that’s not true. Instead, for me, it seems to have the opposite effect:  if my mental state isn’t optimal, I can’t be creative to save my life. It just isn’t happening. The Muse goes on a (mental) vacation, and is not available for comment.

Currently, my Muse is probably on the beach somewhere in Bora Bora. Hammock. White sand. Blue water. Refreshing drink. Sounds about right…

Glad one of us is enjoying ourselves.

Hidden Deep, by Amy Patrick (Courtesy of Oxford South Press).

Hidden Deep, by Amy Patrick (Courtesy of Oxford South Press).

Amy Patrick is the author of several contemporary romance novels. Her first young adult fantasy novel, Hidden Deep, is the first book in the Hidden trilogy, and is available now.

Ryann Carroll and her mother have just moved back to the small Mississippi town her grandmother calls home. After her father’s affair, they needed a change. Ryann loves the change, and the deep woods surrounding her grandmother’s home. Ten years before, she became lost in those woods and almost froze to death, but a mysterious boy saved her life. A boy that everyone convinced her never actually existed.

Which she believes, until he shows up out of the blue one day, while she’s skinny dipping, naturally. All grown up now, Lad is the most attractive boy she’s ever seen, and Ryann is drawn to him more than any boy she’s ever met. But there’s something different about Lad. He says he’s home-schooled, but Ryann suspects something a little more…exotic.

Lad has thought about Ryann for years, even though he risked his life and those of his people when he saved her life. Now she’s back, and Lad is torn between his love for Ryan and the safety of the people he’s sworn to protect.

Hidden Deep is a young adult fantasy novel set in steamy rural Mississippi, and the steam spills over to the attraction between Lad and Ryann. The characters are great, and the unique setting comes to life on the pages of this engrossing read.

(Galley provided by Oxford South Press via NetGalley.)

A Pretty mess, by Carla Caruse (Image courtesy of Aus Impulse).

A Pretty mess, by Carla Caruso (Image courtesy of AUS Impulse).

Carla Caruso is from an Italian family, but she lives in Australia. She loves romantic comedies, so it’s no surprise that she writes them as well. The first novel in her Astonvale series, A Pretty Mess, is available now.

Celeste Pretty is a bit of a neat freak. You have to be, when your father is a hoarder, and you don’t want to die a horrible death, smothered under a pile of old newspapers and busted tools. Celeste has turned her organization gift into a new business: professional organizer.

Landing a major celebrity client is great news for a new business, so Celeste is thrilled when fitness guru Natalia Samphire signs on. If she can impress Natalia, she’ll be all set. But this job proves a bit tricky: she finds a blackmail note and other mysterious items, and Natalia is acting strange. Not to mention, hunky builder Lenny Muscat is a distraction that Celeste doesn’t need. She has to make this job a success if she’s going to make it out on her own.

So no distractions from sexy men. And no clients acting oddly. Even if she has to figure out what’s going on all by herself, and put a stop to it. No matter how dangerous that is.

A Pretty Mess is a fun, light-hearted tale of love and chaos. The writing is breezy, the characters are engaging, and the story itself has moments of humor and mystery intertwined with romance.

(Galley provided by AUS Impulse via NetGalley.)

So, I’m taking a short break from writing because of work and school. This session, I’m taking American Lit (blech) and The Art of the Essay (required for English/Professional Writing majors). I was not thrilled to be taking the class, as I’m really more into fiction writing than anything, but it hasn’t been so bad. We’ve read a few interesting selections, including “How it Feels to be Colored Me,” by Zora Neale Hurston, whom I’ve never read before. (No, not even Their Eyes Were Watching God. But guess what’s on my Kindle now…)

Obviously, we have writing assignments every week in this class. The normal, literary analysis-type assignments I don’t stress about, but a few weeks ago, the assignment was to write a short essay, emulating the style of one of the writers we’d covered. Suggestions for topics included issues in popular culture and natural disasters. My Muse grabbed onto that idea, and since I’ve lived near New Orleans, naturally Hurricane Katrina was my topic of choice.

So, I wrote my short essay about two brothers who didn’t evacuate before the storm, and who are now trapped in their house, listening to nature rage outside. I was pretty happy with the essay, but completely unsure what the professor would think of it. I’ve been waiting for the grade for two weeks, and I finally got it back.

I made a fantastic grade, which is awesome, but the professor’s feedback was even better. He said, “My goodness this is great. Homerun! What a terrific writer we have amongst us. Again, you have a unique ear–an ear that all great writers need to have. Nice pitch, tone, vocab decisions. Impressive. ” And, also, “Wow! impressive opening. You really have an ear for narrative voicings.”

Obviously, I’m happy with the grade, but the encouragement I got from the professor’s comments is even more valuable to me. I’m totally inspired now!

You know how I’ve decided not to worry about writing at all for the next four weeks, until the semester is over, so I don’t risk a brain meltdown? Turns out that taking an “official” break from writing has my Muse playing with story ideas.

Yep. True story.

Apparently, my Muse can’t wait to get back to work on Witches–which I haven’t looked at in years, and Chasing Shadows, which is more recent, but still not something I’ve thought about in like a year. Looks like I’ll be taking those two stories apart and revising them this summer. Plus working through HTTS with The Fall. I’m actually really excited about working on Witches. It was the first thing I started writing. I love the characters to pieces. I love the world. I love the plot. I even have the first draft of the second book written as well. I think the draft of Witches I have is over 300,000 words, though, so clearly there is a lot of work to be done, sigh.

But the Muse is stoked, and already at work in the back of my mind.

I can’t wait for the semester to be over!

Easter Wishes

Happy Easter! May everyone have a blessed day!

I’ve decided to give myself a little vacation. A mental vacation, actually. I feel like I’m on the verge of one of those burnouts where I can’t focus on anything and give up on everything, so it’s best if I put some things on the back-burner for the next 5 weeks or so (until the semester is over). There’s too much going on, and I can’t seem to focus. I can’t afford to let school slide–or work–so it has to be writing.

I’ve been trying to get to work on How to Think Sideways and Holly’s Motivation class, but I keep getting busy with other stuff, then stressing over not doing the writing stuff, so until I finish out the semester, I’m giving myself permission to not write. I still intend to blog some, but my brain can’t handle anything else right now.

When the semester is over, and I have no school work to distract me, I’ll tackle HTTS, the motivation class, and probably HTRYN as well, for a solid 3 months. Until then, I’m just going to hang onto my GPA–and my mind. (Maybe write some free verse poetry in there, too.)

Good morning. I’m just working through Holly Lisle’s How to Motivate Yourself workshop a bit this morning. She always has such interesting videos, like the one I just watched about communication between the right and left brains (and what happens when that connection is severed). I think my right brain influences me a lot. That would be my instinctive reactions, my desires, my hunches. My more introspective side, if you will.

Two people I’m close to are strongly left-brained, though. One of them…I don’t think his right brain gets much say in his life at all. The other, well, I think her right brain holds some sway. It’s interesting, actually, considering the differences. It’s like having two different people in your head.

I’ve always said I had two personalities.

Now I’m off to ponder my results from this morning’s exercises. And see if I can strengthen that connection between my brains.

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