Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: THIS SHATTERED WORLD by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Description from Goodreads:

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

If you read my review of These Broken Stars (Starbound Book #1), you’ll know how much I love, LOVED that book. Even knowing that This Shattered World was a companion novel and not a continuation of Tarver and Lilac’s story, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. (Though Tarver and Lilac certainly make an appearance!!!)

It was so completely different than the first book that I can’t even try to compare them, but there was still so much to love! From the star-crossed love story to the colorful characters and action that literally jumped off the page right from the beginning. Kaufman and Spooner delivered another one to add to my favorite list.

We meet no-nonsense Captain Jubilee Chase and smooth talking rebel Flynn Cormac on the embattled planet of Avon. Their individual motivations and loyalties ran deep and there was plenty of drama and heartbreak to go around. With themes and storylines reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story (of which I’ll never grow tired…), Jubilee and Flynn have to first overcome their own prejudices in order to figure out what is really happening on Avon and hopefully end the fighting between their two groups.

For the rebels or natives on the planet, Kaufman and Spooner incorporated a rich Irish ancestry that they cling to. This was a perfect and believable background. They are fighting to have their homes back and to protect their families, but while some are interesting in winning by any violent means necessary, all Flynn wants is to stop the fighting.

The soldiers that serve under Jubilee don’t last long on Avon. They come for a few months at a time before becoming affected by some mysterious element that sends them into murderous rages. While the natives are immune to this, so is Jubilee, who has been there for a year. The mystery that simmers just below the surface is just as intriguing as in TBS. The task for Jubilee and Flynn is to find out if there is some greater force at work and if they can stop it before both sides  

As with TBS, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the Sci-Fi element (that sometimes goes wayyyy over my head!) This Shattered World had just the right amount of action, romance, and mystery!!! You can read this book if you haven’t read book 1, but I recommend it before moving on to this fantastic companion!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Battling the Dreaded Writer's Block

Every writer knows that panicky feeling where all they can do is stare at the blinking cursor and beg it to tell them what to type next. Nothing comes. Blank. No ideas. Check Twitter. Look at email. Go back to document and stare at cursor—yep, it’s still blinking.  Make a cup of tea. Look out the window and see if there’s anything untoward going on out there. Check the cursor again.

Writer’s Block. Whether you believe in it or not (there are some who don’t, more on that later) the above paragraph undoubtedly sounds familiar. I’m sure everyone has their ways of handling it, but these are a few I’ve found work fairly well.

·      Go take a walk. Leave the ipod at home—your mind needs to be allowed to wander. Don’t focus on the problem with your story; instead just try to be mindful of everything you see along the way, and let your heart pump lots of oxygen to your brain. If you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment that’s great. Work it through on your way back home and zip back to the computer and have at it.
·      Go someplace with people, whether it’s a grocery store, coffee shop, library, or whatever. Now pick one or two people and imagine a backstory for them. Let your imagination go wild. This infusion of creativity will spark the creativity you need in your story.
·      Work on a different project. I know, not everyone works on more than one WIP at a time, and there are many out there who will tell you to do so is breaking a Writing Cardinal Rule. But if you allow your mind to act creatively on something else it will also spark that creativity with the problem WIP.
·      If you aren’t working on another WIP, then open a new document and have a character write a letter to you, or another character, or your Great Aunt Joan. Give your character free rein—you’ll be surprised by what you discover. It may solve the block.
·      If all else fails go take a long, hot shower. Almost a sure thing for unblocking the dreaded Writer’s Block.
·      Leave it for the day. Have a good night’s sleep, and most likely it will have untangled itself by morning.
·      By the way, all of these ideas work because the brain is a miraculous creation. Even when it isn’t consciously working on something, it continues to work on it in the subconscious. Often times that subconscious level knows more than the conscious one.
·      Since starting this post I experienced one more thing that I must share! This wasn’t so much a case of Writer’s Block, but more one of not being sure HOW the current WIP was going to resolve itself. Last night I was reading Anne Lamott’s fabulous Bird by Bird. This book is classified as a ‘writing craft’ book, but it is so much more. It’s more like you are sitting and having tea with Ms. Lamott while she shares her wisdom with you. After reading the following passage, my answer came to me fully formed and perfect and I wanted to hit myself upside the head for not seeing it before. From Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: “Let your human beings follow the music they hear, and let it take them where it will. Then you may discover…that your characters had something in mind all along that was brighter and much more meaningful than what you wanted to impose on them.” YES!!! That was what my brain needed to hear to unlock my characters’ plan. I’m not exactly sure what it was in that passage that did the trick, but it worked! So, this last bullet point would be: Pick up a book on writing and read a bit—on any topic, not on Writer’s Block—and things may just fall into place.

Now I said at the top that not everyone believes in Writer’s Block. A couple of years ago I heard a panel of YA authors speak, and during the question-taking part of the presentation, an audience member asked how to battle Writer’s Block. Author Barry Lyga spoke up and said he wanted to take this question. He went on to say there is no such thing: if you get to a place where you’re stuck it is because you went the wrong way with your story. Go back to the last place things were working and go in a different direction. Ever since I heard this advice I’ve been a big believer in it. Here’s why. Let’s say you force the issue when you get stuck and write something just to write. This is going to invariably take you to yet another place you don’t want to be, you get stuck, you’re watching that dang cursor again, only this time it’s a lot worse because the problem is compounded. Yes, I will first try one or more of the above ideas, but if no viable answer comes to me, I follow Barry Lyga’s sage advice. I strongly suggest you try it.

Whether we call it Writer’s Block or not, we’ve all experienced that moment when we find ourselves staring at a blank screen and blinking cursor. These are but a few of the ways you might be able to battle this curse, and I hope you find at least one that works for you!

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Social Media

Ahhh. Social Media.

To be honest I’m not totally sure why I am the one (of the three of us) writing this post. I have an aversion to all things technical. Including but not limited to: Smart Phones, Printers, Hard Drives, Face Book, Instagram, Pintrest…OK so you get the picture. 

Basically I have a hard time accepting the fact that I have to Face Book, Instagram, Snap Chat blah blah blah.

Since day one of the formation of our group Monica and Sarah have been harping on me to get out there. Have a presence on line. 

Monica gave me a great piece of advice when I was finally convinced to join social media. She said: “Pick one.” Just one and see what I can do with that. Yeah I can do that. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog and decided that as my very own thing I would test out Twitter.

It took MONTHS of convincing to get me to get a Twitter account. And for real for like the first seven to ten days I was on it CONSTANTLY. I loved it. I had like fifty followers in the first few days I was on!

But…deep down I knew I would taper off. I’m more of an I-have-four-friends-and-i-like-it-that-way kind of person. Don’t get me wrong I love, love, love reading about funny things peoples cats do, new books being launched, teaser pages of upcoming books and so on. It’s just hard for me to figure out what is worth saying in my life when all these amazing things are happening to all the people I follow. 

I know how important it is to put myself (and my work!) out there but it’s a challenge to keep up with life/work/writing/kids/school obligations/this blog! And leave time to Twitter/Face Book/Instagram.

Well, I know haven’t been the best Twitterer but I do know that in this “business” how important it is to build a platform/share my work with others/put it out there. This blog has helped me so much with my writing and letting little snippets of my personality out into the world I don’t know if I would be able to stop. Some days when I have a severe case of writer’s block I just focus on my next blog topic and things just come and then…Guess what! My writing is better too! 

Being “out there” makes me nervous but what happens if/when a book sells? Yep you guessed it “being out there”. So…Watch out Twitter! I’m BACK!

What is your social media favorite?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book Review: NEARLY GONE by Elle Cosimano

The last time I was trolling the library website for new books to read I came across Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano. As soon as I finished reading the synopsis I took off to my local branch of the city library and tore through this book. And...Wow! This book was INTENSE! And I loved every page!

Here's what Goodreads has to say:

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.

Nearly's best subjects are math and science and the clues that the killer leaves for her via the missed-connections ads in the personals take advantage of those skills. The puzzles are unique and add such a different theme to this story that I look at the personal ad's in a whole new light.

This book is full of mysteries and deception and what you may think at first (or second...or THIRD) is not always the correct answer.

If you liked The Naturals and Killer Instincts by Jennifer Lynn Barnes then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. I sure did!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our 2015 Writing Resolutions

Sarah’s Resolutions

It's 2015!! This last year flew by and so much with it. Heather and I finished our first book, which saw several hair-pulling re-writes, and sent it out on submission. It feels amazing to have accomplished all of that and now, looking ahead, I feel ready to commit to some even loftier goals for this year. 

1. Start running again. Sorry, wrong list... no wait, it belongs here too. With working nights and keeping up with crazy kid schedules, I want to be in the best place I can be physically and mentally! Plus a 30 minute run is prime, uninterrupted plotting time. 

2. All of last year was focused on one project and now that that project is resting comfortably on a shelf for a little while, its time to start something new. Unfortunately the ideas are spewing out. Shouldn't be a bad thing, except I imagine it’s difficult to write 5 books at once. So my goal is to sit down, sort through them and focus on the most well rounded one and go for it. Focusing solely on that project until its done. I would like to see it finished and put through a couple rounds of critiques/re-writes before this year is out.

3. I have not read a single writing craft book (yes, even after Monica's excellent recommendations.) So my goal is to pick at least 2 for this year and spend some in depth time learning from other much more talented experts!

4. Heather and I went to our first Writer's conference last year and it was incredible! I hope to attend one or two more this year and be involved with some of the amazing writing communities that are out there. 

5. We launched this blog last year and it was a huge deal for us. I want to keep it up and keep our momentum going! 

Monica’s Resolutions

A beautiful new year, a fresh start, and all that, and time for making Writing Resolutions! My alter-ego posted her very daunting list last week, and I learned from her mistakes. She plans to do A, B, C, D, and E (so many writing projects she plans to finish!) and all of these depend on F happening. If everything hinges on F, why not just focus on F. So I plan to focus on F. Which is all of the stuff that supports my writing and makes my life good. This includes:
·      Improving my time management. I’ve gotten very sloppy with how I use my time, and as a result my writing output is really suffering. I need to prioritize writing time, and stop treating it like a pleasant hobby I fit in whenever/wherever I can. Of course I also need to find time for everything else in my life. Sigh…
·      Exercising daily. I was doing very well with this up until November when life got crazy for a couple of months. I need to make sure it happens EVERY day from now on. Everything in my life—including my writing—is better when I exercise regularly.
·      Finding time for my friends and family. Writing is very isolating, and to keep my mental state healthy I need regular time with the people I care about. Nothing in the world is as good as laughing until the tears are running down your face.
·      Reading. This is my gimme—there is no way I won’t fulfill this resolution. As a YA author I need to read a lot of YA, but lately I’ve been forgetting to throw in the occasional ‘adult’ book—so I can try to work on that.
I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2015, and hope yours is too! Happy New Year!!

Heather’s Resolutions

Ugh. Here’s the problem: I have basically “resolved” the same things for the past two years when it comes to my writing and honestly, haven’t stuck to any of them. So, this year I thought I would do things a bit different. This year is going to be the year that I stick to ALL of my resolutions.
What makes this year different? You ask. I have assigned myself what I am lovingly calling “my task master” (aka my husband) to “gently” nag me about my resolution progress. Hopefully this works.
Now, on to the fun part: the actual resolutions.
1.     I resolve to read more books. (I can always find inspiration in other people’s writing)
2.     I resolve to not make excuses! (No more I work full-time…I have kids…blah blah. I’m not the only person/writer with those things!)
3.     I resolve to track my word count. (I know I know content, story, and characters but sometimes realizing that I have a great idea really only translates into more blank pages. So, for me the numbers matter.)
4.     I resolve to be a better listener to my characters (and critique partners). Sometimes I tend to try to direct my characters instead of letting them lead me.
So, that’s it. Here’s hopin’ I can stick to this small list. What are your resolutions?