Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Griffin's Song Love List

Yesterday I posted my Love List for Balancing Act, a list of all the reasons I enjoy writing it to inspire me when things are going slowly. So I thought I'd keep the fun going and post about my first WIP, the one I've been working on for over 2 years now, Griffin's Song.
  • Pirates
  • Old fashioned dresses
  • A character who rails against the norms of society to achieve her dreams
  • A main character who isn't strong in the beginning but must find her strength to survive
  • A scary villain who has flashes of humanity
  • The ocean, and old fashioned boats
  • A male character who is tight-laced and has to be...well...unlaced
What Griffin's Song needs more of:
  • Development of the relationships around the male lead character
  • Increase in the complexity between the main character and the villain
  • A more fully developed cast of secondary characters

Monday, July 30, 2012

Balancing Act Love List

Recently both Natalie Whipple and Seabrooke Leckie have posted about things they love about their current WIPS. It helps to make the list because when you feel like chucking the whole thing in the trash and are wondering "why in the world did I think I liked writing?" you can look at the list and say "Oh, right."

So here is my Love List for my current WIP, Balancing Act

  • Gymnastics training
  • A driven character whose passions are obsessions
  • A character finding out she can be a good teacher
  • A male character who isn't a jerk in order to be mysterious
  • Symbolic physical gestures
  • Short narrative sentences that speak worlds about the character
  • Dealing with the pain of realizing one's dreams can, and sometimes have to, change
  • Odd hobbies - in this case nail painting and crocheting
And a few things I want to add
  • An in depth relationship with a best friend that doesn't revolve around discussing the love interest
  • Family bonding
  • More annoying encounters with a younger brother
What's your love list?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Floating Islands

In a new determination to complete my summer reading project, I have started reading multiple books at once. When I was living with my parents this was the norm for me, as I had dozens, nay, hundreds of books at my fingertips at any given time. I would have three of four next to my bed, another on my desk, and one or two in my backpack.

College changed things. I have very limited space for books, and I haven't entirely committed to my e-reader yet. But this summer I've had the luxury of having enough space for books again. Anyway, on to The Floating Islands. I loved this fantasy novel by Rachel Neumeier. It's cute, it's in depth, and it has people who fly. What's not to love?!

This novel follows Trei as he travels from Touloun to the Floating Islands after his family is killed in a volcanic explosion. He settles with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Araene. Araene wants to be a chef and absolutely hates that she has to follow a specific path laid by society. Trei joins the ranks of the flying men, Kajuraihi, and Araene sneaks out in boy's clothing to University lectures. Things begin to change as it looks like Touloun has a new trick to wage war against the Islands, and Araene discovers she could have the stirrings of magery in her, something that girls do not usually have in the Islands.

One of the reasons I loved this book was because it involved very distinct manners and codes of conduct. Honor played a central theme, as well as loyalty to family and country and friends. It could be described as a regency novel (which my own Griffin's Song has been labeled once). I loved the imagery and the talk of cooking made me hungry.

Read it!

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Hobbit

Even though most of you out there have probably read this, or are at least somewhat familiar with the plot, I thought I'd put some thoughts out there. This was one of my favorite books as a child. I don't remember how many times I listened to it on tape, or read my large copy of the book (complete with pictures). I think I know why I loved it then - there was a dragon, and treasure, and lots of music, and funny subtle jokes. I grew up on subtle sarcasm, and loved it even back then.


I'll do a short plot synopsis in case some of you have been living in a hobbit hole your entire life. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, and is quite comfortable living alone in Bag End until Gandalf the wizard comes looking for someone with which to share an adventure. With the company of 13 dwarfs, Bilbo travels a long way to The Lonely Mountain to get rid of a dragon hoarding treasure. Along the way he meets elves, goblins, trolls, giant spiders, and many other things.

There is something about British writing that I love. There's a cadence to it, in Tolkien, in Rowling, it's just *there*.

Still working on The Floating Islands, and starting up The Fellowship of the Ring.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Unexpected Complications

There are many things that happen when writing a novel, some of which you don't expect, even if you're an outliner. Yesterday I had a burst of writing, in which I wrote 9k and pushed the word count of Balancing Act up to 45k. There is a scene in which Callie sneaks out and ends up spraining her ankle. When I first started this part of the book out, it was simple enough. But then I realized, her path back to her room was a fir tree outside her window. After she sprains her ankle, how was she supposed to get back home?

This spurred a whole little path in the story, and it went in a way I wouldn't have expected, and effected where the story went next, even though I had it outlined.

When you're writing, things like this happen. One thing can change the entire story. It's frustrating, and exciting, and tiring, and did I mention frustrating? But once you've surpassed the problem, you can look back and be very satisfied.

Last night I was exhausted from so much writing. I even went to bed early, which for me is not easy.

What's an unexpected complication that's come up in your writing?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lost Voices

Okay, so I started reading this book back in June, but stopped for a while because the first couple chapters were seriously depressing. But it was on my list, and I knew I had to read it, so over the past few days, between working and watching superhero movies and trying not to fall asleep before ten, I hunkered down and read Lost Voices by Sarah Porter.

Some background: I love everything to do with mermaids. I've already read another mermaid book this summer, Tempest Rising, and while I didn't love love love it, as always I loved the descriptions of the powerful tails and the underwater life.

The premise of Lost Voices is that when a girl is being abused emotionally, physically, what have you, when she finally accepts that horrible feeling of desolation, she turns into a mermaid. The novel follows Luce, whose mother died when she was young, and whose father was lost at sea on a fishing boat. Luce now lives with her abusive drunk of an uncle. Long story short, something awful happens and Luce becomes a mermaid off the shores of Alaska, and joins a tribe of other poor souls. It's amazing for a while, as she thinks she's found a friend in Catarina, the queen, and a place where she can finally belong. But there's a catch: mermaids have this urge to sink ships, and mermaid law states that no person who has heard mermaid song can live to tell the tale. But Luce doesn't want to kill people, right?

I loved the writing style of this novel. It was dark and flowing, and not at all teenage-angsty. It was about Luce trying to figure out who she is, now that she makes her own decisions in life. My one quibble was that I wanted to see what the reaction on land was to her disappearance, and all the ships sinking nearby. There's one scene that shows another group of girls becoming mermaids, which made me hopeful, but there was nothing.

I would definitely recommend it. Next review will probably be of The Hobbit, which was one of my favorite books as a child. And I'll be reading The FloatingIslands at the same time. Chow!

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bucket Lists

I've seen more than a few blogging bucket lists over the past few days. Megan Bostic, a fellow Washington writer, is having a bucket list contest for some swag from her book Never Eighteen. The contest is simple, you only have to list six things on your bucket list.

I've also been discussing this with my family at work. There are so many things I want to see. I was bitten by the travel bug early on in life, and I have gypsy blood in me. So, for today's post (I promise I'll have a review tomorrow) here's part of my bucket list:

  1.  Get published
  2. See all three Triple Crown Races (Belmont, Preakness, Derby)
  3. See the beginning and end of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
  4. See the Trevi fountain in Italy
  5. Swim off the Great Barrier Reef
  6. Go skydiving
  7. Go hang gliding
  8. Study abroad
  9. Graduate with a double major from college
  10. Pull an all-nighter with friends
What's on your bucket list?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Schedules

I love schedules. It's the same as my love of deadlines. If I don't have them, I won't follow them. During the school year I have a very planned morning routine so that I can do it without needing to be completely awake.

So it seemed the natural thing to create a schedule for summer. Part of it was very easy, since I have a full time job, and that blots out a big chunk of hours. But I know myself - if I don't have deadlines I won't get anything done. And the best way for me to reach a deadline? A schedule. I want to finish the first draft of Balancing Act by the end of the summer. I also have my summer reading project, which hosts some pretty hefty titles (I'm looking at you Gone With the Wind). Then yesterday a friend sent me an old list of the top 100 movies. I scanned it, and found I was woefully behind in my movie watching. So I'd also try to make some headway in that list.

With all of this going on, in addition to my job, I decided I needed a schedule. So I sat down this morning and plotted it out, so I know exactly what I can be doing to proceed with each of my goals. Audio books in the car, a movie as I get ready in the morning, working on Balancing Act at night, and reading a paperback at lunch.

We'll see how long I'm able to stick to a summer schedule. But I hope to get through books more quickly, as my pace slowed this month. Also, I'd like to continue the progress I've been making in Balancing Act, which is now up to 36k.

Do you work well with schedules?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Great Gatsby

Granted, I've already read this book. It was required reading for my AP US History class when we were covering the roaring 20s. But I figured, since a remake of the movie is coming out, I should refresh my memory. If you haven't seen the trailer, you should!

For those of you who were not required to read it in high school, The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway, home from the army and tired of the Midwest. So he moves out east to the disreputable West Egg in New York, and happens to become the neighbor of eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby. Nick is acquainted with lighthearted Daisy Buchanan, who's married to Tom, an aggressive man with a mistress. Nick becomes the middleman between Mr. Gatsby and Daisy, who were childhood sweethearts.

What I love about this story is that in the end you aren't sure who you're supposed to agree with. Is it Nick, who was a devoted friend, but doesn't seem to play the main character in his own life? Is it Gatsby, who persuaded a married woman to have an affair, but loved her through war and separation? Or is it Tom, who could be the victim of adultery, but is also the perpetrator? It's a complicated novel, and that's why I love it. If I were to pick at nits, I would say that a lot of the dialogue is dichotomous, and questions that are asked by characters are never answered. But I love the moral dilemmas.

Read it. Really.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Art of Picking

For you writers out there, have you been plagued by Shiny New Ideas, especially when you're in the middle of a big project? Of course you have! One of the blessings and curses of being a novelist/poet/novella writer, is that you purposefully open your senses and imagination to inspiration. We have to, if we want to succeed with the projects we focus on.

But how do you decide which Shiny New Idea is good enough to follow? For instance, I knew for sure that I wanted to write Griffin's Song, and knew that I wanted to write Sarah's story in two parts. But after that? Sure I had plenty of ideas, and began writing a few of them. None of them stuck. Of course, I want to write them later, but sometimes it seems like you have to be in a certain mood to write a certain plot.

Then I hit on Balancing Act, and it seemed to be the perfect combination of nostalgia and power. It fit, somehow. And I think that's the key part. Whether you're a pantser or an outliner, the story has to seem right, and you have to want to spend time working at it every day. The characters should fill your mind, and even when the going gets tough (as we all know it does), you should still love your story. If you don't love it, your readers won't love it.

And I'm not saying you shouldn't pursue a SNI if it doesn't automatically grab you. Write down what you can, file it away for later if it doesn't hold onto your imagination right away. But when you find that idea that makes you excited to write, then you know you've found a winner.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Progress Report

I am currently approaching the end of The Great Gatsby, and just a heads up for my soon to come review, I'm loving it just as much the second time.

Today I reached a milestone in Balancing Act. After a few days of mulling and outlining, tweaking and staring at other projects, I got down to business and pushed the word count up and past 30,000! I am so excited for this, as I feel I'm over the hump. Balancing Act is going to be shorter than either Griffin's Song or Wind Chaser, probably around 60-70 thousand words. And I'm loving every minute of writing it. I've been researching ankle surgeries and advanced moves on uneven parallel bars and beam. My youtube search history looks like I'm a gymnastics nut.

I can't wait to give you all a taste of what's going on in the world of Callie Harding, a seventeen-year-old whose gymnastic dreams were cut short, and is now trying to heal. Perhaps I'll show you an excerpt!

Until then, have a great week!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JxVBJ9aEJM

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Song for Summer

Hey, ya'll, I'm sorry I haven't posted for a while. I didn't want to come back until I'd finished another book, as my progress has been slow this past week. I settled on A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson, who also wrote The Morning Gift which I reviewed earlier. Eva Ibbotson's novels have very defining characteristics. There is a large host of secondary characters who help move the plot along as well as provide comic relief. There is also a great deal of research put into her historical romances, usually following a war. And there is always music

A Song for Summer is no exception. Ellen grew up in an English suffragette household, wanting to be a domestic. She has a way with children, plants, words, and a ladle. After school she moves to Hallendorf, a tiny town in Austria to become the matron of an unconventional school of arts. As war against Hitler looms closer, Ellen finds solace in her day to day battle against bad cooks and unsupportive townspeople who object to the metalworking teacher swimming in the lake four times a day. She also finds Marek, a talented composer who's gone to ground in order to search out his Jewish friend who was placed in an concentration camp. He works as a handyman at Hallendorf's school, and finds Ellen.

At first I was wary of this novel, because it seemed to be portraying that being a submissive domestic was a higher calling than a strong suffragette. But as the novel progressed I found myself softening to Ellen, and to what she found to be her path. A Song for Summer doesn't say that women should be docile. It just says that there are different kinds of strong women - the ones who tie themselves to lampposts and demand the vote, and those who stay in the kitchen and cook for the loud ones.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reminiscence

For the first time since I wrote it for 2011 NaNoWriMo, I opened up Wind Chaser to do some actual editing. At first I was just planning to reformat the document. It was early in the morning and I didn't have much time before leaving for work. But as I went through it, I began to tweak little things I saw - typos or a forgotten comma. And then I began to read.

Long story short, I began editing Wind Chaser. Griffin's Song has been lain aside while I'm trying to develop a kick butt query, but I can't describe how good it felt to be back in Sarah's head. While I've been having a wonderful time developing Callie and getting to know her strengths and weaknesses, it's nice to return to something familiar.

I will be returning to Balancing Act within a couple days, but in the meantime it's nice to travel back to that first duology where I spread my wings as a writer and actually completed a project.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Across the Universe

It took me a bit longer to get through this book, not because it was slow, but because I was facing a busy time at work and was exhausted by the time I got home.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a YA sci-fi novel which follows Amy and Elder. The former was cryogenically frozen so that she would awake on a new planet with her parents in 300 years. Elder is the next leader of the spaceship Godspeed, which is carrying the cryogenically frozen. However, things start to go wrong when someone unplugs Amy 50 years early and she nearly dies waking up. Soon after her, more frozens are unplugged, and not all of them survive. Now Amy and Elder are scrambling to discover who the killer is, as well as secrets Godspeed's leader Eldest is keeping. These secrets have fueled the ship for centuries, and are just now being uncovered.

The writing style of this book was great. I am a fan of alternating view points, and the switches between Amy and Elder are well handled. That being said, I thought the book could have been a bit shorter. It took a very long time for Amy to make a connection between the unfrozen that seemed blatantly obvious. The setting was explained well, so I could actually visualize where Amy and Elder were on the ship. But perhaps by favorite part of the book came when Amy was comparing the fake fields/rain/food/animals to the ones on earth. She talks about how the rain doesn't feel like rain, and the solar lamp that is keeping everything alive doesn't blind her the same way the sun did on Earth.

I would recommend this book. Just be prepared for a bit of a lag in the middle. 

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Next up: A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

For those of you out there living in the United States, I hope you have your fireworks ready, because today is pretty much National Blow Things Up Day! What is Heather doing on this glorious day, you ask? Well, she's reading Across the Universe and working until her feet want to collapse. I shall be serving those happy tourists who come to the coast in order to have a nicer view to set off fireworks. Even though they set most of them off in the daytime before they can even see them.

So today, fellow Americans, instead of setting off fireworks in the middle of the day, why not go out an enjoy the (hopefully) nice weather and read a book! If you haven't an idea of what to read, there are many reviews available on this blog.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

When the Supporting Characters Are More Interesting

We've hit a busy time at work, so I haven't finished Across the Universe yet. A review should be up by the end of the week, though! In the meantime, I'd like to talk about an annoyance of mine which I've experienced in many books. What happens is, I read a book, enjoy it, love the plot and the characters. Then I'll put it down and realize that in the end I understood the supporting characters more than the main character. They have specific traits that are called upon multiple times and you can bring to mind a physical description.

This can not be said of main characters sometimes. Sometimes (this is definitely not all inclusive) the main character is simply a tool of the plot, to watch and respond and move the story between scenes. What causes this? I think it's partly because we don't read many physical descriptors of the main character, unless they are being reiterated by a supporting character. And even then, the reiteration and how it is phrased serves to develop the supporting character. But as for the main character being a tool of the plot, I do not know. Perhaps it is because YA novels are much more action-packed and there is less time for internal reflection. Perhaps it's because we insert ourselves into the place of that character.

What do you think? Or do you even agree?