NaNoWriMo 2014

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NaNoWriMo is almost here!

If you’ve followed any of my past posts, you’re probably aware that I won NaNo last year with ~35k toward my MS “Quarter Turn” and ~16k toward Project REUTSway. On the plus side, two of my ProjectREUTSway short stories placed as runner ups, and those can be read here and here. On the down side, my hard drive crashed, and I completely lost my 30k+ MS.

I originally wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I managed to scrape together 50k of my lost MS over the last year, and I only have 30k to go. I really don’t want to start another project. Then REUTS announced its second year of ProjectREUTSway. I couldn’t say no to that. So I’m going to try and pull another split NaNo.

With NaNo last year, I wasn’t able to attend a lot of write-ins. Our chapter coverage is about an hour driving distance from each end, and the write-in locations were both half an hour away from me, in a weird, perfect triangle. Our chapter leader, Niko, reached out for help this year for two brave souls to host in the far reaches of our chapter, and I took the call. I get to host NaNoWriMo! Wooo!

Warriors! I mean, writers! Let’s do this!

If anyone has hosted a NaNoWriMo before and has some fun ideas for writerly things to do at write-ins besides writing, or fun suggestions for the kick-off party, please leave me a comment! I’m super excited to host this year and hoping people show up. I’m thinking of doing weekly progress check-ins and giving away coffee gift cards to the winners. I also think it would be fun to do sprints at the write-ins, since I’ve heard horror stories in the past about write-ins where no writing got done. What would be some fun sprint prizes?

I will also, of course, push ProjectREUTSway to the writers who come but aren’t too interested in cramming out the full 50k in the month.

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The Utterly Uninteresting and Uneventful Life of Fred the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes

fred-reveal

Is that blood… or red wine?

Do you love vampire novels? How about a gorgeous vampire who sweeps you off your feet with his elegance, grace, and danger? Do you like feeling chills of desire or fear in not knowing if it’ll be a kiss or a bite?  If that’s the case, The Utterly Uninteresting and Uneventful Life of Fred the Vampire Accountant, by Drew Hayes, is not for you.

Are you sick of Vampires that meet the above description? Good. Join the club, and grab yourself a copy of Drew’s book.

The story follows Fred, a vampire –victim of a dine n’ dash- who resumes his unassuming life after it becomes, well, non-unassuming. On a stroke of adventure, he decides to attend his high school reunion. There, he meets up with an old friend and new flame that sets a series of antics in motion. The plot heavily reminded me of a lot of anime I watch. Most of the episodes, though appear to be plot, actually turn out to be background filler stories. The real plot slaps you in the face with three episodes left. And no, it’s not a bad thing. Actually, it kinds of adds more nerdiness to it, but I’ll touch on that later.

Each section of the book tells a separate tale, like an anthology of short stories, and introduces us to his widening circle of friends. Again, it plays more like episodes. There’s predictability in that you know things will work out – every trouble irons itself out with a happy outcome – but the magic is in figuring out how they do. Fred, as a character, is completely unpredictable, despite what he may tell you.

I’ve heard the phrase “a character driven novel” more times than I can count, and I have always wondered what that really means. Fred. Fred is what it means. Drew Hayes has crafted characters with such real depth and uniqueness that the rapid page turning becomes more about wanting to see how the characters respond to the events given and not necessarily about how the events turn out.

Fred is not a dark read. In fact, if you need a pick-me-up between tragic novels, Fred is a fantastic option. I took screen shots of any line that made me laugh out loud, and there’s at least two or three per chapter. Also, if you’re unabashedly nerdy, you’ll find a camaraderie with Fred and his gang, with the LARPing, jousting, zombies, and games of Scrabble. There’s also romance… generally awkward and laden with innuendos.

All in all, Fred is a great read and definitely something unique to add to your to-read list.

Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one. Timid, socially awkward, and plagued by self-esteem issues, Fred has never been the adventurous sort.

One fateful night – different from the night he died, which was more inconvenient than fateful – Fred reconnects with an old friend at his high school reunion. This rekindled relationship sets off a chain of events thrusting him right into the chaos that is the parahuman world, a world with chipper zombies, truck driver wereponies, maniacal necromancers, ancient dragons, and now one undead accountant trying his best to “survive.” Because even after it’s over, life can still be a downright bloody mess.

*Insert cheers here!* There’s going to be a Fred 2, with more Gideon!

Drew Hayes Author PhotoDrew Hayes is an aspiring author from Texas who has written several books and found the gumption to publish a few (so far). He graduated from Texas Tech with a B.A. in English, because evidently he’s not familiar with what the term “employable” means. Drew has been called one of the most profound, prolific, and talented authors of his generation, but a table full of drunks will say almost anything when offered a round of free shots. Drew feels kind of like a D-bag writing about himself in the third person like this. He does appreciate that you’re still reading, though.

Drew would like to sit down and have a beer with you. Or a cocktail. He’s not here to judge your preferences. Drew is terrible at being serious, and has no real idea what a snippet biography is meant to convey anyway. Drew thinks you are awesome just the way you are. That part, he meant. Drew is off to go high-five random people, because who doesn’t love a good high-five? No one, that’s who.

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FLUX Blog Tour

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FLUX, by Ellie Carstens, is out today ~ Happy Book Birthday to Ellie, REUTS publication, and FLUX!

 

“The last thing sixteen-year-old Alaina Oftedahl-Miller expected was to watch her mom brutally destroy their life.

But, in the wake of tragedy, strength forms. Shipped off to live with her birth father, Alaina finds herself dealing with more than just being the new Canadian girl in a Norwegian school. Juggling the formation of a relationship with the man who abandoned her as a child, and a budding attraction to Kaius Vargøy–the mysterious, beautiful classmate who’s been assigned as her personal translator–Alaina can’t shake the feeling that every move she makes is being watched. Judged.

She soon learns there’s far more to this sleepy Norwegian town than she ever imagined. Kaius and his friends aren’t exactly what they seem, and the repercussions of that could send her traveling through the most unexpected experience of her life. Murder and relocation is one thing, but add in supernatural occurrences and Vikings, and even she may not have the strength to survive.”

 

Sounds awesome, right? I’ve been following the release of this one for awhile. When the puzzle pieces of the cover came out, I scoured twitter to find them all. Guys, have you seen this cover?

flux-cover

 

That’s some serious cover eye-candy. The cover evokes a new world, almost intergalactic in a sense, and there seems to be something magical about it. I can’t wait to find out why. I mean, seriously, Vikings? That’s bad ass.
And now, here’s a gem for you guys: we get to meet the star of the book, Alaina!

 

Alaina

So that’s it for me. I’m going to be not-so-patiently waiting for my copy to arrive. Sure enough, I’ll have a review to follow. Let me know what you guys think of this book, which you can purchase from REUTS Publication. Don’t forget to wish Ellie and REUTS a happy book birthday on FLUX!

 

 

Ellie Carstens

ellie-carstens-author photoFor as long as she can recall, Ellie Carstens has been a huge fan of reading. The genre and content are not important as long as the story holds her captive. She believes that life is too short to be taken seriously all the time and to lose one’s self in a good book is an escape worth taking. Now, she writes science fiction, fantasy, romance, and beyond, creating stories that will hopefully bring that same passion for reading to others.

Flux is her debut title and the first in a Young Adult sci-fi/romance trilogy.

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Book Review – TWELVE STEPS

Last night I finished Veronica Bartles TWELVE STEPS, and I have to say that it is a light-hearted, fun read.

Without spoilers, I will say that I loved this book. It’s predictable in the way you want your favorite love stories to pan out, and yet it’s completely unpredictable, giving it a fresh edge. What starts as a love triangle quickly becomes a love… pentagon? Hexagon? Heptagon? I’ve read reviews where the readers had no clue who, nor could pick which love interest, each sister should ultimately end up with. While I was wrong on Laina’s choice, I pegged Andi’s from the very first scene they interacted.

The older/ younger sister dynamic is beautifully captured, and it felt very reminiscent of my life as a teenager. As the younger “rebellious” twin, my sister shown a brighter shade of gold than I did. And at the same time, we were both the Laina to my younger brother’s Andi. Actually, my younger brother’s name IS Andy. Andy Anderson. All of my yes, this book spoke to me.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is that neither sister realizes just how amazing they are as a person by themselves. Yes, the storyline is through Andi, and while she is a little rough around the edges, you learn quickly that she’s as much of a power house as her sister, if not more. Yes, her sister gets glowing reviews from Andi, but as you watch her actions, you notice she’s just as flawed and tortured as Andi is, over different things. It’s like the grass is always greener on the other side – Andi admires her sister’s looks, talent, and brains, all the while Laina had been admiring her sister’s carefree attitude and social ability. Clearly, though, Andi is beautiful, talented, and intelligent in her own way. And Laina is more of an introvert and deals with social things in her own way, which is completely okay.

What I love is that, as a reader, I knew this early on, and it was just a matter of watching for the light bulb moment when Andi realizes it too. From the start, Andi’s character voice is brilliant, hilarious, and captivating – a glowing star in her own right.

One thing that originally bothered me early on in the story was Laina’s oblivious nature to the guys who crushed hardcore on her. I was with Andi on that one – How does she not see it? It’s so obvious! But then I think back to my years in high school, and I remember being just as oblivious as Laina. I think, as an adult, we forget how complicated our life felt to us as teenagers, and how we ignored or dealt with the new feelings and ideas exposed to us.

And my non-spoiler closing thoughts: I love that even though Andi viewed her sister as a rival, she always treated her like a sister. Despite crushes and best friends, she put family first. Kudos, Andi!

OKAY – SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON! You’ve been warned.

I started to dislike Jarod at one point, before the prom, after the start of the Cinderella rehearsals. I secretly hoped he’d get rejected by both sisters and that’s what he gets for not manning up and telling Leila how he feels at the same time he’s stringing Andi along. And I felt SO BADLY for Shane. I wanted him to win, to snag Laina, but between Jarod’s heroic efforts to keep Laina safe, and Shane’s inability to stand up for his feelings, I was okay with how it turned out.

And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Kendra finally got what she deserved. Holy crap, was Laina around the most poisonous person ever! I mentally high-fived Andi when she kicked the snot out of her. And then to follow it up with Jarod tearing Anthony apart – awesome.

Favorite moment: When she’s held after class from her Biology exam, because her teacher accused her of cheating. Her parting words to him made me laugh out loud for several minutes. Brilliant dialogue.

My only Criticism: While yes, the “twelve steps” that are mentioned in the title and synopsis are written in the book, they don’t feel like part of the story. They are a cute little note in the margin, right before or after a chapter. Aside from the first chapter where Andi says “I need a twelve-step program,” there is no reference to her actually doing any of the written steps in the story itself. I thought that was a little strange.

Regardless, the story is upbeat, fun, and will leave you with a sheepish grin long after the you close the book.

I gave this book a 5/5 on Goodreads.

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Never, never give up!

It’s been way too long since the last installment of my “Kpop for Writers” series. All that PitchWars and writing shenanigans eclipsed my music, especially since my iTunes is currently gone. Yeah, crashed computer and all that. But boy, do I have a new ear worm for you guys. This one is not just a scene-inspiration song, it can also be a personal theme song or hype helper, if you will.

In recent years, with some of their main members in the military, including their leader, Leetuk, and vocal back-bone, Yesung (*swoon*), Super Junior has been on a small hiatus. I featured Super Junior (SuJu) in my last post, and I also mentioned that they have several sub-units. Super Junior’s sub-unit “M” (for Mandarin) launched a mini album in China a few days ago and the rest of the world has another week to wait. This 8-member unit is made up of six original Super Junior members, one Chinese singer, and one Canadian-born Chinese/Taiwanese jack-of-all-trades superstar (seriously, Google Henry Lau). Today’s pick is Super Junior M’s latest single “Swing.” No, it’s not Kpop despite 6/8 Korean members. It’s Mandopop! Take a listen.

Their music video for “Swing” came out this weekend, and I’ve been shamelessly listening to it on repeat since I got to work today. This song has some serious energy and hype. By the eighth play-through, I was rocking out in my office and praying my boss wouldn’t pop in. Though my “Kpop for Writers” picks up to this point have contained almost no English lyrics, that’s not actually typical. You’ll notice in this song that one English phrase stands out over everything: “Swing! Never, never give up!”

Coming on the tail of PitchMadness and just before PitMad, I thought this song would be a perfect pick. Not only can you play this while you write your Rocky Balboa montages, but you can also play it as a pick-me-up to press onward after a rejection letter or your name absent from the short-list.

Some of my favorite lyrics from “Swing.”

Hurry and shout with all your might along with the music
Swing never never give up
Swing!
Even with worries, no big deal, you’ll forget it in a second
Hurry and shout with all your might with the music
Swing never never give up

—-

Life sometimes complains with exaggeration
Don’t mind it, with me it will be a perfect show
So relax, be cool
Come with me, happiness is attracted like magic
Open your eyes everyday, there will be new experiences
Be the truest you
—-

Sometimes you’ll lose your way
Your heart will sink to the deepest sea floor
Let this tune give you an escape
Dance with me tonight
Swing my baby, tonight!
Read more: http://www.kpoplyrics.net/super-junior-m-swing-lyrics-english-romanized.html#ixzz2wtHTCdyZ
Follow us: @kpoplyrics_net on Twitter | kpoplyricsnet on Facebook

Plus, no one’s fooling anyone. We’ve all wanted to break out into dance like that at work, too. ^_~

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Spring Cleaning

It’s pretty much Spring, aside from the 10″ of snow we got yesterday in the storm. I’ve been waiting for Spring to break through so I can open all my windows and clean the winter staleness out of my apartment. One of the most dreaded places to clean for nearly any woman is their purse.

Ladies, how long does it take you to find something in your purse? Way too long?

Yesterday, I dug around in my purse for my car key to run an errand. Millions of mental notes confirm that my car key goes in the front pocket, but sometimes it ends up in the back pocket, or worse, inside the center. Well, I didn’t find it, because I stuffed the key in my coat pocket. We have those days.

But what I did find in my purse that day was my cell phone, my work cell phone, my wallet, checkbook, tons of crumpled receipts, doctor appointment cards for dates past and dates future, a sea of change accumulating in the front pocket, my house keys, my chapstick I must forever have on me, a pill case stuffed with meds and Tylenol and Pepto “just in case,” an empty pill jar, a blue pen, a red pen (? I didn’t even know I owned one), my work badge, a hair clip, a flash drive, a pair of earring I forgot I put in there, a hole punch and tape measure that I threw in there from work a few weeks ago that I forgot I had, an empty bottle of hand sanitizer, a bottle of lotion, a coffee card that I can’t use, because I gave up caffeine months ago, and an unfilled prescription.

I remember pulling out the hole punch and going “Why do I have that in here? I’ve been carrying this around for how long?” And then I thought about it as I jingled my purse, the change clanging in the bottom.

When I first started seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist for my shoulder problems two years ago, they both asked me “how heavy is your purse?”  Just last week, I grumbled when my boyfriend handed me his wallet and phone to put in my purse when we went into a restaurant. I’ve been back in physical therapy for a month, so I complained about the extra weight. It made me laugh, as I stood there, holding the hole puncher. I griped about his wallet and phone, and here I was carrying around a frickin hole punch and tape measure for two weeks.

What else didn’t I need? I never use the lotion in my purse, because I have a bottle at home and one at work. I only use my checkbook on Saturday mornings to pay bills. I never look at receipts again after I get them (except groceries, which go in a container on the counter anyway). Earrings? Flash drive? Hair clip? An empty pill jar? Did I really need to take my meds with me? I have Tylenol and my Crohn’s meds in my desk at work, too. And my change jar is right next to the spot I keep my purse at home.

Really, I’m just hurting myself with all this junk. ANd for what reason? Just in case. That’s it. Just in case I have a headache where I can’t get Tylenol. Just in case I need my checkbook. Just in case I need lotion. Truth it, I never do.

What about you? How much junk are you keeping in your MS? Keeping up with #PitchMadness this week, I’m seeing a lot of #TagOrPass comments about book length. Most of which are way too long.

My CP asked me the other week to kill a character. Not, you know, murder, or anything, but to take her completely out of the MS. She’s Miss Oliver, the 28 year-old painting instructor with a sunshine smile and a penchant for recycling junk into jewelry. Miss Oliver is a fully fleshed out, interesting character. Just what we want in our work, right?

“What’s her purpose?” My CP asked me.

“Ummm. She’s the painting teacher in the most important class in the story.”

“Right, but does she lend to the action by doing anything else other than tell the MC where Hazel’s studio is?”

“….. no….”

“Kill her.”

I had a whole scene devoted to her character, introducing her and showing off her personality. Mostly I did it to foil against her assistant, Hazel, a super important character who’s pretty much a jerk and a sourpuss all the time. But I didn’t need it. My MC already created the foil for Hazel, and every Beta reader has long hated him by that point in the story. Exactly what I wanted.

In killing that several-page scene, I not only lessened my word count, but now there’s room to add important details in other places. Or maybe a scene to develop a different character, an important character, that I may not have dwelled enough on.

So why are you carrying certain scenes, characters, or even mini plot-lines in your MS just in case? They might be good, yes, but are they necessary? Probably not. Really think about each piece in your story, and ask yourself if it progresses the action and conflict. Sometimes the unnecessary clogs or hinders the important things from getting completely brought out. You and your MS will both feel lighter.

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Escape less, relate more – a struggle between genres

Every time I see the hashtag  #MSWL, I get excited to see the wondrous things on agent and editor lists. Then, without fail, I read through the wishes and my heart sinks.

Everyone likes Fantasy (well, you know what I mean), and by that I’m including Magical Realism, Urban, Paranormal, and the like. People want to experience a world bigger, more crazy, exciting, and more unique than their own. They want to get away from their perceived boring lives and escape to extraordinary places behind the eyes of characters who can do things we only dream about.

But the market is so over-saturated with Fantasy, specifically YA. Every contest I do is jammed with that genre, but I see less and less of it in the winner’s circle. Even if I thought my MS, Scales on Our Eyes, was unique and captivating (I totally do), my chances of letting it fly into the literary world are small. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.  Writing talent and doing things (like queries) correctly is a leg up on the odds. I’ve seen more “all telling, no showing” #TenQueries than I can even count.

But back to the MS Wish Lists. I don’t see fantasy on the wishlists very often. And when I do, it’s “world building,” or “unique premise.” Perhaps John Green opened a huge pandora’s box of contemporary fiction with TFioS. That’s all I see now – contemporary. I’ve noticed lately that people want to escape less and relate more. They want characters of different ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, uncommon jobs, and real problems. And, holy cow, has NA blown up – I didn’t know NA existed before, and now it’s everywhere.

And here’s the rub.

Before I immersed myself into the literary world, I simply wrote an MS to see if I could, and because I always wanted to complete a novel. I wrote Scales, and, at the time, I was at a very low place in my life. I experienced financial troubles in the midst of a dead-end job during the depressing, post-college struggle into my field career. I lost one of my best friends to cancer while in college, and I struggled to keep my Crohn’s disease in remission since. (Note: I now have a cozy career as a graphic designer, I’m financially stable- or close enough, and I’m in remission – it does get better!)

I remember listening to BIGBANG (Korean pop music, not the show, though the show is great) and realizing that Kpop careers have a short window. 90% of Kpop groups disband within the first 5 years. Don’t quote me on it, but I know it’s a high percentage. I remember thinking that I was the same age as the members of BIGBANG, and I remember thinking “I’m 25 and just waiting for my life to begin. They’re 25, and they don’t have much time left on their shiny fame.” Then a deep sadness struck me, as a new realization hit me: my friend who passed away never made it to 25.

I started a second novel, Quarter Turn, an NA that I mistook as YA for a long time. The synopsis is in my writing page, so I won’t put it here. It encapsulated all of the aforementioned suckiness. You know that “When Will My Life Begin” song form Tangled? Yeah, that. And on top of that, fears of leaving one’s comfort zone, because of illness and financial insecurity, and being a girl who’s not all into that party scenario (alcohol is a no with Crohn’s disease), but totally into World of Warcraft.

Disability, check. Real problems, check. NA Contemporary, check. Now let’s add in the fact that three-quarters  (I can never read ¾ anymore without a British accent – side effects of HP fandom) of the book is set in South Korea, and all but two major characters are Korean. Ethnically diverse setting and characters, check and check. And Kpop is a HUGE market, untapped in the book world. I can’t find fiction on it anywhere. Boom. Unique premise, check.

Everytime I read #MSWL, my brain is a cacophony of “that’s Quarter Turn!” “that’s Quarter Turn!” that’s Quarter Turn,” and sometimes a “Scales could fit that.” It’s heartbreaking when your finished novel doesn’t fit, but your unfinished MS is wishlist goldmine.

Just one more thing, and I’ll tell you why this is getting nuts.

Last November, I slammed out 40k worth of Quarter Turn. I only had a few more chapters left and of course, lots of editing. The last week of NaNo, my hard drive bit the dust. Before it completely melted into oblivion, I shoved all of my Scrivener files onto my flash drive and pushed my MS into iCloud.

But now, I don’t have a Mac to check my Scrivener files, which were only notecards, anyway. But I don’t have the names of new characters anywhere else or my thoughts and breakthroughs I had during NaNo. And my MS that I sent to iCloud? Corrupted. Yep. Gone. 40k+ words gone into oblivion with my hard drive.

At the same time, I got into PitchWars with Scales. And since the end of Pitchwars, Scales has come a long way with the new edits, including a new theme (which was there all along, hidden under unnecessary scenes and contrived character interactions), and it’s more polished than I could ever imagine it becoming.

Guys, I’m really struggling here. Don’t get me wrong. I love Scales. It’s my 3-year baby. I’ve poured countless hours into that MS and those characters. But my heart is in Quarter Turn, and I feel that what agents and contests and readers are looking for right now is diverse, plausible characters in Contemporary fiction.

Do I continue the push on Scales, though the edits seem endless and the thirst for the Fantasy genre is fading? Do I start over on Quarter Turn, a genre that’s blazingly on fire? I know ideas are subjective. I know writing for trends is like trying to catch water with a slotted spoon. Regardless, I am torn between the needs of both much-loved MSs.

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