Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blog Chain: All About The "Where"

So. Y'all know what time it is, right? Blog chain time!!! :) For this round, the awesome Alyson submitted the following questions:

 How important is setting when crafting a story? How do you choose where your stories take place? How do you research setting? Do you have to have been somewhere in order to write about it? What are some memorable settings from books you've read?

Ah, setting. Sometimes I love you. Sometimes I want to punch you in the face. 

When it comes to my projects, setting does play a key role, but the level of importance varies. In my current WIP, setting is hugely important, especially considering it's a high fantasy. It's all about the details and making sure they make sense for both the characters and what they must do within the story. As for choosing my WIP's setting, it actually came to me a long time after I first thought of the premise/characters (as is often the case). I'm not a fan of working setting into my first drafts. It takes me several drafts to flesh out the world, its rules, and how it contributes to the main character's dilemma. But I do have an idea of what the world looks/feels like, though. I have to. My WIP's setting is most definitely the only setting where my story can work. There's no taking the characters out and putting them somewhere else, which is what tells me I'm doing my job right. 

In terms of research, it depends on the project. For this one, I researched some stuff prior to drafting, and I'm still researching other stuff while editing. AND I still have lots more stuff to research. *sigh* Thankfully, I enjoy reading about elements that I'll incorporate into my story. It's the actual incorporating that makes me break out in hives. :)

One of the most memorable settings as a reader is, of course, Hogwarts. Best. Setting. EVER. My desire to trade places with Harry in the Great Hall hasn't died yet. I don't think it ever will. Also, I love THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater, and I thought the island of Thisby rocked (November cakes, people. THEY HAVE NOVEMBER CAKES OVER THERE). But I really got a kick out of reading about Paris in Stephanie Perkins's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. I've been to Paris, so I got to relive everything through Anna's eyes, and it was SO much fun. Another awesome setting was Washokey, Wyoming, in Kirsten Hubbard's stunning LIKE MANDARIN. Not a big fan of deserts, but the one in Hubbard's debut packed such a punch for me, as did her writing. *swoons*

So. That's my take on Alyson's super awesome topic! Make sure you go check out Cole's post, and stay tuned for Margie's!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Books You Should Read: SANCTUM By Sarah Fine

“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

Why You Should Read It:

This is the kind of book I've been waiting for. I'm a huge fan of stories that deal with non-traditional versions of Hell, as well as with teens who struggle and hurt and make fun of things a lot. Lela Santos is that teen, and SANCTUM is that story. From page one, I couldn't stop smiling. No, the opening isn't a cheerful one. Lela and Nadia don't have an upbeat first meeting. But the way Lela's protective side comes out when Nadia needs it is refreshing. Any time a girl can help another girl out, especially in YA fiction, I just throw a fist pump in the air. Lela and Nadia's friendship has an origin, a reason, and of course, a whole lot of turbulence. 

One of my absolute favorite things about Fine's novel was Nadia. Yes, Lela is the protagonist and she's perfectly awesome in her own right, but I couldn't stop myself from wanting to know more about Nadia. She's rich, beautiful, and the sweetest popular girl in Lela's school. But she's unhappy. I applaud Fine for not writing the stereotypical "OMG I'm wealthy but OMG I hate my life" kind of character. I thought Nadia's feelings regarding herself not only rang true outside the story, but also made the ending so much more tricksy to see coming. I genuinely didn't know whether Lela was going to pull off saving her best friend from the fate she chose. And at times, I was even upset that Lela felt it was her duty to get Nadia out of what lies behind the Suicide Gates. Yes, she's in trouble, and she had no idea she'd face that trouble after committing suicide, but I believed Nadia's journey was too long for Lela to come in and shorten it. I love Lela for wanting to rid her BFF of her pain and rescue her from danger, but I also think Nadia needed to be the one to grapple with what that pain and that danger meant to her. By the end of the novel, I smiled even more at how Fine handled this part of the story.

Guess what I'm going to rave about now? No, seriously. Just guess. If you guessed that it starts with 'M' and ends with 'alachi,' you are CORRECT. Sweet mother of Wookies, I heart Malachi. HEART. Whenever an author can combine badassness with a soft, gooey center, I am sold. The minute Lela meets Malachi, it... doesn't go smoothly. Like, not even a little bit. Their scenes together are brimming with tension, but it's more than the "OMG you're so hot let's make out even though you're a total stranger with weapons" kind. Like Lela, Malachi has insecurities. They both have big hearts, even though their appearances don't suggest it. She's very much a teen from today, whereas he's an older soul (the backstory explaining why this is so was one of the most compelling backstories of any character ever). The more Lela got to know Malachi, the harder she fell (as did I). He inspires a sense of comfort while also managing to scare the crap out of me. I wouldn't want to fight him, but he can train me any time he wants. *cough* And as a final thought, all I will say about the ending is that I almost had a FOR SERIOUS heart attack in regards to Lela and Nadia, but mostly Malachi. It's the kind of ending I'm going to think about for a really long time, both as a reader and fan of this series, and as an author absorbing as much writing tips from those better than me. 

*points at Fine*

Go pick up your copy of SANCTUM, which is available for sale now! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Open Letter To Breaking Dawn Part 2

Dear Breaking Dawn Part 2,

I saw you this past Friday. As usual, my excitement level was mild. I went in knowing exactly what was going to happen, as I've read all the books. There was nothing about you that was going to surprise me. Yes, film critics and Stephenie Meyer herself had said there was a twist ending. But I was all HAHAHAHA YOUR TWIST DOESN'T SCARE ME. Besides, half-vampire baby getting ripped from Bella's womb? How can you possibly top THAT?

I had seen the trailer, of course, and I knew they'd added a fight sequence to make the movie more exciting than the book (where your characters spend A LOT of time talking about possibly fighting). Not even this was enough to give me goosebumps. "It doesn't matter that they've added a fight sequence," I said. "It'll just be a whole bunch of vampires hitting each other. Then they'll be all benevolent and call it quits because what is the use of war when we can talk it out."
Then you did it, Breaking Dawn Part 2. You surprised me. 


The theater was full of teen girls, Breaking Dawn Part 2. Do you have any idea what kind of badass ability teen girls possess? They can shriek really, really, really, really, really loudly when they're pissed off. Or sad. Or both. I am not a teen girl, but my gift has traveled with me into adulthood. Much to my father's dismay (yes, my father saw the movie with me. I know--I can't believe it, either).

What I'm trying to say is this: I almost suffered heart failure. The world almost lost one of its most deranged inhabitants. You, Breaking Dawn Part 2, gave me the joy of belonging to an audience with so. Much. Passion. The twist was... perfect. The ending was... sweet. And fitting. I didn't cry, obvi. I don't cry over anything other than Harry Potter, The Walking Dead, and when Frodo totally bails on Sam to get played by Gollum in The Return of the King. But I did feel the years in the franchise. I felt each and every movie, each and every book. And this might sound weird, but I wasn't as happy for Bella finally finding her place in the world. 

I was happiest for someone else.

This dude tried to kill himself once. This dude spent a bazillion years hating himself, his existence, and feeling empty. But on that last page, in that last scene, this dude's a man. A dead one, but still. 

Purpose, Breaking Dawn Part 2. You were all about giving your characters purpose. So thanks for that. And thanks for making me scream at the movies again (hadn't done that in a while). 

Kind regards,

The Sort Of Fan You Almost Killed.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blog Chain: Writing Goals & NaNoWriMo

This post is a *bit* late, and I apologize to my fellow blog chain buddies!! I am sick (YET AGAIN). Seriously. It's like this stupid virus thinks I'm its type or something.

Anyway. Here's what the awesome Sandra asks in this round:

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), writers attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Do you set daily writing goals for yourself, either a certain word count or time spent on writing? Does this include other writing-related activities, like research, plotting, or revising? Do you focus on reaching the end of the journey (such as finishing your current project), or do you enjoy the writing process along the way?

I've yet to participate in NaNoWrimo, for starters, but I'm really looking forward to taking a stab at it in the future. But even though I'm not a NaNoer, I do have writing goals for this month of November. You see, I'm currently in revision mode (although this stupid virus has put me WAY behind). Draft 2 of my WIP is coming along sloooooooowly, and I'm afraid I won't meet my self-imposed deadline of having it finished by January 1st. My plan was to set it aside for two weeks after the 1st, then start Draft 3. 


Not gonna happen.

As for daily word counts, I don't set them. Instead, I set chapter counts. Like, one day I intend on revising one chapter. The next day, I'll aim for two. And so on. When I'm drafting, it's the same thing. I usually aim for cranking out an entire chapter, maybe two if I'm feeling awesome. I tend to write 1,000-word chapters, though, but there are exceptions. 

Research and plotting differ from project to project. For instance, I wrote a whole outline for this WIP, as well as researched some major stuff, but I'm still changing the outline as I revise, and I still have a lot of research to do. I've worked on other manuscripts blindly, too--I jump in and leave all that researching and outlining for Draft 2 and onward. I'm a tricksy one when it comes to this. 

I prefer revisions to drafting any day of the week. So when I'm drafting, I focus on just wrapping up the thing. Having said that, I do love the rush of having a story in my head and heart, then sitting down to give it life on the page. I think it's the excitement before I sit down to draft that I enjoy more than the actual drafting. Revisions are better for me 'cause I get to mess with something that's already there. It's a map of sorts. An ugly, WTF-was-I-thinking map, but still. :) 

Thank you to Sandra for a great topic! Make sure you check out Cole's post, then go read what Margie had to say. 

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Books You Should Read: MEANT TO BE By Lauren Morrill

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

Why You Should Read It:

OMG, y'all. I can't remember the first time I laughed so hard while reading a first page. Okay. Scratch that--it was while reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I absolutely adore Perkins' work. And I definitely see a likeness to her in Morrill's debut. Foreign city (London). Awkward and passionate main character (Julia). Unlikely love interest (read the book and find out!). Chaos and hilarity (the search for the unknown guy who's texting Julia). You have the recipe for a romantic comedy that feels fresh regardless of its adherence to the genre's conventions. 

My favorite thing about Meant To Be was Julia's voice. She's almost as paranoid as I am, y'all. Without order in her life, Julia is pretty much a nervous wreck. She has no problem following rules and sticking to a strict schedule. But paired with Jason, the dude who keeps calling her "Book Licker" due to her passion for reading, spontaneity isn't far from the horizon. Together, these two take detours across London that force them to show their hidden vulnerabilities and strengths. Their friendship takes just a few days to develop, but it didn't feel rushed to me. Predictable, yes, but different at the same time. I kept rooting for Julia to embrace the randomness life has to offer while still staying true to herself. And in the end, she didn't disappoint me. Not even a little bit. *fist pump*

Another thing I loved? LONDON. Because obviously. I've never been to England, but it's on my to-do list. I couldn't tear my eyes away from Julia's descriptions of everything she saw, tasted, and touched. The trip to Stratford-upon-Avon was particularly exciting for both me and Julia, seeing as it's where Shakespeare grew up. *sigh* Also, Julia's love of The Beatles made the English vibe stronger without feeling like overkill. She's the perfect protagonist for this story set in one of the world's most amazeballs places. 

If you like your romance with a heavy dose of sweetness and WTF laughs, or if you like stories set in Europe, Lauren Morrill's Meant To Be is for you. Make sure you get your copy when it goes on sale November 13, 2012!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

NEW PRIDE Release Day Blitz!

So. Today's post is a special one, folks. I'm hosting author/blogging buddy Laura Diamond and the release of her novella, New Pride

New town, new love, new terror...

Now I'll leave the talking (or writing, I should say) to the awesome Laura! Take it away!

It’s here! My prequel novelette, NEW PRIDE, releases today. I’m SO stoked for it to run wild in the world.

NEW PRIDE was born from my upcoming novel, SHIFTING PRIDE (coming December 7, 2012!). In SHIFTING PRIDE, the main character, Nickie, searches for her missing father, Richard…and NEW PRIDE is all about Richard’s journey to independence and new love.


A shape-shifter without a pride, Richard Leone strikes a tenuous friendship with power hungry, Derek, from an unstable, rogue group. On a hunt in the forest, they encounter a gorgeous brunette, Molly, partying with friends around a campfire. Derek tells the rogue pride and they bristle at humans trespassing on their territory. Richard risks life and tail to protect his secret and the humans—especially Molly—while simultaneously trying to win her heart. When Molly is kidnapped, he faces taking on the rogue pride alone, but quickly finds he has to put his trust in Derek, not only to rescue his new love, but to ensure the rogue pride doesn’t wreak havoc on his new town.

Buy New Pride on Amazon by clicking here!!

***A bonus:***

I will be giving away copies of NEW PRIDE to several lucky fans! Please click the link below and fill out the form on my fan page to enter.


Author Laura Diamond:

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, horror, and middle grade. Her short story, City of Lights and Stone, is in the Day of Demons anthology by Anachron Press (April 2012) and her apocalyptic short story, Begging Death is in the Carnage: Life After the End anthology by Sirens Call Publication (coming late 2012). Her debut young adult paranormal romance, SHIFTING PRIDE, is coming December 2012 by Etopia Press. When she's not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond--Lucid Dreamer , and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion. She is also full-time staff member for her four cats and a Pembroke Corgi named Katie. 

How to find Laura Diamond on the web:

A huge thanks to Laura for stopping by, and CONGRATS on her release day!!! Make sure you get your e-copy of New Pride, which is on sale now!