Friday, February 27, 2015

Writing Tip #7: Endings

When I start off a writing session I normally check the #amwriting hash-tag on Twitter, if it's trending. Most of the time it is and I take a few minutes to look at the pictures which usually include a cool writing quote. The #amwriting tag is also notorious for Reddit questions about writing and one of said questions is what inspired this post.

A question most (if not all) authors ask is "how should I end this?" Normally it's not so much a plot problem but more of a problem of "Should this be a happy ending or a dark ending?" They've gone through the novel exploring their main theme, put their character through big changes, and now they have to chose whether to make it a nice, neat, happy little bow, or a complex, kind of messy, dark bow.

The other issue with this question is happy endings might be so cliché and we're supposed to avoid those. But, a dark ending can be as cliché and again, we're supposed to avoid those.

The problem is some people prefer a happy ending and some people prefer a dark ending. Writer's can't please everyone no matter how much we try so there will be people who are disappointed no matter what ending we give our novel.

Ultimately, there is no definite answer to "how should I end this?" or "Should this be a happy ending or a dark ending?" Not only will the answer be different because of plot, it'll be different for you as a writer.

Ending a novel doesn't rely on what will make other people happy. Ending a novel is answering the question of "is this resolved?" A novel being resolved depends on a lot of different concepts and sometimes isn't as easy as killing off the bad guy.

The end of the novel should resolve the major issues through the novel. Whether this resolution is benevolent or not is ultimately up to the rest of the story. Yes, the ending relies entirely on the beginning and middle bits.

So if you have a dark, depressing story about an unaccepted character discovering who they are and fighting against the people keeping them down, maybe you'll want to go for a bittersweet ending. The character finds happiness but maybe isn't 100% accepted. Maybe the character dies. Maybe they find The One and live happily ever after.

Confusing right? Again, it's those middle bits which determines how happy or sad your novel is going to be. Let's take The Walking Dead. It's a post-apocalyptic world riddled with zombies where the characters are dying while trying to survive. Is it going to end with the characters in a nice happy field surrounded by friends, food, and having cured the zombies? Nope. It wouldn't fit the death, destruction and generally dark themes of the rest of the show. The ending is going to be horribly dark, it might be bittersweet but in no way is it going to make you smile happily and be glad everything turned out okay.

Let's be honest: it's the books with the bitter-sweet or depressing endings that stick with you the rest of your life. If everything is tied neatly into a bow you smile, put the book down and everything's right with the world. If there's a cliff hanger or the slightest chance darkness will come again, you're left wondering about the book, the characters, and the plot.

But, some novels (or series) deserve the happy ending. The characters have gone through so much that giving them anything but a happy ending will leave readers horribly depressed and possibly angry at you. Will the ending be completely happy? Not really because the reader will still be thinking about what the character had to do to get to that happy ending. It's like the ending of The Hunger Games. *SPOILER ALERT* Sure the Games are over and Katniss ends up with Peeta and they have kids. But, Prim died, Katniss was horribly burned, she lost her best friend, and caused a rebellion. *END SPOILER ALERT* It's great she has a happy life now but the Hell she had to go through to get it makes the ending bittersweet. She deserved the ending and if she had died in the end then the book would have made a lot of people disgusted with the novel itself.

It's would be like trying to force a dark ending on something like Disney's The Little Mermaid: you can't do it or it would ruin the story. If your story is generally happy then you have a happy ending. If it's generally dark or disturbing, your ending becomes bitter-sweet or dark. You can't have a book full of puppies, kittens, rainbows, and unicorns where everyone dies. Well, okay, you could but they would have to be flesh eating puppies and kittens with murderous unicorns and acidic rainbows.

Basically: your ending has to match up with the rest of the novel. Don't worry about it being cliché because in the end, most everything can be a cliché. Don't worry about making your readers happy (unless your readers are kids under 10 and you're writing for Disney) and write an ending THAT SUITS YOUR NOVEL. Don't try to change the tone so drastically it's like two different people wrote it.

Your ending, like everything else in your novel, has to make sense for the characters, the plot, setting, and everything else.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rage, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2015 Novel Series #2: Zombies 2

Second book in the year and because I'm fun: sequel (second book) of a prior book. Ha.

Technically this book wasn't supposed to exist. I wrote Zombies 1 to get over the fact I would be killing a main character in the last book of the Detective Series called The Tattooed Man. I took all the characters, main and minor, then made zombies take over Woodborough. One main character and one minor character survived the initial strike and lasted to the end of Zombies 1. Apparently my brain couldn't leave it at that so Zombies 2 came along.

The problem with zombie fiction is you never have to end it. You can always add more characters, kill off a bunch, throw more zombies at your characters, keep giving them hope then ripping it away, and write about a few choice mains for years. Zombie fiction either ends on a hopeful note or everyone really does die.

Mine ended on a hopeful note. The same main and minor who survived in Zombies 1 survive in this one along with two other people who they found along the way. I make it glaringly obvious who survives because of the point of view switching but that's okay. You don't know how they survive.

I am going to give a bunch of memorable lines as I normally do but I'm going to try and stay away from the major and minor character who lived. Why? Cuz then you know who died in Zombies 1 and that's no fun. Onwards.

Genre: Alternate Reality/End of the World/Zombies

Word Count: 95,745

Prompt: The original prompt was thanks to Senses. How Zombies 1 ended made this book pop up.

Main Characters: The main and minor who survived from Zombies 1, Lisa, Bill, and Janie.

Minor Characters of Note: Allison, Caleb, Hanson, Smith, Randy, Hope, Heather, Helen, Jason, Kennedy Hobstine, and Michelle

Summation: More zombies. Nuff said.

High Points: Finally writing THE END and putting a nice end to all these characters lives both in their real world and in the alternate dimension.

Low Points: Only five of the main and minor characters mentioned make it to the end. Yes, I killed 11 named people.

The World: Ours but with zombies.

Memorable Lines:

Sometime later he spotted an off-white cement barricade ten or more feet tall. It was completely smooth and there were spikes on top of it spaced less than a foot apart. He (minor character who lived) slowed his bike to watch as the wall continued.
The more he travelled along the barricade the more he began to realize there would be no shelter beyond the walls. The forest behind was burning and the smell was stifling. He shifted to the other side of the road and saw plumbs of smoke rising up into the sky. Whoever the arsonists were they had decided to take out anything standing even if people had holed up safely inside.
It was so ridiculous, greedy, and insane, all he could do for a few moments was watch the forest burn. He started pedaling again and came to a smashed in steel gate that was on fire. It looked like a tank had driven through and he shook his head. Someone had built a life beyond those walls and because of some idiots that life was destroyed. It wasn't fair. (This is significant because at the exact moment, the MC who lived, (and the one minor character is looking for) is behind those burning walls with the other major characters who hadn't died yet. Cool huh? ;) )

McGregor said...
McGregor had been here. He spotted other names he knew: James, Mia, Michael, Sable, David, and Andy. They had been here. He sat down on the bed (in the prison the major characters set up camp in the last book, yes before the house above) and wondered what had happened. Something had exploded and they had to leave, that was obvious. There was mention of a truck but the truck wasn't here. They must have gotten out. He didn't know who had gotten out or where they were now.

(Aw, there's a really funny line here that I can't use because it reveals the name of the minor character who made it to book 2. *pouts*)

"C'mon, he's just a kid--" The man started.
"A kid with no skills who'll become someone we'll have to protect and feed but get nothing from him in return," the buff woman said.
"Just because he has a dick and you like dick doesn't mean we can bring him along," the Spanish woman said.

"Hi, I'm Chantelle. You folks want a lift? We've got food, water, and other supplies in the truck. Randy drives and his wife Hope switches out with him. There are also their daughters Helen and Heather who are the twins, and Jason their son. Who are you?" (Now let's look over the names up there. You don't see Chantelle do you? Now, let's think about which of the major characters in the Detective Series is known for breaking and switching identities. That's right. You get a prize if you're gasping and yelling at your screen right now. ;) )

"Do I dare ask how many zombies you've actually killed?" Hope questioned.
"I stopped counting after 1000. You did find me after I beat back a hoard of a few dozen," (Hehe)

"Grocery store and it looks untouched,"
"Probably because of the couple dozen zombies in the front of it," Randy said.
...
"You're not really thinking of going down there?" Hope asked.
"Of course I am. Do you know what happens when 18 wheeler meets zombie?" (Pancake.)

"How you holding up, kid?" Lisa questioned.
"I, it wasn't, I killed it," He (minor character who lived) said.
"It was dead all ready," Lisa told him. (It was also his first kill.)

"She turned while we were still fighting those things then attacked me. She bit my leg but I killed her. Then I cut my own leg off and set the stump on fire to cauterize the wound,"

"Taking a shit is no excuse to go out alone,"

"It might look like crap now but we can't give up. We gotta go for as long as we can because maybe we'll end up beating all these things. When that's done there are going to have to be people around who can rebuild. We can't give up," Bill said.

"Never assume because it gets you killed. That's especially true now,"

"Let's go, kids," Lisa said.
He was sure she would be grinning under her riot helmet. He heard Caleb scoff.
"I'm 24," Caleb said.
"I'm 32. You're a kid. Now, no talking unless absolutely necessary," Lisa said.

*Employee only door thunking in a candle shop*
"Zombie?" Bill asked.
"Naw, probably an employee wanted to help,"

"Do you mind if I ask you things?" Bill questioned.
He tried to hold back the remark but it came out.
"You just did."

"I guess some people think dying is better than living without a limb. He drank the bleach and left us with the mess. Well, let's clean up."

"Where are we going?"
"I don't know,"
"What?"
"I don't know. I'm fresh out of serial killer's homes with massive cement gates."


"If anyone can hear this: come to New York. We're set up against the hoards and the entire state is a zombie free zone."
"Think this is like the whole Terminus thing in The Walking Dead?"

She placed her hand on the key and turned it. The van (which they'd been using for a few days now to get to NY) sputtered but turned over after a moment. She took it out of park and hit the gas. The van moved ten feet then died.
She blinked then tried the key again. The van sputtered, jolted forward two feet then stopped. It made a weird creaking sound as something gave out and it sunk. She turned the key to turn the van off (not that it mattered) and sat in the driver's seat for a few minutes. No one spoke.
...
"Sixty miles, that's all. Comfortable walking pace will get us there (NY) in two days, probably less. We can handle two more days, right?" she questioned.
(Yes, yes they can...so we think. ;) )

"The only reason I'm here is because of my friends. They're the ones who deserve the credit and they're going to get it."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: The Long Wait For Tomorrow

Why did I pick it up?

There's this bookstore called The Book Depot that has a semi-annual book sale. Basically you pay $35 and you get a big box you can fill with as many books as you possibly can. I've gone once and I got 50 books for $35 and tax. This book was one of those books and to be honest by the time I got to the sale, there wasn't much left. The cover of The Long Wait for Tomorrow was bright enough that it caught my eye among all these other books sprawled over the table. I did like the concept so I stuck it in the box.

The Review of The Long Wait For Tomorrow by Joaquin Dorfman:

The concept: Kelly, star-football player and all around popular kid suddenly isn't Kelly anymore. The story isn't told from Kelly's perspective though, but instead from the sole perspective of his best friend Patrick who is part of the school's marching band.

For anyone who's read the typical High School cliché books you'll know marching band member + star football player DO NOT MIX. But in this instance Kelly and Patrick became friends through a car crash and remained friends even when Kelly became interested in sports and Patrick in music. Patrick is entirely aware if it wasn't for Kelly, he'd be one of the ones the football players pick on.

The other concept? Oh, time travel. You see, Kelly stops being the Kelly everyone knows because the Kelly everyone knows disappears when the Kelly from the future takes over teen Kelly's body.

All future-Kelly thinks is he's asleep in a mental institution. He can't remember why he's in the mental institution or what happened to Patrick and Kelly's girlfriend Jenna. He does remember something big is about to go down because of the school outcast. What it is, he can't remember and spends his time trying to figure out the mystery behind what might blow up.

Turns out the blow up happens anyway as Kelly was supposed to remember. There is a huge plot twist in there but obviously I'm not going to reveal it. That would be mean.

The book itself wasn't as stereotypical as some people might make it out to be. Yes there was the popular cheerleader, band-kid shadow, nerdy kid, football player, etc but you know, there are certain truths in some stereotypes or they wouldn't be stereotypes.

It was an entertaining read, especially the whole time travel concept. Would it have been better had there been input from Kelly directly? Maybe. I can see why Kelly's train of thought wasn't revealed as the mystery of a few points was able to be hidden since we're stuck in Patrick's point of view. But I would have liked to see the past through Kelly's eyes at least once.

Would I recommend it to others? Only those who are okay with time travel as shown through the eyes of young adults. It's a good read, light, funny, and sometimes serious and thought-provoking but it's not a book meant for everyone.

It can get confusing, especially when the concept behind the time travel is explained and you really don't know what's going on until you're a few chapters into the book. In the end, unless you're especially observant, you don't know why Kelly came back in the first place.

Would I read it again?

Possibly, if only to understand the concepts of its time travel a bit better.

The Negatives:

The time travel isn't really explained in simple terms. It's all theory and no one's really sure what that theory is. Sometimes the characters are a bit inconsistent and Patrick's "angels" are a little off-putting and strange.

A lot of people say the characters are too stereotypical and I repeat: uh, hello? Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. You won't often find a star high school football player who has the soul of an artist and wants to paint rather than play football. Will you find the star football player making fun of the nerds and dating the cheerleader? Yep. At least 75% of the time, too.

Other people have been thrown off by simultaneous plots but I find it makes things interesting. And really the only plots were Kelly's time travel, Patrick's acceptance into the school of his choice, their parents, the nerd's situation, and Jenna...okay, maybe there was a lot going on but I like books with a bit going on.

Final Review: 4/5 because the lack of explanation on the time travel and those danged angels.

Until next time: comments, questions, rants and the like can be directed to the comments.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reviewing another Writer's Work

You know how I said a while ago (and probably multiple times since then) I draw inspiration from the world around me? Yeah? Cool. *gives cookie*

Story time! I'm on Twitter in the #amwriting tag when I stumbled upon a blog post. I love reading blogs about writing because they give a lot of info and hey, I'm a writer so they're pertinent.

Can I remember where I found the blog post or who wrote it? Nope. I'm not good with names or remembering important dates. The only dates I know are the birthdays of my two best friends, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and my cat's birthday (old and new cat). That's it. I vaguely recall various cousins' and aunts' birthdays but I didn't have a lot of contact with them for a few years so...ANYWAY.

I remember the content of this blog post because it made me feel bad. In case you didn't know, notice, or realize: I've started up a Book Review section for this blog. The review section happened for two reasons: 1) I have a library of over 1,500 books, most of which I've read or am planning to re-read because they're fun and I love them. 2) I've become a vicarious reader again since I have regulated breaks at work (again) and need something to do during those breaks.

The blog post in question was about writers who review books and why it's not a good idea to review a fellow writer's books. Something along the lines of "you shouldn't do both because it's bad for your writing" was said. All the commenters agreed with it and I considered taking down the review portion of this blog.

Then I thought: wait a second. The writer of this blog also said something along the lines of "remember, reading can take up to 12 hours a week of your time which could be spent writing. If you're reviewing what you're reading you're also taking time out to write the review."

I started giggling and decided to keep the review section. Why did I giggle? First off, in order to be worth anything as a writer you have to read. I'm not talking about flipping through a magazine, reading your own work, or reading the subtitles of anime (GUILTY). I'm talking about sitting down with another author's work and ploughing through it for those 12 (or more) hours a week. I'm talking about picking up books in genres you might not even like and reading them as a kind of guilty pleasure. I'm talking about reading at least a book a month, if not more.

Why?

The more you read, the better your writing will become. It's like learning through osmosis. You innately pick up on what works and what doesn't. You figure out how to form appealing sentences and learn how to set up scenes. You discover how to create engaging dialogue and you know what words you shouldn't be using. You learn HOW TO WRITE if you read.

Secondly, in order to be a writer you have to write. I'm not talking about sitting down in front of your computer and pumping out story after story (sheepishly raises hand). I'm talking about writing a journal, writing a blog, or writing a review. See, when you're reading then reviewing what you're reading you're doing two things: you're learning how to write and you're writing something. Double bonus.

The blog in question also said something to the effect of: "if you give someone a negative review then they won't give you a positive review and you'll look bad as an author who reviews other people's reviews negatively." Mmm, yeah, I can understand that. I've given out some lukewarm reviews all ready.

I explained why I gave those reviews though. I didn't connect with the main, I thought the main was stupid, I though the plot had too many holes (then pointed them out), or I thought the novel had too much going on. I also gave a glowing review to a book a lot of people didn't like.

I didn't write a direct message to the author. I didn't post the review on the amazon.com or goodreads.com page for the author. I posted it in my review section on a blog that doesn't get a lot of hits. The chances of the author seeing said review is pretty much nill BUT even if the chances weren't nill I'd still write the same review, and yes, have it public.

Why?

Because an author can improve if they get a review with constructive criticism. Feel free to give me constructive criticism. I've got some old (and free) novellas out there so pick one up and have at it. I will warn you: I know what's wrong with them and they will be re-worked and re-published. I got too excited about the whole self-publishing idea and went a little crazy, thus releasing a few stories too soon. I'll admit it: I done goofed.


You know why else it's okay to write reviews? Other authors do it and you will be asked what you think of the new biggest sensation if you become a well-known author. For example:

"I read Twilight and didn't feel any urge to go on with her. I read The Hunger Games and didn't feel an urge to go on. It's not unlike [my novel] The Running Man, which is about a game where people are actually killed and people are watching: a satire on reality TV. I read Fifty Shades of Grey and felt no urge to go on. They call it mommy porn, but it's not really mommy porn. It is highly charged, sexually driven fiction for women who are, say, between 18 and 25." - Stephen King

Then there is Anne Rice on Stephanie Meyer. We have GRR Martin on Tolkien. And we all know about the Stephen King and James Patterson thing. If not, Google is your friend. *winks*

Even if you don't want to be one of those authors who reviews another author's work you will have to eventually. You can't remain silent on someone in the world of writing, especially if you want to be as popular as any of the above mentioned. You will be asked what you think of other popular writers and you better make danged sure you don't come across as vapid by saying simply "Oh they're great!" or "oh they suck!"

Every writer/author will get the question "Who (what authors) inspires you?" and you are going to have to answer. You won't have to give a review right then of their most recent release but you may be asked "Why do they inspire you?" and again you better be able to vocalize the good and bad of that author.

So I say: read and review. Make it public. Let people know what you think and what you expect from a novel. You'll have to do it eventually and you may as well get used to it. Besides, we're writers. We're supposed to have tough skin and a writer has to learn to handle a 1 to 3-star constructive review from a fellow author. Why? Because every author will receive 1 to 3-star reviews from readers that might not be so constructive.

We shouldn't fear or hold back from reviewing fellow authors because of the need to "be nice." Do you think editors hold back because they have to be nice? Do you think non-writer readers are going to hold back because they have to be nice?

BUT, we should be constructive. Don't say someone sucks because you don't like them. Write the review with the reader in mind, in fact: write the review as if you're not a writer. Be the reader. Try to point out some positives and if you absolutely despised the book and can't think of one positive: don't do the review.

Contradictory, I know, but it's better not to say a horrible word than to put your foot in your mouth and have the author you're reviewing say as many horrible things about your work because you started it. Remember, these are YOUR FELLOWS. As a friend of mine on Twitter says: "Be honest but don't be a dick. Recall and consider this is your network, too." Also remember that you and your fellows are not going to improve if all you get are glowing 5-star reviews.


We definitely shouldn't stop reviewing (or reading) fellow authors because it cuts into our writing time. Again, to be a good writer you have to read. You have to write. The more you do of both the more of a chance you get to become better.

So to the fellow blogger who said writing reviews is a bad idea: I respectfully disagree. I also understand you have your reasons for thinking the way you do and hey, you're entitled to believe as you do. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind but I am giving my opinion on the concept. We'd be nothing without personal opinions.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Author note: I found the blog I mentioned thanks to Jane Hunt, fellow writer who believes reviewing is fine for authors. The original blog was by Kristen Lamb. Yes, I could have changed the above to reflect both but I decided not to mainly because I believe it would have taken away from the post itself...and it's my birthday so there. :P

Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing Tip #6: Words to be Wary Of

This writing tip isn't so much about the process behind writing but focuses more on the actual writing. You should be aware of what you're writing at all times. I'm not talking only story-wise, nope, I'm also talking about the words you're using.

It's difficult to master the ability to tell a story while consciously making sure you're not over-using words or using one of the words/types of words I'm going to list too much. Even though I've been writing for about two decades now I still stumble and accidently use one too many of the words below and it ends up weakening my writing.

Of course, the easiest way to master the ability to tell a story while consciously watching your word choice is to keep writing. Write every day even if you have nothing to write about or you think your story is crud. Keep writing. Then go back and edit. Then rewrite. Write some more. Read some more. Edit some more...you get the picture, right?

For those who know what National Novel Writing Month is: REMOVING SOME OF THESE WORDS WILL KILL YOUR WORD COUNT. Some of the words listed below are meant to make your writing concise which is kind of the opposite of NaNo's goal of getting 50K in a month. It is possible to avoid these words and still hit the 50K. I've done it, not as well as I do when it's a non-NaNo month, but it can be done. There are a few words if taken out and replaced properly can add more words to your novel. You have to know how to use them.

Anyway, here are some words you should either outright avoid or tone down as much as possible:

That

"The fact that," "she said that," "that was going to be difficult,": take out "that" and your sentence will become tighter. If the sentence sounds awkward as in the case of "that was going to be awkward" replace your "that" with what was going to be awkward. "That" can easily become a lazy descriptor for something you should be explaining in detail. If there is no detail attached to your "that" then remove it.

There are few exceptions to the rule, mainly in the case of dialogue. Most people use "that" without even realizing and it would sound odd if there wasn't at least one "that" in your characters speech patterns. Most people would say "Well that's weird" instead of saying "It's weird the sky is purple today."

Another exception? "As typical of theaters there was a sign atop the awning that showed what was playing." But, you could change the sentence to say "As typical of theaters there was a sign atop the awing showing what was playing." It depends on your narrator's personality and what your reader has come to expect from said narrator. Generally: if it's not needed: don't use it.

Very

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be as it should be." - Mark Twain.

One hundred percent accurate. Unless used in dialogue YOU SHOULD NEVER USE VERY. If you want to say an object or person is "very" something, there is ALWAYS a better word. You are not very hungry: you're ravenous. You're not very angry: you're enraged. You're not very scared: you're terrified. A person isn't very small: they're tiny. They're not very strong: they're unyielding. They're not very tall: they're massive or immense.

For more ways to avoid very, here's a chart:

These words are MUCH stronger and more descriptive than "very something"
Again, the only exception to including "very" in your writing is if your character is saying it. Even then, I'm sure your characters can come up with a better word as well.

Really

Is exactly like "very:" AVOID AT ALL COSTS UNLESS IN DIALOGUE. The other exception? You're writing in first person PoV and your character is "normal" as in someone who thinks casually using easy to understand words, as most people do.

Just and Only

Same as all of the above: it's unnecessary and unless in dialogue it's not needed. Remember, even in dialogue using "very," "really," "just," and "only" all the time make for annoying dialogue. Yes, there are instances when people will use "just" in dialogue: "Oh the place you're looking for is just around the corner" and it's fine to use "just" in this way. But do realize you can say: "Oh the place you're looking for is right around the corner." And please don't say "the only thing wrong with..." because you're breaking two rules. Say what was wrong with whatever is wrong. BE DESCRIPTIVE.

It again depends on your character as well as your audience.

In order

As in "I did the autopsy in order to find out when he died." Replace with "I did the autopsy to find out when he died." YOU DO NOT NEED "IN ORDER." The sentence makes the same amount of sense BUT it's more concise. If you can say it in fewer words but still paint a pretty picture: DO SO.

Thing

Is a lazy descriptor, kind of like "that." Instead of saying "James' thing was profiling" tell us what James' thing was: "James' talent was profiling." Instead of saying "the thing was huge" tell us what the thing is: "the tower was huge." Bonus points: don't say "the thing was very big" but instead: "the tower was immense." Sorry, had to. ;)

Anyway, again the only time "thing" might be acceptable is in dialogue in which a character says: "You know the thing with the swirly things, the yeah?" because yes, people do talk as such in real life.

Besides dialogue you should be replacing "thing" with the specific word for whatever "thing" is describing. And yes this ALSO means the dirty "thing" those with minds in the gutters are thinking of. Don't have lazy descriptors. They weaken your voice.

Quite

Unless you're writing old English style, skip the "quite" as in "he was quite tall." Saying: "He was immense" has more impact. Unless you want to sound like you're an English person sipping on tea and eating crumpets (which there is nothing wrong with): take it out.

Get or got

These are tricky because there are instances where a more descriptive word won't make sense. Generally speaking: "He got up" can become "He stood up" OR "He woke up" depending on what your main character is doing. But, "He got into the car" might sound better than "He settled into the car" depending on your narrator and when the story occurs, time wise.

Be careful you're not over-using "got" or "get" but also remember people aren't formal when they're talking. "Get down!" won't become "Oh could you kindly lower your body to the floor so you don't get shot?"

-ing words

This is a difficult one for me and I know a lot of people will find it difficult to drop words with an "ing" ending. Instead of saying "I'm struggling with this" you say "I struggle with this." Proper grammar and all but to me "I'm struggling" sounds more human. Could be me though.

Anyway, -ing words also tend to mean you're writing in the passive voice where you should be using the active voice. Of course, there are -ing words you sometimes can't remove: "something" and "nothing" hold position for the top two. "Saving him is something I have to do." "I can't sit back and do nothing." "There was something behind the bush." "There was nothing in the sky." Same concept with was: passive writing so get rid of it. Yes, I know it'll be difficult but the strength of your story will be worth it.

Then

As in "Bill stood, strode across the room then sat." We don't need to constantly know one action comes after the other ALL THE TIME. "Then" is another word you'll find hard to dispose of.

Suddenly

I get you're trying to build suspense and life can sometimes happen "suddenly." Please, please, PLEASE keep this to a minimum. It's a mark of inexperienced writing.

Smirk

I'm horrible at over-using this word. It's fine if your character smirks one or twice and it's cool to use it if your character is being condescending or smug. Smirking is similar to a sneer, NOT a smile so please DO NOT replace all those "he smiled" with "he smirked" in your novel because you're using smile too much. It will not fit.

Quirk

There are two meanings for quirk. One is the verb: "he quirked an eyebrow" and two is the noun: "he has his quirks." Both are perfectly acceptable to use once, maybe twice, in a single novel. If your character's are constantly quirking their eyebrows I might think something is wrong with them.

Like

Overuse means you have too many metaphors. I love a good metaphor, I do, but I don't want to be reading one after the other through your entire novel. I will toss your book across the room then burn it in ritualistic fashion.

As

Be careful with this one since it does imply a person is doing two things at once. Yes, people can "chatter as they walked" or "chomped on his gum as he moved" but be careful how many tasks your character is doing at once or how often because overuse will confuse your reader.

Feel and Think

SHOW US what your character is thinking or feeling. Instead of "I think we should run" say "we should run." Instead of "he was nervous" say "he bit his lip." Be aware how often a character is biting their lip or trembling or whatever else you may use to show us feeling. The Emotion Thesaurus is a great resource to help you mix up those feelings when you find yourself stuck with characters who keep shaking their heads or biting their lips.

A lot

How much is a lot? Is it 1,000 pieces or 100,000,000 pieces? What I think is a lot is different from what you think is a lot so be specific. Remember, people do use this word in regular conversation so you can have "a lot" in dialogue or sparingly in first person narrative.

Sort of/Kind of

What do you mean you're "sort of" cold? You're either cold or you're cool. What, you're "sort of" on fire? How can you be "sort of" anything? Give exact descriptions and again, liberties can be taken in dialogue.

Remember: you have more freedom in dialogue and first person point of view because no one speaks grammatically correct all the time. You should still be conscious of how often you're using the above words and what effect they will have on your story and your reader.

Trust me when I say I know how difficult it can be to remember to use these words sparingly. It's a big list. So, write your story in full then go back to the beginning and hit Ctrl+F on your keyboard. Yes, you're going to find every instance of every word on the above list and either replace it or take it out. You editors will love you. And yes, I do try to Find/Replace all the words mentioned above...when I remember to.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 Novel Series #1: Mists of Time Book 4: Adam's Story

FIRST BOOK OF THE NEW YEAR! And because I'm fun: last book in a series. Ha.

Originally this novel wasn't supposed to exist but then the epilogue of Book 3: Finale happened and this one was begging to be written so here we are. Book 4: Adam's Story takes place immediately after the events in Book 3 but 12 years have passed in the last few chapters of Book 3. Blair is no longer an 18 year old rookie Time Knight but is now a 30 year old psychiatrist who's job on earth is to find other Time Knights. Xe's also still a Time Knight.

Unlike the other books, Blair is NOT the Point of View Character. Adam is. Blair's still a main character but we don't get to hear xer thoughts. Book 1: Discovery was about Blair finding out xe's a Time Knight. Book 2: Seeking is all about figuring out who the bad guy is and the world of the Mists. Book 3: Finale is the final fight with the bad guy as he jumps between various worlds to destroy each one.

Book Four: Adam's Story answers the questions left behind in book 3, namely what happens to Dyns. There's also a new enemy threatening the Mists and Adam is the one who has to stop said enemy. Why? Well, Alaya told him he had to and when an Ala'gan tells you you're the one meant to destroy the enemy then you'd better pay attention. Onwards!


Genre: Urban Fantasy

Word Count: 94,116

Prompt: Conclusion of the Mists of Time series.

Main Characters: Adam, Blair (who finally gets a last name), Zallahia, Lyo, Tyo, and Lylina VanHelgrove

Minor Characters of Note: Tim, Helen, Mac, The Mist Watcher, the Grand Healer, Ova, King Demek VanHelgrove, Lance VanHelgrove, and honorable mention goes to Gunther who was created on page 145 and died on page 147. Super-duper honorable mention goes to Rayleigh, Lylina's dragon because he's awesome.

Summation: Adam's the first Time Knight Blair discovers and now Adam has to learn all about being a Time Knight and what it entails. Adam reacts differently than Blair through the entire process and even wants to figure out a way to stop Mist Beast from coming into the Mists. Of course we throw in a bad guy no one expects and we have some fun.

High Points: The VanHelgroves as a whole. They kind of steal the story...

Low Points: Zallahia

The World: Earth with three mages (Blair, Adam, and Clay Orrell) and the Mists.

Memorable Lines:

"Why doesn't earth have a connection to the other worlds?" Adam asked.
She (Blair) frowned. Adam felt bad for making her upset.
"Twelve years ago there was a, complication, in the Mists..." Mrs. McKinley-Lafrance said (Again, Blair. Yes xer name is Blair McKinley-Lafrance)

"But Adam said if he left my office he wouldn't be coming back. He's a skeptic and well, there is no better way to make a skeptic believe than show them."

After fainting from seeing his first Mist Beast:
"Um, wow, your legs are really smooth." Adam said (to Blair. Ha.).


"I can't believe," (Adam's mom, they're talking about cooking dinner)
"But we had to do a project for science!" (Little brother Xander)
"Yeah, science!" (Drew, twin to Xander)

"You always said we have to apply ourselves more!"
"Yeah, apply ourselves more!"

Adam wanted to laugh at Drew repeating Xander's last few words.
...
"Let me guess, these two 'had' to stay late for school and Adam 'forgot' because of homework." Dad said.
He was good. Mom nodded.
"But it was for science!" Drew said as if it would make a difference.
...
"Right, science. I guess we're getting burgers or pizza?" Dad asked.
"Pizza!" The Terrors (Xander and Drew, it's Adam's nickname for them) said together.
Mom rolled her eyes.
"For science." Mom said.

"How much time do you have?" Mrs. McKinley-Lafrance asked.
"Well, you can freeze it." Adam said.

"But don't you have to give me a final test?" Adam asked.
Zallahia groaned. She shook her head and Adam wondered how she got through school. Schools must be completely different on Yavis.
"Your final test is not dying when a Mist Beast attacks you." Zallahia said.
"That's not a good test." Adam told her.
...
"It's the only test. I'm your tutor until I think you can survive out here alone." Zallahia said.
There should be quizzes and smaller tests before a final exam. Adam wanted to ask about those but had a feeling Zallahia would give him an answer he wouldn't like. There had to be some form of structure though.
"But, what about," Adam started.

She cut him off with a groan.
"Your first test is to summon something and you pass when you summon something. The next test is to summon something good enough to fight a Mist Beast and you pass when your something defeats a Mist Beast. The final test is coming in here, summoning something, beating a Mist Beast, and not being exhausted all without my help. Oh, there's also a mini-test on getting to Central without my help. And for us personally I'll be teaching you some form of hand-to-hand combat and there will be various tests there. One test is not falling on your ass when I punch you in the mouth. Another is being able to duck under my sword so I don't chop your head off. Happy?"
Adam wasn't. It didn't sound like he could sit down and study for any of those tests. (Yes he's a majorly into being a perfect student)

After Zallahia faints when Blair tells her who he really is:
"She'll come around in a minute or two," Mr. McKinley-Lafrance said (to Adam). "You know, I think you two were paired up for a good reason. You need to learn to stop over-thinking and she needs to learn to think. The cosmos are laughing at you."


"I've no idea and vague prophecies are what I do," Alaya said. "Adam, The Attack isn't over. There's one person left alive who isn't happy about how things are running now and you're going to have to be the one who stops him."
...
"Why?" Adam questioned.
...
"You because, well, I'm not sure to be honest," Alaya said. "You're not any stronger than Blair but Blair is fairly strong when it comes to Time Knights...The universe and the Higher Powers like picking on unsuspecting heroes from earth probably to knock the Ambrosian Mages down a peg or two when a simple Earthling saves the world and they can't."

"He has most of the knowledge of the universe in his head?" Adam asked.
"Yep," Tyo began.
Adam prepared himself for a long-winded explanation. Zallahia groaned.
"We went to the Universal Library of All when were 12 up until we were 15 and well, once we read a book it stays in our heads forever even if we read it that one time. That and if Lyo reads something, I know it so technically we can read two books at one. Oh and it only takes us a few seconds to read a page depending on the size of the book so,"
Tyo stopped here with a shrug. Adam wasn't sure what was more surprising: the fact Tyo had stopped talking on his own or the fact the VanHelgrove Twins knew everything there was to know in the entire universe after skimming over the information once.
"Holy shit." Adam said.

"Good summation," Mr. McKinley-Lafrance said. "But they have to constantly be multi-tasking or they can't do simple tasks."
...
"Wait, wait, so they have to walk and read or walk and talk or walk and do something so they don't trip over nothing?" Zallahia asked.
"Yep." Mr. McKinley-Lafrance said.
Tyo waved his hand as if to clear the words from the air...
"Yeah, well, shut up. Do you want to see the books about the Attack or our father or the Universal Library of All?" Tyo asked.
He probably remembered every word of every conversation. Adam suppressed a shiver. No, he would never want the Twins' memory.
"I think you covered it all pretty well." Mr. McKinley-Lafrance said.
Lyo snorted and a small smirk came to his face. It was gone before Adam realized in full the smirk was there.
"Good," Lyo said. "Tyo's voice gets annoying sometimes."

"Oh, I guess you need someone to talk to as well." the mother said.
"Besides the voices in my head, yes." Adam said. (Ha)

"She (the mother above) wants me to be a boy but I'm not, you know? I've always been a girl but I'm in the wrong body. She says God doesn't make mistakes and I don't know how to tell her she's wrong." Amber (who yes, is transgender) said.
Adam nodded.
"Well, he doesn't make mistakes," Adam said (wait for it)
Her face fell.
"Because you were always a girl and always will be a girl." Adam finished.


"Do you know how to fight?" Zallahia (TRAINED WARRIOR) asked.
"I understand the concept behind fighting." Adam (NON TRAINED WARRIOR) said.
"Hit the other person while avoiding being hit." Zallahia said.
Adam nodded. Zallahia moved. Adam caught the movement but couldn't shift in time to avoid her left hand coming out. He felt the air whip by his head at her fist and stilled. She was so close he could almost feel her body against his. She was grinning.
"I missed your face deliberately. I figured I'd be nice and give you some practice before throwing you into the test of "not falling on your ass when I punch you in the mouth." Good idea?" Zallahia asked.
"Good idea." Adam said.

He yelped and stared up at her from the ground. She had done something with one of her legs against his and made him fall through the fog and onto whatever made up the ground of the Mists.
"Oh sorry, that was the first test in "avoid being knocked on your ass." I'm going to call that a fail. Wanna try again?" Zallahia questioned.


"But I want to be a doctor and save people's lives." Adam said (after being informed he might be a Dark Mage).
"So?" Tyo began. "You're going to be cutting into people to save their lives. You'll be removing flesh, burning to cauterize wounds, watching them bleed, sometimes killing them temporarily to get an operation done, and even removing limbs to save their life. All healers are sadists. Who willingly wants to cut into a living person and screw around in their insides? And people say Dark Mages are messed up in the head."
Adam opened his mouth but couldn't think of what to say. Tyo chuckled, caught another book then shook his head.
"But the difference is you care about the people you're going to be cutting up and you'll feel sad if they don't make it. Me? I'd laugh about it. Give me a living being who doesn't mind being cut up and I'll smile while they're screaming in pain."
...
There was no harm in trying to summon something by naming it instead of picturing it.

"Um, Rocky?" Adam tried.
Tyo yelped as a rock landed on his head. Thankfully it hadn't been a big rock.

"The first thing you have to understand is everyone has a fear," Lyo began. "Some bury it deeper than others but I can still find it. Only those who are truly insane lack fear and if you are dealing with someone who has no fears then you may as well give up.
"The second thing you have to understand is I am capable of learning your fear, amplifying it and essentially scaring you to death. You do not have to be asleep. You do not even have to be thinking about your fear. I will find it. I will make it believe it is happening to you. When it is over there won't be a mark on your physical body except the mark of fear."
Adam gulped. It wasn't a promising way to begin a conversation. Lyo took a breath.
"When I say I am the Nightmare, I mean just that: I am every fear you've ever had in life. I am the Abyss. I control every aspect of the Nightmare, of fear, and of IT. I live in complete darkness when I am able and my pleasant dreams would be torture for you to see. Ask your question."
...
"Okay, but the Mist Beasts, the things created from people's fears and nightmares feel pain and fear when they die. Doesn't that mean they have some form of intelligence and can be controlled?" Adam asked.
"No." Lyo said.
Adam stared. There was no forthcoming explanation and he scowled. Lyo seemed to sense Adam's annoyance and lifted one shoulder in a shrug...
"...All it (Mist Beasts) knows is scaring you or anyone else. It cannot be made to understand the concept of loyalty or obedience. It is fear. It is a nightmare. It will kill you if you do no kill it."
...
"The problem with fear and nightmares is everyone has them. Most people have the same ones. Worse than that: you can never get rid of them. Ever."

"Everything you do in life takes time," Mrs. McKinley-Lafrance said. "You can't become the best pianist or runner or painter or whatever without putting in the practice or the training, and without persevering even when it seems like everything is against you."

"It's the worse feeling in the world to fail, especially when it's at things you're normally good at."
...
"You can't let something like failure hold you back. You can't look to the past but you can look to the future and change your future. You can get past failure as long as you remember no matter what: tomorrow is a new day."

A swirling mass of blue, purple, and black magic appeared beside Tyo and Adam watched as Lyo stepped out of the mass. The magic disappeared a moment later but Lyo said nothing.
"He hears what I hear, mental connect and all." Tyo said.
"It's difficult to deliver books when the person meant to catch them isn't there." Lyo said.
...
"We're breaking into her office later?" Lyo asked.
It was said in the same monotone Lyo used for everything else, as if they weren't thinking about breaking into a Keeper's office to read her books. Not just any Keeper either, one who could control flames and was a good friend of Mr. McKinley-Lafrance. Tyo was grinning at his twin.
"Sure." Tyo said.
...
"Teach him dodging too. The best way to pass is not to get hit in the first place." Tyo said.
...
"You're agreeing with him?" Adam asked.
"Of course," Zallahia said. "Dodging is half a battle. Now, let's find an empty training room so I can kick your ass."

"Not bad." Zallahia said.
"Thanks. Maybe one of these days I'll pass the "don't get crushed under your shield" test." Adam said. (Ha.)

Adam made a chair and sat down as the Keepers, the Watchers, and Zallahia argued in various languages. Alaya cleared her throat but no one was paying attention to the petite woman.
"ENOUGH!"
The gust of wind that came from Alaya's tiny form knocked Adam's chair over and blew everyone else a few feet back. A few stumbled but all of them were trained warriors in some sense of the word. Adam was the only one who had fallen. Alaya was smiling.
"Good, I have your attention," (Hehe)

"See, Lance is as much a Battle Demon as Vixen," Tyo began "*Continues huge rant about his Uncle Lance with Lance IN the room*...But he's good at calming a person down and is one of the few who could get (bad guy) to come here willingly without resorting to mind control."
Adam wished he could find the humor Prince Lance seemed to see in all this. The hilarity was there when Prince Lance spoke:
"I also like long walks through the garden in the moonlight, the color dark blue, and my favorite way to pass time other than beating the crap out of Vixen is playing the violin or painting with watercolors. I hate eggplant."

After being discovered by Xander and Drew coming back from the Mists:
"It's complicated."
And a bit later:
Adam supposed it was difficult to deal with a jaguar (the feline) sitting in the middle of the living room as if nothing was wrong.

Adam could see the magic flowing on Lylina's (Tyo and Lyo's womb-mate, they're triplets) breath. It look as if she was exhaling a stream of tiny diamonds and everywhere the diamonds landed turned into a thin sheet of ice. The ice didn't last long, ten seconds, and Lylina began stitching the wound closed.

"He used to be an elemental mage. It's probably the only reason he can force his (time) magic to do something else." Tyo said.
"Probably?" Lylina asked. "I'm surprised at you two. Normally there's a huge explanation."

"So, can you take us there some other time?" Mac asked. (Adam's friend and about the Mists)
"Are you crazy?" Helen questioned. "Those creatures will attack us unless we get to the Tower right away and Adam almost fell over doing it this time. Do you have a death wish?"
"No," Mac said. "Think of all the studying we could do. I mean, we could be there a week and only a minute or two would pass here. Seriously." (Yeah, that's totally what I'd do if I could get to a world where time stopped. *snorts* Actually...)

"Hi. I'm going to grab a bottle of water then go to the Mists." Adam said.
"Be careful." Mom said.
"I will." Adam told her. (Famous last words. Muwahaha)

So, Blair and Adam are in the Mists hiding underneath in the fog fighting a bad guy and this happens:
"Adam?"
Adam felt a hand on his ass but kept his yelp down.
"Er, that's not, sorry." Mr. McKinley-Lafrance said.
...
When Blair finds out said enemy can use fire:
"Is it sad I want to summon something like a Blastoise?" Mr. McKinley-Lafrance questioned.
"Vaporeon is more cat-like. Suicune would probably be more your style though plus it's bigger but yeah, size doesn't mean anything here." Adam said.
...
Adam wasn't about to leave without Mr. McKinley-Lafrance. If he did then he would never see Mrs. McKinley-Lafrance again.
Adam needed a creature as fast as Kiara (cheetah) and as large as Tucker (Elephant) with fangs and claws. He couldn't think of anything remotely similar and his vast knowledge of game creatures suddenly left him. He thought back over everything he had read and wished he could ask Tyo. Adam wished he had mentioned needing such a creature to Tyo. Hell, if he had Lylina's water powers he could...Lylina. Rayleigh.
"Alumus!"
The dragon's roar shook the Mists when he appeared. (There you go. ;) )
...And after the fight:
"Tower Adam, think about the Tower and stop thinking about me." *snickers*

"Is Princess Lylina around? Can I see Zallahia?" Adam asked.
"I can answer both those questions and more."
The room became colder and Adam watched as Lylina strode in with Rayleigh behind her.

"The problem is we have to do what destiny tells us to do. We have to use whatever gifts we're given even if they're curses and try to make the best of it....No, you don't have to like it but you do have to deal with it and move on. It's all anyone can do."

Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: Blood is the new Black

Why did I pick it up?

I'm a sucker for anything vampire related. Pun totally intended.

Review for Blood is the New Black by Valerie Stivers:

So this book was vampires meets high fashion. The vampires were bonafide bloodsuckers who happened to run a high fashion magazine called Tasty. The dialogue was witty and there was enough explanation of the fashion world so I didn't feel like a total idiot reading it.

The nibble of romance (harhar) was expected and some of the plot points could be seen without having to think too hard. I did like how it opened with a scene from near the end of the book without revealing too much. It was enough to get me interested and the dialogue and minor mystery throughout the novel kept me going.

The ending was lackluster. There was too much untied once the story was over and the estranged mom comes to save the day was expected. When someone puts that much emphasis on a character who disappeared before the book then you know they're going to come back in a big way. It was a matter of when.

The vampires themselves had a nice twist to them. They could hover, turn into bats, drank blood, disliked garlic and crosses. But they could go out into the sun and drink other things besides blood. They were hugely business oriented and only one was dark and brooding.

The fun thing was that humans were born with a specific gene that made them more susceptible of being 'tasty' and becoming a vampire. I know it's probably logically impossible to have such a gene but it was a cool twist of sorts.

It wasn't a serious novel nor was it meant to be terrifying or blood thirsty. To be honest, I think it was a bit satirical in the way it portrayed both vampires and the fashion industry. The relationships between characters was interesting and the whole situation with the dog Marc Jacobs was freaking hilarious.


Would I read it again?

If I wanted to read a light vampire novel, sure. It's not Vampire Chronicles but it hasn't completely re-invented the vampire which is great. Would it appease those exceptionally dark minded folk? Probably not.

The Negatives:

Kate, the main character had studied to be an EMT and would be going to med school but took the job at Tasty magazine because of her aunt. That's fine, no really, it's even believable. What's not believable is how dense Kate is. She doesn't even notice the drinks she has to hand out to all the important people at Tasty are actually blood slurries even though she's supposed to be an EMT/doctor in training.

The other thing that irks me about Kate is despite the whole situation with her mother walking off, she never tried to find out why. Even when people mention her mother (fashion designer which is why Kate didn't want the job at Tasty to begin with), Kate never tries to look her up. Kate does have some of her mothers original designs and instead of seeing if they're worth anything on the market, she just randomly cuts them up and customizes them much to the horror of her associates.

Maybe Kate lacks common sense but is really logical? I don't know but it seems a bit odd someone who's supposed to be going to med school didn't do a bit of research on her mother and couldn't smell the scent of blood right under her nose. Literally.

Final review: 3/5 for it's predictability and Kate being a bit slow with the entire plot. It's still an entertaining read despite the lightness of the plot.

Until next time: comments, questions, rage and rants can be directed to the comments.