Sunday, December 28, 2014

WIPMarathon Report: Here's to the New Year!

Wow I swear 2014 went by in a blink. But honestly you guys, this has been a pretty special year. I'm almost positive that meeting the WIPMarathoners is what gave me that final push to finish my book. Your posts every month highlighting all of your writing wonders and woes is what kept me from sinking sometimes, and kept me inspired. That being said, here is my final WIP Report for 2014. *sniffle*
Things I’m Glad I Did In 2014:
  1. Finishing my very first book. I'm still in awe. And publishing it! Wow. What a ride.
  2. Already stated above, but getting to network with other writers, such as Ms. Ifeoma, Ms. Krystal, and the rest of the WIPMarathon crew. Also, getting to know and love writers who are outside of my genre--like, WAY outside (some of my favorite souls this year turned out to be erotica and/or horror writers...who would've thought?). 
  3. Asking hubby for all rights to the office. It seems small, but I feel invigorated being able to start the new year with my own little writing space. 
In 2015, I’d love to:
  1. Write Book 2 in the CE Series. Aviva's story is up next, and I'm nearly giddy that I get to depart from Taz's crazy time loop madness and move on to Aviva's intriguing little ghost story.
  2. Figure out how to multitask in writing. I've never been one of those people who can work on more than one project at a time, but I have several ideas for other books/novellas that I would love to start outlining/drafting. I just don't know how to do this. Multitask, that is. HOW? (Krystal, do a blog post about this!)
  3. Return to some of my non-writing hobbies. I love oil-painting, shooting arrows in my backyard, renovating things in my house, etc., but I sort of gave those things up this year to finish my book. I miss having other things in my life to help me decompress, especially since writing can be so stressful. I'd also like to spend more silly-time with my kids.
  4. Continue to foster my online friendships, and support others the same way they've supported me.
  5. Meet some local writers in my town. It would be amazing to have at least one flesh and blood writer-person to interact with, one who I can actually see and touch and...(am I getting creepy?)

I'm going to skip this month's regular check-in since I spent this month in the publishing throes rather than working on a manuscript, but I feel pretty optimistic that I'll have something to report to break in the new year in January. Until then, I'll conclude with this (it says '2014' but is definitely applicable to the new year):

#8 is my favorite. Cheers to a wonderful year, and here's hoping 2015 will bring even more triumphs (even if you have to lose a little sanity to get there). 

Friday, December 26, 2014

True Colors

True Colors (The Masks, #1)True Colors by Melissa Pearl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, let's see.

The premise of this novel is completely unique: Caitlyn is given the gift (or the curse) of seeing what lies beneath people's "masks"--that is, she can see what emotions hide beneath the surface of each person (which also speaks volumes to her about who that person really is--good, evil, happy, insecure, etc.). SO COOL. Seriously, I wish I had thought of this.

And I read this book in one sitting. So there was definitely enough to keep me intrigued.

That being said, there were a few things that left me feeling disappointed.

First, why-oh-why did Eric, the love interest, have to be so hot? (I know--strange complaint, but hear me out). From the very first chapter, Caity is swooning (literally, she swoons) over her hot, model-looking neighbor. Later she receives her unmasking gift, and she discovers that not only is Eric gorgeous, but unlike so many of the other people in her life, he is actually sincere. So basically the beautiful boy next door turns out to be beautiful on the inside too. Considering the title of the book is "True Colors," I didn't understand this decision. Why not make Eric sort of outcast that no one quite understands? Then later, as Caitlyn's friendships begin to dissolve around her due to her new 'gift,' she could slowly discover that her odd duck of a neighbor is one of the rare few "genuine" people in her world. Eric could slowly become more beautiful in the eyes of Caitlyn as his true colors are unveiled. That would have lent itself so much more with the underlying theme (and title) of this book than Caitlyn going through some shallow insta-love thing with Eric simply because he's hot. And it would have offered some much-needed tension to an otherwise way-too-easy romance.

On that note, even once Caitlyn has spent nearly an entire novel removing people's masks, she still keeps commenting on Eric's abs and such. I was really hoping for more depth from her character by the end...that she'd understand that beauty is so much more than that which can be seen on the surface. To her credit, she does end up befriending an overweight girl named Libby. But when it comes to Eric, she never seems to get it.

Other issues. Nothing in this book takes the reader by surprise. The characters presented to the reader before Caity gets her gift turn out to be exactly who you think they are once Caitlyn tears off their masks. Caity's best friend Stella, who was bossy and self-centered before, ends up being the insecure and mean girl you expect. The people-pleasing and overweight Libby ends up being nice, and desperate for approval. There were simply no surprises. I was waiting for Caity to rip off the mask of the school's most admired teacher to see lust in his eyes--something shocking. But it never came.

Another problem was (*spoiler *) a cheating business at school hardly seems heavy/serious enough to kill over. That was a bit of a stretch. I really thought Caitlyn was going to uncover something much more sinister than kids bullying other kids to do their homework. And it was downright odd that given the criminal lengths Liam was taking to cover up this operation, no one was taking this issue to school authorities, or the police. The author tries to rationalize this by mentioning that Liam was putting incriminating pictures/videos of forced BJs and such in the smart kids' lockers as a scare tactic to keep them from "telling", but see the problem with this? Essentially Liam was offering up damning evidence of his own crimes on a silver platter, and yet not one single kid at this school thought to turn the bastard in. And these are supposed to be the "smart" kids?

Finally, it was a little convenient that the homeless man died before he could give Caity more information about her gift. But okay. I can make my peace with that. The author might be trying to leave some mysteries for future books.

Still, I loved the premise of the story, and it was a pleasant little read. I'm looking forward to seeing what book 2 has to offer, and at the minimum, Melissa Pearl is a talented story teller who knows how to keep her readers from getting anything done on a Sunday afternoon. 

My Very Own Writing Corner

Clint gave me my own writing cove for Christmas!

To put this in context, I've been desperately craving my own little writer's hideaway for years now. When we first moved into our house, I gave Clint the spare room to use as his miniature man cave. At the time it seemed fair, because I pretty much had free reign in decorating our whole house. He decided he wanted to turn the spare room into an office (with a small bed in case I kicked him out for snoring or thrashing around in his sleep), and he wanted an Asian theme. So we painted the room in reds and yellows, brought in a black cherry blossom bedspread and some other Asian decor, hung up black curtains, displayed all of his dojo belts/black belt certificate/swords, and so on. When we finished, it looked like this:


Not exactly my style, but it looked kind of cool. It was colorful, clean, and fun, plus I was happy that Clint had his own little space in our house to play on the computer and watch his anime.

In the last few years, this room has changed functions countless times. At one point it was an exercise room, another time a painting studio, and once, it was even an archery room of sorts where Clint hand-fletched arrows and strung bows. The dude changes hobbies a lot, and this poor little room was forced to keep up. The room was always messy (unlike what you see in the above picture) and over time the walls looked kind of like ketchup and mustard to me, but it was functional and lived in, and that was fine with me.

But then Clint started to use the room for storage. Things that he didn't want to disappear into the garage slowly crept into the room, until the desk became so cluttered and heaped with stuff that it rendered the office unusable. He stopped using the desktop computer altogether in lieu of using his laptop in the living room. The pillows all disappeared, the bed was messy, the floors were littered with boxes and who knows what else, and the room turned into a dark, depressing space. I wish I had taken a picture of it in that state, but no one wants to take pictures of things that suck.

Little by little his man cave was making less sense to me. It wasn't just the perpetual mess. It was the fact that the room had become stagnant. No one was using it anymore--it was just a place to "stick things" when you had no where else to put them. And I couldn't help but note the irony, given that as both a teacher and a writer, I would treasure a quiet space to do my grading and writing. Every Sunday I sit at the dining room table to grade. If I need a pen, or paper clips to organize students' work, or a post-it to label something, etc., I'm forced to dig through batteries and bolts and whatever-else in the office to find what I need (which these past few months had become impossible). And writing is even worse. I can't even describe how hard it is to write a book at a dining room table in the middle of your house with kids and pets running around.

At least, this WAS the case.

When Clint asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted the office. I honestly expected him to argue, and I was prepared with all my reasons. You know, things like "My job requires me to grade," and "You're not using it anymore," and "I'll treasure this room and take care of it like no one else has." But I think he must have been thinking about giving it to me for awhile, because he didn't protest at all. Instead, he had me show him a picture of what kind of work space would be ideal to me.

Blue is my favorite color (as in, the deepest brightest part of our desert sky), so that part was easy. But I also wanted a space that was lively and fresh--to keep me alert when I'm trying to write. So I showed him a picture of a room that was cornflower blue with pops of white and red. I was prepared to do this project with him, but he decided he wanted this to be my "big" gift--that he would do all the work and I would get to be surprised with the results. That part was a little nerve-wracking for me, because I'm used to being in control of home decor type projects. He had the office door locked for weeks, and I was going crazy wanting to see it. But it was worth the madness. The grand reveal was Christmas morning, and here's what I walked into:


That tree decal gets me the most. For at least a full minute I couldn't even take in the rest of the room because I couldn't rip my eyes away from it.

The gum ball machine I got for my birthday last year--I had wanted one ever since I wrote my gum ball stories. It makes sense to have it in this room now.

My typewriter!

There's still some work to do, like hanging up some of my smaller oil paintings and replacing the ugly brown door (not shown in these pictures) with a new white one. I'm also thinking of painting that desk an antique white over spring break. But I love this room! Like, I can't get myself to leave (okay, don't tell anyone but I slept in here last night. I had to, just once). And the room is just girly enough that Clint doesn't want anything to do with it. He walks in from time to time and says "It's just so...pretty," and shakes his head sadly and walks out. So it's mine now. All MINE. (That's reading a little more villainous than I was going for).

Outside of the whole office thing, Christmas overall was pretty wonderful. I'll try to write about it later, and maybe post some pics (I think I say this every year and never end up doing it). The only downfall is I have a nasty, nasty cold. I don't even know how that's possible since I was just sick during Thanksgiving break. Clint says it's because I don't let myself get sick when I'm working, so the second I'm on break, my body's all, 'Good, I can finally fall apart!' I've heard this same theory from some of my coworkers too. It seems a whole slew of us teachers get sick right when break starts. But I have to say, as far as nasty colds go, this is a really pleasant one. Pleasant, as in I don't feel sick AT ALL. I actually feel really good. But it's nasty, because I'm one big ball of flem, and it has totally wiped out my voice. AGAIN. This is the second time in a thirty day period I've had no voice. At least the first time I was down to a raspy whisper-type thing. This time my voice sounds wheezy. It's horrible, kids were telling me earlier, "Stop talking Mom. Seriously."

So yes, wheezing ball of flem. Let me tell you. I'm sexy.

This is SO enough writing for now.

P.S. I owe @MelDouleur and @bloodglorygrace a dancing clip in the future since I said I would participate in the Christmas Carol hop and I didn't. But here are their awesome contributions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nobody's Goddess

Nobody's Goddess (Never Veil, #1)Nobody's Goddess by Amy McNulty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I were to rate Nobody's Goddess on the storyline alone, I would give it five stars. The concept is intriguing as all get-out, with the complexity of the story deepening with every turn of the page. McNulty creates so many wild threads that I was sure the whole thing would unravel by the end...such as: Why did the first goddess put this horrible curse on the village in the first place? Who is the lord and where did he come from? What/who are the "specters" that shadow the lord everywhere he goes? Why does the ground shake every time a woman looks up at the castle? Well, get this: ALL of these questions are answered. That is such a rare phenomenon in YA novels nowadays that this fact alone had me feeling nearly euphoric by the time I reached the end of the book.

The reason I feel compelled to downgrade my rating by a star is because the main character, Noll, is so unlikable. I'm all for anti-hero types, but there needs to be something redeemable about them to latch onto...some kind of adorable nuance or charm. Noll has none. She is selfish and miserable pretty much 100% of the time. I did understand her frustrations with her village, and I appreciated her rants about the mindless hollow men obsessed with their goddesses. In these instances, her sarcasm and resentment were warranted. But her constant cold treatment of her sister (who was simply trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation) and her downright cruel treatment of the lord were often too much to swallow. The final blow occurs when (view spoiler) I understand that McNulty was trying to create a believable character in Noll, one complete with flaws, but it's never a good sign when your readers would rather see the protagonist fling herself off a cliff than keep hurting people. Thankfully, by the end, Noll does finally open herself up to change, but it's almost too little too late.

Also, I didn't understand Noll's obsession with Jurij. Why would such a strong-willed female be in love with this weak, passive male who's about as interesting as a limp noodle? Furthermore, why wasn't there more chemistry between Noll and the lord? Noll absolutely hates all of the empty, hollowed men in her village who do nothing but swoon over their goddesses, yet when she is finally confronted with a man who can think for himself, who is clever and stubborn like her, and who fights AGAINST being her slave, she hates him for it. There was simply no pleasing her.

Still you guys, I really, really loved this book. I know this seems hard to believe given my criticism, but even despite Noll's unlikability, I couldn't put it down. I love unique premises, and this one scratched just about every itch I've had for a truly original concept since The Host by Stephanie Meyer. Nobody's Goddess has a satisfying ending, with almost all questions answered and the sweet suggestion of Noll's future relationship lingering in the air. There's enough intrigue to warrant reading the second installment, but no big cliffhangers to drive you crazy waiting for it. I will definitely be on the lookout for book 2 of the Never Veil Series.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pet Names

I want to do a blog post. Really, I do. But I am so, so busy.

I was talking to an author during lunch today who subs at our school from time to time. At one point, we had the following conversation: 

Her: "So let me get this straight. You're a full time teacher here?"
Me: "Yes."
Her: "And you have two kids?"
Me: "Yes."
Her: (Long pause) "When the heck do you have time to write?"
Me: Well I'm not really a 'good' mom, per say...

At this point my fellow coworker Brad shouts across the lunch room, "Oh, come on! Every time I see your kids out on the street holding up their 'Will work for food' signs, I'm impressed by their work ethic."

Thanks for that, Brad. 

In other kid-related news, I realized that I call everyone in my household "baby." Trin will hand me my thermos of iced-coffee and I'll say "Thanks baby." Clint will come home from work and I'm all "Hey baby." And so on. The problem is when you call everyone baby, they all respond. No one is sure which "baby" is your target audience. So I told the kids tonight, "I need new pet names for you guys. What do you want me to call you?"

"Sexy Taco," Trinity blurts out. Without even batting an eye.

And this is why you don't let your kids choose their own nicknames.

The publishing mayhem is just about over, and I almost have what sort of resembles a life again! YES. I'm sighing with relief so hard that I'm getting lightheaded.