Saturday, February 28, 2015

Never Never

Never Never (Never Never, #1)Never Never by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OH MY GOD, what a thrill ride. I started reading this book four hours ago and couldn't put it down--I seriously had to shove peanuts down my gullet when my stomach started growling because I couldn't be bothered to stop and eat a decent meal.

Never Never begins with the main characters, Charlie and Silas, both losing their memories at exactly the same time in the middle of their history class. Though they have been dating for four years, Charlie and Silas remember nothing about each other, or their own lives. Friends and family members are now complete strangers. Frightened and confused, they begin working together to unravel the mystery of who they were before their memories vanished, and why this atrocious fate has befallen them. Yet the more they learn about their former lives, the more the mystery deepens.

This novel is intense and fast-paced, full of mystery and intrigue that pulls you through the story so quickly that you don't realize you've hit the end until you're practically gasping for air. It ends with a gripping cliffhanger and a jaw dropping revelation that will make you squeal in delight and growl in outrage that you have to wait until May for the sequel.

The only thing that bothered me were the references to teenagers having sex, especially the scene where Charlie and Silas found their own "sex tape" (to be clear, there was nothing explicit. It was portrayed as a sweet moment via sound only--no visual). Sex might be an everyday part of the teenage world, but as a middle school teacher and mom to a teenaged daughter, it's always going to mess with my moral compass to see it so casually referenced. One comment made by a minor character in the book made it sound like Charlie and Silas had been having sex since the age of 13. I don't think this was the authors' intentions, but it niggled at me.

Also, Charlie's purposely off-putting personality toward Silas occasionally got on my nerves, but overall I thought the two balanced each other well (and Silas is so lovable that you can overlook Charlie's occasional less than personable attitude toward him). I found that I did immensely enjoy both characters, especially Silas's humor and Charlie's acknowledgement of her shortcomings. Charlie has the most room for growth, and I look forward to seeing more of that in the next book.

I rarely find a novel worthy of five stars--much less a novella--but based on sheer enjoyment-factor, Never Never is five stars hands-down for me. But BE FOREWARNED: No questions are answered. This whole book is tension-building only (with a hell of a cliffhanger). I've already pre-ordered the sequel and now have to figure out a way to go to sleep without being able to scratch my itch for the next installment of Charlie's and Silas's story.

View all my reviews.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sharp Edges and All

I've had this image sitting in my inbox for about a year. Other items get deleted or shuffled into various folders, but somehow I can't get myself to delete this one. Maybe it's because I love this little guy beyond words. I see this picture and I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Because he couldn't find what he was looking for. Yet that didn't stop him.
It's not ideal. It's not what I wanted. But it's home, and I'm going to make it work. Sharp edges and all.
That's what I imagine him thinking. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite lines of poetry, shared to me many years ago by a dear friend:
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
The hermit crab doesn't feel sorry for himself as he searches for his perfect home and comes up empty-handed (or empty-pinchered?). He has no concept of self-pity. He simply trucks forward and stuffs himself into the closest approximation of "home" he can find, then lives out his little life as if he has lost nothing.

Someday when I grow up, I want to be as resilient and gutsy and strong as him. Forget my other New Year's Resolutions. This is the one that matters:
I vow to be a hermit crab stuffed in a broken piece of bottle. 
On an unrelated note, this song came on Pandora in my classroom the other day.

I've heard it before, but this time it sort of paralyzed me. I get to school early--about an hour before school starts--and this is going to sound weird (and probably inappropriate), but there's a certain feeling of intimacy I get when I'm in my classroom alone. Maybe it's just because the room is so crowded and bustling and overwhelming throughout the day, so to sit there in the still hours of the morning and hear the hum of the heater and the faint rustling of the just feels so tranquil, that calm before the storm. I keep my doors locked, and I listen to music while I prepare for the day. If it's a fast song I'll dance like no one's watching ('cause hey, no one is). But if it's a song like this one, I freeze, and I end up leaning back against a desk or staring at the ceiling, too moved to move.

I'm such an emotional sap, damn it.

*searches for glass-bottle-shell*

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chasing Echoes Sweat Shop

That ridiculous grin above pretty much sums up how I feel about my book signing event. I honestly expected, like, five people to show up. Instead, it was a whirlwind of people! At the library. On a Saturday. The day before the Super Bowl. Who knew?  I will say that I would have been totally overwhelmed if my family wasn't there. Especially Shan, who handled sales while I was autographing books and interacting with visitors. My parents stayed the whole time too for moral support, and just having them there was awesome. I feel so grateful that I forever have this event banked as my "first" author's event, because as far as firsts go, this one rocked.

Note for next event though: Bring WATER. And maybe a snack. But mainly H2O. There was never a stopping point for me to fetch something to drink, and my throat was so dry by the end of the event that I'm sure I sounded like some hissing she-demon, or like I had sucked in sulfer hexafluoride (okay, clunky metaphor, but that gas has some pretty funny effects). After it was over, my family and a few friends went to Chili's for an early dinner, and the first thing I did was march to the bar and guzzle down a glass of water. Which is saying a lot because I really don't drink water, so a glass of water for me is like a pitcher for you (I did follow the water with a giant margarita chaser just to make things right with the world again).  

Now that I've made it through my first author's event, I'm chomping at the bit to do more. So Clint and I have been researching different possibilities for community events. Sadly there's not much in my neck of the woods, but starting in May, in my local mountains, there's THIS:

Okay, I swear I'm not a lush, even if my choice of book-promoting venues might beg to differ. Anyway, this event takes place the first Saturday of every month from May to October. Here's the description on the Chamber of Commerce's Calendar:

"Walk up and down Lake Drive through unique antique shops and artists' booths; stop, sit and enjoy tasty wines, beers and snacks while listening to music and enjoying the mountain air."

I REALLY want to do this. If I create some kind of crafty item to go along with my book, then I qualify to participate in this event as a vendor. So Clint and I came up with the idea of creating Sands of Time necklaces--each with a small bottle containing the same sand as the necklace that Uncle Kiel gave to Taz. Clint came up with a simple design that only costs us about $1.60 per unit to make, and each necklace would come with a small "ancient" scroll that tells the legend of the Sands of Time. In addition, my mother in-law is working on a prototype for some gorgeous stationery representing the four seasons. She's also making beautiful scented Krystal, Phoenix, Topaz, and Aviva soaps, each packaged with a seasonal charm. So we've got this crafty stuff covered. The problem is this Wine & Stein event is so NOT the target audience for my book. Originally I had imagined that anyone could walk into the event and peruse the various vendors, and that the wine tasting component was totally optional. This translated to families with kids/teens visiting my booth. But I just discovered that there is a $20 cover charge just to enter the event. Translation: No kids, no teens; not even young adults (how many 21 year olds do you know who go to wine tastings? They're still in the honeymoon phase with BARS). Basically at the core of it all this IS a wine tasting, so I'm totally bummed.

Even after discovering all of this, I might go to the first one anyway (there're six total), just because it sounds so cool. 

No matter what though, I still want to make all the crafty stuff. At the minimum I can still attend Jamboree Days in July, and Tumbleweed Days in September (it's not really called Tumbleweed Days, btw. I'm just in the habit of calling it that). Plus I love the idea of having little trinkets representing my book spread out on my table, just to highlight the whole homespun small-house publishing look. So Clint and I ordered our supplies, and sometime next week we'll start our own little Chasing Echoes Sweat Shop. I am SO EXCITED.

And based on the frozen shell-shocked stares coming from my kids, they are so excited too!

Wish me luck gluing stuff together. And finding more appropriate authors' events that don't involve stumbling through a mile of pine trees buzzed.

#WIPMarathon Report - So Very Late!

Thank goodness for WIP Reports or else my blog would still be sitting here, cold and deprived and alone, forever and ever.

I realize that this WIP Report is SO LATE. I really want to apologize to my fellow bloggers because I know I have been totally MIA--from my own blog, and yours. I wish this was coming with the promise that I'll be more consistent, but I just don't know.

Okay, report time!

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 0

Current report WC + CC/ SC: 2,354 - Almost finished with chapter 1.

I never produce big numbers guys. But I've decided it's all good, because Book 1 was nothing more than a conglomerate of my low, pitiful word counts, yet it still shaped itself into a novel. I'm 99% sure this one will too. Well, maybe more like 82.3%. Or 78.4...okay, I might not have enough faith to move a mountain, but at the minimum I can move a hill. A small hill. 

At least a pile of dirt. 

On the plus side, I already have a title for this book! You may have seen it on my sidebar. I'm calling this second installment of Chasing Echoes BLACK LILIES. If you dislike it don't bother telling me because that title makes me swoon with happiness and I'm totally keeping it. :P I remember how uncertain I felt about every single title I chose for book 1, so it feels pretty awesome to fall in love with a title so fast this time around. Oh, and lucky for me, Black Lilies exists nowhere on Amazon.

Or wait, WAIT--should I call it BLACK SPRING instead? Crap, I like that one too! And both titles totally connect to my story line.

WIP Issues This Month: Research. As in, I can't even start chapter 2 without doing some research, yet I can't muster up the motivation to do it. A big chunk of my novel takes place in 1876, and I don't know anything about that time period. And while most writers enjoy history, I'm not one of them, so schooling myself on the 1800s sounds about as appealing as stabbing myself in the eye.

What I learned this month in writing marketing whatever: 
  1. One reader posted recently on my Facebook wall: "So since I bought your book for Kindle, will you sign my iPad?" Clearly he was joking, but shortly later, another writerly-acquaintance on Facebook posted about this: AUTHORGRAPH.COM. Authorgraph makes it possible for authors to sign eBooks for their readers. Obviously it's not the same as having a signed hard copy of the book, but I think it's pretty innovative. I might look into this later.
  2. Ever get a stream of inspiration in the shower? Well now there's THIS: 

Okay, a part of me finds this silly. But another part of me can totally see myself using this and is wondering WHY ISN'T IT BIGGER? I could be scratching out my entire rough draft while lavishing in hot water and suds. 

I know I learned more, but I'm stumped at the moment. So...moving on.

What distracted me this month while writing: So many things. Work. The usual. Plus I went through and edited Chasing Echoes ALL OVER again. The entire book. I took one of my own paperbacks and marked directly in the book. Now I have to apply those edits onto my Word doc and re-do my file on Createspace, and I will officially have a second [cleaner] edition. But the biggest distraction is now that Chasing Echoes is out, social networking has been a much bigger demand on my time. Plus I've been researching marketing ideas (despite my loathing for marketing), and I prepped for my first ever author's event! Here's the flyer I made and posted on Facebook:

I discovered that as much as I hate marketing, I love love LOVE doing community events. Granted I'm basing this enthusiasm on one measly event, but it was SO MUCH FUN. And I sold a bunch of books! 

 Before event

 High schoolers getting their books signed

 Cheesy grin

 Answering questions about writing

 Signing bookmarks

 Thank God Shan was there! She SAVED me. I would not have been able to keep up on my own.

 Old high school friends surprised me with a visit!

 Um...just another picture

 Me and one of my students

My Chasing Echoes Pinterest Board

It was such a positive experience that Clint and I are now looking into other community events that I might be able to attend. Right now we have our eyes set on Crestline's "Wine and Stein Walk through the Pines" event in May, but more about that in another post.

Goal for next month: I want to start, and finish, chapter 2 of Black Lilies (or Black Spring?). I also want to put out edition 2 of Chasing Echoes. Oh, and I need to take a decent pic of myself that I can actually use for an author's bio. Seriously, I have NONE. 

Last 200 words (BLACK LILIES, Chapter 1, ROUGH): 

And then my stomach turned. The smudge was back. I watched as it flickered on the same part of the wall where it had disappeared from before, and then slid across the ground like something gelatinous and alive. 
What was it? I narrowed my eyes, adjusting my glasses again. It was moving at a snail’s pace on the asphalt. 
Moving toward me.
I stepped back, putting my arm on Krystal’s. She raised her eyebrows at me, and I pointed over at the shadow. She followed my gesture, and then turned back to look at me.
“Aviva, what’s wrong? There’s nothing there.”
“Are you sure?” I whispered, not wanting the rest of my family to hear. They were all engaged in some conversation about relatives of Dad sensing time disturbances, or rats, or something, so I doubted it would be a problem. 
“Yes, I’m sure. What do you think is there?”
“I, uh, I don’t know. I keep seeing a shadow.” My eyes skimmed the dark asphalt. Once again, the shadow was gone.
“With all this candlelight, there’s a ton of shadows,” she pointed out.
I sighed, not knowing how to explain to her that this one was different.

The rest of my Sunday is booked, but tomorrow I'm excited to catch up on some of my fellow Marathoners' progress for the new year. Thanks for not giving up on me (and for the shout-outs on twitter to get my butt in gear)!

But one more thing. BLACK LILIES or BLACK SPRING?