Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My September Reading List

I'm still regrouping after my vacation, so this week I'm keeping it simple. Here is a list with links to all the releases I'm looking forward to reading over the next month.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, August 30th

The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson, September 5th

Ghosts By Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, September 6th

One Salt Sea: An October Daye Novel by Seanan McGuire, September 6th

Serenity Volume 2: Better Days and Other Stories (graphic novel) by Various Authors, September 6th

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith, September 20th

Reamde by Neal Stephenson, September 20th

The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton, September 27th

Holy Terror (graphic novel) by Frank Miller, September 27th

Ganymede by Cherie Priest, September 27th

The Immorality Engine by George Mann, September 27th

There are so many great titles coming out, I hope I have time for them all. What books are you eagerly awaiting? Any must-haves or pre-orders you'd like to share?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Work Your Dream!

“You gotta have a dream to have a dream come true,” so the song says. But, it’s not enough to have this wondrous vision tucked under our ribs clinging close to our heart. We need to work it! Not just when it's easy to do but all the time. Especially in those moments when we feel the world is fighting against us and our dreams. Really how rude of the Universe!

But think about this, our thoughts create the reality around us and attract the same vibrations back to us. So we need to create thoughts of what we want not what we don’t want.

Why am I bringing this up? Because as writers, we spend most of our time alone in the private world that we create and drift in and out of our dreams. We are lucky creatures that we can do that. That’s who we are. We are creators of dreams. But sometimes we question and doubt ourselves whether we are on the right path. That's the moment when we find ourselves riding a wild horse known as obstacles. We can ride him easy with a light touch thrilling in the moment with our hearts pounding or gripping hard with our hands and legs afraid to breathe fearing the impending fall.

The point I’m trying to make is no matter where we are in life there are going to be those high flings and bumps along the way. By controlling our thoughts, we can create a better outcome. Don’t you think?

I’m sharing this animation not only because it’s beautiful, but because there’s a hidden message worth discovering.

The Tale Of Mr. Rêvus from ScriblabStudios on Vimeo.

What do you do when riding your wild horse?

Till next time,

PS: The painting is mine and it's called "Dreaming of You."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Literal Videos

I'm knee deep in to Summer Symposium at Savvy Authors. I decided a non-speculative related post is needed for a mental break this last weekend in August. Hope you enjoy!

Have you ever notice when watching a music video how it doesn't always match the song?

There are members of YouTube who have noticed and decided to take matters into their own hand. They create literal videos where they sing lyrics that match the music video. Literal videos are down right hilarious at times and most are on the mark. Watch the video to a view one of the first literal videos done.

This is not my favorite one but it started the movement. The original songs doesn't reflect the video and I never understood why it didn't when I was younger. The lyrics match the video well and the guy can sing too!

The one below I love and watch every few months for laughs. Unfortunately, the creator won't let me embed the video so here is the link to visit.

Total Eclipse of the Heart: Literal Video Version

The video was creepy before but the literal version makes it even more creepy. *shudders*

There are many more literal videos available on YouTube. And you will find some great singers as well. Go ahead and search for them on there and let me know your which ones you liked and post the link below.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Develop your habits – good habits.

Writers are procrastinators. We find excuses, put off what we really need to do for things we should not be doing at all. Writers need to work of developing the habit of writing. Sure there are those few, who can write anywhere, whose words just seem to flow, no matter what. Personally, I need the habit on writing.

1. Find your motivation. Why are you writing? What makes you keep sitting down at the keyboard and plugging away? What do you think about when you don’t feel like writing that makes you pick up the pen anyway? Write down what you want and why you want it.

2. Focus. Make the effort to really focus in on your goals. Focus on forming a new habit that will make writing a priority.

3. Same time, every day. If you pick a certain time of day that you set aside to write, you will start to associate that time with writing. I prefer morning, first thing in the day. I figure it’s better to get it over with early, then I feel much better and less pressured. If I get in extra time during the day, I feel even better.

4. Share. To be fully committed, it’s best to be open, not private about your goals. Tell friends, family, writing partners, tweet it, blog it. Tell them your plan and report your accomplishments. If they are on your side, they will keep you honest.

5. Reward yourself. Don’t wait until the end. Choose little rewards for all of your accomplishments along the way. Maybe word count, maybe writing time, whatever your goals, make sure you acknowledge them.

Getting in the habit of writing is the key to being a successful writer. What are your goals?


Yes it's hot and a good time for short everything except cool drinks. But I'm talking about stories.

Savvy Summer Symposium is underway and so far my favorite workshop is the one on short fiction. Actually, most of the workshops I'm taking at Savvy for the rest of the year and beyond are on short fiction.

I used to read short stories, way back in the day. Then I discovered the denser worlds of spec fic novels and left short stories by the wayside. There are so many writers doing really good work in the short form because they like it not because they can't write anything more. One of my favorite short story writers is Ursula Le Guin. She built whole worlds in her short stories. It was her short fiction that moved me into longer works of hers first, then other writers along the same groove. Another popular master of the short form is Neil Gaiman. I hadn't read his Sandman series. I had heard a friend reading one of his short pieces, one about billy goats or trolls and a bridge. I wanted more.

Short fiction is not something writers fall back on when the novels dry up. It's a playground. A place to stretch and experiment and indulge. But it's also not necessarily easy. Writing a novel's worth of short fiction can be as grueling as writing the same number of novels. Short fiction at it's best is efficient which is taxing enough to master in itself. Using fewer and more carefully chosen words to make a compelling point requires greater attention to choices and uses of those words.

I'm not going to wax too much more poetic now since I've got a short list of stuff to catch up on. Look for discoveries in the future. Meanwhile, where do you get your short form fix? You know, that shot of something new and exciting to hold you over until the next volume in a series comes out? How do you discover new authors to read?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Love For My Writing Space

The water heater in our house had a breakdown last month. It wasn’t really a big deal and the landlord had a new unit installed that evening. The next day I noticed that the carpet was damp on one whole side of the room adjacent to where the heater was housed outside. An awful stench bloomed over the next few days and I was forced to move furniture around to prevent moisture damage.

Sadly, the room was my study where I do most of my writing. After weeks of repeated cleaning and drying, dumping tons of that anti-stink powder and waiting for the smell to clear away, I came to the realization that I’m a complete spaz without my writing space. I’ve spent days wandering from room to room, trying different chairs and positions, with little success and frustratingly sporadic writing. I never thought about how important my own little corner of the world was until it was gone.

Thankfully, it’s finally back to normal and I can breathe again. More importantly, I can write with ease, in my chair, at my table, from the comfort of my room. I guess the one good thing that came out of it is that I now have a clean and organized space. It won’t last long, but I took the time to freeze the moment so I can share my special place with you.

It’s not perfect (we rent, so I have no intention of painting the room even though it could really use it), but it’s mine and I’ll never take it for granted again. We've moved between several cities over the last few years, so my study has gone through a variety of incarnations with each new locale. Yet the bones remain, and I hope to never have to go for so long without my writing space again.

Do you have a spot at home that puts you in the writing zone? Or do you like to hit the road and find new places to get the creative wings fluttering? I'd love to hear what works for you and your craft. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Favorite Part of Fantasy…Magical Creatures

            My favorite part of writing fantasy is imagining the creatures. I make up all sorts, in a range of ages from hatchlings to elder masters. I do love dragons, but am partial to those unique species from my imagination. Many times I begin with a basic anatomy plan from mythic fiction, since readers like some recognizable structures. Here are some useful sites that are wonderful storehouses of those tried and true types from folk legends around the world.

I’ll share one of my favorite dragon-like creations, the cimafa. It’s a horrid monster, about to undo my heroine, Lyra, in my Enchanted Bookstore Legends.

My cimafa heralds its arrival with a blood-curdling screech, laced with power which reverberates in your ears and causes tremors along your nerves. Otherwise, it is difficult to locate until it is upon you, its vast magical power undectectible, known as a stealth aura. It glides in shadows.

Once it is near, it presents as a horrible creature, small in stature for a dragon, like a firedrake, but covered in black shimmering scales. Two pairs of horns extend back from its elongated head. Flames ring its nostrils. The voice box pumps as the chilling sound echoes from the gaping mouth, across rows of pointed teeth. The pupils, dark as pitch, are its most dangerous weapon, capable of pulling your entire aura, even that which contains your soul, from your body, mind, and heart.

Unlike other firedrakes, between its translucent wings it may permit a rider, only if that person agrees to a type of “deal with the devil.” In order to ride, one must sacrifice a portion of his/her soul to the beast.

What fabulous, fun or scary creatures have you created? Please share. 

Art credit: QueenOfDorks
~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. She is the author of the novel, TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE, the first in a trilogy. Part two, TORTUGA TREASURE is contracted for release in January, 2012. Look for her first of an epic fantasy romance series, SEEKING A SCRIBE: ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS ONE, to be available late autumn.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best, Last and Memorable Lines

When I pick up a book, I want to be pulled into a story without realizing I’m being swept away into another world. I want the story to unfold and I don't want to be caught up with how well the writer can write. Yes, you read that right. I love writers who can write beautiful prose, but I don’t want to be stopped in my tracks to admire their handy work. I want to slip into this wondrous place of dreams, the place the writer promised to take me, the place that will change me forever. I admire any writer who can do that.

I started thinking about the first lines of books I've read that hooked me into the story world created by the writer and the last lines that kept me there.

Lines that brought up questions:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in
its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. - Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

Lines that introduce a fascinating character:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

My sister Kwan believes she has yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the world of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco. – Amy Tang, The Hundred Secret Senses

Lines that created an image:
Stone Guardian’s footsteps sounded beneath her window like the clapper of a blind fortune-teller. - Bette Bao Lord, The Middle Heart

Her first memory of pain was an image of her mother. – Gail Tsukiyama, Women of the Silk

Lines that introduced a situation:
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. – Paul Auster, City of Glass

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. – Ha Jin, Waiting

It was the day my grandmother exploded. – Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkable smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. – Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

A voice with a new perspective:
Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. – Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Here is a list of last lines of books I’ve enjoyed.

He is coming and I am here. – Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller’s Wife

Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper – Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

As I left China farther and farther behind, I looked out the window and saw a great universe beyond the plane’s silver wing. I took one more glance over my past life and then turned to the future. I was eager to embrace the world. – Jung Chang, Wild Swan

There was a hum of bees and the musky odor of pinks filled the air. – Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Of course, it’s only superstition, just for fun. But see how fast the smoke rises—oh, even faster when we laugh, lifting our hopes, higher and higher. – Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife

Light falls through the window, falls onto me, into me. Moments. All gathering towards this one. - Jenny Downham, Before I Die

Last of all I will leave you with a clip of memorable lines from films, just to make you smile. Oh, by the way, in searching for a clip, I found that men had most of the good lines. Now why is that, I wonder?

Now you know some of my favorite lines. What are yours?

Till next time,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Keeping Up with New Releases and Great Deals For Your Kindle

It is difficult to track down every new release out there with so many books coming out each month. Add on top of that trying to find deals for Kindle and it gets real hard. It took me a while but these sites below help me by condensing the information so I have more time to write.

New Releases

There is only one source I use for new books published in both hardback/paperback and eBooks. Suzanne Johnson’s column titled Fiction Affliction is posted by genre at the beginning of each month on Tor.com. The genres she covers are Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance and Young Adult Paranormal. They are the most complete listing I have come across. I highly recommend her posts.

You can find the list of posts by using this link.

Kindle Book Deals

There are two sites which I use to find out the best deals for Kindle books. The first site is called DailyCheapReads.com. They list free books and books on sale. Covering a wide variety of genres, you will find a cheap eBook for each of your family members to read.

Visit the deals at DailyCheapReads.com

The second site I use has news information for the Kindle and other eReaders, but they also post free Kindle books. This site is not as visual as the previous one but they list free books faster than the other site. At times, they include sales items but their strong suit is listing the free ones. If you want a good feel of what is going on in the eReaders and eBook market, this is a good site to go to.

Visit the site at Kindle Review

It’s been a while since I’ve gone searching for new sites on new releases and eBook deals. Do you recommend any other sites out there? Post your links below!

Alphasmart – Less is More

My Alphasmart 3000 is a life saver, or a word saver to get technical. It’s a focused word producing muse master. If I had to choose between my computer or my Alphasmart for raw text production, I would take the Alphasmart, hands down. It’s low tech machine that helps to generate high volume. It’s great for writers on the go. When you have a few space minutes, you can instantly start writing – no wait.

The alphasmart is essentially a keyboard with a small display. It saves keystrokes that can be downloaded to the computer when finished. It has 8 different files storage areas and saves as you go.

I bought my Alphasmart on Ebay for $30. Yes, it is an older technology – at least 10 years, but I love it.

Why the Alphasmart is great for writers:
-4 AA batteries last well over 700 hours
-Great portability
-8 file storage areas
-No distraction from Internet
-No distraction from computer games
-Instant on/off – no waiting for a boot up
-The do not get hot on your lap
-Great to carry around to get in a few extra pages per day
-Easy to download files to computer

I just have to write the story without worrying about word count, formatting, how it looks on the page. I just need to write. I can worry about the little things later. Since I bought mine, my word output has increased and the words just seem to flow better. It was a small investment for the convenience of another way to get the words down.

There are updated versions that have email capability, but I prefer to be disconnected when I am writing. If you are looking for a way to get more writing done, think about going low tech.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fairy Tale Season

There's a few things coming this year that look interesting even to me.

Just saw this trailer:

Then, earlier today, I saw this:

But the one that's got me willing to put aside writing for TV and wish I had Tivo, is this one:

I don't have a lot of history watching too many other shows like this on TV so I don't have a lot of expectation. Inspiration? That's another thing entirely.

Evidently, the posters have been previewed at Comic-con as seen on Sur la Lune. And while wandering the interwebs looking for a link to ABC Television, I stumbled on another ABC. This time in Australia. My reward? This lovely interactive site. Guess where you can find me for the rest of my vacation :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ARC Winner and Inspiring Travel

First thing's first: the winner of last week's giveaway for Lisa McMann's The Unwanteds is...


Congrats Ciara - send me an email with your shipping info to: ella(DOT)gray(AT)rocketmail(DOT)com. Thanks to everyone who entered.

As I've been planning our vacation to San Francisco at the end of the month, I've found myself reflecting on past trips that have really inspired me. The beautiful sights, the new sensations, the wonderful people; all of these things are absorbed and mined for story elements later on. Here's a few of my favorite memories:

Colorado mountains are just amazing.

The Duomo in Florence. It's so incredible, and a little scary going up.

View from the top, after the 460+ stairs (worth it).

I love photographing statuary close-ups, an easy hobby in Italy. This one was in a small sea-side park in Sorrento.

Ahh, Venice. 'Nuff said.

Stilt walkers in Dusseldorf. Those guys were a blast!

The view from our hotel in the middle of Queen's Day festivities in Haarlem, the Netherlands. We didn't sleep much that trip, LOL.

Obscure German castles, anyone?

What travels have inspired or benefited your craft? Is there a particular destination that has influenced your work or sparked an idea? I'm also still gathering ideas for my San Francisco trip - let me know where you like to go in the Golden City.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vacation from the rat race with Savvy Author's Symposium

Okay, so the countdown is on.  Ten days until Savvy Author’s Summer Symposium opens and I can’t hide my excitement any longer! 

When I first started my journey of writing for publication (too many years ago), I took every workshop that I could as I tried to pick up the fundamentals as quickly as possible in order to jump over the hurdle of “newbie” right into “seasoned writer”. 

Well mounds of money later and not so many pages of actual writing, I learned the valuable lesson that it is impossible to learn everything there is to know about writing in a few short months.  And without solid hours spent writing, the craft wasn’t going to improve.  It’s like a baseball player trying to hit a curve ball - it takes PRACTICE.  My favorite saying that I see around the Fantasy Forge writing group that I very proudly belong to is “BICHOK” - butt in chair, hands on keyboard.  It always makes me smile.

After months of intervention and being super selective with my workshop registrations, I am going to allow myself to splurge at Savvy’s Symposium.  It only comes along once a year and I’ve found that it’s inspired me to return hard-core to the craft that I loved so much. 

My writing production has been below par.  Last summer I spent every free waking moment at my computer typing away, but as I was rewriting my draft it stopped working and my word count has been down in the downs, much like my writing spirits.  I’ve just been stuck in a major rut, not knowing where my characters are going to go next and what they’re going to do.  And at the moment, my hero isn’t talking to me.   

The Symposium is going to be my vacation from writing.  Everyone deserves a vacation.  On the boards I will be re-energized by reconnecting with my online friends; seeing the excited writers in all stages of their careers expressing their ideas, frustrations and tips; reading the inspiring and revealing writer secrets of those experienced instructors, and learning new aspects to help my writing reach the next level.

There are over 40 mini-works, 30 chats and webinars, and even two chances to pitch throughout the four-days.  The topics vary from character ARC’s to plotting to writing in spite of a crazy busy life and all that good stuff on social media.  Best of all, if you are a Savvy member, it’s free.  If you aren’t a Savvy member, the cost for the writing extravaganza is $30 (or you can just sign up to be a Savvy member for the year which is a huge bargain at $30). Check out http://www.savvyauthors.com  (In my opinion it’s best the $30 a writer will spend.)

Hopefully I’ll see you on the Savvy boards!

RJ Garside :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August is hot with two online writers convention!

It doesn’t get any easier to participate in a writers conference than sitting at home in your jamies and sipping your favorite drink. Plus, what could be better than free!

The first is the WriteOnCon Children’s writers conference. Agent panels and lectures are presented as blogs, vlogs, moderated chats, webinars, podcasts, and livestreaming. There is also a critique forum, where you can post query letters and writing samples to receive feedback from industry professionals. The dates are Tuesday – Thursday, August 16 – 18. Where: http://www.writeoncon.com. They will also have transcripts if you can’t make it. So, go register and remember it’s free.

The second is the Savvy Authors SUMMER SYMPOSIUM. There are so many mini-workshops, chats, webinars and a pitching session too many to list. It’s incredible! I've signed up for practically everything. The dates are August 24 – August 28 and it’s free for all premium members. By the way, it’s well worth the membership fee. It’s a steal! Where: http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/showevent.php?eventid=1143

Will you be joining in the fun?

Till next time,

Friday, August 12, 2011

How I Recharged Myself

When you reach a point when you don't know where to go next or you can't make any final decision on something trivial in your novel. How do you get pass it?

It is a tough spot to be in especially if you keep pushing yourself to move forward. My frantic need to finish as soon as possible created periods of confusion and not feeling right about anything. I fell out of touch with everything around me. After I went crazy trying to pick out which direction my characters were going in, I decided to recharge myself to get back on track.

The moment I stopped thinking day and night about my WIP did I start to think with clarity again.

Here are 3 things that helped me reach that point:

1. I drove an hour away to meet up with friends for lunch. The drive helped me to focus on something else besides writing. Lunch with my friends took my mind off of everything. I realized it's been months since I talked to them in person. Twitter, text, and Facebook are wonderful ways to keep in touch but nothing beats sitting face to face.

2. I returned back to my old hobby. Once upon a time, I followed astrology and read every book I could get my hands on. Now I realized how much I missed it once I started to ease myself back into it. I always believed it helps to explain who you are. And rereading my sign, it pushed me into looking within myself.

3. I started to learn again. I always have been curious. If it sparked my interest, I pestered someone to tell me about it. Then I went to the library. When the internet came, I jumped with joy. In the last few weeks, I started to learn about earth based religion after watching Charmed on Netflix. It is a fascinating area and may prove useful in future ideas.

Those three little things helped me to view the bigger picture. I know what I must do to move forward in my WIP. I won't rush myself head first now. My feet need to be planted on the ground this time around. With help from my writing workshops and my fellow writers, I will be back and fully charged to write again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pythagoras Wednesday

It's been a couple of those kines of weeks, here in the capital of Wonderland. So, I'm posting a light and frothy treat that doesn't. If there is a visual aid for a well crafted story, these little show openers are it. Pythagoras Switch is a Japanese science show for kids. If you want to work on your Japanese, there are subtitled videos of the show on Google videos. Meanwhile... enjoy

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Middle Grade Musing and Giveaway

It's amazing how much has changed in the world of books in just a few decades. Genres like steampunk, urban fantasy and paranormal romance have grown and firmly established themselves in the market. Bookstores have made room for expanding popular categories like young adult, graphic novels and new age. Most of these stories were barely represented in the shop I worked in just under ten years ago.

But I want to address middle grade fiction, which is roughly meant for ages 9-12, and has also transformed significantly since I was a child. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed devouring whatever was available to me: Madeline L'engle, Roald Dahl and Katherine Paterson immediately come to mind. Most titles in this age group are timeless and will be read by many generations; a wonderful thing.

Now that I've reached that age where most of my friends have started families, I've noticed something wonderful happening. I know families with multiple children of varying ages that sit around every night and read together. Not only that, but every one of them, parents included, are loving the middle grade stories they share. I hope to experience the same thing when I take the parenting plunge.

Authors like Rick Riordan, Cornelia Funke, Christopher Paolini, Jane Yolen, Angie Sage, Eion Colfer, Douglas E. Richards, and many more, are proving that young readers want more than just the standard books to check off their class reading lists. The lines between categories may be blurring, but great stories for all-ages audiences are definitely on the rise.

I'm very pleased to be able to offer up an ARC for the new Lisa McMann middle grade book, The Unwanteds. Here is the blurb:

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret—behind the mirage of the “death farm” there is instead a place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

If you’d like this one to be yours, just follow our blog and leave a comment below letting me know your favorite middle grade author, past or present.
The contest will run until midnight next Monday, 15th, and one winner will be chosen using Random.org. I'll announce who the lucky person is in my post on the 16th. Good luck everyone!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reading Tips for Writers

Many of us read in our genre. Fantasy writers like to read fantasy, often narrowing in to subgenres. I know I do, maybe to be inspired from a viewpoint I hadn’t thought about. 

I’ve put together a list of ideas to help me evaluate and learn as I read in my genre. This is different than a review in many ways, taking a closer look at style. 

Currently, I’m reading The White Cat, a YA paranormal by Holly Black. Since I’m reading it with a book club, I’m encouraged to slow down and take a closer look, so using this system is especially helpful.

Analyze the story’s structure. There are many outlines for this. I use Larry Brooks’ system.

Part 1: (Set-up/introduction/liking main character/hook) The main character, a high school junior named Cassel, wakes up to find himself on the roof of his dormitory, being led there by a strange dream about a magical cat he must chase. That would hook me any day.
First Plot Point—(turning point, changing everything, threatening MC) I’m struggling to find this, sixty pages into a 210 page book. There has been a lot of creative delivery of back story and introduction of new secondary characters.
Part 2: (character in planning mode, not attacking yet, wanderer)
Midpoint—(new information allows MC to form a plan of attack)
Part 3: (warrior, attacking opposition)
Second Plot Point—(final piece of puzzle changes everything again, chase is on and hero is not to be denied)
Part 4: (resolution)

Note the book’s structure. Consider POV, chapter and section arrangements, use of prologue or epilogue. 

The POV speaker in The White Cat is Cassel. It is very unusual that this is written in first person, present tense. I’m learning a lot about present tense writing, which I’ve stayed totally away from. Although first revolted, I actually like it now and might consider trying it myself. Great to see how it’s used well.

Keep a list of interesting words and phrases. I’m a workaholic and this happens naturally, to be impressed with a cool turn of a phrase. 

Analyze the book’s blurb. How much of the plot is given away? What is included to entice the reader? What is revealed about the characters?

The White Cat has a blurb with the first paragraph being entirely back story. Therefore, I shouldn’t have been so surprised when most of 60+ pages have been just that.  The rest of the blurb does give a lot away, telling that the young man is being set up by his family, a group of con-artists. In the story, the author takes a long time to accomplish this, as though she wanted to lead you through the maze without you realizing it. I’m left wondering why she ruined her surprise by including it in her blurb. 

Identify the intended audience. Who is it written for? Does it exclude some groups?

This is a YA book and the style is definitely geared to that age group, rather simple for adults, both in language and complexity of emotional relationships.

Note things that distract you. Are any moments of the story unbelievable? Or awkward?

An overwhelming amount of back story has bothered me. The author chose to tell much about how Cassel’s family members used magic rather than showing them doing so in their peculiar ways. I’d rather see more, but I’m hopeful there is a good reason for this method.

Describe the writer’s voice. How does it sound in your mind? What makes that voice unique?

The voice is casual, like listening to your best friend ramble with ease. It’s warm and friendly. I’m enjoying that aspect a lot. It’s a definite strength of this novel and author.

Note the type of research involved. Are there historical or cultural references or a specialized interest topic?

There are references to Prohibition and the Depression, so research about that time period was necessary.

Note what makes the book special. Why might you recommend it?

I like the usual ways magical abilities of Cassel’s family members. I found that very imaginative and a real strength of the book.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Where the hands move, there let the eyes follow."

Keep your eyes on the lovely hula hands for they tell a story. Every movement, expression and gesture in the sacred dance of hula has a specific meaning. The secret hand movements signify the different aspects of nature and the heavens. A chant, the pounding of a drum made from the trunk of the coconut or breadfruit tree and a gourd accompany the dance. The chant has its own hidden meanings, for example rain as a metaphor for love. Before the dance begins, a performer slips into a light trance by meditating on the god, spirit, or the intention of the dance. And this is where the magic happens when that connection transpires.

“For when it is done well, hula represents a metaphysical union of the forces that have always characterized man’s attempts to make himself one with the universe.” Ishmael Stagner

I am fascinated with the sacred art of the hula, not only because it reminds me of home, but because my young heroine in my wip embraces the spiritual significance of the dance. It is a symbol of her connection to nature and the heavens.

Feast your eyes on these beautiful videos.

Ke Alaula - Hula by Tiana Komeiji from Chad Brownstein on Vimeo.

Ke Alaula by The Makaha Sons

E Kumuola, e ku'u tutu,
Poha mai ka 'onohi 'ula,
Wehi 'ia ke alaula,
Mai ka mole, ke kikowaena,
Mai ka mole, ke kikowaena,

Ha'alulu ke kumu honua,
Haku 'iku'i i ka' 'aina nei,
Wehe 'ia ke alaula,
'O Kamawaipolani
'O Kamawaipolani

Hane'ene'e hele i kai.
'Oni me ka muliwai 'ola,
Wehi 'ia ke alaula,
Uhi pono i ke ea,
Uhi pono i ke ea,

Puana ke ha'ina,
Ho'okukaulani i hei kapu,
Wehe 'ia ke alaula,
No nahanauna nei.
No nahanauna nei.
No nahanauna nei.

The Dawning

Oh, Tree of Life, My tutu,
Burst with rays of fire,
Opened a flaming pathway
From the source, the center
From the source, the center

The foundation trembled,
Echoed throughout the land
Opened a stream of life
Appeared Kamawaipolani
Appeared Kamawaipolani

Moving toward the sea,
Onward like a living river
Opened a seaward path

Enveloped in life’s' breath
Enveloped in life’s' breath

The story is told,
Restore this sacred domain
Opened the path of life
For the generations of this land
For the generations of this land
For the generations of this land

Sacred dance is a very old art form used by many different cultures. Have you thought of using some form of dance or music in your work?

Till next time,

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Expression of Love From Fans

Readers write stories set within the world an author created. They are called fanfiction. They use characters from their favorite author to write their own story. Sometimes they create their own character to roam the world. The fandom of fanfiction is complex. Some fics are great while other can be terrible, but they all share the same love for the writer's original work.

Fans always think of the 'what ifs' and start to write them out. One of my favorite 'what if' scenario is Harry Potter and Hermione Granger as a couple. I love to read them and check every few weeks for any new stories. 'What ifs' enter the realm of that isn't possible based on canon (original timeline) material. Another couple pairing from Harry Potter is Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley. Based on the Rowling's novels, there is no way those two would ever happen. But the fans thought of the possibility and went for it.

The pairings and scenarios written by fans are vast. Each fandom shares the terminology or scenario but some are unique. For example, a fan labeled as 'fluff' generally is happy content fic with little to no plot. They aren't long pieces and cover the little things in life. The best known scenario in anime fanfiction is the 'blanket scenario'. Basically, there is one blanket for two people to share during a cold night. They range from explicit to fluff material.

The best resource to read these works is Fanfiction.net. The website has been around for over 10 years and is the first centralized location for fans to share and comment on fics. The site sorts fandoms based on whether it is a book, TV show, movie, etc. Some fans write stories with more than one fandom together called 'crossovers'. For more lingo, visit this link.

Challenge: Check out the Fanfiction.net and read your favorite book or TV show fics by other fans and report back on your experience.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cover Art

I love book covers – the covers that draw you in, that tell a story at a glance. I think in another life I should have been a graphic artist because I would love, love, love to be able to create a piece of art that matches the written word.

I know that not all covers represent exactly what is inside the book, but I would like to think that I know just by looking what the story is going to be about. I hope that when I get published, my cover will bring me to tears – in a good way.

Some of the covers I love:

This Rebecca York cover is for her novella from Carina Press. Most of the time their covers are fantastic. I love the energy of this one and the hot guy doesn’t hurt either.

The colours really POP in this cover for Janni Nell’s mystery series! You can tell the book is going to be fun by the cover. The little heart/butterfly wing emblem at the bottom is carried through the series. It is another Carina Press cover.

I love the colour red and this is just so rich and luxurious I want to touch the cover. The book is by Kady Cross and I am going to read it just because of the cover-plus I love steampunk :)

Bethany House has great covers, they are known for it. I know it is a little out of the realm of this blog, but I bought this book just from the cover and I loved it. Cathy Marie Hake is one of my favourite authors. The cover is fun and quirky, just like the book.

Just some of my faves!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Peony in Love -- a paranormal romance

Peony in Love: a novel
Lisa See
ISBN 978-1-4000-6466-3
Putnam NY
273 pages
Release date: June 26, 2007

Chen Tong, Peony, has fallen under the spell of a legend. On the Seven Seven, the seventh day of the seventh month, the lovers Weaving Maid--one of the Kitchen God's seven daughters--and the Cowherd, separated by the Milky Way, cross the bridge of magpie wings to rekindle their passion. It is a night for lovers, for the dream of true love's power to transcend even the intervention of a goddess. Two days before her birthday, her sixteenth Seven Seven, Peony attends the first of three nights' performances of The Peony Pavilion, a classic opera portraying the story of Liniang and Mengmei--a girl of a good family and the young scholar she falls in love with. Watching with the other women of the household from behind screens, Peony sees--and falls in love with--a young man, her own young scholar.

It is 1665, after the fall of the Ming dynasty to the Manchu, when women remained hidden behind gates and walls, and marriages arranged by parents and astrology charts. Peony is already betrothed to someone she has never seen and knows nothing about. Between the spell of the opera and the spell of love the young man shares with her, Peony becomes one of the lovesick girls who have fallen under the spell of The Peony Pavilion, and its story of love that transcends death. Rather than as a bride, Peony leaves her family compound for the first time as a corpse, beginning her life as a lovesick ghost. The novel is her continuing pursuit of love.

Peony's journey through the world of the dead and its inhabitants is also the story of longing of a different kind: to be heard. Tong Chen, Peony, has been heard. Lisa See lets us hear Peony's story through her own words as she narrates her own story. We see the world of the Manchu, both the world of the living and the world of the dead, through the eyes of the sixteen year old as she navigates the bureaucracy of the afterlife and struggles to survive her continuing pursuit of love. See reveals the hidden world of women, and the lives they hide from each other. This is her gift as an historical writer writing of her own cultural history. The reader is taken deep into the traditions of a culture we are still curious about today. We see the binding of girls' feet, watch the sacrifice of women so that their husbands and sons survive, and the fear that haunts them even when they have negotiated a freedom as poets and authors.

Lisa See writes deeply from her own family's history in China and brings that intimacy to Peony's world. Her love for the history, her recognition of how men were also trapped by the traditions they had to uphold, her sensitivity to the effects of war and bureaucracy on households and all their responsibilities shows in every scene. See also knows how to use the details of domesticity and the scope of history to build tension and maintain suspense.

While Peony in Love is a true story, it is also a ghost story, a romance, and the history of women's dreams.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Entangled Publishing Launch & Savvy Authors Summer Symposium

Today I'm celebrating the official launch of a new independent publishing house, Entangled Publishing. Anyone familiar with the Savvy Authors website will immediately recognize most of the names heading this exciting addition to the book world. These are some of the hardest-working people out there, and they know their stuff when it comes to book markets. It’s nice to see fresh faces on the scene who aren’t afraid to shake things up and develop new models for success.

Entangled is offering a wide range of titles, and judging by the line-up so far, it’s going to be a fantastic beginning. There are several events scheduled this week to kick things off, including a scavenger hunt on Friday and a live chat tonight at Coffee Time Romance & More. Go to the Entangled website and browse today’s releases, buy them up, and dive right in.

Back to Savvy Authors and their Summer Symposium event, August 24-28th. Last year I spent practically the entire long weekend in my pajamas, scarfing ice cream, attending workshops and chats, and meeting a bunch of great people. It was loads of fun and I learned plenty of new writing tips and tricks. This year’s schedule looks amazing already; the only problem is that I’ll be away on vacation for most of it.

I leave for beautiful San Francisco on August 25th, so until then I plan to encourage everyone I can to sign up and enjoy the Symposium in my stead. Register here, and I expect to hear all about it when I return. The entire event is free for premium members, so now's the perfect time to join the site.

Congratulations to the team at Entangled Publishers and best of luck with today's launch! And many thanks to the wonderful Savvy Authors crew for putting together another amazing online writer's conference. I wish I was able to attend, but there's always next year...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vampire Variations

Just the other day I was at the movies with my husband to watch a non-paranormal movie (yes, sometimes I do watch movies that have no shape shifters, vampires or mythical creatures).  I was so pumped when the trailer for the new Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part I announced that the movie would be released November 18, 2011. (yes the countdown is on!)  

I loved the Twilight Saga and I am a vampire fanatic, which is probably strongly linked to why I still write vampire main characters.  Yes, I’ve heard time and time again how the vampire market is dead (literally) and overly saturated, but again, putting a new spin on my favorite supernatural creature could be fun and I am always looking for research.

So I checked out the definition of “vampire”, which is:
1. A preternatural being, commonly believed to be a reanimated corpse, that is said to suck the blood of sleeping persons at night.
2. According to Eastern European folklore, a corpse, animated by an departed soul or demon, that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living, until it is exhumed and impaled or burned.
OR alternatively a person who has made a pact with the devil, selling his soul to him in exchange for nearly eternal life as long as the person sucks the blood from other people (and often kill them).

Throughout the world there are very interesting variations and types to vampires, I’m going to share with you a few of my favorites.  Prior to the romance with the vampire, the first vampire novels featured a bloated, purple or dark skin-color.  Blood seeping from the mouth and nose and very long hair, nails and teeth.

Origin: Albania
Name: Sampiro
This vampire goes around at night wrapped in its shroud and wears shoes with very high heels.  This was one of my favorites as I pictured Dracula or Edward Cullen stalking through the night in four-inch heels.  This is definitely a variation.

Origin: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Name: Blautsauger
This vampire has no skeleton, are very hairy and have over sized eyes.  They can also shape shift into rats or wolves.  They also hold a bit of earth from their tombs and try to make sleeping peasants eat it to transform them into vampires. 

Origin: Brazil
Name: Lobishomen
This vampire is small, stumpy and hunch-backed, resembling a monkey.  Its face is yellow, has bloodless lips, black teeth, a bushy beard and plush-covered feet. 

Origin: Australia
Name: Pink Vampire
The pink vampire live in the modern age.  It’s skin and fangs are cold.  When angered their eyes go red.  It can function in normal daylight and are harder to kill than regular vampires.

Origin: Australia
Name: Yara-ma-yha
This vampire is a little red man that sucks his victim’s blood through his suction-cup like hands and feed.

I’m not sure how their variations would do with paranormal romance readers.  Any thoughts or know of any other strange variations?
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