Thursday, July 25, 2013

Actually Finishing Something in July: Week 2

Okay, so it is definitely not the second week of July...I'm a bit behind with these posts. (So, you'll get a couple a week till July ends.)

Thanks to Katie from Whisperings of the Pen for hosting this!

1) How time flies! Did you reach your weekly goal?

I didn't have a weekly goal, but considering I wrote next to nothing, I'll go with no.

2) Is this challenge pushing and encouraging you to write more often?

At this point (second to last week of the month), absolutely.

3) Did you accomplish most of your writing in the morning, afternoon, evening, or at random intervals during your busy day (i.e. waiting for your neighbors to go inside so you can jump on the trampoline without disturbing them)?

Afternoon or evening. I'm really, really not a morning person.

4) Any particular musical tracks inspiring your prose?

The Kind David soundtrack is what started this series...and it's also what's getting me through.

5) Share a snippet (or two) of your writing!
“Well, maybe you should give the story a chance to be told,” Ella countered.
“What do you think I’ve been doing?” Joe asked.
“Using me as a drawing board to perfect your witty banter,” Ella said, without hesitation.
“My banter does not need perfecting in order to be witty,” Joe said, grinning.
6) Share your three favorite bits of dialogue.
“Sleepy,” Joe interjected. “I was sleepy—not ungrateful.” 
“Money can do a lot of things that shouldn’t be possible, Davey.”
“Are you ready for some liquid warmth?”
7) How are you going to move forward in this challenge? Are you changing your word-count goal, or other such battle plans this week?

My goal is the same, my pace will just need to be much faster now. I should set weekly or daily goals to be sure it happens...but it will.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Actually Finishing Something in July

I'm slightly late with this, but I really loved the idea and knew right away I wanted to participate.

A huge thanks to Katie, of Whisperings of the Pen, for hosting this motivational tool!

1) What is your writing goal?

To finish the current draft of As Fairydust Settles.

2) Give us a short synopsis of your project. What makes it unique?

AFS is a sequel to Shrouded Jewels, and continues to follow Mical and Davey as they go through the realities of deception, love, and brokenness. It's unique in that it follows the Bible story found in 1 Samuel 18, but with a modern twist.

3) How long have you been working on this project?

Oh...since November, 2011.

4) How often do you intend to write in order to reach your goal by August 1st?

Daily, even if only a couple sentences come out.

5) Introduce us to three of your favorite characters in this project.

Davey, Sammy, and Anna. The hero (Davey), naturally, is a favorite. He's far from perfect, but I love his strength. Sammy is a wonderful mentor with a thilly side, and Anna is sweet and honest.

6) Go to page 16 (or 6, 26, or 66!) of your writing project. Share your favorite line or snippet on the page.

Anna sat on the ground, facing Mical. She crossed her legs and leaned forward. “How’s it going?” 
Mical glanced up at the clock on the far wall. Squinting her eyes slightly, she saw that she still had almost half an hour before class. “Okay.”
“What’s wrong?”
She bit her lip. Somehow, Anna always knew.

7) Tea or coffee?

I do try to drink more tea, but it has to be coffee (especially with French Vanilla Creamer, but I love it with milk and sugar, too). The flavor and smell are just fantastic.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Author Interview: Elizabeth Kaiser

In honor of the release of her newest book, Traitor's Knife, today I got to have a fun interview with author Elizabeth Kaiser.

Okay—let’s get the factual parts out of the way. What are the names of your books, what are they about, and where can people find them? Can you give short summaries of your books?

I've finished two so far, both in the same series. In the first, Jeweler's Apprentice, a bookish country lass, Fia, stumbles onto a court secret while trying to save the princess (and the princess turns out to be in no danger at all). To get her out of the way the Chancellor sends her on an apprenticeship to a high mountain jeweler, but he is unaware that the civil war in the neighboring kingdom is spilling over into the jeweler's house.
JA is available on Amazon.

The sequel, Traitor's Knife, picks up where Jeweler's Apprentice left off. When the loyalist cause enlists the mountain house into a weaponry, we find our apprentice Fia confronted with refugee children, a disturbingly upstart former messenger, and accidents happening everywhere. Are saboteurs out to nix the weapons works, or is it the incognito crown prince they're after?

What genre are your books?
I'd classify them as Fantasy, though they're very Low-Fantasy and a lot of feedback I receive says that they feel like historical fiction. I love that, since I want to bring a lot of realism and down-to-earthiness to the fantasy genre.
In fact, readers say they wish my settings were real, 'cause they want to visit! Super love that!

As you can see by my header, thilly is its own word, and it means “sillier than silly”. With that in mind, what thilly thing do you do regularly? Have you done it today? (If not, why not?)
I guess I'm not into doing silly things in and of themselves, but if someone else thinks I'm silly, I've learned not to let that bother me. I used to be shy and stiff, but life's to short to let silly fears keep you in a box. I've developed somewhat of a personal manifesto; if I feel like doing something and it has no chance of harming anything, than go for it!
So, if I feel like it I will: dance in the kitchen while my sisters look on with horrified amusement, I will randomly groove to the beat of a song in my head or even sing it, I will wink at the mirror and say "Go get'em, tiger!" or blow myself a kiss... in general, I will refuse to let momentary uncertainties preclude the fact that I am here to learn to dance in the rain of life.

What word or words do you use too much?
Um... well, I'm a vocabulary collector, so I run through them regularly. There's so many option for any given job!
One thing I did do wrong was confuse "continuity" and "spontaneity" for several years. So I said "continaety" instead of "continuity" and frankly, it sounded better. But I looked it up in private after being publicly called on it, (of course I defended my pronunciation at the time. It DID sound British! ) So... that was a little embarrassing for a long while, but I've tried to put it behind me. Nobody's perfect, and why should I be the exception?
But even now, I have to think before I say "The overarching theme lends greater conti... nuity to the series as a whole."
Wish I didn't have to do that. But there you have it.

What is your writing fuel?
I would say chocolate is sort of my personal first-aid kit for any crash and burn experiences I have, or simply for those kind of days. Dark, dark chocolate, or anythign with mint or peanut butter. As for my writing fuel; I have to honestly say it's my sister. She's the one who brainstorms with me, cheers my raw snippets, edits and polishes later drafts, and her unflagging appreciation for my tales is what keeps me chained in the chair even when burnout has struck and I'd rather be anywhere else, including Arizona in August. (And I hate heat!)

If you could have a porcupine or a penguin for a pet, which would you choose?
I hate porcupines! They are sooo ugly. Have you seen one up close? Seriousy... ick. Besides, they kill pine trees, and in the west, being a tree-murderer is almost as bad as a horse thief. We don't have the trees to spare.
So penguin it is. Though I hope it's one that likes temperate climes, 'cause I'm NOT living in the Arctic. No way.

Life is full of little celebrations (things to be grateful for). What are you celebrating today?
I know this isn't a little thing at all, but right now I'm just celebrating the fact that I've got an absolutely awesome King; and He lets me tag along in His shadow as part of His retinue. What a mind blowing reality that is. I've just been in a frenzied state of worry and concern over life-things this past week, and then I finally take it to Him and He knocks it out of the park with His word.
So I'm just basking in the stunned state that always follows.
Why does this take me by surprise every time?

How much time do you spend writing each day?
I do not have a set schedule; in fact I wrote a blog post about that and titled it "Pipes or Cistern?" I'm a cistern writer. I can write 'till I'm dry, and then I have to wait for a refill. This can result in huge output, and then long dry spells. But it's okay, since there's always lots to be done around here.

Who is your favorite character (in your own writing)? Why?
Ooooo! Ouch. How can I answer this? There are too many! I guess I'll limit it to Traitor's Knife, to make it possible to answer.
My personal favorite character in this book is Gilahdro, the Spymaster, former Gemkeeper. He is just so cool. I'd love to be his relation in some form, because even the reflected amazingness would make me so proud of my family connections!
And I'd LOVE to have him stop in for supper, have long talks about his view of the world... he's just such a interesting man, I really, really, really like him.

Who is your favorite character (in other books)?
I guess that would be a toss up between Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and the dwarves. They are all so perfectly pitched to their own situations, and I love the way that they harmonize as a group. To me, Tolkien's finest work was the Hobbit, and it's one of the few books I never tire of re-reading. Even a paragraph or a page, it's just music.

What is your biggest distraction, and how do you move past it?
My biggest distraction would probably be the fact that I get bored with my stories right before they're two-thirds to three-quarters done, and finishing them is like pulling teeth. My creative muscle doesn't want to return to them, and my perspective is shot.
Here's where my sis is a lifesaver. She tells me exactly what scenes I need to make happen; and then she'll let me know if they're hitting the right notes, because at this point I've gone tone-deaf.
So Abigail is how I move past that. She's the best!

And finally, what is the most rewarding part about writing for you?
I love the emotional rush that comes when I'm allowing these characters, settings and actions pour out of my head onto the page. It's like an adrenaline high, and after a particularly good session I'll be so hyped I have trouble going to bed. That is a huge part of why I write; and what made me write even before I had anyone who "liked" what I did. I kept doing it purely for this rush.
Second, the warm fuzzy feeling I get now when Abi reads a finished scene and gets all excited about it. That is completely sweet, and there's nothing in the world like it. To know that something I created has made an impression like that is just staggering and humbling at the same time. I love that moment.
I even love it when she keeps us awake late into the night for months afterward, going on and on about the worlds I've written. Since my first novel came out, (Jeweler's Apprentice) I've heard back from readers who are also older sisters, and they are being kept awake at night while their siblings talk excitedly about my characters, and I love that, too!
Thirdly, the feeling of accomplishment and finality when I've ground out the work it takes to finish a full manuscript... that is a mixed bag of emotions, but the sense of fulfillment is very, very satisfying. 

I've got a lot of "lost tales", as do most writers, I think. Now I'm bothered by them and want to go back and finish them up... even though I am still getting new ideas! Still, I think I'm going to try to balance the two, and bring to fruition the gems of the pile, so to speak.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: Monster

I don't normally post reviews on this blog, since they're more for my Rivershore Books one, but I enjoyed this book so much I wanted to share it here, too.

I approached this book with a little trepidation. Monster sounds like the title of a thriller—a genre I tend to avoid. The actual genre of this book is something like dystopian, realistic fiction, with perhaps a little science fiction. It’s difficult to place it, since I hadn’t read anything quite like it before.

Set in 2053, Neal paints a realistic (if undesirable) future. The story begins in a medical facility in Alaska, and follows a brilliant young scientist, Eva, as she receives a promotion in WorldCure and is given a chance to run tests and experiments on one of the facility’s subjects. Her goal, and the supposed goal of her employer, is to find cures for diseases. There are darker motivations at play, however.

For a book that takes place in the future, Neal did a great job of keeping the advancements (or regressions) believable. Nothing seemed too far-fetched, from the technology to the declining morals.

Although it’s not my favorite genre, I’ve read and seen enough futuristic fiction to know authors are easily tempted to exaggerate some of the advancements we’ll have. For example, the hover cars in Back to the Future are supposed to be here in 2015. I suspect that after these next two years pass, I’ll still be waiting for mine.

There wasn’t anything like hovering cars in Monster. The new technologies Neal introduced were very small, subtle differences from what we currently have: things I can picture actually occurring in the next forty years.

It wasn’t the technology that drew me into the novel, though. There is a depth to her characters that was immediately noticeable. She has a talent for observing little but important details: those pieces of a person that give you a glimpse into who they are. The way she captured the quirks, flaws, and beauty of the characters was wonderful. I fell in love with her characters—Mir in particular—and they kept my attention through all 400+ pages.

A little warning: there are some violent parts throughout the book, and descriptions of unpleasant medical procedures, mainly within the first half. The scenes themselves are short, but for me they left a lasting impression.

Neal is skilled at descriptions. No matter where her characters went or what they were doing, I could clearly picture the scene. I have never been in a medical research facility (hospitals don’t count), but if I had any artistic talent, I could draw WorldCure. The way the scenes are painted gives the reader something to imagine without bogging us down with too many unimportant facts.

But arguably the best part of the book—at least, the part that has me replaying it over again in my mind days after I’ve reached “the end”—is the fact that the topics within it are far from “fluff”. Monster brings up deep, thoughtful subjects such as faith, humanity, and how to balance scientific facts with improvable beliefs. Neal handles each one of these excellently and naturally, with realistic discussions, mainly in the form of debates between Eva and her professor friend and mentor, Pocky. None of it seems forced, and none of it seems “preachy”.

Every once in a while, there comes a book that captures the reader so much, it stays with them long after they’ve put it down. These are rare, but wonderful. Monster is one of those books.

The paperback and Kindle versions are both available on Amazon.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review.