Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays!

To everyone, celebrating or not, I hope you are having a wonderful week, and that you are happy and healthy and having fun.

I'm feeling reinvigorated and I'm raring to go on my novel. New goal: get to my novel's Inciting Incident by the end of the year. That means I've got to write 3 scenes by January 1st! And off we go...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: The Black Swan

I waited too long to review this one! Now I'm not sure I have a good enough memory of the details to write a good review. But I'll give it a shot.

There's definitely stuff to like. The Black Swan is essentially a fairytale retelling - it's based on a ballet but there is a lot of similarity between the way a ballet plot works and the way a fairytale plot works (and for that matter, a lot of ballets are themselves based on fairytales....). The book does a decent job of filling in the back story and rounding out the characters of one of my favorite ballets ever.

The problems arise when you consider who the main characters of the book are versus who the main characters of the ballet are. Lackey stays extremely close to the plot of the ballet - most of her additions come in terms of characterization, or actions that occur before the ballet takes place. But Odile, the main character of the book, is barely involved in that plot at all. So the protagonist of the book is at best tangentially involved in its plot.

I liked that Siegfried started out as not a nice guy, but I'm not sure I bought his transformation completely. Plus, it took up a lot of the book and was over even before he met Odette, just slows the pace.

Clothilde was sort of interesting. I liked her machinations with Uwe (actually, Uwe was very interesting. There was a lot of potential for good story there, and didn't go anywhere).

Hardly any time was spent on Rothbart - he was just as important an antagonist - if not more- but we spend a lot of time getting to know Clothilde and not him, and he comes across as a bit flat.

I also liked that Odette wasn't innocent, but her backstory didn't really have any consequences, as Siegfried forgives her pretty much immediately after learning about it. What, then, was the point?

Actually, all of the conflicts that could have arisen in their relationship are waved away. Siegfried is a jerk? He reforms before he meets Odette. Siegfried has other suitors? He never likes any of them as much as Odette. Odette has a dark secret in her past? Siegfried forgives her as soon as he hears it. Boring!

Odile had the most interesting treatment by far. I liked how she came to sympathize gradually with the swans (the back of the book lies, by the way). But she definitely spent too much time defending Rothbart/making excuses for him, past the point where I thought that was realistic.

I was really more interested in her and her magical growth and personal growth than I was in the whole Siegfried/Odette plot. I wish that Lackey had strayed a little more from her inspiration and somehow made Odette's trial really some sort of test for Odile. If it had been Odile vs. Rothbart from the beginning I think that would have worked better. Or if not, then having Odile be the main character really doesn't work.

And while there were moments that moved along quickly, there were too many others that dragged. I like a good dress description as much as the next girl, and I'm maybe even a little more tolerant in that regard than some readers. But there were so many long descriptions of medieval castle life...did we really need to know the sleeping arrangements of every single member of the castle's household? Or a step-by-step description of the peasant dances for the hunting party?

There was a lot of potential, here. I just don't think the book was as successful as it could have been.

3 stars. A decent book, but not one I think I'll reread.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Glorious Creature That Moved Me To Tears

This is a Coquerel's sifaka (pronounced shi-fahk or shi-fah-ka depending on who you ask), once considered to be a subspecies of Verreaux's sifaka but since elevated to its own species. Its scientific name is Propithecus coquereli.

Last semester, I took a class called Explorations in Primate Anatomy. The overarching assignment of the semester was to select a "chosen species" and investigate, in detail, its distribution/habitat/behavior, cranial morphology, dental morphology, and postcranial morphology.

I spent three months immersed in this animal. (Well, sometimes I was looking at P. verreaxi bones but that's just because we didn't have the Coquerel, and besides they are extremely closely related and primatologists are notorious splitters anyway...)

Two weeks ago I went to the Bronx Zoo with my mammalogy class. We happily went around looking at geladas and giraffes and sea lions and brown bears and polar bears and tigers and then we walked into the Madagascar building and this is the FIRST THING I SEE.

I teared up. Not joking.

I was SO EXCITED AND SO HAPPY to see this little guy and I can hardly tell you why - I just spent so long with his species that I feel this very close affinity and to see one in person - the real, living creature to which the skulls I spent so much time with belonged - was just incredibly moving. And then he looked right at me and I pretty much did cry, looking at his adorable little face.

It's a good thing that I'm not likely to ever run into a living Neandertal. I think if I ever met a Neandertal in person I'd expire on the spot.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Because I am Made of Insanity

I am Ridiculously Busy. No, I mean it.

These are the things that I do:
  • Go to school. Take 7 classes.
  • Attempt to not fail those 7 classes.
  • Participate in extracurriculars. I am the chair of a club and an editor for a journal.
  • Nutcracker! That's 5+ hours of rehearsal every week. Plus additional time dealing with planning the schedule/writing emails/other assorted tasks.
  • Volunteer at a hospital. Incredibly interesting, incredibly rewarding, incredibly time consuming.
  • Teach ballet to little ones. Also rewarding, also time consuming. Plus involves getting up quite early in the morning.
  • Sometimes do other fun things, like take ballet class. Or go to the zoo for my Natural History of the Mammals course (coming soon: a post on the animal that made me cry).
 So those are a lot of things.

Now, I'm not listing them out like this to complain, or even to boast. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who do this much and more. And if I was really feeling overwhelmed I could drop a few of these things. My intention here is to give you an understanding of how nice and full my schedule is right now, so you can fully appreciate the insanity that is about to happen.

So Many Things! Let's Add Another

The reaction of any sane person to the above would be to stop adding more things. Of course, I am not a sane person. So what did I go and do? Add bullet point number 8:

  • Write 50,000 words in a month.

Yes, I'm doing NaNo. Or rather, I'm pretending to do Nano.

My Insanity Has Its Limits

Yes, I am crazy. I think we've pretty well established that. But I'm not that crazy.

I fully recognize the fact that I am not going to be able to devote as much time and attention to each of these as they need. Unless I never sleep, there simply aren't enough hours in the day! And unfortunately while I would like to write half a novel in a month, the 60+ pages of essays I have to produce must take priority. (As an aside, if anyone has a great interest in the Neandertal cranium or bone histology or reproductive strategies of Marsupials, let me know).

If you go peek at my NaNo profile, you'll see that in half a month I've written one day's worth of words (really it's a little more, as I haven't counted handwritten pages). I'm not going to get to 50,000. But if I write a little every day, even if it's just a sentence scribbled in my notebook during the fifteen minutes between classes, I'll call it a win.

Who's With Me in the Nuthouse?

We've all got our own special brand of crazy. Mine is apparently trying to do EVERY SINGLE THING all at once. What's yours?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Where Did the Novel Go?

 I Didn't Abandon Princess

It's still there, I promise. And soon I will get around to editing the side bars. But I will admit to not doing a lot with it, mostly because by the time I'm done with classes and homework my "producing" abilities are severely compromise, and soon I am too burnt out to do anything but consume (books, some TV, food) and sleep.

But rather than simply not blog at all, I've been experimenting with some new things. Like the Black Swans series, which I will continue (but slowly, because that actually involves some research and writing of coherent sentences). Also like book reviews.

I'm not planning on turning this into a review blog, but there will be more reviews coming. Mostly because they're helpful to me, as a writer.

Reviews are a Teaching Tool

Reviews lead me to read critically, and to think about books critically. And that is something that is vitally important to improving my writing. Reviewing books allows me to see what works and what doesn't, what plot devices feel fresh or overused, what dialogue sounds natural and engaging....etc. etc. etc. until the cows come home -there is so much to be learned!

Also, reading is fun.

The Friendly Bit

So, anyone else review the books they read? Why/why not? If you're a writer, do you find it helps your writing?

Friday, September 20, 2013

We Are Not All Black Swans: Ballet in Popular Culture and the Media, Part 1: Introduction to the Issues

I just have so many feelings about this that I can barely be coherent, so I apologize in advance.

Ballet is one of my great passions - I've loved it for as long as I can remember. I loved it first for its beauty and its grace, its boundless energy and athleticism, its lyricism and its romanticism. And when I started to dance myself, I loved it for its discipline and demands, its perfection and its imperfection.

I love it for the indescribable combination of joy and fear that leaps up in me when I step out on stage. I love it for the incredible range of emotions that dancing or watching dance evokes in me.

I even love it for the blisters and blood and late nights and early mornings...most of the time.

And that is why I am so, so torn about the depiction of ballet in popular culture.

On the one hand, I am glad that there is interest, and exposure. Ballet has a -somewhat unfair- reputation of being "boring", or "elitist" or "only for old people". Perhaps not as much as opera, but the feeling is still there. In this day and age, where accessibility is emphasized above all else, where you can tweet a celebrity and the people on TV are "just like you", the dancer is something of an anomaly.  The intense, long-term training, the separation of audience and stage, the price of the tickets (although this is changing) and at the most basic level the use of objects (pointe shoes) and movements (eg, turning out) that are completely foreign to the 'normal' experience, all conspire to put distance between the general public and the world of ballet.

So I'm glad that there is awareness of, and renewed interest in, ballet as an art form as a result of recent aspects of popular culture and media. And yet, at the same time, I wonder if these portrayals are doing more harm than good. There is a line between "any press is good press" and negative portrayals hurting the art form. I don't think we've crossed it yet - hopefully - but we're certainly headed in that direction.

It's not that I'm advocating a universally positive view of ballet. It's true that its nature lends itself to certain challenges. For example: ballet is an aesthetic art form in which the body of the dancer is the instrument - this necessitates a certain physique. You have to be athletic enough and strong enough to actually dance - and that's hard work, people, it's not just twirling around with your hands above your head - and you have to look pretty doing it. Of course, when taken to the extreme you have dancers - natural perfectionists - obsessing over their weight and appearance, possibly leading to eating disorders or depression or a myriad of other issues. And there are certain companies or directors who, intentionally or unintentionally, contribute to that sort of thing. Dance puts a lot of pressure on the dancer, and it's hard.

So I'm not saying ballet is perfect.

But there seem to be an awful lot of people who associate ballet  or ballerina with anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, conceited, snobby, elitist, girly, (and with it the eternal girly=less valuable/worse), gay, restrictive, socially stunted...

Why does the art form that makes my heart sing evoke such responses?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: Relic by Renee Collins

Relic is a fantastic, fun read from a talented new author, Renee Collins. The plot is fast-paced from the first page, and there wasn't a moment that dragged. For the most part the characters are vivid and realistically written, and the dialogue was western-flavored without being overwhelming. In fact, it was a serious contender for my best-of-2013 shelf.

One of the strongest aspects of Relic was the setting. The Western spin is an angle that's not too common in fantasy, and it provided a rich backdrop for the action of the novel. I loved the atmosphere of the book - Collins did a great job.

I was also glad to see a premise/magic system that hasn't been done before. The idea of Relics (bones of magical creatures) providing people with magical abilities is - as far as I know- unique. Considering how much they featured in the plot, however, I would have liked a little more explanation as to how exactly they worked - it seems to vary based on what's needed for the plot. Individual relics seem to work on contact, or by ingestion, but there are also guns which are somehow powered by relics, and that's never really explained at all.

Considering he was the major love interest, I would have liked to have seen more of Landon. I also would have liked him to be a bit more involved in the investigation of the burnings/mystery of the unknown relic/something! There's a scene were he chastises Maggie for getting caught up with Alvar and life at the hacienda, but it's not like he's doing much of anything, his relationship with Maggie felt a bit rushed.

There were a few hints that Maggie might see Yahn as a potential love interest as well, which I thought was silly and unneeded, but that's probably just my bias (I strongly dislike multiple love interests).

I liked that I couldn't figure Alvar out - one moment he was kind, the next entitled and demanding. However there were some moments where I felt his characterization was a bit too inconsistent...and the explanation felt like a bit of a cop-out.

I prefer my villains not to be 'evil' have some sort of motivation, however twisted, for what they are doing. That doesn't appear to be the case for the ultimate antagonist of this book.

Despite these nitpicks, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Relic, and if there is a sequel - the ending seems well set up for one - I will certainly read it!

Full disclosure: I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rabbit Rabbit

You may have noticed a lack of posts last week. I decided to take a week's vacation, to spend my last days of summer with my family. Now I'm all moved in to my dorm and the school year is looking shiny and bright! It's a feeling that will last all of two weeks, and then I'll be desperate for summer again.

Considering the inordinate amount of things I will be doing with my time during the fall (1. School 2. Nutcracker 3. Heading up a club 4. MCATS 5. Writing 6... Put me out of my misery, already!) blogging will be reduced to once a week. Posts will go up on Fridays. When I have Princess news to share, I'll post updates on Mondays. Hopefully that will be every week or almost every week, but realistically it will likely be less often.

And yes, I'll update the sidebars...eventually.

EDITED to add: There will be one more post before I start with the new schedule - I was given an ARC in exchange for a review and I want to post it right away. So that will go up later.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Dominance of the Alpha-Male

Okay so Monday I totally derailed my own post. What did I mean to talk about? Alpha males in fiction. Right. Let's do that. [EDIT: I sort of derailed this one too, with pictures.]

I feel like in a lot of the romance I've read lately, the love interest is a big, strong, muscular, 'hot', manly man. And he's got the personality to match -- conceited, overprotective, needs to be in charge, I could go on. If it's a paranormal, often he's a werewolf or other shifter. And if he is, he's always the alpha.

God forbid any woman fall in love with the beta of the back. Or just a regular member.

Here's the thing - I get that alpha males are the fantasy of many in the female population (and probably some in the male population too - I should be inclusive). But I don't like them.

I don't find them attractive. Well, sometimes I do, but my tastes usually run to the more...bookish types. Or the charming ones. I certainly don't enjoy the kind of personality their fictional counterparts usually possess. (And yes, I know some of it is distortion because you're viewing them through the eyes of another character BUT STILL.)

Here are some manly men:

Here are some men who are more my type (and yes I am aware some of them are gay, this is one of my problems):

(Bonus: these two sing). (Also Matthew Gray Gubler IS HOLDING A PUPPY)

Also like 90% of the guys on this woefully incomplete list

So what about me? What about the girls who don't want an alpha male, a hyper-manly man? (Manly in the stereotypical sense. Yes, problematic gender norm things, but this post isn't about that.)

Are there any books where the female protagonist falls in love with a werewolf who loves the opera? Or a man who isn't super ripped, and instead likes to read? I've seen a few, but usually the guys are  still also super possessive and annoying. And yes, books need conflict, and having the super possessive guy annoy the female until she discovers that really she loves him and he's just trying to keep her safe seems to be a popular one. But there are other kinds of conflict.


So, my dear readers, I ask for your help. (If you are willing and able). Are there paranormal romance books, or SFF books with a romantic subplot, that feature 'nerdy' love interests? Or -- let's go crazy -- even romances with no speculative element whatsoever? They must exist, and I just haven't found them yet.

Otherwise I'll have to write one myself.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Romance Woes

I've been reading more romance lately - it's not my first choice of genre, but I find that more and more of the urban fantasy I read these days is edging farther into paranormal romance. And I've been picking up more kindle freebies lately, and most of them are heavy on the romance.

My conclusions: I'm starting to get a little more into the whole romance thing. I've always been sort of a late bloomer, and I spent the first 13 years of my school-age life at an all girl's school and dancing ballet. There aren't a lot of boys in ballet. So let's just say that I wasn't really interested in relationships for a long time.

But now, maybe I am? I don't know.

The problem is that I'm not very extroverted. I don't drink or go to parties (because I don't like parties. They tire me out and stress me out and are really just not at all fun for me). If I ever complain about not meeting anyone, the advice is 90% of the time "you need to go to parties or you'll never meet anyone".

I don't think I should have to change my personality in order to meet someone; anyone I meet that way wouldn't have the same interests anyway. It would be a friendship, or a relationship, predicated on a lie and it just wouldn't go well.

My struggles are well known in my family - it's to the point where by future boyfriend has become a figure of legend, known as "nerd-boy".

Anyway, enough about my romantic troubles. I'll meet my nerd-boy in med school, and he will like to read and enjoy going to the ballet (or at least find it pleasantly tolerable and be willing to take me), and be romantic and handsome and smart. (Nope, not setting my sights high at all...)

Monday, August 19, 2013

In which I bribe myself with stickers

I'm a little late with this one, sorry.

I've been having trouble with Princess lately. That is, I haven't been writing as much as I wanted to. (Also haven't been updating, whoops).

The problem isn't that I don't enjoy the project, or don't enjoy writing. I do. I'm thinking that maybe it's not as good as the Princess I saw in my head, but that's something I always think, so best just to ignore it and press on.

What is happening is that I'm coming up with lots of fantastic reasons why I don't have time to write right now. Which is silly, because of course I could make time. Do I really need to reorganize my closet right now? Nope.

So what's the solution? Bribe myself with stickers.

Every day I write, I get a sticker. When I have 10 stickers, I get a prize. When I have 25 stickers, bigger prize. Then 50, then 75, and so on and so forth. Mostly the prizes consist of allowing myself to buy things I've been wanting. At the moment those things are mostly items of clothing, because I really don't have room to buy lots of books and my TBR pile is out of control anyway. And the other things I want cost far too much to use as prizes.

We'll see how this goes. It's a bit juvenile but I think I just need an extra push to get going. Once I'm in the habit of writing every day, it will go easier. I hope.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Something fun for a Friday.

While procrastinating I decided I wanted to sketch the protagonist of my Saucy Ink story, Miri. With the disclaimer that this is just a sketchy sketch, I am not an artist and don't art frequently, and her neck is too long, here she is:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Title of the Blog

So...the title. "The Great Novel Adventure: Chronicling the Trials and Tribulations of a First-Time Author".

The first part is more accurate than the second.

I've been writing semi-seriously (as in, trying to finish projects, educating myself, honing my craft, actually writing often, etc etc) for a couple years now, and it's time to reevaluate the goals I set for myself way back when.

I was sure that this was going to be fun. See: "Great," and "Adventure"

I knew I this journey was going to be about writing,  primarily long-from prose. See: "Novel"

I suspected there would be challenges along the way. See: "Trials and Tribulations"

I was convinced I wanted to be published. See: "Author".

How much of that is still true? When I started this blog I had only the vaguest notions of what I was getting myself into. And this journey has turned out to be both difficult and joyous - more joyous and more exciting than I had imagined.

So...this is still a "Great Novel Adventure", and it still chronicles my journey. But "Trials and Tribulations", despite the way it trips off the tongue, is a bit of a downer! And yes, there are trials...but there aren't really tribulations.

Okay, what about "First-Time Author"? Well, I'm not a first-time author, because I don't have anything published and won't for a while. And you know what? I'm fine with that. I'm enjoying this process, this adventure, and I don't need to race to the finish line just yet.

Besides, with traditional publishing comes deadlines and schedules, and I've got too much on my real-life plate right now for that.

So not "first-time author". 

What about "aspiring novelist"?

Well, I'm already a novelist. A novelist is a person who writes novels, which I do. So I'm not an "aspiring" novelist, or an "aspiring" writer.

But I am an "aspiring author".

Because, you know what? I'd like to have my name on the cover of a book someday. And it may not be tomorrow, or a year from now, or even 10 years from now. But when the time is right for me, I'm going to do my damnedest to make it happen.

Welcome to "The Great Novel Adventure: Chronicling the Trials and Triumphs of an Aspiring Author".

I hope you're having as much fun as I am.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Weekly Update Princess Edition #1

Words I wrote this week (through Sunday): 1,140 (Not a lot...many things happened over the weekend.)

Scenes worked on this week: Ballroom scene (#1)

Best Snippets: "If only their conversation sparkled as much as their wardrobe."  In reference to someone's face: "That was a shame." [Yes. WAS. Take that, Laura ;)] [Also credit for this line totally goes to Bill]

Meet the (main) cast:

Kelisin (Kel)
Briara (Bria)
Teoden (Teo)

Meet the supporting cast (at least, the ones who appear in the bits I've worked on):

Petar and Leslin

I'm going to be updating the blog sidebars only once a week - it's too much of a pain to do more often. If you want daily progress updates, check out my wordcount here:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Going...Old School

I love my Kindle. I do. I can have hundreds of books on it and it's still light and easy to carry. There are lots of great things about it.

I love my digital camera. I can fit 1000 photos on my memory card; I can catch moments that are gone in the blink of an eye. I can get instant feedback on whether the shot turned out right. If I mess up, I can delete the photo and try again.

But sometimes I like the feel of a paperback in my hand. Sometimes I like the feeling of stopping by the man who sells books on Broadway and finding a paperback I really wanted and buying it for $2. It's like a surprise, a present. It's something special.

And sometimes I like to shoot film. It's softer, more intimate, more beautiful. It's like opening presents when you send the film to be developed and get the scans back. If you're lucky enough to have a darkroom, it's peaceful when you develop the prints, watching the image bloom on the paper as you swirl it in the developer. I feel like I'm creating something, crafting something, as I work.

So yeah, technology is great! The world is moving at an astonishing pace, and ebooks and digital photos and whatever-they-invent-next-week are wonderful.

But sometimes I want something tangible. Sometimes I want something a little old school.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And so it begins...

"Her Royal Highness, Kelisin Adira Melisse Ellora Peronell, Princess of the Blood!" The herald's staff pounded on the flagstones.

Kelisin grimaced. "Princess of the Blood" was such an ugly title, but -- as everyone loved to remind her -- this birthday was a special occasion and deserved extra formality.

Trumpets sounded a fanfare and Kelisin stepped through the open doors onto the grand staircase. A thousand candles flickered in their gold candelabras, making the jeweled mass of courtiers below sparkle as their finery caught the light.

If only their conversation sparkled as much as their wardrobe.

And with these words the Great Novel Adventure, Princess Edition, has begun!
Follow my progress in the blog sidebar or here:

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Little Bit of Chaos

I am a planner. I like to have everything laid out, decided in advanced, researched to the extreme. Scheduled.  I double check everything. Then I triple check.

But I am also a pantser. Having created my Slow Loris Conservation presentation for class - having planned out what I was going to say for each slide - when it came time to present I ignored my plans completely. I mean, sure, I hit all the same points, in mostly the same order, but it was TOTALLY DIFFERENT from what I had practiced.

When I joined the Saucy Ink group, I dreamed up plots for my story. Once I had one I was happy with, I outlined. Down to almost the very last detail.

Then I started writing. And ignored my outline completely.

I don't mean "sort-of" ignored, like I still hit the basic plot points but maybe in one place they did something a little different. I mean ignored almost entirely.

Things the original outline had in common with the first draft of the story: A female protagonist. A male protagonist. A plot that needed to be stopped (it was a different plot, though).

A.k.a. not a whole lot.

So what have I learned from these experiences? Well, I know I need to plan. I also know I need to make less detailed plans than my brain thinks I need. Because I know that if I get too detailed, I will deviate. Entirely. And while my novel will probably follow a bit closer to the outline than "The Water-Witch" did, mostly because I feel better about its nascent plot than I did about my story's, there will be variation. There will be exploration. There will be a little bit of chaos.

And I'm telling you this was a realization integral to my decision to start writing Princess. I have a decent foundation, which I will expand on as I go. Yes, worldbuilding-as-I-go... usually not a good strategy, but for me it works. I come up with my best ideas in the middle of sentences.

It will likely lead to a fair amount of rewriting. That's okay. I'm fine with it, because that's actually the way I work best. Get something down on paper, then go and fix it.

I've got a slightly-more-detailed-than-basic, scene-by-scene plot outline. I've nailed down the magic system. I have a good grasp on some relevant areas of backstory. Now it's time to write.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Flashfic: 11:00 pm

It's late, and the streetlight on the corner flickers fitfully as I park my car. I have my pick of the spots; the lot is empty save for some scattered shopping carts and an old, beat-up pickup a couple spots over. It's probably the owner's car, because who else would be at the grocery store at this hour?

I push the door open at 10:56 exactly. I've made it with four minutes to go before closing, according to the peeling sticker on the glass. I step into the fluorescent light and rub my aching temples. The too-bright glare with a greenish tint isn't helping my headache.

The store is small but stuffed to the brim. The aisles are barely wider than my hips and the products are practically falling off the shelves. I glance down, but they don't seem to be organized in any sort of logical fashion. Cans of beans  and jars of pickles share shelf space with brightly-colored cereal boxes and packages of cookies. I smile despite myself; a few years down the road I'll be buying those instead of formula.

The clock on the wall ticks, and I glance up. 10:57. I pick and aisle and wander down, heaving a sigh of relief when I come across the powdered milk purely by accident. I grab two cans and head for the checkout.

When I got pregnant, I'd imagined the miracle of childbirth, the wonders of motherhood, the sheer joy of  creating and caring for a new life.

I hadn't imagined crapping during the delivery, or having to go to work after a night full of interrupted sleep, or rushing to the grocery store at nearly eleven because I couldn't breastfeed and my husband had selective hearing loss when it came to errands.

There is no one at the checkout, and I slam the formula down in irritation. The door is open. The lights are on. There's three minutes till close - tick - two minutes till close, so where the hell is the owner?

I rub my eyes. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the year...but I'll settle for buying this formula and going home. I'm going to be up all night anyway; at least at home I can  watch reruns of Law and Order.

Tick. It's 10:59, and I'm starting to get a little creeped out. Tentatively, I call out.

"Hello? Is anyone here?"

I'm met by silence.

"Hello? I know it's almost closing but I really need to buy some baby formula."

A door slams, and I nearly jump out of my skin. But it's just the owner, coming out from the back room. He's younger than I would have expected, with an open, friendly face and twinkling blue eyes. A butcher's apron covers his jeans and checked button-down, and it's seen some use - it's covered in reddish streaks and hand prints.

"I didn't know you guys butchered anything yourself - doesn't it all come packaged?"

He just laughs. Something about him seems odd to me but I'm not sure why. I try to think through the fog of sleep-deprivation and come up empty.

"Listen," I say, "Can you ring this up for me? I've got to get home before the baby drives my husband too crazy."

The man lifts his hands and I notice he's holding a meat cleaver. He runs a finger along the flat of the blade, then lifts it up to his mouth and sucks on it.

My heart stars beating faster, and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

But the baby is at home, crying, so I try once more.

"Can you ring me up or not?"

Tick. It's 11:00 pm. The man grins a jack-o'-lantern grin.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I don't work here."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kel's Castle (Interior)

Interiors from Schloss Neuschwanstein. Some of the castle is a little too...excessive...for my taste, but I absolutely LOVE the intricate wood carving. So expect that to feature.

Also possibly the paintings, because I see lots of possibilities to hide clues in them for the rest of the series.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Kel's Castle (Exterior)

I was fooling around on Pintrest, ostensibly looking for writing inspiration and really just procrastinating, when I found it.

The castle.

This is the setting for the beginning of Princess. It's the castle where Kel and her siblings grew up, where the novel opens. And while the fictional version will have a slightly different surrounding landscape, the architecture is SPOT ON. I think I'll probably also borrow heavily from the interior, although that's still a bit up in the air.

So, without further ado, I present to you Schloss Neuschwanstein


Friday, July 26, 2013

Eclectic Reader Challenge New Adult: Dark Light of Day

I did some waffling as to whether I was going to call this my NA book or not. The majority  of NA books out there seem to be contemporary romances, but with slightly younger protagonists. However, New Adult is like Young Adult - it's an age category, not a genre. Just like a book can be YA distopian, or YA fantasy, a book can be NA paranormal romance or NA science fiction or NA post-Armageddon demon lawyers. And yes, the point of the challenge is to lead me to genres I don't normally read. But I know for a fact that I'm not interested in 90% of the contemporary books out there so I'll stick with demons, thanks!

4 stars.

Armageddon is hundreds of years in the past, and yet life goes on. The Host - the females with waxing, healing magic and the males with waning, destructive magic - control the demons; the Hyrke (humans without magic) adore them.

Noon Onyx and her brother Night are anomalies - twins whose magic seems to have been switched in the womb. Noon enrolls at St. Lucifer's to become a demon lawyer, although secretly she wants nothing more than to reverse her magic. Noon's struggles to accept who she is and learn to control her magic are interwoven with a mystery surrounding disappearing healers and her best friend's quest to find a magic-reversal spell.

I thought the concept was extraordinarily unique, and despite there being an overwhelming amount of information in the first few chapters I followed along okay and the book quickly hits its stride. I reached a certain point perhaps 2/3 of the way through where I was no longer able to put the book down. In fact, I stayed up far too late to finish it!

I also enjoyed the romance subplot. While there were two potential love interests in the book there wasn't really a love triangle. I loved reading about the progression of a single relationship rather than a which-boy-should-I-choose situation. (And I knew Peter was a jerk from the beginning. Actually, I didn't quite understand why Noon ever liked him. I mean, I can hypothesize all sorts of reasons but the way he came across in the text was inherently unlikeable.)

The major theme of the book -accepting yourself for who you are rather than trying to change- was  skillfully woven through the whole novel without ever being too blunt or too trite.

Though the conclusions is satisfying, enough loose threads are left to leave me wanting more. I'm eager to read more of Noon's and Ari's adventures.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From the Archives: The Eighth and Last Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor, part 2

Continued from Part One

The next day I thought up a plan, and set to work. 

First, I took a sharp stone and cut down a tree. Then I split it into quarters, and bound the split logs together with some vine, leaving a hole in the middle. In this I put the mast, securing it with some tree sap. Hiding this in the cave, I set out to see if I could find something to use as a sail. While walking down to the beach I cut some palm fronds and other leaves to weave together as a sail. On the beach, I procured a great heap of seashells and pearls, and in a cave I found some precious stones. Walking back to the cavern I gathered some other precious items, so that I had a great store of valuable things.

Loading my new possessions on to my raft, I heard a terrible rumbling sound coming from near the river. Hurriedly I hauled the raft to the beach but on the way I lost my turban. When I ran back to get it, the spider grabbed me! Not having enough time to think I wrapped my turban around its head and pulled! In fact I pulled so hard that the spider suffocated. 

Unwrapping my turban, I unfurled the sail with great haste for I was sure that there were more of these evil creatures. The wind carried me to the same location that I was rescued from the valley of the snakes, and luckily there were some merchants enjoying a repast they had brought with them. 

They brought me back to Bagdad with them were I returned to my house and having given generously to the poor, I vowed not to travel again, for I was too old.

So saying Sindbad gave one hundred sequins to Hindbad, and invited the entire company to come again, though the stories of his adventures were finished. 


The ending has a couple references to previous voyages (the valley of the snakes, the frame tale with Hindbad) so they're not just random things I threw in there.

Going back for the turban makes me think of Indiana Jones and his hat, which is probably where I got the idea.

I really wish that more of these old stories survived; I know I wrote my own "Just So" story about how the dolphin got its blowhole but I think that one was lost to the ravages of time/the great hard drive crash. Hard copies of all these stories existed at one point but who knows where they are now...

Monday, July 22, 2013

From the Archives: The Eighth and Last Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor, part 1

 Written in 4th grade as a school assignment while we were reading One Thousand and One Nights (also called the Arabian Nights).

Now my friends, as you can imagine, I once again grew restless and wished to traverse the sea. 

Wishing to see other lands, I traveled to a distant port in Persia, joined a merchant trading vessel, and set out for the West Indies. Three days after we set out, a strong wind blew us to a distant part of the sea. I advised the sailors to rejoice while they could, for I knew that we were probably going to meet with trouble. How right I was! Our captain soon came out from his cabin looking very sad indeed, and upon asking what it was that troubled him, he revealed that we were in the exact spot where the horrifying sea monster Eelailesny dwelled. 

When the crew heard this, they all began bemoaning the terrible fate that had befallen them. Only the captain and I did not lament, for he was brave and I, though I had heard tales of this horrible creature, had never actually learned the story. From what I picked up, Eelailesny appeared to be a giant serpent, but with two heads. 

At that exact moment, a great tremor shook the boat as the first head of the sea monster appeared. At once, all my comrades (including the captain) stared moaning and sobbing like newborns. I alone kept my head. I tied myself to the mast with my turban, and luckily the mast snapped off just at the moment the sea serpent swallowed the boat whole. 

I don’t know how long I drifted, but it must have been at least 10 days because when I came to, I felt weak and giddy from lack of food. Suddenly I began to spin. Spinning and spinning, I slowly started to sink. Looking about me, I saw that I was headed towards a gigantic whirlpool! Struggling got me nowhere, so weak and exhausted, I let myself sink. 

After waiting for some time while I recovered my strength, I looked around and saw that I was in an underground cavern. I examined it and found that it was as desolate as an abandoned island, and that the only way out was the whirlpool.

Looking around, something on the back wall caught my eye. At first I thought it was a jewel, but upon looking closer I saw that it was a small bird, about as big as half my fist, on the wall. It had appeared to be a jewel because of its amazingly colorful feathers that seemed to change color every minute! 

Suddenly the bird disappeared and looking around saw it halfway down a stone passage concealed by two rocks. Moving the rocks aside, I followed the bird down the passage and emerged out in the sunlight. The air around me was filled with a very curious sound, and looking up I saw that the air was filled with tiny birds, that looked just like the one I saw in the cavern, but all different colors. 

Feeling very tired, I lay down to rest, unknowingly falling asleep. When I awoke, only three or four birds were left. Realizing that they might be of great value, I procured some of them to sell and left to explore the island. After walking for some time, I found a river that was ten feet deep and as many wide. Looking across, I saw that the river was there to deter any passers by from going in there because, in a cave on the other side, was a giant sleeping spider who had come there obviously because of the birds, though I was puzzled as to how it managed to catch enough of those tiny things to feed it. 

Going back to the cavern to spend the night, I tried to devise a plan to escape this new peril. At first I thought that if I tempted it with some of the little birds, it would leave me alone, but it would probably want me more, because I was bigger. Thinking about this, I fell asleep. 

Continued in Part Two


Repeated use of participial phrases to start sentences: "Feeling very tired,..." "Thinking about this..." - This construction tends to cause lots of problems.
The original document had no paragraph breaks.
On the other hand, I obviously had a wild imagination.

Friday, July 19, 2013

When your bookshelf is just a little too full

I have far too many books, and for the most part I love them all dearly and couldn't imagine being parted.

But there are a few I am willing to pass on to others - because I didn't like them, or because I have two copies, or because I've outgrown them and they're not something I love enough to save for my far-in-the-future children.

What to do with these books? Throwing them out seems wasteful. I could donate them, to Project Cicero or something similar, and often do.

But there's something else to consider, and that is that I am constantly searching for new reading material.

If I bought all the books I wanted at full price, I would be bankrupt already. I do well enough buying $2 paperbacks from the vendor on Broadway, but that still leaves me with more books than I have room for.

Is there some solution that would elegantly solve both these problems together? Perhaps some way to trade in books that I don't want for books that I do?

There is, and it's called BookMooch.

BookMooch is one of several book trading sites out there, but it's a good one. It operates on a point system. You gain points for listing books you are willing to trade (.1 points), sending books within your country (1 point), and sending books internationally (3 points). Receiving books costs 1 point if the book is mailed in country and 3 points if mailed internationally. Registration is free!

You can search BookMooch for available books to request, or search amazon for books to add to your BookMooch wishlist. If someone lists that book - or a similar edition - you will get an email notification allowing you to request the book.

So far I've listed 3 books on BookMooch; I may add more but I have to go home and look at what I have available.

Does anyone else use book trading websites? If so, which? If not, would you consider it?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When I Grow Up

So lately I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I'm twenty and not really a child anymore and maybe I should learn how to do some Grown Up Things.

I mean, I'm going to be in school for a billion more years. But after college, I might be in school somewhere other than New York, and my mother won't be there to fix everything. So, you know, time to suck it up and act my age. At least sometimes.

Some of the things which fall under the category of Grown Up Things:

-Doing my own laundry
-Going to the bank; maintaining my own checking account
- Keeping my room clean and organized-ish
-Procrastinating less (this is going to be the hardest one)
-Taking more care with my appearance (including good posture)
-Maintain a schedule/planner/to do list so I don't  forget about things
-Feeding myself

I already do a few of those - like go to the bank and use a planner - and I'm working on others - like procrastinating and keeping my room clean and being more thoughtful with my clothing choices.

Next up on the list? Laundry, which I have a great fear of.

Also? Food. I want to learn to cook. (And also to expand my food horizons and be less picky.)

Honestly I like to bake a lot better but I can't survive entirely off cupcakes and brownies and cookies. Well, I could, but it wouldn't be pretty. So I'm working on finding some good recipes, and practicing cooking, and stuff like that. I'll share if I have any particularly tasty successes or  particularly spectacular failures. In baking or cooking.

I probably won't share anything about laundry. Too boring.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Flashfic: Yuki-onna

The snows come howling down from the mountains like ravenous wolves. They prowl the streets of the town and rattle the shutters and push against the doors.

The cold creeps in through the cracks and reaches out its fingers, stroking our skin and chilling us to the very bone.

On this, the longest night of the year, we lock our doors and stuff the keyholes with dried rosemary. We wear jewelry made from horseshoe nails and fill our pockets with salt.

But still, the snow ghosts come.

They come out of the whirling snows; they shriek like the souls of the damned. Their wails wake us up in the night and though they strike fear into my heart Riku goes to the window to listen.

He tells me that he dreams about them, women with skin pale as the snows and just as cold. Their blue lips brush against his skin like icy butterflies, and in their wails he hears singing.

I fear that one morning I will awaken and his bed will be empty. That iron and salt and rosemary will not be enough. That we will find his body, blue and stiff and empty, lying in the snows. Like we found my father's. Like we found my mother's.

But more than that, I fear that once they have taken him they will come for me.

Riku is not the only one whose dreams are full of ghosts.

Friday, July 12, 2013

From the Archives: Of Magic, part 1

Written during nerd camp- so summer of 2006. Despite being unfinished, this piece received a fair bit of critique from the instructor and several rewrites.

"We're not going to make it."

She could hear the soldiers' whispers as they marched down the road. Lyssa scowled. It could hardly even be called a road - really more of a dirt track - but it was the most direct route across the Basin, so they had turned away from the Great Road North to march through this Gods-forsaken country.

The whispers continued. "The northern pass is still hundreds of miles away! By the time we get there, Ravenna will have fallen!"

Lyssa glanced back to see if Raoul had heard the whispers - and from the grim set of his mouth it was clear he had. Lyssa surveyed the troops surreptitiously, trying to locate the source of the whispers.

Movement in the ranks of the Third Company caught her eye. "The King's Mastiffs" had absorbed the soldiers sent by the king of Brantau, a sworn ally to Oloris but known to be fickle in his loyalty. Their leader, a loathsome man Lyssa preferred to avoid, turned to his companions and sneered. "Ah, no! Under our most illustrious general, how could we possibly lose?" The men guffawed, clearly enjoying this joke at her expense.

Lyssa looked down at her saddle, cheeks burning, as these men made a mockery of her command and her own soldiers refused to speak in her defense.

Scowling, she kicked her horse into a gallop, distancing herself from the soldiers and all their mutterings.

  •   I really like this. It could totally be a story about a young girl thrust into command and learning how to earn respect instead of act like a surly teenager.
  •  On the other hand, I could very easily adapt this for the middle of Princess.
  • In other news, a protag whose name doesn't start with A or K!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Accents and other Pretty, Shiny Things

I love listening to people with accents.

I don't know what it is, but I find them absolutely mesmerizing. It's even better if they speak a romance language, because that gives their voice this gorgeous musical cadence.

(As an aside: If I ever wrote something literary, I think I'd write it in Spanish. Because of that cadence, and because you can say so much with so few words.)

My new favorite TV show is called Crossing Lines, and although it is a good show in its own right, a lot of its appeal for me is the accents.

Frankly the idea of the ICC investigating regular crimes, even cross-border ongoing whatever they say on the show, is a bit silly. But I love it because it means every actor on the show has a different accent.

There's an American, a Brit (well, there was), a German, a Frenchman and Frenchwoman, and an Italian. I like listening to the French and Italian accents the best.

This post has no point other than accents are pretty and I could listen to them all day.

Since this blog is supposed to be about writing I will also take this opportunity to tell you that I finished the major revisions on my short story for Saucy Ink!

It's beautiful. It's wonderful. I love it to death.

I am so utterly happy with it. It's the best thing I've ever written and I want to print it out and frame it.

I'm going to go admire it for a bit now. Then I'm going to go write something better!