Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013- The Freeze is Complete at 50310 Words

This morning at 2:30am, I finished The Freeze, my second NaNoWriMo novel. It's a fantastic feeling, wrapping up a 50k word novel in 30 days, and this time, I did it in 14.  Talk about procrastination.  But it was fun.

Just for fun, here is what my mini descent into the crazy writing frenzy that is NaNoWriMo looked like this year.  Obviously I'm a weekend warrior when it comes to writing, but this time I took it to the extreme. I had a couple of 8k days and even a 10 and 12k day. Coming to the end of one of those is like coming to edge of an insanity cliff and looking over the edge.

NaNoWriMo 2013-The Freeze
I was good and only wrote 3k on Thanksgiving, spending the day cooking and the evening watchin Punkin Chunkin on Discovery with my family.  But on Black Friday I avoided the stores and sales in favor of a pie induced sugar high and a 12k word writing marathon (actually 10k on the 29th and 2k after midnight).  I must have found words for the perfect ending three or four times in those final few hours, only to check my word count and realize my work was not done yet, a symptom of NaNoWriMo. The book isn't over until you reach 50k.

So what did I write about? A frozen future where residents of a city, led by a prepper named Mr. Prowler have taken refuge in an underground tunnel system. A young girl, Andrea, sick of writing sappy, optimistic essays for what the adults call school, decides to try her luck on one of Mr. Prowler's scavenging crews, who go topside to sweep the abandoned city for cast off supplies and materials.  With the help of a boy she likes who happens to be Mr. Prowler's son, she joins the team as Chaz.  But getting on the team isn't at all what she expected and she soon finds herself separated from the team, lost in the frozen city and alone.

NaNoWriMo 2012- Fearless (The Zombie Logs)
Of course, this year I knew I could do it. This wasn't my first trip down this road, and last year I spent 20 of the 30 days of NaNoWriMo delving into my version of the zombie apocalypse. Why? Not because I like zombies or zombie stories. Quite the opposite in fact. I wrote Fearless (The Zombie Logs) to combat the desire to hide out in the computer room whenever my husband watched The Walking Dead. It was therapeutic. It was also fun, sad, and the first book that actually had a scene that brought tears to my eyes when I wrote it. I also gave myself some writing constraints just to make it a bit more interesting. One, I never say the word zombie anywhere in the book. Two, the whole thing is written as a journal from the perspective of a young woman who managed to survive the outbreak and who finds herself the leader of a small band of survivors. Three, I only name three characters over the course of the book, though to hit my word count I did a run down of who's who at the very end. Still, I surprised myself.  Even with all these constraints, the characters took on realistic identities, humor and tragedy blossomed from the pages, and I even managed to fit in a little romance.  

The downside, though, was that I had a totally weird timeline since I didn't have a calendar out when I wrote it.  I'm working on taming that timeline in my current editing run for this book. In fact, I've got everything labeled with the correct date and now I'm just running through it making sure I haven't talked about it being Christmas in the middle of April or Thanksgiving in the middle of October.  Details, details. 

That's all for now. I'm giving myself the rest of the day off to recover.  Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I'm back to editing. 

Did any of you NaNoWriMo this year? If so, share your experiences with it in the comments.  What was your best word count day? How much caffiene did you ingest? Etc. Etc.

While you're at it check out MichaelSciFan's interview with me and enter to win a free ecopy of Forgotten Valor.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Forgotten Valor Release and Giveaway on MichaelSciFan

Hi all,
I'm being interviewed today on Michael Long's awesome blog, MichaelSciFan!

Check out the interview here and don't forget to enter for a chance to win a free ebook copy of Forgotten Valor.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Self-publishers Rejoice-New Goodies on CreateSpace and KDP

Today I logged on to CreateSpace to add a final polishing update to my upcoming book, Forgotten Valor, which is scheduled to be released November 20, 2013, and discovered some new goodies.

For those of you who don't know, CreateSpace is a self-publishing platform for print-on-demand paperbacks. It can be a pain to format your book for print, but it's awesome to be able to order prints and distribute them and to keep no inventory when you don't have a buyer lined up.

Ok, back to the point. I logged on and there right across the top of the dashboard were two announcements.

1. The long begged for (if you read the CS message boards) matte finish is now available. Not every book works with a shiny cover. Now you can order them with a nice soft finish. Excellent!

2. Expanded distribution to bookstores and libraries is now free, whereas before it required self-publishers to pay a fee. Of course, just as before, sending it out through middlemen to extra outlets requires a slightly higher price, but the option is there, and the mark up isn't all that much.

So, if you publish your books for print with CreateSpace, take a look.

I signed up all my books for the expanded distribution, which doesn't guarantee your book will be carried by other distributors, but does make it possible. I already have one showing up on B&N, but it didn't do that until I expanded all my e-books to them via Smashwords. I think there's a connection there, but I can't prove it.

On a related note, Kindle Direct Publishing also has some new coolness to offer. Their Kindle Match Book is live, allowing readers who buy a book in print to get a copy of the Kindle edition at a discount. And it's awesome because you don't have to be enrolled in Kindle Select.

The second new thing on KDP is an ability to set up better promotions for Kindle Select books. I didn't look at it too closely because you have to sell your ebooks exclusively on Amazon to enroll, and I'm trying to expand my distribution, not limit it. But for those of you interested in selling on Amazon, only, it's definitely worth a look.

So to all, happy publishing!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Epic Fantasy Review: The Eye of the World (#1 The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Epic fantasy in a believable world.

Ok, let's start off with this. I am not trying to convince anyone that this is the best book ever. I've noticed several all or nothing reviews that say either this is absolutely the best or absolutely the worst book they've ever read. That being said, The Eye of the World is one of my favorite books. That it's just a jumping off point for the epic Wheel of Time series is just a bonus. Here's why I love it.

One, it's huge. Yes, that's right, I love it because it's huge. I read way too fast, and even a massive book like this doesn't take me much time to devour, but it does take enough time that I get to enjoy the story for a couple of weeks, and since I know there's 13 more books, I don't have that end of story remorse that the end of a good book sometimes generates.

Two, it's written in plain English, not flowery psuedo-fantasy speak. I like a good fanstasy book that tells the story without trying to prove the extent of the author's vocabulary. This is not to say Robert Jordan's vocabulary is lacking, I'm just saying that he doesn't purposefully pick large words to prove that he knows them. I believe this makes the story easier to enjoy, especially in the wee hours of the morning when you simply must find out what happens next, but are losing your grasp on the conscious world.

Three, the characters are diverse, believable and well-developed. I love the main character, Rand, and his two best friends, Perrin and Mat. They are each uniquely portrayed, though they are each haunted by dreams sent by the Dark One, their paths begin to diverge from early in the story. Rand faces a dark future as savior/destroyer of the world. An ancient affinity to wolves arises in Perrin, who wants nothing to do with it. And Mat is corrupted by an evil artifact and is subject to ever-growing suspicion and fear.

Meanwhile, the stories of the women in the group are given their fair share of the action. Moraine, the Aes Sedai who arrived in Emonds Field just in time to help Rand, Mat and Perrin escape, is on a quest that might cause her to lose everything, but she's willing to see it through because the alternative could mean the end of the world. Egwene and Nynaeve, young women from Rand's hometown, unlike the boys, intentionally decide to join the group as they travel to Tar Valon: Egwene because she's in love with Rand, and later because she learns she has the spark to weild the power; Nynaeve because she distrusts Moraine and wants to take the boys and Egwene back to Emonds Field where they belong, and, like Egwene, she discovers she can channel and, when her initial plans are foiled, decides to use that ability to take revenge on the Aes Sedai.

Three, I love the interplay between the men and women. The three boys each are under the illusion that one or both of the others are better at talking to or understanding girls. Rand and Egwene, who always assumed they'd marry, find themselves drawn farther and farther apart, but can't help but be jealous of the attentions of others. And Lan and Nynaeve, both strong willed and proud, find themselves drawn to each other, though such a relationship is unlikely to blossom in the face of Lan's history and his bond as a warder to Moraine.

Four, I love coming of age and coming into powers stories. It's always fun to discover new things about a character as he or she does, and there's plenty of that going around in The Eye of the World. Besides that, some of the changes aren't necessarily good, which is different from most stories. For example, Rand shows some inklings of power, but men who can channel all go mad and destroy everything and everyone around them. And I love how the young people are all kind of drawn into the drama and trouble of the times, so they are dealing with the normal parts of growing up (such as love and leaving home for the first time) as well as the crazy things going on in their world (such as the Dark One threatening to escape from his prison and darkfriends trying to kill or capture them at every turn).

Finally, this a story that can be read and re-read and enjoyed each time. I have read this book multiple times and will read it again. Each time I do, I am reminded why it drew me in the first time and I notice things I've missed or didn't recognize as important the first time around. This is a story that has graced my bookshelf for over a decade, as evidenced by the cover that is no longer attached and the sections of book that try to escape while I'm reading it (I really should get a new copy).

On the other hand, there are similarities between this book, The Lord of the Rings , Eragon, and The Sword of Truth, so those who tend to focus on such things in a negative light might find this a distraction. However, in my opinion, The Eye of the World and the Wheel of Time series are unique in the fantasy world, and I do not agree with the poorly chosen quote on the cover of the book that says this story completes the world that Tolkein created. This story is not set in Middle Earth. There are no orcs or Sauron. There are no elves. Then again, there is magic. There is strife and the hint of an epic showdown yet to come. There is the theme of leaving home as a young man to save the world, or perhaps destroy it. There is love. There is danger. But in my opinion the world and the characters in The Wheel of Time are unique and fully fleshed out in their own right.

Overall, I love this book and the series that follows. I've read it over a dozen times and will likely read it again. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy epic fantasy, complex/multiple plotlines and main characters, and multi-book stories.

If you start and decide to finish this series, you'll likely be occupied by it for several months or more. The good thing is, the series is now complete, so when you get to the end, you'll actually reach the end. I haven't read the last book, so I don't know how it goes. In fact, I'm rereading the whole thing now so that I can read the last one. I've done this each time a new one in the series comes out, so this is kind of bittersweet for me.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

What Service Means

Today's Veteran's Day, a holiday meant to celebrate those who have served their country in the military. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, I wanted to share what serving meant to me back when I joined the military and what it means to me still. 

First and foremost, it was a chance to do something worthwhile, a chance to give back, not out of a lofty sense of patriotism, though I had plenty of that, but out of a sense of gratitude. I grew up dirt poor, my family surviving only because people who cared donated time, food, and clothing, and because of government programs such as Welfare, Food Stamps, and WIC. I never went hungry, but I knew that I could go hungry if any of those things were lost. So, as highschool graduation neared, I decided to give back in one of the few ways I knew how, military service.

Second, and I'll be honest here, there were very few prospects for me. I'd made excellent grades in highschool, assuming that some college out there would clamor to offer me a scholarship. But I discovered good grades aren't enough. In the end, I was accepted by both schools I wanted to attend, but I could afford neither one. As for finding a job, there were very few options, and I had little luck landing one. 

Third, I wanted to see the world. Yes, a bit cliche, but it's true. I figured I wouldn't get a chance otherwise. I wanted to visit different countries, see landmarks, meet interesting people and experience what the world had to offer. I figured the Navy would be most likely to satisfy my wanderlust. Turns out the only port I ever got to visit was Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but hey, it was pretty nice down there.

Finally, I wanted to get out on my own and be my own person, make my own decisions, but I needed support to do so. What better way than to join the military. They take care of you financially, medically, and spiritually. They teach you how to manage your finances, to buy houses and cars, to do a trade. They provide opportunities for college and give you experience to back that education. They become a surrogate family. Cammaraderie and shared purpose link those who serve in a way that is difficult to describe. It's one of the things I miss most.

Overall, I am grateful for the opportunities that arose from my decision to serve in the military and for the knowledge that I did something important. I contributed to society in a way that many will never fully understand, though I'm still surprised with a thank you every once in a while when someone finds out. I earned two college degrees. I met and married my wonderful husband, and because of that my son was born. I landed an excellent job post-military, mostly because of the experience and education I received while serving. And, I am able to share my memories and experiences of that time in my writing. 

Of course, service wasn't always easy, and in many ways it was one of the most challenging times in my life. But I choose to remember and celebrate the positive outcomes and the things that made it worthwhile to me.

So, have a happy Veteran's Day. I encourage everyone to celebrate and support the veterans in your life, not just today, but every day. Each of us joined for different reasons; each of us experienced different things; and some of us sacrificed more than others. But we all made the decision to serve our country, and that is worth celebrating.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

National Novel Writing Month-destroyer of weekends and free time...

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NaNoWriMo is going full swing, but I told myself I wouldn't do it this year.  Nope, not me.  Instead, I want to recover from the months of editing and rewriting I've just wrapped up for Forgotten Valor (to be released Nov 20, pictured right), Shadows of Valor, and The Golden Ship.  But here's what's going to get me.  I've got an insane urge to just jump right in there, 7 days late, and do it anyway.

Ideas are churning.  Plot points and twists are spinning, looping, and somersaulting through my head on the way to work, when I'm eating dinner, when I'm practicing Karate.  I can't stifle them.  I can't ignore them.  And the longer I try to the more they press on my mind.  The story is calling, and I'm not sure I can resist much longer.

So, long story short, I've got a long weekend coming up and I might just throw sanity and peace to the wind and jump into the frenzy after all.  So, on the off chance I jump in and do it, the posts and reviews might become sparse this month.  If not, I'll work on taming the book I wrote for it last year, Fearless, and see if I can get it up and running by Christmas.  Nothing like a zombie book release just in time for the holidays.

Well, I'll keep you posted.  Wish me luck!  Either way I'll be busy this month.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

YA Book Review: Uniquely Unwelcome by Brandy Nacole

Uniquely Unwelcome (The Shadow World, #1)This year I'm playing along with an A-Z Book Title challenge on Goodreads.  Today's review is for my U book, Uniquely Unwelcome. Unlike many of the books I review, I actually bought this one.  I've been following the author, Brandy Nacole, on Facebook for some time, and finally picked up a copy of one of her books.

As for the A-Z challenge, I'm getting close.  I plan to post my final A-Z reading list with links to my reviews when I finish the challenge.

Uniquely Unwelcome by Brandy Nacole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Uniquely Unwelcome takes the werewolf, vampire, shifter, witch thing to a new level. The story opens with Racquel returning to her hometown, and dreading it. From her earliest memories, she has faced ridicule and fear, a side effect of her mixed heritage. Mixing of the shadow world races is discouraged, and in some cases dangerous or impossible, but her family found a way. With years of trauma to deal with, the last thing she wants is to be noticed when she arrives in town, but she is.

This is ya at its finest. The various shadow world races are interesting and well-defined, especially with how they shouldn't be able to be mixed. Besides the four main races, there is also mention of leprechauns and fairies, and we actually get to meet the fairy queen.

It's fantastic seeing how the four main races mingle in Racquel's veins. As part vampire, she occasionally needs blood, especially after an injury or strenuous fight. As part shifter, she can turn into an eagle. As part werewolf, she's stronger than she should be and heals quickly. As part witch, she can use magic. But, and here is where it's interesting, she has had almost no guidance on how to deal with any of this. Instead of accepting her, each of these races has not only snubbed her, but also in some cases attacked, humiliated or harrassed her. She's one against them all, which makes it awkward when people from the different races start going missing and they need to call on her to help track them down. She agrees to help, but only because her sister, Addie, is one of those missing. She and a growing team of young people recruited from the various races take up a world tour to visit the main colonies of each race.

Also, as is common in ya, there is a bit of romance, but it is affected by racial stigmas and incompatibilities. We see the love blooming, but we know that the couple(s) will be shunned and any children of theirs would face the same kind of painful existance as Racquel. Makes it hard to know whether to hope they make it or to hope they don't. Of course, I'm always voting for love. I enjoy the way the romance is developed in this story.

Another thing I liked was that Racquel begins to gain acceptance and learn more about herself. This personal growth makes her relatable and gives hope for her future. She's a strong person, too. I love reading about strong female characters, so this was a plus for me.

The only thing I thought was a bit off was how easily and how quickly Racquel was convinced to help the four races. Sure, her sister was taken, but that was really the only explanation. It takes a single conversation to convince her to drop everything and instantly pack her bags to go face the main camps for each of the races who despise her. I don't know if I'd be so easily convinced, especially if I had no previous positive reinforcement and little confidence in my own self-worth, as Racquel seems to have. But, after that odd start, the story picks up and everthing flows well.

Overall, I really liked this story. It's a bit of a ya cliche at times with all the various magical races, but the way they are used and presented in the story is believable and interesting. The romanctic themes are well developed and seem doomed to failure, but I felt a connection and hoped along with them that things would turn out alright.

I would highly recommend this story to fans of YA literature, especially those who like the werewolf, vampire, shifter, or witch type stories; you get all four in Uniquely Unwelcome. I look forward to the next story in the series.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween: One Last Frightening Short Story Review

Halloween has come and nearly gone, but I have one more short story review before I close out this month's short story theme.

Today's review is #3 in the Feast, Stray, Love Trilogy by Kevin Anthony.  The author gifted me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

Feast, Stray, Love - #1, #2 and Introducing #3Feast, Stray, Love - #1, #2 and Introducing #3 by Kevin Anthony
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, scary, and funny, but not as much love in # 3 as expected.

Love is the third installment of this series and is full of twists and surprises.  Damien is still messed up in the head, but his powers, besides being handy and incredibly gory, are getting the better of him.  Meanwhile Maxine and Ava have both moved on to their Stray and Jaxom has moved on to his Love.  Damien is stuck in the kitchen of a quirky restaurant whose owner can't settle on a menu or a theme.  But, no matter the interesting and varied cuisine, it just can't seem to compete with the TFC Chicken across the street.

First off, this is a funny and, of course, explosive finale to the trilogy.  The mysterious factory, its purpose, and the mastermind behind it all are revealed.  The battle between good and evil sucks you right in, and Damien's superpowers and lovable friends make it fun.  The new friend Trey is interesting and likeable, but there seems to be more to him than is revealed in this installment.  Also, I couldn't exactly peg how he fits in with Damien.  I settled on protoge in the end. When I asked the author about him, he revealed there may be more books in the works, and Trey's story will be featured in more detail.

Besides the plot, humor is still prevalent, but in this case there are more one-liners but not as many natural laugh out loud moments. My favorite is still #2 Stray for its humor and deeper social plot, romantic tension and, of course, Sparkles, but #3 is a crazy, fun ride, and I liked it.

Another thing of note is that despite the title, there's not as much Love or incidental romance for Damien or his friends in this one, making me think the title's just a convenient one matching up with the self-help book featured in the story.  For those who prefer less romance, that might be a good thing, but I felt a little disappointed for Damien.  He's such a likeable guy, I really wanted him to hit it off with someone.

Now for the balance.  Despite liking this story, I couldn't fail to notice a lack of technical polish to it.  The word choice and flow are a bit off in spots, and for some reason the header listed this as #2 Love.  I also found a couple of spots where the text was centered, which I assume was an accident because those spots were just regular paragraphs.  I feel this book could use a couple more passes by someone with an eye for detail and a feel for transitions and lead-ins.

Overall, this is a good book, humorous, scary and more action packed than it's predecessors.  I'd recommend it to people who enjoy a quick read in the horror genre with just a touch of m-m romance.  As for the series as a whole, I'd recommend it. Not for the kids, though.

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