Saturday, November 29, 2014

PNDS: Post NaNoWriMo Depression Syndrome

Yeah, I made that up. But, here's the thing, maybe it should be a real thing. Every time I finish a story, particularly for NaNoWriMo, there's this huge surge of euphoric accomplishment. Yay, I did it! Look, I made it!

And then PNDS hits. A void has formed where once the story lived, not just were the story held my attention, but where it lived. The characters, the setting, the trials, now nothing but a vacuum in my heart. I miss them, and I find myself trying to fill that space with other things: trying to read all the books I set aside, writing blog posts (or mostly just looking at a blank page trying to recapture the magic that created an entire novel, and failing), watching movies.  Anything to fill that void.

The effect seems worse after NaNoWriMo, probably because of the tight deadline, the all consuming trial of compressing what normally takes months into just days. The creative abandon, the rush of seeing a story come to life so quickly. So much energy put in, and then it's just gone. The energy is still there, the urge to write, but the story is finished.

It's odd and pervasive. How can finishing a story be such a downer? And really, the only thing I can do about it, the only thing that really works, is to start another. Maybe that's why I have a backlog of drafts that need editing. Editing is great, but it's not the same as writing. It doesn't fill that void.

Luckily, though, the effect seems short lived. The result is another story started or long put off editing kicked into overdrive. I just have to push through a rough week or so after the story wraps while I ask myself, "What now?"

So, I'm curious. How do you feel after finishing a story, or any big project, really? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Woot, 2014 NaNoWriMo Target Hit!

I am thrilled, to say the least. Finished with eight days to spare and two thousand more words than I'd estimated. Whew!  Now, to rest for a little while and think up an nice ending for the story. Final battle and narrow escape, all good. Now to draw the conclusion.

No idea when I'll publish this...

Friday, November 21, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals


Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

The Perilous Journey
Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.
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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Leigh Statham

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl
Leigh Statham
Chapter One
Marguerite held the brass cricket gingerly in her hands. She kept it tucked under the table while she turned it over, her fingers blindly memorizing every feature. She knew it was childish for a sixteen-year-old to have a favorite toy, but she couldn’t help it. The design fascinated her. Occasionally she would trip the mechanism and the cricket literally sprang to life, launching itself against the underside of the table with a loud knock.
“What was that?” Madame Pomphart cried.
Marguerite caught the little metal bug with one hand and tucked it into the folds of her skirts. “Nothing,” she lied.
“I heard a noise.” The sour-faced governess slapped the desk with her pointer and stepped closer. “What are you hiding?”
Marguerite didn’t flinch. “You must be hearing things again. You are getting rather old.”
Madame Pomphart swung her pointer, making sound contact with Marguerite's shoulder.
“Ah!” Marguerite grabbed her shoulder and jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over. She quite forgot about the little toy cricket which launched right at the governess’s face.
“What? Oh!” Madame Pomphart batted the air and stumbled backward, dropping her stick as the cricket ricocheted off her nose and landed at Marguerite’s feet. “How dare you bring vermin into my classroom? Your father will hear about this. Lord Vadnay will not be pleased!”
Marguerite scooped up her prize and ran for the door, grateful for the chance to escape.
“Get back here or you’ll receive double lashings!”
It was too late. Marguerite ran much faster than her teacher and was already halfway down the wide corridor. Lined with portraits of long-dead relatives and her father’s collection of modern weaponry, each display tempted her with thoughts of challenging the governess to a duel. She could easily scoop up one of the automated cat-o-nine-tails and turn back to the classroom. She rather fancied the idea, actually. But it wasn't the right time or the right way to handle her heavy-handed caretaker, and honestly, she wasn't quite brave enough to do more than talk back—not yet.
Her fear began to lift as she lightly descended the grand curving stairway to the ballroom, sprinting over the marble tiles and through the large doors to the gardens. The French summer sun blinded her. Marguerite blinked as she continued to run around the fountain filled with automated koi. A servant perched on the edge of the large pool, brass fish in hand. Its tail clicked furiously back and forth as he tried to oil it. The late-summer roses bloomed bright with color all around her. Butterflies seemed to flit merrily on every blossom, cheering her on. Human and automaton servants worked side by side grooming the large hedges … They jumped out of her way and bowed. None of them seemed surprised to see the young lady of the house running out of doors and they all knew where she was headed.
She tried to slip away to the cool shelter of the small glen beyond the lavender fields every chance she could, but since her father came up with the idea that she needed to be a “real lady,” it had become more difficult to sneak away.
At this point, she could have stopped. Pomphart wouldn’t follow her now, but it felt so good to move quickly after being at a table all morning. Her heart beat like an auto-hammer in her chest by the time she reached the work fields. More automatons and human servants stopped and bowed to the master’s daughter. Marguerite paid them no attention.
Finally reaching the small grove of trees, she flopped merrily on the soft grass and took a deep breath, then giggled to herself. She was safe, for now. The wind picked up and tousled the leaves overhead, sending bits of sunlight swimming wildly around her. The grass outside the glen rustled under the heavy thud of work boots: Claude.
“Hullo!” His voice sounded merry as he peered through the low branches that poked and tickled at the earth, surprised to see her there so early. “How’d you manage to beat me?” His wavy, light brown hair was just shaggy enough to soften his strong jaw and angular nose. His cheek was smeared with gear oil, right up to the corner of his smiling blue eyes. He was too tall for his work trousers and his chest had grown too broad for his cotton shirt. The buttons tugged a bit, but he wasn’t the type to care about his clothes. He pulled his welding goggles off of his head and wiped the sweat on his brow with the arm of his shirt.
“I ran.” She smiled wickedly.
Claude flopped down in the grass beside her. “That’s not very ladylike, and Pomphart doesn’t usually let you out till half past.”
“I had to run after this marvelous toy you made for me attacked her.” She held up the cricket like a prize gem freshly plucked from the earth.
“Marguerite!” he cried. “I asked you to keep it safe, not use it to get yourself tossed out of ladyhood!”
“It was an accident. I swear. The lessons are just so boring. I needed something to do, so I had it under the table. She’s such a brute. You should have seen how she hit me with her blasted pointer.”
“She struck you again?” his face turned dark.
“Yes, but it's nothing, just a welt on the shoulder.” The last thing she wanted was to be the damsel in distress.
“Still.” Claude's brow furrowed. “It's not right. Ladies don't strike other ladies. Please keep good care of that little bug. It took me a long time to build and I didn’t record the plans. I may need to borrow it back someday.”
“All right.” Disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for her naughtiness, she carried on. “But you should have seen her face! If only I could have a portrait made of that. I’d hang it over my bed and have a miniature made to keep by my heart.”
A nasally voice attached to a pointy-faced, pale girl in bright pink skirts burst through the cool glen. “Whose miniature are you keeping by your heart? You haven’t even had your ball yet.”
“Hello, Vivienne.” Marguerite sighed without enthusiasm.
“Marguerite has just sealed her doom,” Claude chimed in. “She threw the cricket I made her at Pomphart’s face today, so there may not be a ball.”
“That’s rubbish! I did no such thing. It just got away from me and bounced right off her nose.” Marguerite laughed again while recalling the image, but Claude’s words made her a bit nervous.
“Oh dear,” cried Vivienne. “What are you going to do?”
Of course Vivienne would make a big deal out of it, Marguerite didn’t expect anything less from her childish neighbor.
“I’m not sure. That’s why I came straight here.” She turned pointedly to Claude. “I thought you’d want to celebrate my freedom and take the rest of the day off.”
Claude was quick to reply, “I’m afraid I can’t. Lots to be finished at the forge and I am on stall-mucking duty with the bots.”
“What do you possibly have to finish at the forge that’s so important?”
Claude raised his eyebrows at her. “A certain girl’s father has requested automatic serving dishes made of twenty-four-karat gold for her introduction to society.”
“Oh my!” Vivienne drew a dramatic breath. “How elegant. I so wish I were old enough to come.”
“Don’t worry,” Marguerite patted the girl’s knee, “I’m sure you can borrow them for your own ball.”
“Marguerite … ” Claude hissed at her.
It wasn’t a very kind thing to say, but Marguerite had never been very fond of Vivienne. She mostly endured her company because she was the only girl within a hundred miles that was close to the same age and station as Marguerite. That, and Claude had insisted she be kind to her.
“You’re right, Claude.” Marguerite smiled in repentance. “I’m sure your father will have loads of wonderful things for the guests to marvel at when your time comes, Vivienne. Still, it would be nice to have both of you there. I suppose I will be forced to talk to strangers.”
“I can’t believe you’re not excited!” Vivienne chattered. “New dresses! Handsome suitors!”
“I am excited,” Marguerite cut her off, “to have it over and done with! Dressing up might be fun, but dressing up to catch a man is not my idea of a good time.”
“Don’t be vulgar.” Vivienne blushed. “It’s not like that at all.”
Claude cut in, “I’d love to stay and discuss this matter with you girls, but I do have a few chafing dishes waiting for their motors in the shop.”
Marguerite tensed at the thought of not only being left alone with Vivienne, but also being without Claude’s protection should Pomphart come looking for her. “Do you think I could come help you at the forge today?”
“Not if you want me to get anything done.” Claude smiled merrily.
“Stop it! You know I’m a whiz with gear-work.”
“When you are actually interested in the work, yes, but I’m afraid that auto-spoons and brass tureens would bore you to death.”
Marguerite tried to make her eyes look large and beseeching, but she knew it was no use.
“No. But you can walk me there. I forgot my lunch anyway,” Claude said as he reached to help Marguerite up.
“I didn’t exactly have time to grab a snack as I fled the dungeons,” Marguerite quipped.
“Oh! I know!” Vivienne was bursting. “Let’s have lunch in town today. You’re not going back to your lessons are you? And Claude is busy with work. It will be such fun girl time!”
Marguerite sighed, but Vivienne was right. There was no way for her to return to the estate house without being trapped by Pomphart, and she had nothing to do if Claude insisted on finishing his chores. Still, she was uneasy about the idea of being on her own with Pomphart’s wrath hovering around an unknown corner waiting to pounce. The woman was ruthless when no one of importance was watching. She had a way of getting Marguerite off on her own and exacting whatever form of punishment she felt was suitable for the crime. Marguerite tried to complain to her father, but he wouldn’t listen, he thought Marguerite just didn’t want lessons anymore.
Claude knew all of this and sensed her fears in her quiet gaze.
“Come with me, both of you. I have someone I want you to meet.” Claude smiled.
Marguerite jumped up at his tug, tossed her wavy brown hair, and set her skirts aright, glad someone was helping her make up her mind. “Very well.”
“Hooray! Oh, I know just the place,” Vivienne said. “There is a new little patisserie I saw the other day I’ve been aching to try.” She skipped up the hill ahead of the other two, babbling on about buns and cakes and half sandwiches.
Claude reached for Marguerite’s arm and squeezed a bit. He used this gesture when he was about to chastise her, but she didn’t think she’d been that rude to Vivienne. The girl got on her nerves with every word, but her intentions were good and Marguerite wasn’t cruel by nature, just impatient.
“What?” she hissed.
“I have some news, but I wanted to tell you first.”
“Oh?” Relieved not to be in trouble, but also perplexed, Marguerite wished more now than ever that Vivienne would just skip into oblivion with her bouncy blonde curls and scattered thoughts.
“Yes. You know how we spoke a few weeks ago about my plans?”
“Did you find a position in Paris?” Marguerite could scarcely contain herself. Her friend was so talented, and she knew better than anyone that he was wasted working as a bondservant on her father’s estate. If he could secure an apprenticeship in Paris he could come back to La Rochelle as a master tradesman. Plus she could visit him there. Still, apprenticeships were hard to come by.
“No, I think it’s better than that.”
“What could be better than Paris?” In her mind, crowds of well-dressed ladies paraded down glittering avenues while the latest autocarts passed by in a blur of technology and innovation. Paris was the hub of all things Marguerite admired.
“I’ve signed into His Majesty’s service. As of next week, I’ll be an official member of the Royal Corp of Engineers.”
“You what?” She was stunned. It took her a moment to sort out her emotions. How could he have made this type of decision without consulting her? They had shared everything since they discovered each other as bored children on the estate a decade ago.
“I knew you’d be angry with me for not telling you beforehand, but an opportunity just presented itself and I knew it was right—I had to take it.”
“No, I’m not angry at all. Just shocked. You know how my father feels about the military.”
“But you see, that’s just it. I won’t have to worry about your father anymore, I won’t owe him anything. My first assignment is to New France.”
“Are you two coming or not? I’m starved!” Vivienne had doubled back when she realized she was talking to herself.
Marguerite wasn’t sure she could eat or talk at that moment. She wasn’t sure she could even take another step.

L. Statham
Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.
Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter Facebook | Goodreads
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Martial Arts Fantasy Review: Clash of the Clans: Shinobi 7 Companion Book #1 by L. Benitez

Clash of the Clans: Shinobi 7 Companion Book #1Clash of the Clans: Shinobi 7 Companion Book #1 by L. Benitez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lighthearted and funny...Highly recommended

This companion story for Shinobi 7 is a quick jump over to an alternate timeline where war never erupts, but Sector 7 still forms and the characters are essentially the same. With the war out of the picture, the story focuses on another kind of conflict, a tournament of the clans. Having read Shinobi 7, I loved being back in the world and experiencing it in such a purely enjoyable fashion.

As someone who practices Karate, I found both the tournament and the crazy way things play out delightful. Not only is the event entertaining, it's also a rather accurate representation of a martial arts tournament. I also enjoyed picking out the Japanese terms that are worked into the story. There's just enough context to make them easy to work out, but not enough to make them seem instructional.

As for the characters, I love, absolutely love, Luna. So cute and hyper, her childish logic is infallible even under the stern watch of the judges. And Kuroi, as gruff as ever, yet still facing a challenge that makes him doubt himself. These two are my favorite, but each point of view is interesting. I also liked some of the main villains of Shinobi 7 make an appearance as judges.

I honestly can't think of anything I didn't like, though I did wonder what might have motivated everyone to join the Kitsune Clan without the tragedies spawned by the war. Some of it matches up to Shinobi 7, but the split in the timeline is mostly vague. Still, I didn't worry much about it. In fact, as a standalone, the back story is fine.

Overall, I loved this story. The characters are wonderful and the story kept me smiling and, at times, outright laughing. I so wish I could write about my favorite part, but that would spoil it. I highly recommend Clash of the Clans to anyone who likes martial arts, youthful exuberance, and a bit of fantasy. This is a quick read and won't spoil Shinobi 7 if you haven't read it yet.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Political Thriller Review: The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer

The Zero GameThe Zero Game by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Zero Game is an action-packed, yet disturbing, political thriller. Matthew and Harris have been playing a game, one that seems harmless. Place your bids, sneak a bit of trivial legislation onto a bill, and collect your winnings. A victimless crime, until one of the players ends up dead. Soon one of the players finds himself playing a new game. One of life and death.

I must say I really liked this book. I found the pace quick and the story intriguing. Twists and surprises, chases and narrow escapes, all move the story forward and keep the reader engaged. I also enjoyed learning about day to day life in the government. The author has definitely done his homework.

I also liked that the story isn't burdened with an unnecessary love connection. The main character and the young page who finds herself on the run with him are focused on surviving. All in all, the relationship between them is realistic for the situation they find themselves in. The story is good enough on its own merits without cluttering it with romance.

I'm not one to seek out political thrillers, preferring fantasy, sci-fi or the occasional dystopian. But, this was a present from my dad. He's been telling me about it for some time, wanting to talk about it but not wanting to spoil it. I look forward to a long spoiler-filled discussion with him the next time we talk.

I highly recommend The Zero Game to fans of political thrillers. It's well-written, insightful and exciting.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

NaNoWriMo Status Update: Great Progress, Still Stressed

This year is the first time I've actually started my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel on November 1st, and I'm hoping to finish early.  I base this on the fact that I've managed to finish on time the last two years, while starting late.

So, how am I doing? Pretty good, just about exactly on target for the challenge, but then again, my target is to finish early.  I've figured out that based on my formatting, I need 60 pages of rough draft to hit 50k words. I'm at 18 right now. I want to finish about 20k per weekend.

That means I just need to knock out 2 pages today, right? Wrong. Why? Because now that I'm going, I don't just want to finish early, I want to finish way early. Le sigh.

So, status. I'm at 15239 words of 50k. I'm on target to complete right on the 30th and pretty close to my side goal of finishing early if I knock out a couple more pages today. And, I'm stressing because I want to see if I can round this weekend off to 20k words or more (that would be 10k words today).

Hmm, why can't I be this motivated when I write books any other time of the year? Don't know, but despite the stress, I dig the game. I guess that's why I keep coming back for more.

So, who else is playing along with NaNoWriMo this year? What are your goals? How are you doing? And, most importantly, are you having fun?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Epic Fantasy Review: A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time #7) by Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords (Wheel of Time, #7)A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A quick read, compared to some of the others in the series. I think it's still in the realm of the middle books where folks tend to lose interest in the series and stop reading, but I had no such trouble. Much of the action in this book occurs in Cairhien and Ebou Dar, following the divergent paths of Rand, Min, Nynaeve, Elayne and Avienda.

As always, my favorite character is Matt, mostly because he's the wild card. I also like that he finds himself both the victim and master of chance. It works out in interesting ways. Fate is fickle when Matt's around, and the swings are often surprising. My second favorite character in this book is Nynaeve. She is a complex woman, both mature and petty, strong and vulnerable, and I always enjoy getting glimpses into her head and watching her through the eyes of her closest companions. This book provides an important stepping stone in her growth and development.

The bad guys are also cool, and a new one seems to have entered the mix. A bad guy worse than the Forsaken. It makes for a good story, but then again, another character? It's one of the infuriating things about the Wheel of Time books. More characters than you can absorb and remember in one reading.

Rand on the other hand is less likeable in this one. He's uber mistrustful, arrogant, and careless. Just not all that nice of a guy, which is a shame because he started off as my favorite in the early books and the overarching plot hinges on him. Still, he's not completely lost. There are glimmers, but they are being buried by his growing madness, and it isn't pretty while that's going down.

Overall, I love the series and this book ranks high for me. Not as high as The Eye of the World (#1 and always my favorite), but good. I recommend this book to fans of epic fantasy, but I caution, as always, that if you didn't like the first few books in the series, you probably won't find this one any more likable. People tend to gather in the extremes for these books, and having read them over and over again, I fall into the pile of those who love it.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Avalee and the Dragon

An idea has hatched.

My NaNoWriMo story this year will be called Avalee and the Dragon. Here's a short description.

Avalee's village is peaceful and safe, a great place to live, but the long shadow of Dragon's Mount is a constant reminder of the price the villagers must pay every ten years.

I have a ton of ideas floating around for this one, but I think I can get 50k words out of it and have fun doing so.

Wish me luck!