2015’s Bad Book Compilation

As some of you may know, I don’t do negative book reviews any more. I don’t have the time to invest in something that ultimately does no one any good, nor do I have the mental energy.

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However, as any storyteller knows, negative reviews have one big, fat benefit. They show you what doesn’t work, and you can then in turn look for x, y, or z in your own stories. Since everyone’s trying to improve their craft, it doesn’t make sense to at least not take what we can from an otherwise less-than-positive-reading experience.

Without further ado, here’s what I gleaned from my not-so-great (read: terrible) reads of 2015!

How to Murder a Murder Mystery

  • Don’t leave any clues. ANY.
  • Don’t explore the mind of the killer until the last 5 pages, and, even then, skim.

How to Let You’re Reader Know You’re Smarter than Everyone Else (aka How To  Be Generally Annoying)

  • Abuse and exploit the thesaurus.
  • The more confusing the sentence structure, the better. If your reader doesn’t follow what you’re trying to say, good. It’s their fault for not being as smart as you.
  • Name drop important people and places every other sentence.

How to Write High-Brow Fantasy that Only You are Worldly Enough to Understand

  • Use a plethora of made-up deity and object names without ever explaining or contextualizing them.
  • Never explain or explore the characters’ motives. It’s fantasy; who needs motive when you have magic and monsters?

How to Write a White-Noise Dystopian Novel

  • Combine elements from Hunger Games, Stung, etc. to form a generic world.
  • Your protagonist MUST BE “the special/chosen one” or unique in some discernible way.
  • If there isn’t a love triangle, you might as well quit already.

How to (Not) Write an Action Novel

  • Only ever write action scenes. Leave no room to breathe, no exploration of the character’s psyche, etc. Only fighting, all the time.

Stand-Out Character Guidelines

  • Do not give your characters distinguishable personalities; readers should ONLY be able to tell who’s talking/thinking when you say their name.
  • Making literally every character in the book a straight white old male. (LITERALLY. EVERY. CHARACTER.)
  • Only give teh womens lines like “Oh, goodness Papa!” or “I’m a delicate flower incapable of deep thought!” (Bonus points if they’re breathy exclamations or shy exchanges.)

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The very least a bad read can give you is a writing lesson, so run with it! What lessons did less-than-enjoyable books teach you in 2015?

 

Best Reads of 2015

(NOTE: Not all of these books were published in 2015; this is merely pulled from the list of books I read this year.)

2015 has finally come to a close! And it’s good riddance, from my perspective. That being said, 2015 was a time for some particularly good reads. Below are my top books from this trip around the sun, and what earned each of them a spot on my list.

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Title: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4)

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Rating: 5 out of 5

If you know me, you know that I’m a huge fan of the Throne of Glass series. As this is book number four in the series, things are finally coming to a head in an exciting way. There were many riveting action scenes, a deeper discovery of the characters, and DID I MENTION ACTION HELL YEAH SIGN ME UP. And y’know what, I’m not even going to apologize for that outburst, because good lord, does QoS ever deserve it!

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Title: Milk and Honey

Author: Rupi Kaur

Release Date: November 4th, 2014

Rating: 5 out of 5

This book is a departure from the norm for me because I typically don’t read many poetry books. But like the hipster scum I am, I’m already familiar with Kaur’s work and decided it was worth the $10.77 leap of faith. It was. Milk and Honey contains heartrendingly beautiful poetry unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Reading it is a truly unique experience, (if sometimes the theme is a little repetitive), and even has the occasional illustration!

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Title: The Oresteia

Author: Aeschylus

Release Date: 458 BCE

Rating: 5 out of 5

A true classic. As in, a classic that way out-dates even the classics. (Just look at that publication date!) The Oresteia does what many stories even to this day fail to do: provide a cohesive tale of love, betrayal, covert assassination plots, ancient (…child…) sacrifices, and a story of homecomings after war. What more could you want?

 

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Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Release Date: July 10th, 2012

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Seraphina is one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read, hands down. (You can even find my review of it here.) The writing is rich and immaculate. The world-building is almost (dare I say) on par with that of Harry Potter. The characters are varied and dynamic and catch you off guard if you don’t keep an eye on them. The pace was pitch perfect. If you haven’t read this book yet, get your life together and read it NOW.

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Stay tuned to catch my 2015 Bad Book Compilation, likely coming out next week!

What books did you read in 2015 that stood out the most? Comment below!

THE FINAL ADVENT Release!

After years of drafting, editing, rewriting, and (of course) more editing, THE FINAL ADVENT has officially been published! Go pick up your copy today of the final installment in the NO ANGELS trilogy, where action, adventure, and intrigue abound. (Only available in eBook format for the time being. It should be available in paperback soon!)

Also, for those of you on Goodreads, add it to your list here!

Getting to this point has been such an incredibly long, toiling, and rewarding journey. Without the support of all those I know and love, never in my wildest dreams would this have been possible. Each and every one of you–yes, YOU reading this right now–have been invaluable to me, whether you’re aware of it or not. I’ll cut the sentiments short for now (that’s for a whole different post), but be warned: they’re coming for you!

Thank you so much for following me on my adventures thus far. With the No Angels trilogy wrapped up, it’s time that we take the next steps out into an even bigger, if mysterious, world.

Until next time!

My Top 5 Motivators When Writing NO ANGELS

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Life is hard. Writing is harder. When working on multiple books whilst trying to juggle the daily minutiae, it can be hard to stay motivated. Here are the top 5 things I’ve used when writing NO ANGELS that kept me motivated enough to sit my butt in the chair and write.

1 – Watching Fantasy and/or Action Movies

Who hasn’t watched Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, or Harry Potter to get themselves amped up about writing? This is a pretty common trick, but for good reason. Not only does it show the fantastical in rich detail, but it also tickles the notion that your ideas can one day be on the big screen too.

2 – Thinking of my Readers

I love telling stories. If I had to choose between making a living off writing but never really satisfying my readers, or never making a dime but people LOVING my stories, I’d pick the latter every time. I want to deliver. I want to tell a story that enthralls, but to do that I have to actually write.

3 – Fighting/Sparring/Playing with a Variety of Dangerous Things

If you know me, you know that I have a solid history of martial arts training, am always armed in some fashion, and am a card carrying Texan (read: know how to shoot). I’ve cleaned up in many a tournament sparring division, have split a cement brick with a single punch, fired AK-47s (plus many more, obviously) and so on. You get the idea. And all of these activities light an absolute fire in me. Not only are they wildly fun, but I inevitably always start thinking of novel fight scenes while I’m doing drills, cleaning my equipment, etc. Plus, I like to think my experience adds to the energy of the written fight scenes themselves. ;) Try throwing a few punches one day and see how you feel about your next action scene!

4 – Reading Poetry

This one falls much into the same vein as #1; I could have put reading in general, but I feel that’s far too obvious. The personal charm of poetry for me lies in the beauty of each carefully selected word, the arrangement and variation of the lines, how lyrical the language is, and how such a strong image can be imparted with so few words. When in doubt, poetry prevails.

5 – When All Else Fails

Sometimes, nothing you do to motivate yourself will work. I get that. Motivation is rather unnecessary if you ask me, but it does make the job easier. But sometimes life simply isn’t easy. So, when all else fails, here is a fool-proof strategy for writing.

Step 1: Put your butt in the chair.

Step 2: Acquire a writing utensil and paper (NOT A COMPUTER– I see you, internet addicts.)

Step 3: Write. Force yourself to put words on the page. (They do not have to be good. They probably won’t be good.) Literally just put down words and then, look! You’re writing! You might be writing absolute trash, but that’s leaps and bounds ahead of not writing at all.

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What strategies do you use to motivate yourself towards a task, writing-related or otherwise? Comment below!

My 2016 Writing Resolutions

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Read 30 Books

I know 30 books sounds like a meager amount to some, but hear me out. I’m in college full-time, will be drafting an entire novel this year, and will be spending 2+ months abroad with little-to-no access to personal reading material. I’ll likely end up reading beyond 30, but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by aiming too high.

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Publish The Final Advent

Okay, so this resolution is sort of a ‘gimme’ considering the book’s is almost totally ready, but it still counts! All I’m waiting for is one beta reader’s feedback, then a read-through with minor edits on my end, then bam! We are done!

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Draft The Immortal 

This resolution was actually on my list for 2015, but with how crazy the year was, it simply didn’t get done. I’ve already started drafting it–by which I mean I’m about 3 pages in–but I have a long ways to go. That being said, I’m SO INCREDIBLY excited to write this. It’s very different from the rest of my work, and hopefully will rip your hearts to shreds. <3

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Complete my Short Horror Story

I worked a bit more on the short sci-fi/horror piece in 2015, but I’ll admit it fell by the wayside as the year spun out of control. Still, I’m chipping away at the thing and am eager to see if anything will come of it! At the very least, it’s a good exercise.

Continue Subbing The Stolen Sun

This resolution is accompanied by a bit of good news! A few months back, I submitted TSS to the Writers of the Future Contest, established by L. Ron Hubbard. It’s an extremely well-regarded contest with big name judges, and tens of thousands of people have entered over the years. While I didn’t place, I received an honorable recognition, which thankfully is not the equivalent of a participation ribbon. Only about the top 5-10% of entrants earn an honorable mention in a given Quarter, which lets me know I’m on the right track! For me it’s at least a nod that I’m doing something right, if not a publication credit. So in 2016 I’ll continue plugging away and see if any publications will bite. ;)

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What are your 2016 writing and/or reading resolutions?

 

My 5 Favorite Characters when Writing No Angels

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1 – Liz Patrona

This one should be relatively obvious! She’s strong, endlessly determined, and, no matter what, does what’s right by her, damn the consequences!

2 – Riven Samson

Oh, Riven, I’m so sorry. I put this poor soul through so much suffering, and lets face it, he was pretty mean in the beginning. However, the gradual process of softening him was one of my favorite things to write across the series.

3 – Azriel Patrona

Azriel is sort of loosely based off my dad, so how could I not put him in my favorites list? He’s kind, welcoming, and devoted to being a thoroughly good person who fiercely protects his home.

4 – Vita

Since this post is leading up to the release of The Final Advent, you have no idea who Vita is yet. But! It doesn’t mean I love her any less. She has a deadly sharp wit paired with iron resolve, plus all the patience in the world–making her incredibly deadly when she wants to strike.

5 – Jakeus Vinco

My tragic baby! He had quite the hard life, but still, I know that doesn’t mean he’s exempt from morals or, y’know, basic human decency. Since he had control ripped away so early in life, he’s been fighting for it ever since, though not always with the best of intentions.

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Who’re your favorite characters? Comment below!

What’s Changed in NO ANGELS

As with all long projects, No Angels has had a multitude of alterations made to it. While the bare-bone structure has largely stayed the same, that’s about it. Below are just a few of the most memorable changes that’ve been made to the series over the years.

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Riven used to be little more than a comic relief character. His name was Bobby. (And no, I’m not kidding.)

For a time, Liz was actually supposed to end up with Mark. I’d liked the idea of the non-special, normal friend getting the girl, but as Riven’s character developed, Mark got cut out of the picture. Muggle.

There were originally four books. Count ’em. The extra (and initially second) book took place in the Australian outback because, as a kid, I was obsessed with the deadly variety of creatures the continent hosts. I deemed it extraneous pretty early on.

Originally Guards who’d been brought back to life existed only in animal form, but I’d found that didn’t work into the mechanics of the story as well.

Liz’s primary weapon used to be a flame-arrowed bow. She also used to have power over stone/earth, but I thought that was getting a bit too Avatar: The Last Airbender-y so I gave those powers to a different race, the Viri Lapideus.

Liz’s last name was originally Crenshath. She had about 10 last names before I finally just picked one.

Liz initially had another best friend in addition to Mark: Josie. In the end, she betrayed Liz by trading confidential information to Jakeus in exchange for him not attacking her when his plans came to fruition. She didn’t serve much of a purpose in the story overall, though, so out she went!

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Did any of these surprise you? Did you see some of them coming? Comment below!