100 Days of Productivity Challenge: What I Learned

 

MY BLOG HAS MOVED! This article can now be found by clicking here. 

Advertisements

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.

whats-changed-banner

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!

——-

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

 

Book Review: Seraphina

Seraphina_book_cover_(US_addition)Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Release Date: July 10th, 2012

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.” – Goodreads

Excuse me while I scream.

tumblr_lui0yvxkYV1qcbz8o

Seraphina is easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long while. The reasons for this are multitudinous. The writing, the world-building, the characters, etc.

First off, the writing. It is gorgeous. It strikes that perfect yet elusive balance between rich and clear, all without being overly flowery. This is probably some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, hands down.

One of the things that sets this fantasy novel apart from others, however, is the world the author built. The cultures and lore are intriguing, and not strictly based on Europe! Yay! Also, Hartman has a distinct way of approaching the topic of dragons. They’re not straightforward monsters to be conquered (well, depending on who you ask), but rather characters to be engaged with, each with a variety of motives and angles. Their culture and what makes them tick is just as engrossing too.

The characters were varied and believable. I could relate well to Seraphina, but aside from her I’d have to say my favorite character is Glisselda. She’s regal, kind, confident, and is armed with a sharp wit. The characters aren’t predictable or transparent, which lends to part of the charm of the book. You’re constantly guessing at people’s true loyalty, and usually I’m very good at guessing who the ultimate Bad Guy is. Not here! I was taken completely by surprise. Which I love.

The rhythm and pace were fine tuned to perfection. Even when things were (technically speaking_ slow moving, it didn’t feel slow moving. It felt more like the literary equivalent of gliding down a lazy river.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the romance. I saw no real reason for it, aside from the fact that (*SPOILER*) Kiggs was the first guy in Seraphina’s age range to really interact with her. (END SPOILER) The romance felt a bit forced; I feel like they make better friends than romantic partners. That being said, I do like that the romance isn’t there for drama’s sake. They decide to be honorable in how they intend to go about it.

All in all, Seraphina is one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. The characters, plot, pacing, etc . . . all of it is hands-down delightful. Highly recommended!

Book Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)

20613470Title: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Date Released: 2014

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.
While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?” – Goodreads

I stood in line for nearly 2 hours to purchase this book, and I’m glad to say that it was well worth it!

The characters, most of them new ones, are to die for. Between the new cast in Rifthold, the new world and characters and creatures in Wendelyn, and the covens in the Ferian Gap, there’s a rich selection to choose from, all with backbones and stories and secrets of their own. Speaking of the covens, initially I wasn’t a huge fan of the Manon storyline. I had difficulty understanding its relevance and direction, but it eventually won me over in a big way once the relationship with Abraxos entered. This book has no lack of strong women, that’s for sure.

Celaena is great as always, powerful and regaining her spark that for so long has threatened to go out. I really like her dynamic with Rowan, and her potential dynamic with Aedion once they’re reunited. (BE STILL, MY HEART).

Emma-Stone

Once you finally get to the action in this book, it goes hard. It never leaves you wanting, but never annoyingly overwhelms either. I can only think of one fight in the entire 600 pages that was too long for my liking, which, for a book with a lot of fights, is great. This book strikes just the right balance.

The writing is wonderful as always, powerful and clear while still retaining a poetic flow. I do feel though that things in the first couple hundred pages took a bit long to get moving, but once they did, the book stopped for no one. And that’s not even to mention the innumerable well-crafted plot twists! I will say that I quite literally screaming once or twice while reading.

All in all, Heir of Fire earns itself a solid 4.5 out of 5 for rich characters, quality writing and pace, and surprises of intrigue you’ll never see coming. And after all, how much more could you want?

———-

Find Heir of Fire on here Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Writers: Love Your Own Books

Congratulations! You’ve published your book! You promote it, give away free copies, network, etc. And then you wait.

If you’re lucky, a couple reviews come in. Maybe more, maybe none, depending on if you’re self-published, with a small press, with one of the Big Five, or something in between. Some of those review will say that they liked your work. Others will slam it into the ground.

And you know what? It hurts. You’ve likely spent years creating, molding, and breathing life into this single piece of yours only to have some people despise it or flat out ignore its existence.

tennant gif

Sadness abound.

Despite that, you must remember this: love your own books. Don’t you recall all the time and effort and affection you poured into them? How happy writing them made you? (Okay, maybe the editing portion didn’t fill your soul with glee, but some part of the writing process did.) When’s the last time you spent so much time on something? While it’s difficult not to linger over the feelings of “person y & z didn’t like it” or “I guess it wasn’t as good as I hoped it was”, you can’t do that to yourself. It doesn’t help you in any way whatsoever*.

In a similar vein, you also should never feel bad about or look down on what you do. Don’t let people make you feel like you should quit writing or take your work less seriously. Heck, to this day, despite having multiple published novels, my parents still see my writing time as trivial and unimportant. It’s always been seen as something I shouldn’t prioritize, (which of course made me want to prioritize it even more. Reverse psychology, perhaps? Ah, the parental masterminds at work.)

You have to remember the joy your books give you, because at the end of the day that’s the only person who matters. Would you rather slave over a book for months, if not years, you hated working on from beginning to end, but yet one that received success? Or, would you rather have a book you enjoyed molding in your hands and bringing into the world, but one that didn’t experience much acclaim?

I know where my answer lies. As writers, we’re naturally critics of our own work. We have to be for the editing and revision process alone. And yet, valuing and enjoying our work when all is said and done should never be forgotten. Though it’s difficult to teach oneself these things, it’s a pursuit we should never abandon.

——–

* However, if you’re book receives many a negative review all pin-pointing the same thing, you may want to take another look and consider how you can make it better. This does not mean though you should ever hate your book. Read my post Biting the Bullet for my experience with this.

NO ANGELS Re-Release Giveaway!

To celebrate the re-release of my novel No Angels, I’m holding a giveaway that is now up and running! Enter to win signed copies of my novels No Angels and Collapsed Cathedrals, an/or a a signed poster!

To enter you can follow this link!

The prizes up for grabs are as follows:

1st Place:

Signed copies of paperback (new edition!) No Angels & Collapsed Cathedrals

2nd Place:

Signed copies of paperback (new edition!) No Angels & Collapsed Cathedrals

3rd Place:

A signed paperback copy of No Angels and a signed poster of the No Angels cover

—–

Best of luck to everyone!

Book Review: These Broken Stars

13138635Title: These Broken Stars

Authors: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: December 10th, 2013

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: “It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.” – Goodreads

I have to admit, I initially was interested in These Broken Stars because of the gorgeous cover. I mean, just look at it. *sighs* Thankfully, I was treated to a great read in addition to a beautiful cover!

The first and most prominent thing that stands out to me are the characters. And they are awesome. They have backbone, they’re distinct from one another, and are overall very charming and dimensional. They do become more similar to one another as the story progresses, but they still retain many of their individual qualities while developing new ones. Not to mention, the dual point of view was on point.

Think of the plot as something that starts off as a sci-fi retelling of Titanic, then spirals into a paranormal, wilderness survival story. Awesome, right? One of the most intriguing things about this book from a writer’s standpoint is how the authors made the story progress and have momentum without much of an apparent conflict or manifested issue to overcome. (Such, survival is great and all, but it’s difficult to write conflict if there’s not something tangible you’re fighting against, which is why it’s so neat to find a well executed example.) I’m always amazed when people can pull that off. (See Rainbow Rowell‘s books to get an even better feel for what I mean.)

The writing is lovely, striking a harmonious balance between being rich and clear without getting too flowery.

The only drawback I felt in the story was that it comes across as a little overinflated. What I mean by that is that it takes a bit too long to get from point A to point B. Also, the conclusion regarding Lilac and her father was something I did not see coming, and not in a great way either. Something about it feels a bit off, like it was out of character, but that may have just been me.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this novel to fans of sci-fi, romance, and/or survival tales. Clear writing, developed characters, and a plot with momentum all come together into a literary treat. A solid 4 out of 5 stars!