Title Block

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ImageI feel like I’m finally admitting to myself how hard this whole writing a book thing is through these ominous blog titles.

I think I’m doing this whole thing backwards. I don’t have a title for my book at all, and it seems that that’s where everyone else starts – or am I imagining this? I’ve had one idea I didn’t hate, but for some reason I am opposed to having a book title that starts with “The,” and that has seemed to drastically reduce the flow of title inspiration for me. Honestly, I think it’s the fact that as I go through my Nook library to edit shelves the T’s section is much longer than any other first letter and it makes it much harder to find things.

For all you writer’s out there (that just conjured the image of a bad wedding DJ), was the title something you started with or ended with? I’m feeling pretty confident that my title will come about whenever I finish this first draft, I’m just hoping I come up with something better than The Gatherers, which is all I have now.

Now riddle me with all of your experienced advice!

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Witches, Vampires, Daemons, Oh My!

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Unknown-1Reading Goodreads reviews on this I found that you either love it or you hate it. I am one of the former, I really liked this book! I can see why some people didn’t, there are elements of a Twilightesque romance, but it’s more more grown up and practical, so I didn’t find a problem with that – honestly the only similarities are that there is a vampire in the relationship and it moves pretty fast. Romantic relationships between vampire’s and humans are all the rage right now anyway. At least here our two leads are a vampire and a witch, so they have much more in common to start with. The other issue I saw raised a lot was that people didn’t think enough happened. One review I read I thought was pretty funny because she mentioned how nothing happened the whole time, and then at then end listed how many different things were going on during the book – so I think these people wanted more action not more to happen.

This book certainly makes you think and references prominent scientists, historians, and alchemists throughout history – so from an academic standpoint I have to give Harkness props for research alone. There is a lot going on, we have the budding romance between the vampire and witch; the lost alchemical text that potentially unveils the origins of humans, vampires, witches, and daemons; the manhunt for the text and to separate Diana (the main witch) and Matthew (the main vampire); Matthew’s scientific research looking into the possible extinction of these non-human creatures; and the general animosity all these creatures have against each other. These people who say nothing is happening are crazy! Maybe they didn’t like it because they were having to think too much. . .

Though the first book didn’t really explore Diana’s powers as much as I think was expected, the second book seems to be the one that will really delve into this – let the series continue!!

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The second book starts off right where the first leaves. We’ve gone back in time to the Elizabethan era, and again, props to Harkness on her research. The details were great when it came to architecture and culture while still keeping it a modern read. I felt like it was a bit slow to start though. Nothing about Diana’s magical learning or the search for the lost alchemical text really happened until about halfway through. Mainly we were getting acquainted with the new characters (a vast array of historic figures and Matthew’s relatives) and the new time – but I was’t ever bored so that was good.

There was a lot of discoveries about Matthew in the beginning and a lot of work between he and Diana. They were going through newlywed and new relationship issues all at once and it got pretty stressful at times! Eventually they figure out how to be completely honest with each other in a weird vampire/witch way and it works. I was getting kind of annoyed with their hot and cold relationship though so I was really glad when Harkness highlighted all the reasons why both of them were so hesitant to let down all their walls to each other, and then figured out how to do so.

I have to give a shout out to my new favorite character – Gallowglass! He’s hilarious in a subtle way, protective of the family, and brutally honest with both Diana and Mathew (who need all the honesty they can get since they live in their own little world most of the time). He also is a great tool, with his cunning, charms, and soldier skills he becomes a key figure in their protection and achievement of finding the lost alchemical manuscript – which is literally made from dead witches, vampires, and daemons – gross!

Overall, I like the first book better, but I enjoyed this one as well. There were some slow parts, and some weird sex scenes between Diana and Matthew that I didn’t really think added anything to their relationship besides creating weird mental images for the reader. We did get a better understanding of Diana’s magic, get some great new characters, and learn a lot more about Matthew. What I am looking forward to in the conclusion of the series is how their time in the past affects the present, what the manuscript actually unveils, and what role their unborn twins will play in all this.

Honestly though, I am glad I have a break before this next one, I’m going to read a silly YA romance now to let my brain recoup from having to follow all these historic figures and put them in the context of the times. Maybe only historians have this problem though as I tend to over think things – actually this is a problem Harkness gives Diana. . .

 

 

Memorial Day Shout Out

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Monday’s I usually do a Daily Prompt, but today’s just wasn’t inspiring me, so I thought I would join the bandwagon and blatantly promote my families awesomeness in their military service. First! The historian in me has to point out that Memorial Day started after the Civil War as a way for previous Confederate’s to honor their fallen soldiers, especially as Reconstruction made Southerners feel like a conquered people and they tried to maintain their unique social and cultural traditions. It was also originally called Decoration Day and usually had some big parades. The rest of the nation quickly adopted the tradition and I’m sure you can figure out the rest!

After some months of Ancestry.com obsession I found out that my family has played a role in pretty much every major war since the Civil War (my family served with the Union – unlike my husbands family. . .), which I think is pretty cool. My great grandfather enlisted in WWI by lying about his age and changing his name, the Army figured it out though before he was deployed and sent him home. By the time WWII rolled around he was too old for a general commission but was entered on an “old-man commission” and served in California working with Engineers.

Both my grandparents are Air Force veterans. My paternal grandfather served in Vietnam while my maternal grandfather was in Korea and a Thunderbird. My dad has been in Desert Storm/Shield, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom and is retiring after 28 years in July. Currently my Husband is active duty Army . . . see a family trend emerging?

Me, Dad, Mom, and Grandfather (dad's dad)

Me, Dad, Mom, and Grandfather (dad’s dad)

The Husband

The Husband

So thanks family for your service and taking me around the world on new adventures every couple of years!

Dialogue Block

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A lot of the writer’s blogs I follow discuss the difficulties of dialogue. Well let me tell you, I’m discovering it now! I’m about 10,000 into my story now, so roughly 1/8 of the way through. As I am getting past the background/set-up stuff and introducing more characters I am struggling to use my dialogue in the right way and for it to get the message that i want across.

I feel like dialogue is really a tool to get to know other characters. if you story is told from the protagonists view, which mine is, the only way for the reader to create their own opinion about other characters is through the way they talk to others and their mannerisms. I get that, and I know how I want my characters to be expressed, I just can’t seem to get the words out. I have several books on how to write books: Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner, Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction Donald Maass, and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. And I think I am going to leaf through those this weekend to see if any give me some ideas on how to proceed. I didn’t want to read these books while I was starting my book, I wanted to get a rough draft and then go back and see how they could help me strengthen. I started reading one of them and it just made me even less regular with my writing than I already am because I kept trying to makes things perfect in the first go, which we all know is not realistic. Anyway, I feel like dialogue is always going to be the hardest part of creative writing for me, but I’m ok with that as long as I learn and make some progress.

What do you guys do to try and make dialogue easier, and what do you think its most important use?

In other news – I am really enjoying A Discovery of Witches series, I’ll talk about it next week!

 

 

 

 

I’m Really Glad I Lived Past 20

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When I finished Wither my first thought was – eh. I really wanted to like it. The world DeSefano creates is horrible and fascinating but I don’t  feel like much happened, it was same in Perfect Ruin though so maybe this is just her writing style? I like Rhine, but I didn’t see her fight as much as I thought she would, as I continued through the book it became evident that her ability to fight does not come through a physical but intellectual channel. This shows how she’s different from most YA female protagonists who are more impulsive and have physical strength to help them deal with the repercussions of their rash decisions. I see why she is drawn to both Linden and Gabriel, but I feel like neither of them are completely sincere; Linden appeals to her because she sees him as someone helpless and pitiful, Gabriel gives her a confidence and reminds her of the outside world and its freedom, no matter how dire the situations that have become the norm. However, the hint of a change we see in Gabriel as they escape makes me like him more and hope that he will come out of his shell in the next book.

I enjoyed the relationship between the sister wives, they each represent a different aspect of the relationship at the house; Cecily buys into it all, Jenna has nothing to loose and uses it to help Rhine, and Rhine plays her role until she can escape because overall, she has nothing against anyone in the house except for Vaughn. However, I don’t know what I am supposed to look forward to in the next books, do we find out more about the virus, do we finally meet Rowan, are Rhine and Gabriel hunted – and if so why, I feel like Rhine’s heterochromia is going to become a central theme but I don’t know what to expect from it.

On to Fever,my “eh” feeling continued in this one until about half way through. The beginning made me think that even after the escape, basically the exact same thing was going to happen, but with different people. I felt like this was a much more emotional book than the first. All the events were starting to catch up to Rhine, and though she seems to grow stronger it really is just her refusing to accept the realities of the predicament, which honestly is probably the only way she was able to continue fighting until she did. She’s an extremely selfless person, and I think that is her biggest fault. It’s how she managed to be gathered in the first place, and then leads her to leave Gabriel in the same way.

About Gabriel – a lot of the reviews I read hate him, and I don’t know why! I was pretty neutral to him in the first book, I didn’t really care about him either way but I liked him better than Linden (who I have much less sympathy for, even if he was brainwashed by his father). In the escape sequence we see the beginnings of Gabriel in the outside, he adapts pretty quickly and is able to function at a much higher level than Rhine most of the time even though this is his practically his first time outside of the Mansion. He’s strong, physically and emotionally, and he and Rhine don’t have a smothering romantic relationship because it’s not feasible or a top priority. They keep each other safe and help each other best they can, but honestly they stick together just because they want to. I think if Gabriel wanted to he could find a job pretty quickly, and I think he thinks about doing just that a couple times. So there all you Gabriel haters!

Back to the topic at hand. Rhine’s sickness because of Vaughn is where this really got good for me. She never truly escapes him and I think that is the heart of the terror that this book is meant to evoke, and like Rhine I didn’t see any of his tactics coming, even though I think I should have. I really like Silas and hope we see more of him in the last book, and we finally have a clue about Rowan! The stuff with Linden I don’t know how I feel about. I hate that she feels drawn to him, yet I can understand it. Seriously though, how long can he live in denial? With all the new characters and details I feel like this third installment is going to full of action, which the series has lacked so I am looking forward to that.

I’m also hoping that it will keep me interested, the first two books didn’t have me watching the clock all day at work in anticipation for coming home and being able to read – and that makes me sad.

Sever , definitely my favorite of the series! I hate it when series end on a weak note compared to their previous books, it did start off a bit slow, but it picked up pretty quickly and all of the revelations made about Vaughn, Rowan, Linden, and Rose were crazy awesome. I’m still not a lover of Linden, but in this book I felt like he finally came into his own and started really living, which made me dislike him less. What I loved most about this book though was how DeStefano unveiled all of these major aspects, like Rhine’s sickness, her brothers involvement, and the fine line between Vaughn’s brilliance and insanity; and all of these things I didn’t see coming at all! Usually reading this genre I can anticipate the twists and turns, but DeStefano completely surprised me with all of the big reveals. What really caught me by surprise though was the tie between Madame and Rose, I know I should have seen that one coming, but it never crossed my mind and I think it explained Vaughn’s obsession so much better than everything we has seen through Rhine’s eyes – we didn’t only see his control over her family, but how long this had been going on and the exact lengths he would go to find a cure. Obviously I was glad when they were cured, but I was thrilled when Cecily killed Vaughn (because even though he found the cure, he was way too crazy to remain alive), and glad that Rhine and Gabriel were given the time figure out what their relationship was and what a future would be like – even though I know people don’t like Gabriel (see paragraph above).

Overall, certainly a series that I will re-read in the future, and one that I think is very thought provoking and different from other books in the YA genre with strong female leads. Rhine is so different in the fact that she doesn’t have physical, but intellectual strength, and I think that is so much more relatable, and realistic, for a lot of people.

Unexpected Guests

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Daily Prompt: You walk into your home to find a couple you don’t know sitting in your living room, eating a slice of cake. Tell us what happens next.

Sitting at the red light I relish the thought of the glass of wine and TV shows piled in my DVR that I plan on diving into when I get home. It was a long day; the meeting didn’t go as well as I had hoped and the rest of the day had been spoiled because of it. The light turns green and I make the left onto my street, as I get closer to my driveway I notice an unfamiliar car parked on the curb. I turn the engine off and walk towards the front door, trying to peak into the kitchen window to see who this strange car as carried to my house to interrupt my post work glass of wine. My sisters head pops into view above the sink and she gestures for me to hurry into the house. When I come in through the front door she grabs my bag and tears my coat from me while giving me an impatient look. “Who are those people?” I ask. She gives me a long look before gently responding with “our parents, the real ones, the biological ones.”

A Royal Wedding I Was Excited For

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No offense to everyone’s favorite princess, Kate, but I was more excited for the finale to this series than that wedding everyone was buzzing about a few years ago. I think what I loved the most about this finale is just how much America and Maxon, and even Apen grow.

The first book I was really annoyed with the love sick puppy that was America, maybe that’s because I’m seasoned in the relationship arena and am not a Young Adult, but we soon see her begin to realize that what she has with Aspen is certainly her first love, but probably not her true love.

Then the second book! We lean more about each character, American and Maxon learn more about each other, and we learn more about the rebellions – a lot of learning. I felt like America took a backwards step in this book though, she was starting to be happy with Maxon, then started to second guess him again. Maxon always acted as our realist I felt, where America is emotional and rash, and Aspen and his eternal pining didn’t help. I don’t hate Aspen, I really don’t, he’s a good guy, but I don’t like his influence over America, she forgets herself when she’s with him. At the palace we see her start to come into her own, think of things outside of her own bubble, and begin to notice that she can have a real influence on the country, and that she’s a stronger person with Maxon than she ever was with Aspen.

Cue third and final installment! At the end of the second book America has the revelation that she is going to fight for Maxon, well for the first 1/3 of the book she disappoints me and reverts back to her old ways of being petty and jealous and dishonest and doubting Maxon’s feelings. I can understand part of it, it can’t be fun competing for your boyfriends attention. Similarly, Maxon finds every excuse to doubt her and think the worst. Basically I wanted to reach into the pages and shake both of them and make them drop their pride and tell each other the truth – hmm. . . some Pride and Prejudice relationship influences?

I did like the prominence of the rebels in this one, though I felt like it was still a bit underdeveloped at the end, but the main point of the story was the selection process and the love story so I guess I understand. I think the rebellion acted best as a way to push America and Maxon to stand up for themselves against the king. As a catalyst then, I guess the rebellion ran its course in that sense. Once the two of them stopped being stupid and actually opened up to each other I was really pleased, they were acting like grownups and working together, and they were amazing! Then stupid Aspen got in the way again, though we all know it was a big misunderstanding, and Maxon turned into a total ass. I understand he was hurt and upset, but he was completely irrational, and I thought that was way overdone given all that the two of them had gone through to get to a solid point in their relationship.

But hey! Nothing like a near death experience to put everything back on track! I expected the king to die, and Maxon to take over immediately, and for him to have a plan for a restructuring of the caste system, but as I said earlier, I was disappointed in the resolution with the rebellions, especially since we found out that America’s dad was part of the rebellion all along. I’m glad America wasn’t tough on Maxon after his blow up, it really showed just how much she had grown, she just wanted him to be happy and at least she had been brave enough to tell him how she really felt. Maxon didn’t disappoint either though, he knew he had been an ass and it was completely inappropriate, I think his reaction really showed his lack of self worth, after how his father treated him he really didn’t believe he would have the opportunity to be happy and make the changes he believed in. Without his father, and with the realization he almost lost America, he got his act together and had an epiphany. And then we had our royal wedding!

Overall, I was quit pleased with the series finale. I was really impressed with the growth of all the characters, Celeste illustrated that the best. And I think there was a great overall message about relationships, especially for the young adult targeted audience. A lot of young people get so wrapped up in relationships without first discovering who they are on their own (America in book  2, keeping both boys at arms length). Then when you do find the one you decide is worth fighting for, you have to maintain your individual identity while learning how to make it work with someone else and challenge and support each other. This last bit we really saw in this last book, there was so much they had to trust each other with, and they had some issues, but that’s reality, and that’s what I think really ended this series on a high note; it was a fairytale romance faced with the real issues of committing to a grown up relationship.

Honestly, before this third book I wasn’t called to re-read the entire series, but I think I will now (a bit farther down the road). This last book I think was the strongest of the series and resolved so many of the issues I had with characters and patterns in the earlier books – going to have to add this one to the regular book rotation.