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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Chapter Titles

What do you think of chapter titles?

I read yesterday that chapter titles nowadays are usually reserved for kids books, but are found in older stories such as Howl's Moving Castle, which I believe is around 30 years old. The Wheel of Time series has chapter titles, but again, that series began in the eighties, so it makes sense that the titling trend would continue through today.

As a reader, what do you think of chapter titles? Do you like them, hate them? I admit I'm pretty indifferent--I rarely read them. And, on occasion, I've actually read chapter titles that spoiled the chapter! (Here's looking at you, Runelords.)

As a writer, do you use chapter titles? Why or why not? If you do, how do you decide what to name the chapter? Do you use short or elaborate titles?

Other than the very first book I finished, I don't name my chapters. But, and perhaps this is the Howl's Moving Castle inspiration in me talking, I've been considering it for my latest WIP. Still, when I finished chapter one and scrolled up to name the chapter... I just couldn't. Either I'm out of practice or it's not meant to be.

Thoughts?


Monday, January 28, 2013

A Memory of Light

(Some The Wheel of Time spoilers included in this review.)

So I finished A Memory of Light, the final book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. The fourteen-book series I dedicated the last year of my life to reading. I love these books! My heart is a little sad to know that the story is over, but I'm glad I finally picked them up December 2011!

A Memory of Light is a great finish to the series. The book is nearly all battle scenes, which aren't my favorite, but Sanderson wrote them very well. Not as many people died as I thought would die, but I was surprised at who did meet the grave, including one very major character. Though I did like how he/she died. I admit I was in absolute tears every time I feared Lan's life to be in jeopardy, because from book #1 Lan believes he'll die fighting the Last Battle, so it would make sense for him to go. THANK YOU SANDERSON for letting him live. I would have needed therapy otherwise. He and Nynaeve's soon-to-be-happy-ending at the end of the book was great for me.

At first I didn't like how the actual battle between the Dark One and the Dragon Reborn was going, but I liked how it ended, and the epilogue... surprised me, in a good way.

Overall, I can't imagine how much strategic and war-related research must have gone into this book! It was well done, and I laughed out loud at several in-between parts, such as Mat and Rand's "who's done more awesome stuff" argument. (It almost ran too long, but Sanderson pulled back just in time and Mat's quip at the end of the chapter was awesome.) And, for the first time, I finally liked the Seanchan!

I only have a few gripes with the book. The first is that, probably to save space in an already 1,000-page novel, I could tell some scenes had been cut, because all of a sudden something would exist in the story that didn't compute with its previous scenes. Perhaps I just missed things, and if I did please correct me, but I have two examples. The first is Androl handing over the seals to Logain. When did he get them? (EDIT: Apparently he did, but it was very subtle and I missed it!) Last I recalled, he knew that Taim had them, and then all of a sudden he had them. How he got his hands on them is beyond me.

Second is much smaller, but since I'm such a raving Lan/Nynaeve fan, I noticed. There's one scene where Lan mentions a letter from Nynaeve that he's keeping under his breastplate. When did Nynaeve write him a letter, and how did Lan get it? I don't remember that at all.

Outside of that, I was a little bummed to not have more Nynaeve in this book, though I understand why she didn't have a ton of screen time. On the other hand, I'm really surprised that Moiraine didn't play a bigger part of the picture. Jordan/Sanderson spent all this time and all this angst bringing her "back to life" to get her into the last book, and then practically dropped her as a character after her big re-entrance. I thought there would be a lot more emphasis on her (not to mention my HUGE disappointment that I didn't get to see her and Lan reunite. I was looking forward to that scene more than ANY OTHER for this book, and it's skipped over. All we know is that they avoid each other. Why? Who knows.)

I'm hoping that any cut scenes might be posted on Sanderson's site, but... we'll see. (Also, Brandon, your editor isn't as sharp as the one who edited the books for Jordan. Just something I've noticed. And this is something I'm positive you won't read anyway.)

--
EDIT: My friend Melissa copied this from Amazon.com for me:

"Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s booksA Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers."

Well, isn't that awkward. But my point still stands. You don't spell Fortuona's name wrong in a paragraph that has her name spelled right in it three other times. Just saying.
--

REGARDLESS, I still give this book--and this series--five stars out of five. I loved it. I'm trying to treat my post-Wheel-of-Time angst with Star Trek, but it only bandaids it so far. Sigh.

Anyway, read the books if you haven't! (But feel free to skip over book eight... we all know it's the slowest of the bunch.) Tai'shar Jordan! Tai'shar Sanderson!

One mistake I made when I first saw this cover--I thought that was Egwene in
the background. It's not!


~Fin~

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Dreaded Chiropractor

Took my first trip to the chiropractor on Monday.

THIS is the perpetrator.
Picture Credit
I've had problems with my lower back for, oh, a year and a half (no thanks to my trusty yoga ball), but I never bothered doing anything about because, well, chiropractors have a stigma and I may have had a faint fear of becoming paralyzed.

BUT, I figured I should have a go at it while I have good insurance and before I start working full time. So I went.

Wasn't so bad. I felt like I was on America's Next Top Model when the doc had me walking up and down the hallway so he could study my stride (which, apparently, I do wrong. Whoops). I did some weird strength tests and, at the end, bent body and legs in weird directions so I could be "popped" (I think I only actually "popped" once, though). Now I have silly exercises to do until my second visit on Friday. Something about an SI joint. Makes reading on my stomach a muy bit difficult.

...and I just remembered I have a Dove chocolate in my purse that the receptionist gave me. SCORE. *runs away*

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another 77-7-7 Challenge :)

I've been tagged (yet again) for the 7-77-7 MS challenge, and since I have nothing better to talk about I'm going to prostrate my crap here on the blog for you all to read (or to pretend to read). This is courtesy of Juliana Brandt (and I'd love to see Laura Christensen and Erin Summerill do this as well. Consider yourself tagged.)

Challenge: Go to your MS, go to the 77th page, count down 7 lines, and paste the next 7.

Since I'm working on THE TASTE OF ANGELS atm, we'll go with that one. 

He wads up the hair into a tight ball. “Swallow this.”
“What?”
“Do it!” he shouts. “It may be enough to keep them back. Go to Schreiber.”
“Are you crazy?!”
He grabs the sides of my face, reminding me for a moment that he’s bigger than me, and squeezes my cheeks until my teeth part. He shoves the dirty hair into the back of my throat. I cough and gag, but it goes down, slow and sticky.


Bam.

Back to editing.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Glorious, Aren't They?


All frames from zennioptical.com
It's like face-porn.

Hoping to acquire more of these soon... what do you think of the selection?

Monday, January 14, 2013

It Done Been Finished: Empire of Cranes and Spiders

Title: EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS

Genre: Eastern-based romantic fantasy

Time to completion: 2.5 months

Total word count: 125,000

Apps acquired to write book: Google Translate

Number of Chinese words I actually learned from this experience: 5

Number of those words I can pronounce correctly: Uh... 2?


Sent the first draft to alpha readers on Saturday. I've started my final revisions on FOLLOWED BY FROST, then will starts on THE TASTE OF ANGELS.

A good week, to be sure. :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing Outlook

I thought I'd spew out my writing goals for the next few months so I can get them all straight--I've piled a bit more onto my plate than usual, ha! Not that I'm complaining. Always nice to have a project going, and then Query Armageddon will commence.

Finish EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS, draft one. I have 2.5 [long] chapters left on this! I also finished my loglines and elevator pitch, but am still working on the query pitch.

Make final edits for FOLLOWED BY FROST, draft four. I need to read through it with the mental note to connect my theme, especially. (Juliana Brandt is a great CP, btw.)

Shop FOLLOWED BY FROST to small presses. Fortunately I got the 2013 Writer' Market for Christmas, so these guys will hopefully be easier to find.

Revise THE TASTE OF ANGELS, draft one. Then send it out to beta readers. (I have my pitch just about done for this one.)

Revise EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS. Send it to beta readers, too. 

Start outlining THE PAPER MAGICIAN. This will be book #9 for me, and I want to try it the Save the Cat way. It will probably be a young adult. Will probably do this simultaneously with my ECS edits.

So, that's the plan. I hope to be gung-ho and start writing book #9 in April. Whether or not I get a full-time job (I had a pretty good interview yesterday!) will affect my writing productivity somewhat, but we shall see.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing "Love" Scenes

It's the moment you've all been waiting for.

Charlie is writing about SEX.

As my writing has taken a more romantic-sub-genre-twist as of late, this is something that has been coming up, namely with my current WIP. (All the other manuscripts go the route of DisneyOMGtheyjustkissedendscript.)

And no, Mom, don't freak out, I'm not writing erotica (or anything close). (Though if I were, I don't think she'd have that big of a reaction to it. Let's be honest.)

Have you struggled with writing more intimate scenes, or are you working on one right now? How exactly do you go about it? How graphic are you?

Writing Excuses recently did a great podcast on this subject.

Despite being less than in love with Maria V. Snyder's Fire Study, I absolutely loved the way she did sex scenes in Poison Study. This book is a YA (borderline NA), so she had to stay tasteful, which I greatly appreciate. She has a very poetic way of writing what's going on without making you feel dirty.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Here's part of an excerpt from Google Books:

  My response was a delightful surprise. I had feared, after Reyad's abuse, my body would clench tight in horror and revulsion. But the intertwining of our bodies linked our minds and spirits together.

  The distant sound of music vibrated in the air. Pulsing, the magical harmony soon rose to a cresendo and encompassed us like a warm blanket. The prison cell and filthy straw dropped away from our awareness. Whiteness draped in snowy silk around us. On this plan we were equals, partners. Our souls bonded. His pleasure was my ecstasy. My blood pumped in his heart.

  Utter bliss cam in short snatches, although, Valek and I were happy to try again. We had merged, our minds had become one. I drew in his essence, feasting on the feel of his body in mine, exhiliarating in the caress of his skin against mine. He filled the hollow emptiness inside my heart with joy and light [...].

The chapter ends two sentences later.

With the odd reference to music aside (it doesn't fit either character nor their setting whatsoever), I absolutely loved this scene. We know what's happening with it getting pornographic (and if you like raw stuff, that's totally fine, it's just not my piece of cake).

Diana Gabaldon wrote a great article on these scenes too, in which she says, "Where most beginning writers screw up (you should pardon the expression) is in thinking that sex scenes are about sex." I think Poison Study is a great example of this, especially since writers "have an important advantage when dealing with sex, insofar as [they] can reasonably expect that most of [their] audience knows how it's done."

I'll admit that when I have so much as a kissing scene I stare at my Word document for hours just writing that one paragraph where it happens. I flush and get all nervous about it, ha! Fortunately I had Snyder in mind for my current WIP, and wrote the main part of my own manuscript's sex scene long before I actually got to the chapter. I found it helped (and it's a short scene).

So, what do you think? Do you dig in for the detail or stick to a chaste Jane Austen? Or do you avoid romance entirely? 

I'd love to get your thoughts!



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hunger Games Birthday Party

(I swear some of the party things did look slightly better than they do in these pictures...)

Posters technically go the other way, but I didn't tell Husband that ;)
The party started with training "stations" and food (the latter of which I forgot to take a picture of, but it included wings, chips/dip, veggie tray, mac and cheese, and cranberry "nightlock" punch. Would have had more Hunger Games-themed food, but my sister is a picky eater and there's no way we're getting her to down raspberry soup or the like).

We had archery practice shooting balloons with both a bow and a slingshot:


We had a camouflage station:



And a station that explained how things in the arena worked, including the sponsor parachutes, "mystery boxes" that would either contain imminent death or awesome prizes, and what supplies one would need for fires:

The sashes denote what district each player was in.
In the Hunger Games arena (which was forest/jungle themed, because that's easy), our tributes worked on teams of two or three to gather supplies. We had the lights dimmed and jungle music playing as they took their places on their stands (AKA pieces of office paper).

Candy bar = food
Cellophane "river"

We also had scattered matches, "wood," anti-venom, antidote, and various plastic/foam weapons.

Many of our "vines" got torn down in the excitement. I got
Spanish moss to cover the floor, but not enough!
This is the obstacle course (courtesy of my dad) that the tributes had to conquer:

Tributes had to go through this without knocking down a pipe,
or earn a 10-second penalty.
They then had to go across our balance beam,
pausing to pick up two basketballs.

Finally, using a rope and forbidden to use their legs, tributes
had to pull themselves up this ramp to the finish line.

We also had a spinning food wheel that I forgot to take a picture of. It had pictures of various plants that contestants had to guess if they were poisonous or not.

They also had to hunt down my friend Lindsey, who was hiding in the hallway:



Then, of course, was the tracker jacker nest (AKA pinata, filled with Bit-o-honey because I'm so clever. Get it? A bees nest, Bit-o-honey? Genius, I know.) Besides candy inside the nest (which was a strawberry that I spray-painted gray and stuck pom-pom bees onto), there were also tribute names. The person who broke the nest had to pick a name, and that person's team got stung. If they didn't have anti-venom, they died. Funny enough, the girl who broke the nest also picked her name out of 30 possibilities!


Alex, the birthday girl.

The last five tributes standing had to put their district sashes in their back pockets, then play a sudden death round where they had to try to steal others' sashes. Once your sash was taken, you were dead. The girl who ultimately won the Hunger Games hid in the corner for most of this round. ;)

Then we opened presents and had brownies, because my sister is weird and doesn't like cake.


My youngest sister, now 18 (well, the party was technically
one day before her birthday).



The gal with blue face paint and the frog hat won the Hunger Games.

Mom made camo-ish cupcakes as favors to take home. (Because
what is a birthday party without cake??)

Then there was cleanup, but I won't bother to post those pictures. ;)

All-in-all, the party turned out fairly well!