Friday, December 31, 2010

The Top Book

I managed to read, cover-to-cover, never-read-before, 74 books this year.  I can't give you a top ten.  Sorry.  I really liked more than ten of them.  Closer to 20, you know.  But I do have a all-time favorite for the year.

Maid MarianMaid Marian by Elsa Watson.  Of all the fiction books I've read this year, this one has yet to be surpassed for another.  It's not a romance before you accuse it of being so, and it's not much of a retelling of the Robin Hood story.  But it's an awesome spin-off. 

More than anything, it's a historical fiction--which I love as much as I love fantasy.  Marian is a pawn in Queen Eleanor of Aquitane's game and suspects foul play.  She finds the notorious Robin Hood for help.  He has the resources to find out all of the Queen's plans.

The book has great worldbuilding, characters you just adore, and the history and the cutthroatiness of the time period. 

Politics is a nasty game in any century, apparently.  ;)

Sidenote:  Actually, Maid Marian didn't appear in the Robin Hood legends until, according to Stephen R. Lawhead (you knew he'd be mentioned!) the sixteenth century, and was one of the last characters to be added to the mix.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brand Names

Yup, I'm a brand snob.  There are certain authors where I HAVE to get their next book even if it kills me.  They're the ones whom I trust to put out another Great Book.  They're the ones that, while they aren't perfect, are Great Ones. we are, my top 5 brand names/clusters:

Poison Study (Study, #1)#5  Maria V. Snyder

Genre:  Secular Speculative

Exposure:  My cousin read one of her books.  I got curious and bought my own copy of her debut novel, Poison Study.  I loved it.

Why She's a Favorite:  She's a totally kick-butt writer.  You love the characters, the plot, the world building, and all the other elements she incorporates.  Her characters can so kick Meyer's characters' butts.

#4 Wayne Thomas Batson/Bryan Davis/Donita K. Paul

Genres:  Collectively Christian YA Fantasy.  Mrs. Paul and Mr. Davis both write other genres, though.

Raising Dragons (Dragons in Our Midst #1)Exposure:  My mom bought me one of Mrs. Paul's books in eighth grade.  I read DragonSpell and loved it.  For Mr. Davis, a friend of mine read the first book, I was curious and read the series myself.  For Mr. Batson, well, he and Mr. Davis, for the most part, share a fan base.  I didn't know anyone else who read his books, but I grabbed a copy of The Door Within and enjoyed it.  He's way beneath my reading level (he writes for middle school kids, and I'm a college student), but I like his work.  But for the record, I've only read two of his books.  I'm still trying to get some of his other ones.

Why They're Favorites:  They can tell a good story.  They're Christian, so I don't feel so much guilt over reading them.  They're humorous.  They're just good, okay?

#3 Victoria Alexander

Genre:  Secular Historical Romance--chiefly

The Wedding Bargain (Effington, #1)Exposure:  My sister and mom are both avid romance readers.  My sister had a bad habit of leaving books opened out on the rocking chair's armrest.  They always fell over to rest under the coffee table, where innocent little me would pick them up out of curiosity.  Well, one of those books was The Wedding Bargain by Victoria Alexander.  (I don't remember if I read this during seventh or eighth grade, but it was one of those two years.)  Hercules and his Labors are mentioned in the front of the book.  Myth-geek that I am, I was interested.  However, my sister wasn't done with it and wouldn't relinquish it.  Instead, she gave me another book by the same author to read.  I liked it.

Why She's A Favorite:  She's funny and her dialogue is totally awesome.  Everything I've learned about dialogue, I've learned from her.  There's always a grand joke in romance books.  She excels at this.  She set my standard for what I would want in husband--added to the fact that he's a Christian man because none of the men in her books are, but anyway...

#2 Deeanne Gist & Cathy Marie Hake

The Measure of a LadyGenre:  Christian Romance--chiefly historical, although they both have a contemporary or two.

Exposure:  For Gist, my sister--big surprise!, and I don't remember exactly when--borrowed the book from my aunt.  I read it too.  Some years later, 11th grade, to be exact, I started on her other books and loved them.  For Hake, I saw the title Fancy Pants and I was interested. 

Why They're Favorites:  Christian romance, as a rule, usually isn't that great.  Love Inspired is a division of Harlequin.  Regular Harlequins, the few I've read, were great and had a great editor.  Love Inspireds are bad for typos and are generally boring, although they get a good one here and there.  I either feel sorry for the characters, or I can't stand them.  Either way, I don't like them.  Christian romance is too censored--not that there's anything to censor--but they beat around the bush too much. 

Fancy Pants (Texas Historical Series, #1)Gist and Hake proved that not all Christian romance stinks.  Mrs. Gist is grittier than most, and that's a large part of the reason I like her books so much.  Also, she respects history.  She'll tell you when she changes something in history and what it was.  She researches the period and customs widely.  Mrs. Hake is the same when it comes to history.  She's humorous and, while not as gritty as Mrs. Gist, she's good enough.  She can pick a title and, like Victoria Alexander, she's good for her dialogue and the grand romance jokes.  But I'll have to explain the "grand romance joke" in some other post.

#1 Favorite Author Of All Time - Stephen R. Lawhead

In the Hall of the Dragon King (Dragon King Trilogy)Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Conspiratorial, Thriller, Mythic History, etc

Exposure:  I caught the fantasy bug in seventh grade.  Later, in eighth, my mom bought me a copy of In the Hall of the Dragon King.  I loved it, and proceeded to finish that series and another of his before I finished eighth grade.

Byzantium (Harper Fiction)Why He's The Favorite:  Since that first book, and all the books throughout, although I didn't appreciate it then, the man knows how to end his books.  Even if there was another book in the series, he ended it so well, you just had to love it as a standalone.  However, in ninth grade, I read Byzantium, an actual standaloneIt's over 800 pages.  That was the book where, if I didn't like how it ended, I would have lost all respect for the man.  I would have gotten rid of all of my books by him...everything.

But when I reached the!  It was an awesome book.  I already loved his books, but that one was the determining factor.


Okay, I know a few posts ago, I talked about my favorite book, Nectar from a Stone by Jane Guill.  That's the only book she's written, so I can't actually call her a brand name.  I didn't forget and I haven't changed my mind or anything.  This is for the authors, not the books.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pre-Year End Thoughts

I can't believe 2010 just flew by like it did.  I have 2 more days left, so I won't say a number of the books I've read for 2010.  I gotta try squeezing in more.

My writing progress...well...I wrote.  I really don't know if I did good or bad.  I only did one book draft, and I'm still nitpicking at it.  BUT, I did a lot of VPs, poetry, and short stories.  I told you I was nicheless, and I'm glad I'm living up to that.  I submitted something for publication.  Now, I'm sitting on my hands waiting for a reply.

I doubt I've lost weight--if anything, I've gained. 

I started out the year reading my Bible everyday, but not so much now.  I've realized, though, that I do better reading something else, and then going back and checking my Bible.  You know how Christian nonfiction has verses in it?  Yup, that's where I learn 'em.
So, I think on my New Year's Resolutions for this year, I'll do my to-do list or something similar.

Even if I don't feel like it or don't know what to do, my daily activities SHOULD, although they won't be, reading, writing, and reading my Bible, and yes, reading my Bible does count for reading for that day.  Reading is reading.

I have an isssue with reading my Bible.  Everytime I read a little, I want to write about it.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's distracting when I'm trying to read more.

Reading normally, well, I don't have problems with reading everyday.  My problem with that is, well, I start reading certain books and never finish them.  Others, I read in a night ot two.  I need to finish reading several books that I've bad bookmarks in, literally, for years.  I still have some from this year that I started and never finished, but I doubt I'll finish them all before 11:59, December 31, 2010.  And then the log starts over!

Writing, well....  I'll try.  Lately, if I haven't felt like writing, I haven't.  I contemplated rewriting the first fifteen pages of Black Sight, but I don't want to.  I'm going to fix the documents in the computer and go from there.
So, here we are.  How this year, sort of went, to how I want next year to be.

Oh yeah, some benchmarks for 2010:
Senior Trip
I read my first Stephen King books this year
Something made it into the mail for publication
I started college
I started Long Ridge

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bah Humbug!

Okay, I'm gonna sound like a Scrooge, but I'm glad Christmas is over. 

(a)  I'm no good at buying gifts--please, just tell me what you want, and I'll get it.  Please, please, give me a list.  I'll go by that list, I swear. 

(b)  I'm broke.  Nine times out of ten, a gift from me will be paid for by somebody else.

(c)  WalMart and all the other stores are PACKED.

Anyway...  I walked away with some great stuff.  Stuff I needed, stuff I wanted, and stuff I didn't want, but appreciate. ;)

Vin loved my gift to him--which really excites me.  My godkids haven't opened their gifts yet from me yet.  I got them each a book, so I'm not entirely sure they'll like them.  But they can't say Nanny didn't get them anything.  Nanny got what she could afford to get them. Well, them and Vin, but I had a lot more money when I bought Vin's gift, and I had their birthday to worry about too.

The craziness is OVER.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Epic Worth

Okay, most of you guys know I read The Ragamuffin Gospel.  Well, about a month after I finished it, I gave it to a friend of my mom's and she read it.

Well, their Sunday school group just finished one book and they needed a new one.  Guess which one she chose?  Yup.

The Ragamuffin Gospel.

It's an awesome book.  It's powerful and will make you think.  The books for the others were passed out today.  The study starts the first Sunday after the New Year.

Also, I finished reading Patched Together, another book by Brennan Manning.  It's a parable/novella type thing.

The prose isn't dazzling, but the story is awesome.  I recommend both books.

Good day and God bless.

Finally Finals!

So the suspense doesn't kill you.  I had a 3.4 for this semester.

College Algebra:  C
General Psychology:  B
World Civ I:  A
English Comp I:  A
Art Appreciation:  A

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Final Exams

Okay, I've been done with exams since about 10:30 this morning.  However, none of my grades except my English Composition I have been posted.

I am a little nervous about my General Psychology and Algebra exams.

General Psychology?  Didn't I love that class?  I did.  But my brain froze on that test.  I had studied the things we missed in class the day before and that was it.  Plain and simple.

World Civ?  No problem.  There were only 2 questions that I was unsure of.  One of them I guessed with the answer I thought was right.  The other...well...we went over it in class.  It was in the study guide.  That word just wouldn't come.

English Composition I?  I made a 94, but since he curved the grade, I got a 99.  AWESOME.

Art Appreciation?   I should have made a 100.  I don't know, but I'm certain I did good.

College Algebra?  Well, I think I did well.  But you never know...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finals Week

I take my Algebra, General Psychology, and Art Appreciation finals today.  I'm so excited.  I survived my first semester of college.

I never ever ever ever have to take another math course ever again!  But I will say, I had a good teacher and I am actually leaving that class understanding and able to do most Algebra problems.  I learned.

I'm gonna miss General Pscyhology though.  I had the Instructor of the Year for MGCCC for the teacher.  Psychology is a BIG subject.  I want to take a General Psychology II class or something like that.

Art Appreciation...well...I like the class, and the teacher's awesome.  It was my first night class ever.  And it will probably be my only one.  For now, I'm sticking to all back-to-back classes.  Since I don't drive, it's better not to be waiting for a ride after just one class.

Okay, here goes.  Wish me luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Edit Throughs, Read Throughs, Write Throughs

So, I write a book.  I print out my book.  I take a pencil to it and mark the stuff I don't like.  I take the notes I made in the printed copy to the digital copy on my computer.  And once this process is over, it repeats from the printing step.

Okay, so I've done this for the second time now.  Combing through the story with a pencil (I HATE pens--they're so permanent) and make notes about what should be changed.

I decided to add a new exchange (something I could just insert into a scene after a certain occurrence), and a new scene entirely.  I've accomplished the former.  This new scene, while I know what I want it to accomplish, is difficult writing.  I've started some drafts on it, but it's not coming.

Okay, I've been hard at work editing Black Sight.  While I've taken out bits and rewritten them, I haven't written anything new, reallyEven the other novel on the back burner is a re-write from NaNoWriMo two years ago.  I just can't seem to wrap my head around the story.  I like the characters, and my idea for a plot is okay, but the actual writing...

Can we say, "Start over for the seemingly hundredth time?"

I think it's time to curl up with a book.  Goodnight and God bless.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Drops of Sunshine

"Kind words are like honey--sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."
Proverbs 16:24

People always say to throw someone a smile or a kind word.  If you've ever been thrown a smile or a kind word, you understand better than anyone why it's so important.  That rush of warmth to your soul--even if it just lasts a moment--is one of the best feelings in the world.  Someone took the time to be positive.

I've had some experiences like that.  I just heard a bunch of positive things.

Speaking as someone who's really good at being negative and cynical, I appreciate the positive things.  It reminds me that there is still beauty in the world--people can still be as pretty as one of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Yesterday and today especially.  Everyone just seemed to be in a good mood.

I follow Natalie Whipple's blog.  Her posts about writing are great.  Really great.  Even if it wasn't today, it's still wonderful.  It's a natural part of life that has affected every girl whether they write or not:  crushes.

The Writing.Com newsletter came in today.  The author exchanged some of the words for "Winter Wonderland" and made it "Writer Wonderland."  It's incredibly cute.

Perhaps it's the spirit of the season.  Enjoy it.  Come the day after Christmas, well, the good moods are going to be depleted.

Monday, December 6, 2010


"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."
— James Michener
'Excellent' is too nice a term.  But I certainly like rewriting, exchanging one scene for another, and editing more than the first draft writing, as odd as that sounds.

The last time I had a first draft for a novel was last year's NaNoWriMo, a little over a year ago.  I've written a few new short stories and poems in the past year, though.

With Black Sight, the whole thing was a rewrite.  I've been working on this story with multiple drafts/titles for five years.  This latest draft is the longest I've ever spent editing and refining it.  All the rest, I just started over from the beginning.

I've said before that I'm a short writer.  I'll try to tell the story in as few words as possible.  I did just that for Black Sight.  During the edits, I've found entire scenes that were all tell.  I'd circle it and put, "All telling, no show" in the margin.  Good way to turn a few paragraphs to a few pages.

In my edits, I'm not so much as taking out as adding in.  Sure, some stuff does get taken out and I replace it with something else, but it's mostly adding stuff in.  Things I forget to mention, mostly. 

I'm terrified of having deus ex machinas in my storiesI think I'd rather be predictable by showing the character has a sword and the reader make the prediction that a fight is going to happen, rather than the hero randomly getting into a fight and the sword come from nowhere.

Especially with a character like Naren.  He carries all sorts of odds and ends.  I had to make sure he packed everything before he left home.  (I sound like a mother, don't I?)  Naturally, this was done in the edits and not in the original draft.  (Not a very good one since that it was in a do-over.)

I've got a new theory for my editing process.  One read-through, I'm just going to worry about the plots and plot devices.  I have to make sure the problem is defined early and make sure the story ends once it's resolved.  The next, I'm going to worry about my characters.  Does that mannerism fit that character or should another character have that mannerism?  That'll include dialogue and what they look like, etc.  Finally, I'll do another read-through for world-building, setting, other little elements.

Okay, notice there wasn't a read-through for the grammar or anything like that.  Grammar will be checked in every read-through.

Will it work?  I doubt it.  But it's something I would do.  I'm an expert at thinking up things that'll never work.

Good day and God bless.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Faithfully Funny: Never Knew an Irony So Sweet

In my Christian crawl (because it's not a walk), I've had some foreheard slap moments, some moments when I wanted to stand up and walk in the other direction...

And then I've had some moments where I thought, "You're having fun up there, aren't You?"

Today was one of those days.

I don't write my prayers down anymore, so my memory is sketchy, but last night I prayed that, even if I didn't want to go to church, give my mom the drive to take us, or something like that.

I didn't want to go. I mean, I really didn't want to go. But since it was the 'right' thing to pray, I figured it wouldn't be so bad. When you find the verse about praying for something you know you need and should want, but don't want it, please tell me.

Anyway, this morning, my mom came into my room, and said, "Get up. If I can take y'all to the store later, I can take y'all to church now."

"Are you serious?" was my first thought. Of all the ones He could've chosen to answer, He picked that one?

I had to do a spiritual gifts test in my senior year. My highest was faith. I thought, well, if I want to be a writer, it makes sense. But looking at myself, I wonder how in the world I managed that. If God's favorite thing to say is, "I love you," then His second favorite for me must be, "Well, I'll show you, disbeliever!" Not in so many words, but you get my point.
He answered my prayer, didn't He? After I got over the shock, I admit that I laughed.

I've had other moments like this before. Several years ago, I remember praying that I was one of His stupidest sheep. Stupid sheep, stupid sheep.

At church the next morning, the pastor was doing a sermon on sheep. The first thing you need to learn about sheep, the pastor says, is that they're stupid.

I didn't feel so bad after hearing that. It was another moment of shock, and then laughing quietly to myself. I would've looked weird if I started bursted out laughing in the middle of the pastor's sermon.

And then was this other time (I promise this is the last one), when I said "crap" in front of my little brother and he repeated me. My mom was like, "I blame you, Jadi."
Next morning. Guess what the sermon was on.

Yup, you guessed it: watching what you say. We told the pastor after church, he said, See? God has a sense of humor.

Don't I know it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

That Familiar Nectar

I'll agree that the cover's not that much to look at.  But don't judge a book by it's cover--unless it's really old and has a pretty cover.

It's my favorite book that's not by my favorite author, if that makes sense.  I've read it five times (or the tally marks I made in the back tell me), and I started on it again last night.  I wanted something familiar and dear.  So I grabbed it off the shelf and started reading.

I found this book when I was in 10th grade, in the Limited Quantities cart in Barnes and Noble.  I don't remember if I saw the binding or the cover first, but it was the title that caught me.  Nectar from a Stone.

What could this be about?  So, I flipped it over on the back and read the synopsis.

Stephen R. Lawhead is my favorite author and that will probably never change.  His latest series at the time took place in Wales during the Middle Ages, in the 1090s.  This book is a few centuries later, in 1351.  So, it was a familiar setting.  I was interested.

I kept reading the back cover and after reading the first bits of it, I bought it, but I didn't read it right away.  I was working on several other books.  I even put it on my unread shelf--books stay there for months, even years before I even remember that I have them.

But not this one.  I thought about it a lot, impatient to read it.  Eventually, I took it off and re-read the back cover again.  I hadn't noticed before that, while it wasn't a romance, per se, there was a little romance in the story.

**Caution:  Adult Content**

The story opens up with Elise's husband raping her.  It's not explicit, but the reader knows what's going on.  He doesn't like the fact she has visions, doesn't like her gray eyes, and beats/rapes her regularly.  On this particular night when the story opens, he tries to kill her.

Before he can manage this, however, Elise gets a shard of broken glass and stabs him twice:  once in the groin, and once in the neck.  She doesn't kill him, but he's so close to it.  Elise is tempted to finish him off, but can't bring herself to do it.

Their house's only other inhabitant, Annora, comes into the room.  Elise feels guilty.  Surely as all Maelgwyn's sins damn him, she's convinced, murdering him will condemn her.  She actually wants to nurse him back to health or fetch a priest for last rites.

Annora won't have that.  She takes the sheet off the bed, strips Maelgwyn, and wraps him in the sheet.  Reluctant, Elise helps Annora carry the body of the almost-but-not-quite dead man to the river and put him in.  After, they pack up and leave.  They can't and won't stay.

Here, the story goes a little back into a few months before, to Paris, France.  Gwydion ap Gruffydd, a half-Welsh, half-Englishman, is in prison.  The book tells why, but I'm not explaining all of that, but consider the fact that this book takes place during the Hundred Years' War.  Gwydion's ransomed for a high price, and after plenty of mistreatment, he goes home, where his portion of the story eventually meets with Elise's.

It's not at all light reading, especially the first few chapters, which are explained in a nutshell above, but it's definitely WORTH the read.  It has a happy ending.  Really, with the dire beginning, there's no way to go but up, with a bunch of twists and turns and hills and valleys and murders along the way.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just Some Thoughts...

Yep, that's the old title of the blog.  But that's okay.  I have some thoughts that need airing.

I love writing, my characters, my writing friends, and this draft of Black Sight.  There is absolutely nothing I want more than to just write and write and write until I can't write anymore.

I still want to do my Long Ridge.  I'm not going to stop writing.  If I did, I'd probably be the worst you-know-what that's ever walked the planet. 

But I'm having second thoughts as far as persuing writing as a full-time career.  Yes, I still want to see Black Sight on a Barnes and Noble shelf, but that's a dream.  It's not really a goal.

Sadly, I need a way to pay the bills.  Writing seldom does this alone, if ever. 

I'm almost done with my first semester in college.  While I haven't learned anything that would eclipse my writing dream, my natural curiosity for anything and everything interesting has been fed.  I've been exposed to a World Civilization class--not unlike what I took in high school--and I love it!  I don't care that the instructor takes up the WHOLE time.  I love it.  Just like General Psychology.  I love that class.  My mom told me by the time Mrs. Mac was done, I'd want to major in Psychology.

Don't tell my mom this, but she is kind of right.  I so want to take more courses in Psychology, but I don't want to spend that much time in school.  My parents can only guarantee that I get an Associate's degree, nothing more.  Not saying that they won't pay, but they're not sure they can.  I need something I can do with a two year degree indefinitely.

Long Ridge is writing training and is supposed to help prepare me for publication and how to write for a select market.  It's freelance, though.  The short stuff, the magazine-and-newspaper-stuff.  Well, the market for short fantasy is nearly nonexistent, although the market for science fiction is booming.

I read different genres, thus I do the same with writing.  Or I'll at least try.  I love historical, but I can't quite bring myself to write it.  I tried once and it was awkward.  But I can do contemporary well enough.  So far, that was my favorite story that I've sent in to my Long Ridge instructor.  My current writing goals, other than editing Black Sight, is to perhaps break into the freelance market.  I haven't given up my seemingly unattainable dream of being a novelist, even if I'm only kidding myself.  It may be just a dream, but it's one I've had for years.  But my actual goal is to do the freelance.  It's writing.

Okay, recap.  Some things I've decided upon:
  1. I need a real job, one that'll support me--and, more importantly, my book habit.
  2. I'm going to focus on the freelance and just keep the novels as my own little pleasure writing.  The uncorrupt stuff.  Maybe once I've gotten some publication credits, I'll try to get Black Sight published.
Okay, so there's my thoughts.  No, I haven't dropped off the face of the planet.  I'm still here.