“Vixen”

04/28/2011 at 8:56 pm (book recommendation) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I know that I disappeared again.  I’ve been really busy at work, and since I’m going back home to the East Coast for a little over a week, I’m trying to get all caught up at my job.  Unfortunately, staying late and the like totally zaps my energy and kills my writing motivation.  I would like to say that I’ll be better about posting after this week, but I’m not sure if that will be the case while I’m at home.  So, sorry in advance for my potential silence next week!

In the mean time, here’s a book review/recommendation:

“Vixen” by Jillian Larkin

“Vixen” takes place during the Jazz age, or the age of the flappers in Chicago.  There are three main characters, and the story is told from each of their perspectives.

There’s Gloria, who has a pristine reputation and is about to be married off, but she wants to live the life of a flapper, so she ends up living a double life.  There’s her cousin, Clara, who used to be a big time flapper in New York City, but is living a lie in Chicago, pretending to be a good country girl.  And then there’s Gloria’s best friend, Lorraine, who is jealous of Gloria, yet she is trying desperately to hang onto their friendship as it slowly slips away.

I thought the style of writing in this book was really good, and everything was so vivid and easy to picture.  I liked how much each of the characters changed throughout the book, especially Lorraine, even though Clara was my favorite.  I am definitely going to go out and buy the sequel when it’s out.

On a typical scale, I would have to give “Vixen” 4 out of 5 stars.  It had everything going for it, but in the second half of the book there was a major turning point that I found a little unbelievable.  I also wasn’t too blown away by the ending.  I felt like some of the coincidences that were leading up to all the characters going to the same place felt a little forced.  But all and all, it was a really well written book, with some really great examples of character growth.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes young adult, historical fiction, and some good romance.

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Happy Belated Easter, or Any Other Holiday You Might Have Been Celebrating!

04/25/2011 at 8:02 pm (book recommendation, Moday Check In) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This past weekend was actually really productive for me.  Even if I didn’t get everything done that I had hoped to.  I did manage to get all the scenes that I felt needed work in my novel fixed up along with everything my critique group suggested to me.  So what that means is that as soon as I get feedback from my last test readers, I’m going to start sending out query letters!

Also, this weekend I took a small break from “Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest, the book I was reading last week, and started reading “Vixen,” by Jillian Larkin.  So far I really like it.  All the lies and tension building up between the main characters is really great.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult historical fiction, although, I do think that this book was written for more of a female audience.

And just in case anyone was curious, just because I’m taking a small break from “Boneshaker” doesn’t mean that I don’t think that the book isn’t good.  It just means that it wasn’t what I was looking for when I started reading it.  I was looking for something a little more lighthearted with some romance.  But from what I’ve read of “Boneshaker,” it’s very well written with a really strong female protagonist.  Her son’s not too bad either.  So if you’re in the mood for steampunk, and zombies, give it a try.

Well, that and going to and Easter party was my weekend.  Did everyone else have a great weekend?

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A Quick Check-In

04/20/2011 at 4:17 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Since I was too taxed to do this on Monday, I figured I’d just update anyone who is reading my blog on the status of the novel.  This weekend, I finally went through and added character growth to my main character in chapter 7.  So, to celebrate that, I stopped working on it and went back to working on the novel I’m writing with my sister.

On that novel, we are nearing the big, climatic end before the first draft is finished!  Yay!  After that, we have some major changes to make so that the whole plot makes sense.  Fun times, fun times.  But I am looking forward to making a spiffy map of the city that the story takes place in.

On a only slightly related note, I went to Borders on it’s 2nd to last day of life, and bought 10 books.  Later, I might take a picture of all the books I bought from them since they started filing for bankruptcy to show you what an addict I am.  I’m going to miss that store, but I’ll probably find it easier now to save up more money to go to a writing conference someday.

Other than all that, my weekend was pretty uneventful.  I was sick on Friday, spent Saturday writing and book buying, and spent Sunday planning out the end to the novel I’m working on with my sister.  But I was thinking the other day, what kind of person in real life inspires me to write about them most.  Do I feel more like inventing a character similar to a quirky friend I love, or that annoying, jerk I’m stuck seeing all the time that with a little exaggeration would make a good antagonist.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on this?

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What Will You Do During the Zombie Apocalypse?

04/19/2011 at 4:49 pm (Zombie Tuesday) (, , , , , , , , )

Continuing on with Zombie Tuesday, I’m going to move on to the line of thought that started it.  A lot of times when I need something to pass the time, I think about what I would do during the zombie apocalypse.  Hasn’t everyone done that at some point?

Anyway, my point is, I think I’ve solidified my plans if the zombie apocalypse starts while I’m at work.

The office I work in isn’t particularly large, and it is on the second floor with two exits.  The back exit I’m not too worried about since it is a typical wood door that leads down to a fenced in yard.  In that yard there’s an overgrown tree, and on the other side of the fence another two story building.

The front door is another problematic story all together, because it is made of glass.  Luckily, the stairs leading up to it are narrow, so I’m hoping that they will slow down the zombie hordes enough that I can put my plan into action.

Step 1: Fortify the front entrance

As I mentioned earlier, the front door is a bit problematic.  So I was thinking, the very first thing I’d do is probably push the couch we have sitting in the waiting area, outside onto the stairs.  That way the zombies would have to climb over it to get to the door.  Next I’d flip over the desk next to the door so it’s blocking as much of the glass door as possible.  And then I’d wheel over the copy/fax/scanner machine we have to hold the desk in place (the wheels on the bottom of the machine can be locked so it’s really hard to move).

Hopefully that will buy me (and anyone else trapped in the office with me) time to follow through with the rest of my plan.

Step 2: Prepare the Emergency Exit

This step is pretty easy, since we have a little skylight thing in our kitchenette that leads to the roof.  I would prefer, when the time came, to exit out back into the little fenced in courtyard, but preparing for the worst case scenario where the zombies are swarming back in the courtyard, and they’re about to get in through the front, I would want to set up a ladder going up to the skylight, and open it so it’s an easy exit.  Lucky for us, we have a ladder at my work in the little utilities closet for roof maintenance.

If I did end up having to go to the roof, I’d have to improvise since I’ve never been up there before.

Step 3: Arm myself

The quick and easy way to arm myself would be to grab a golf-club from the little tic-tac-toe putt-putt set we have, but I’ve always fancied myself as more of a blade girl.  And since we have a nice Exacto paper cutting board, I think I’d take that apart and use the blade on it as a machete.

Step 4: Preparation for the long haul

So I’m somewhat armed and secure now, but for all that I think that the office I work in is the most defensible place I can easily get to (being a large assassin firm, and all that), it’s not a permanent solution.  There will be the issue of food, plus, because of my sunny location, the ground does this really terrifying thing where it violently shakes from time to time.  Add that to the fact that there are fires as often as there’s rain, and I’m thinking I might need to move up north a state.  But that’s a plan to describe at a later date.

So what are your plans for the zombie apocalypse?

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Zombie Tuesdays

04/12/2011 at 4:27 pm (Writing, Zombie Tuesday) (, , , , , , , , , , )

So I have decided to start doing something slightly new with my blog.  I was thinking about how I can only talk about so many different writing subjects per a week, and how it might be nice to spice things up a bit with some zombies.

 

The funny thing is, I don’t really read much or watch much with zombies, and I’ve only ever written one short story for Halloween that had any of the undead in it.  But whenever I can’t sleep at night, or need something to occupy my thoughts during a long workday, I think about what I would do in certain worst-case scenarios, and I can’t think of anything that’s worse than the zombie apocalypse.

 

Anyways, to start off this zombie Tuesday, I thought I’d share what I wrote for my Self Review at the end of last year.  Unfortunately, my boss made me redo it, but here is my original self-review:

Kati, Administrative Zombie Slayer

Self-Review

 

Throughout this last year the zombie infestation has gotten more than a little out of control, and whereas it’s my job to deal with the undead pests as Administrative Zombie Slayer, I find that the alarm system that was set up is more distracting than helpful, and the shotgun pellets are starting to get expensive.

 

We have tried the freezing method, but then the sales team complains: “Oh, I can’t work under these conditions,” or “It’s so cold, I can’t feel my limbs,” so we are forced to turn on the heat again, and the zombies thaw and start to try and chew on anything with flowing blood, which does include the sales force.

 

I therefore recommend stronger firepower, and maybe booby-trapping the perimeters of our office.  Sure the explosions might be louder than the alarms were, and sure there might be some property damage, but hey, at least then we’ll be able to reduce the zombie infestation while we try to sell mats over here.

 

In between my efforts of battling the undead, I do enter in all the orders, answer all the questions about tracking, payments, and medical research on zombie infested bites, and I feel I perform these tasks rather admirably considering the circumstances.

 

I do feel it was a large drawback when we had to let the cyborg go do to an infected bite, but alas, I agree that having a zombie cyborg running about the office is quite terrifying.  That was a huge dampener on moral, and the troll that was hired in the cyborg’s place just isn’t doing it justice.  But hey, you work with what you’ve got.  And the troll doesn’t complain too much about the zombies’ goo when it comes to the messier aspects of the job.

 

Things that I feel I could improve upon for this coming year are, I think I would be able to get more filing done if I had stronger firepower along with the booby-traps that will hopefully be set by then.  And I’m not talking about little stuff, but rather flamethrowers, and maybe a mini-uzi or two.  That way I spend less time reloading the shotgun, and more time firing, therefore giving me more time to enter in orders and do some serious filing.

 

If the sales representatives complain about the noises of battle, I suggest we replace them with some of the zombies that have finally been tamed and trained to do a little bit of phone conversation.  Sure, we won’t be able to allow customers into the office anymore, since there’s the risk of those zombies going berserk and trying to eat them, but in the end, I think it will improve morale and general productivity.

 

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Another Lazy Weekend

04/11/2011 at 7:46 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This past weekend was another rough one for me when it came to getting much writing or reading done.  I headed up to Sacramento as soon as I got out of work on Friday (which is why I’ll be doing my Friday book recommendation later today), and we played “Heroes of Might and Magic V” for the rest of the day.

I know, I know, playing a computer game is no excuse for not getting my work done.  But I really love “Heroes of Might and Magic III” and “V” is very similar.

Anyway, Saturday I ran 16 miles.  My sisters, brother and law, boyfriend, and I are getting ready for the Big Sur Marathon in May, so we’re going to start tapering now.  Our 22-mile run last weekend was our longest run until then.  After the run on Saturday, I didn’t really get too much more done for the rest of the day.  When I got home that evening I pretty much just crashed out in bed and had some weird dreams.

Sunday was when my critique group met.  I spent the morning re-reading the sections that we were critiquing that day, and the critique itself took up most of my evening.  So when I did get back home again, I didn’t feel like doing too much else other than reading a little more of “the Unidentified.”

My sister and I did start drawing out a city map for our novel before the critique happened, and we did start talking about how we’re going to wrap up some of out major plot lines.  Also, as I was walking over to the coffee shop we’re we meet every three weeks for our critique I saw baby geese!  They were so cute and fuzzy!  Here’s a picture I took of them (although they are almost too small to see):

The final think I accomplished this weekend was that I found a picture of me where I: 1.) don’t look like a zombie, 2.) am not doing that stupid lithe fake smile that I tend to do in photos, and 3.) am not purposefully making a stupid face at the camera.  So that is not my profile picture.

How is everyone else doing?  Did any new and exciting news happen while I disappeared from the blogging world?

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Two Heads Are Better than One…Unless One Head is Rabid and Spiteful

04/06/2011 at 7:42 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , )

I know, that was a really long post title, but I figured today it might be fun to talk a little bit about the perks and pitfalls of working with another writer on a novel, or at least the perks and pitfalls that I’ve come across so far.

 

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but right now I’m working on a novel with my sister.  We both hope to be published someday, we both mostly write young adult fantasy novels, and we both like having strong, female protagonists.  So pretty much, we’re a good fit to be working together.

 

Before starting this novel, my sister and I talked about writing one together for a long time.  Then I had this idea that I was running by her that I originally was going to write on my own, and a light bulb went off, and I asked her if she wanted to write it with me.  Since then, my idea has merged with her warped imagination and evolved to become our idea.

 

One of the big perks about writing a novel with her is that she is a more experienced writer than I am.  I’m not ashamed of this fact since I did spend a large part of my life trying to perfect my drawing, not my writing skills, while she’s wanted to be a writer pretty much her entire life.  And since we are working on this first draft together, it feels more like a second, or even a third draft to me.

 

But one of the pitfalls that I keep stumbling into working with her is that she likes to throw completely unexpected characters and side plots my way that we never talked about.  How is a girl supposed to work under these conditions?  Plus, I’m one of those people who likes to outline and plan out my novels before hand, with the occasional unexpected scene that writes its own way into my story.  My sister on the other hand, likes to write stories by the seat of her pants.  So that means while I’m working with her, I have to be prepared for anything she might throw at me.

 

Even that particular pitfall isn’t all that bad though.  It just means that she adds more flourish and depth to out story while I try to keep us somewhat grounded to the main plot and keep it moving along.  All and all, I would say our styles work well together, and it’s nice being able to take a small break from a story I’m working on and still know that progress is being made on it.  So the only real pitfall that I’ve actually come across is that I spend more time with this new novel rather than fixing up my old one.

 

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The End

04/05/2011 at 5:45 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I don’t know why it is, but the end is the trickiest section of my novel that I’ve had to write, and believe me, that’s saying a lot!  I’ve reworked it many times, and I’m still not satisfied with it.  Maybe I find it so hard to do because most of the stories I wrote in middle school and highschool never made it to the end, so I haven’t had as much practice with it.  Or maybe it’s just the endings really are just plain tricky.

I know that I’ve read many reviews of books where people’s biggest complaints have been that the book had a disappointing ending.  I’ve even read a couple of books that I really liked, but then I got to the end, and it was a huge let down.  So I’m thinking from now on, when I write about my book recommendations on Friday, one of the things I will point out is whether or not I feel the book had a sufficiently good ending, and nothing like: …and they lived happily ever after.  The End.

And while we’re on the topic of endings, “The Secret Hour” by Scott Westerfeld did not have one that saved the book from a three star rating.  I liked the book, but I didn’t love it.

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Weakened from the Weekend

04/04/2011 at 5:11 pm (Moday Check In) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It has now been two days since I’ve posted a new blog post, and what I’ve accomplished in that time is really not as much as I had hoped.  I wanted to adjust my novel so my main character showed the growth she was lacking that I talked about, and I also wanted work on some of the other suggestions that my critique group gave me, but unfortunately, the weekend was not nearly long enough.

 

I did manage to write another section in the novel I’m working on with my sister, so now that is over 50,000 words.  Yay!  And I fixed up a different section of my novel.  It was one of those sections that I thought I had changed a while ago, but must’ve just made a mental note to change it, then promptly forgot.  Oops.

 

It’s actually a scene that I’m quite proud of.  It’s real creepy, was totally not planned at all, and just sort of wrote itself.  But after it wrote itself, I kind of sort of forgot a tiny, little detail that would make the whole thing make sense.  But now it’s all fixed, so I’m happy.  But seriously, the scene gave me chills just writing it, so I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

 

This weekend I read most of “The Secret Hour” by Scott Westerfeld.  Since it’s not a particularly long book I had hoped to finish it, but I’ll just have to do that tonight after I’m done posting this.  I do like the book so far, because it has a really unique idea, but I’m not loving it.  So when I’m done with it, I’m probably not going to go rushing out to buy the next two books in the series, but I’ll talk a bit more about that when I do finish it.

 

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a serious book buying addiction.  It’s even worse than my addiction to Cadberry Cream Eggs!  And sadly, all the Borders within reasonable distance of my apartment are closing down, so I’ll only have a used bookstore and a Barnes & Nobles to feed my addiction.  In the mean time though, I’ve been taking clear advantage of the liquidation sales, and I spent a large part of my Saturday at Borders trying to narrow down how many books to get at that time.  I ended up with four for under $20.  🙂

 

The final thing I did this weekend was run 22 miles.  It was not fun.  The park that I went running in was crowded and hot, and the only thing that made the run alright was that my sisters, and brother and law were suffering with me, and my boyfriend joined us for the first part of it.  That, and I had a Cadberry Cream Egg waiting for me for when the run was over.  But seriously, those 22 miles, and the after affects of them took up pretty much my whole Sunday, and that’s what I blame for my lack of writing at that time.

 

Well, that was pretty much it for me this weekend.  Did anyone else get some good writing or reading in?  Any books they would suggest I look for in Borders before it’s gone?

 

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Development & Growth

03/31/2011 at 9:44 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Not all that long ago, my critique group ripped apart…I mean gave some nice, helpful suggestions for chapters 7 and 8 of my novel.  The main suggestion that I took away from the whole thing was that my main character should have undergone more character growth and development by that point.  So I went home afterwards, shed a few tears over the fact that my novel is not perfect, YET, then I sat down and started thinking about character growth in other stories I’ve read and loved, and how I should show it in my novel.

One of the books I’ve read that I feel has some good character development is “Alanna: the First Adventure” by Tamora Pierce.  In this book, Alanna has to develop confidence in her abilities as a warrior, and face off with the bully who torments her throughout most of the beginning of it.  A little later in the book, she has to face her fear of her own magic in order to save a friend.

It doesn’t sound too complicated until I start thinking about how I should do something similar in my novel.  Also, on a side note, if you have not read the Alanna series (“Lioness Quartet”) you are really missing out.  I loved those books along with her “Wild Magic” books as I know I’ve mentioned before.

Now for character growth in my book, I would say that the biggest fault that my main character has is her inability to get close to people and develop real relationships.  Sure she gets along with everyone all right, but there’s no one she would actually call a friend.  So, I guess the easiest way to show growth is maybe have her admit to having developing feelings for the guy she works for.

Another option would be to give her some sort of fear or weakness to overcome towards the beginning of my novel, but I’m not sure I really want to go and do that since I like my main character the way she is and that may take a whole lot more reworking than is probably necessary.  I might take another look at my beginning later to see what faults she has to work with though, but I do think having her develop a real relationship with someone would be the way to go.  Has anyone else run into this problem while working on their novels too?

Just a quick side note to all my potential readers, I did not actually cry after my critique…ninja assassins don’t cry.  And another note, my critique group is really great, and I appreciate all the help and advise they have given me.

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