Friday, January 31, 2014

Small Things And Sleepless Nights

We've got a Double Feature today on My Pet Blog.

First up is VikLit's Celebrate The Small Things in which participants are asked to share whatever it is they're celebrating from the previous week. (Click on the above link or the pic to the left for a complete list of participants.)

Here's what I'm celebrating this week:

—Inventory is officially over. Sure, it took nine hours, I broke three nails, and one of my co-workers stole my chocolate protein shake out of the break room fridge (denying me both protein and chocolate—do that at your own risk) but in spite of all that, everyone survived and inventory's over. Now I get some time off. In which I shall plot revenge upon the co-worker who believes that stealing my stuff is a good idea.

—The official trailer for the upcoming adaptation of John Green's novel, The Fault In Our Stars, was released this week. I watched it with a crappy internet connection and it still made me cry. I'll have to see this movie with all the tissues in all the world.




Next up is the Cephalapod Coffeehouse, hosted by The Armchair Squid, in which participants blog about a book they read and enjoyed most over the previous month. (Again, please click on the above link for a complete list of participants.)

So the book I have chosen to talk about this month is Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. It is the second installment in a series about eighteen year old assassin, Celaena Sardothien.

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.


After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. 

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?


I read the first book in the series (Throne of Glass) earlier this month, and was entertained, so I borrowed the second book from the library. I started reading it and was kind of plodding along, curious as to where the story would go, and entertained, but not riveted. 

But then I hit the halfway point—or about the halfway point, I don't know exactly—and suddenly the story found a whole new gear, and I couldn't put it down. I ended up staying awake until 4am just so I could finish it because I didn't want to put it down.

And I wanted to share this book not because it's the best thing I've ever read, but because it made me just so damn excited to read a book in a way that I hadn't been in a while. And not only that, but it made me excited about writing in a way that I hadn't been in a while (that time has since passed, but that's another blog for another day, and is in no way the fault of this novel. Just my own incompetence.).

As I tweeted/facebooked later that morning, I want to write books that make people stay up all night to read. Or want to stay up all night to read.  Or, you know, just write a story that people want to read, regardless of the time of day. Or even kind of skim a little. I'm not in a position to be choosy, I know, but I'd really love to write a story that someone who isn't me is maybe just a little bit excited about. 

It's a cool feeling to have a story get under your skin and make you cry or laugh or want to scream at the characters who are about to do something stupid or something wonderful or whatever. And I'd love to write a book that could do that sort of thing. Maybe I'm setting my sights too high, but I'm going to try for it anyway. What do I have to lose, right?

The bottom line is I just really want to write books. My publishing journey has been...well, less than stellar thus far, to say the least, and that's been discouraging. Really discouraging. Debilitatingly discouraging, even. But Crown of Midnight reminded me just how much I want to do this. The writing thing, anyway.

I want to write books. And so I shall.

And now I shall shut up because I feel as though I've been rambling on forever.  If you made it to the end of this post, I thank you for your perseverance. It's much appreciated.

Have a great weekend, all.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Time Off For Good Behavior

Well, the week we've all been dreading waiting for has finally arrived...Inventory Week.


Oh sorry. Wrong gif.


That's more like it.

The best thing I can say about the way that this particular inventory experience is shaping up so far is that it won't be held on Superbowl Sunday for the first time in, like, three years.

(Of course, I was much more excited about this when the Patriots were still in Superbowl contention. Not that I won't be watching the Superbowl regardless of who is or is not playing.)

Thursday night is going to be just...awesome. I can tell.

But anyway, this post is supposed to be about goals. Those from last week, and the ones for this week.

First up, last week's goals...

1. Don't kill any co-workers.

So I didn't kill any co-workers. I didn't even kill Management (I know...I'm disappointed, too.). But I did make note of how saccharine sweet #1 Boss is suddenly being to everyone (myself included). And I'm not the only one. The question most asked by the co-workers I did not kill this week was "Why is #1 Boss being so nice?" followed by "It's freaking me out."

True story.

Still no word on the new #3 Boss. It scares me to think that the two could be related.

2. Continue work on Second Nature.

Last Monday, the word count on this WIP was 202,362, and my goal simply was for it to be higher by today.

I did accomplish this goal. The WIP is now at 202,778. That's a gain of a whopping 416 words.

Oh wait...what's that, Hermione?


Yeah, I know. It's not that exciting. Yes, I accomplished the goal, and worked a lot last week, and didn't regain the ability to properly hold a pen until Wednesday, but I'm still not overly impressed with my performance.

But the thing is that I'm stuck, super stuck on this particular WIP right now. And what's worse is that I'm starting to rethink the existence of Mercenary Guy—and I LOVE Mercenary Guy. I'm also rethinking most of the chapters that come before his arrival in the story. And, you know, everything else, too. Things seemed to be going so well for a while, and now...Now, everything's feeling flat and lame, and I don't know how to fix it.

Which leads us into this week's goals...

1. Don't worry about it.

Much easier said than done, I know, but I'm going to take a break from the WIP this week—or maybe even longer—and focus on getting The Store through inventory in as few pieces as possible. Who knows...maybe I'll spark on some brilliant story-fixing plan while counting the never ending box of socks. But even if I don't, I won't worry about it.

Much.

2. Read a book.

I haven't read a book for a couple of weeks now, and I figure it'll help me get my mind off my dead-in-the-water WIP to read something new.

3. Walk at least ten miles this week.

Should be paired with the goal "and eat fewer than ten donuts" but it's inventory week and a donut just may be the difference in me committing homicide and not committing homicide, so we'll have to play this one by ear.

That's going to do it for me today...what's on your agenda this week?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Value Of Critiques

Today on My Pet Blog, the spotlight belongs to Nutschell Anne Windsor and her co-editor, Alana Garrigues, as they tour the blogosphere with their new  book...


Take it away, Nutschell—

The Value of Critiques

I never understood the importance of critiques until I started taking my writing seriously. When I decided I wanted to be an author, and not just a writer, I read anything and everything I could on how to get published.

One of the things that kept on coming up was the importance of getting your manuscript critiqued.

When you’re just starting your writing journey, critiques can be a tough experience. It’s difficult to show others the story you’ve been working on for years, let alone have them point out why the story doesn’t seem to work for them. But once you realize that critiques are meant to help and not hinder your writing career, you’ll seek them out like a crazed addict.

When you’ve been working on your story for months, or years, it’s easy to become too attached to it. And when you’re too close to your work, you might miss out on crucial details that may elevate your story or your craft. You might have several characters or scenes which your story would be better without; and you won’t realize how unnecessary they are until someone with fresh eyes points it out to you.

Whenever I facilitate critiques for my non-profit group, Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles (www.cbw-la.org), I always start the session by reminding everyone to give feedback in the most TACTful way possible.

Tact (noun \ˈtakt\ )

: the ability to do or say things without offending or upsetting other people

: a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense

- Merriam-Webster

TACT is also the technique we use for our critiques:

T = Terrific

We share what we love about the piece, what worked in the story, what we liked about the plot, setting, character, pacing, etc.

A = Author Questions

In the last few minutes of the author’s critique time, we encourage the author to ask questions. They can ask about a story element they’re having trouble with, or a particular passage they need help with, or they can ask to clarify comments they’ve received.

C = Constructive Comments

We deliver, in the most respectful way possible, comments that are specific and helpful to help the author improve her story. We give feedback that is specific, objective and well-thought out.

 T = Talent/Thanks

We always end by thanking the author for having the courage to share her work. We also encourage the author to keep on writing and remind them that the group is there to help them achieve their writing goals.

Critiques allow other writers to have a look at your manuscript from a distant, detached point of view—much like an agent or editor would. Critique partners can read your story as your future readers would, and provide you with valuable feedback to improve your story line, tighten your language, and generally get your manuscript ready for submission.

So go out and find a critique group--you can even start out with an online critique partner. Just remember that you need to find someone who’ll treat your manuscript with respect and a lot of T.A.C.T. , and be sure to reciprocate by giving TACT-ful critiques as well.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cool Cover Celebration

Today on My Pet Blog, we're pleased to play host to the uber-talented Cherie Reich as she reveals the absolutely gorgeous cover for her debut novel, Reborn.


To save a kingdom, a prophetess must challenge Fate.

On the day of Yssa’s death and rebirth, the god Apenth chose her as the Phoenix Prophetess. Sea serpents and gods endanger the young prophetess’s journey and sour the omens. Yssa is cursed instead of blessed, and her duties at the Temple of Apenth prove it. She spends her days reading dusty scrolls, which does nothing to help her forget Tym, the boy back home. But the annoying yet gorgeous ferryman’s son Liam proves to be a distraction she can’t predict, even though he rarely leaves her alone for two sand grains. Her boring temple life screeches to a halt when visions of her parents’ murders consume her. Yssa races across an ocean to stop the future. If she can’t change Fate, she’ll refuse to be the Phoenix Prophetess any longer. Fate, however, has other plans for her and the kingdom.

Yssa must either accept her destiny or fight to change Fate.




Reborn, book one of The Fate Challenges, by Cherie Reich will be released on May 23, 2014. For more information about Cherie Reich and her work, please visit her website or blog. The cover art is created by Laura Sava. To add on Goodreads, click here. If you’d like to be notified when Reborn releases, please sign up for her newsletter here.

About the Author:

A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a speculative fiction writer, freelance editor, book blogger, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her ebooks include the horror series Nightmare, a space fantasy trilogy titled Gravity, and a fantasy series The Foxwick Chronicles. She is Vice President of Valley Writers and a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Untethered Realms.


Thanks for stopping by today to support Cherie! It's much appreciated.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Moving on

As the New England Patriots forgot how to play football yesterday and lost the AFC Championship game, I am obligated to begin today's post with the following picture:


And this one, too...


Well played, Denver.

Moving on...

Since it's Monday, it's time to review the goals I set for myself last week, as well as time to set some new ones. I sustained an inconvenient hand injury over the weekend (not from punching a wall in the wake of a Patriots loss), so forgive me if I seem less than my normal ebullient, chatty self, but typing has become a true chore.

Last week's goals:

1. Complete Chapters 22-23 of Second Nature.

I didn't do this. I worked on Chapter 22 a little and completely ignored Chapter 23. They're proving to be a trickier story line than I had originally anticipated. However, I did manage to add a few thousand words to my WIP this week and officially crossed the 200k word count mark, so at least there's that.

2. Watch Sherlock Series 1 and 2 before the Series 3 premiere.

Did this. Not that it was hard or anything. Not that I expected it to be.

3. Complete three 30 minute work outs.

Did this. I actually completed four. Yay for success. Now if only I could experience such success in the writing category.

This week's goals:

First, a disclaimer: I have a hell week at the day job starting today, so I'm going to be very lax and unspecific on most of my goals as most of my waking hours this week will be spent immersed in inventory prep (the joys of being the only member of the stock staff). The good news is that this crazy schedule will fulfill my fitness goal as I'll likely net a good 15-20 miles before it's over. But as for everything else...

1. Continue work on Second Nature.

This WIP's current word count is 202,362. I would like it to be higher by this time next week.

2. Don't kill any co-workers.

Always a good goal to have, I find, when you have co-workers like mine. (Please note that I did not include Management in this goal. I hate to set myself up to fail...)

And on that happy note, I'm off to work. What's on your agenda this week?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Goal Tending

Happy Monday, everyone.

And because it's Monday, I'm talking about goals. Last week, I posted about my year-long goals. (I haven't accomplished any of those yet—especially not that healthy eating one.). At the time, I didn't mention my weekly goals, but I did set some. I always set some. Almost always. So it might seem a bit anti-climatic when I tell you that I, in fact, achieved all these goals.

And there was much rejoicing.



So, in the hopes of continuing my success streak, here are this week's goals...

1. Complete Chapters 22 and 23 in Second Nature.

A little while back I took the three scenes I had planned for Chapter 22 and bumped them all to Chapter 23, which left me with a big black hole in between Chapters 21 and 23. Last week, I developed a plan to replace the black hole with actual story. This week I shall put my plan into action and cross my fingers that it'll work because in this instance, I have no plan B.

2. Watch Sherlock series 1 and 2 before the series 3 premiere on Sunday (and the AFC Championship game, of course).

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. Okay, so maybe I don't have to do it. But I'm going to. Because Sherlock is awesome.


3. Complete three 30 minute work outs.

I have nothing to add to this. I just need to get back into the habit of working out on a regular basis and hope making this goal will help me do it.


So that's going to do it for me today. What's on your agenda this week?

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Celebrating The Small Things

Happy Friday, everyone.

Fridays on My Pet Blog mean we are taking part in VikLit's Celebrate The Small Things bloghop where participants simply share the good things from the previous week. Click on the link above or the pic to the left for a complete list of participants.

Here's what I'm celebrating this week:

—Internet. Mid-week, I had some internet connectivity problems and was suddenly thrust back into the dark ages (aka the early 90's) when I had no internet access whatsoever. Of course, in the early 90's, I didn't have a slight Twitter addiction and could deal with such things much more nobly than I maybe did this past week. But it's back now—and I apologize to any IWSGers who came here looking for a post and didn't find one. I didn't mean to not post! Or waste your time. But anyway, I'm celebrating the fact that my internet is back.

—Speaking of internet, I'm also celebrating Pandora Internet Radio. I've known about it, just never really used it much before. But then I needed to find myself some dark and angry music to add to my writing soundtrack to accommodate the continuing dark and angry vibe coming from Second Nature and despite the best efforts of friends and family, I wasn't having much luck finding that perfect song. Pandora really helped me out—or at the very least has pointed me in the right direction—and now I'm kind of addicted to that, too.

—Now let's talk about the efforts of my friends and family. I love these people. I say, "Hey, I'm looking for some dark and angry music" and they're all "Well, have you tried this?" and then proceed to research and suggest dark and angry music. And never once did they punch me in the face when I listened to thirty seconds of a song (and sometimes not even that much) before saying, "Nope. Not right." Plus it's always nice to have someone to whom you can say, "I need a soundtrack for this super fun torture scene I'm writing. Have any suggestions?" without things getting weird. Weirder?

—Next I have to give a special shout out to my poor, put upon brother. I've been freaking out a lot this lifetime week, and he's had to at least skim the endless barrage of crazy, rambling emails that have landed in his inbox. I'm certain that any day now I'm going to find out that he's joined some kind of writer protection program, and my emails will henceforth be responded to by one of those automated message things. Unless he already has, and I just haven't figured it out yet. I hereby resolve to be less not crazy next week. Or at least write fewer emails.

—And last, but not least, I'm also celebrating the latest Store shakeup. #3 Boss was fired this week, and since the man frequently presented himself as a misogynistic jackass, I'm not sad to see him go. No word yet on who his replacement might be, but there is a rumor that #1 Boss may hire her BFF for the job. No one on staff is happy about that, but I'm not worried just yet. I can ignore the BFF just as well as I have #1 Boss for the last six months.

So that's going to do it for me today. What are you celebrating this week?

Have a great weekend, all. See you Monday.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fear and Worrying in 2014

Well, it's time for the post you all have been waiting for—the post in which I reveal my sure-to-be-successful goals for 2014.

Normally I have these goals up sooner, like the first day of the year, but this time around I needed a little more time to finalize them.

Not sure why, though. After all, one of them is the exact same goal I set last year because I failed to accomplish it last year. (No, I'm still not over it.)

I'm guessing the delay can be attributed to the fact that I am terrified about screwing up again. I've mentioned this on a few previous occasions, but screwing up is just something that I do. Regularly. With gusto even. And I'm so worried that no matter what I do this year, I'll still end up with the same result.

Needless to say, I've not been in the best of moods so far this year. Here's hoping I can surprise myself.

So, anyway, without any further rambling on my part, here's what I'm setting out to accomplish in the next 359 days...

Part One: Writing

1. Publish Effigy.

I'm getting seriously sick of having to make this goal year in and year out—and I can only imagine how sick y'all are of having to hear about it. I really have been trying. Given my absolute failure, it probably doesn't seem like it, but I have been trying. And now I will try some more.

2. Complete first draft of Second Nature.

So, if by some miracle I do manage to get Effigy out into the world this year, I'd really like to get its sequel out a year later. I imagine having a completed first draft will be instrumental in making that happen. My brilliant plan to complete said draft in 2013 didn't work out (quelle surpise, oui?) so I'll be looking to redeem myself this year.

Part Two: The Requisite Health Related Goals

1. Walk, run, or bike 700 miles.

Last year I logged 667 miles, and I had really blown off fitness toward the end of the year (And also in February, if we're being honest), so if I put in a little more effort this year I don't think 700 miles will prove to be too outlandish.

2. Eat healthier.

I have horrible eating habits. Like, really horrible. I have a tendency to binge eat muffins or donuts or cookies or cake or brownies or whatever fattening yet totally delicious baked goods happen to be within arm's length. I should probably stop binge eating those things. I haven't gotten off to the best of starts with this particular goal (the draw back of waiting until the 6th to post your goals...you may have already failed some of them), but I hope to make a course correction soon. Soon-ish.

Part Three: Last, But Not Least

1. Read 60 books.

I had the same goal last year and finished well above that total fairly early on the 2013. Goodreads then spent some time trying to get me to up my goal. I didn't then, and I'm not now. My writing goals are listed first for a reason. This is not to suggest that reading isn't vastly important—because it is—but I'm not going to push myself to read 100 books when I'm striving to publish one. If that makes sense.

2. Turn weird little spare closet space into tiny little library.

I have this little room in my house that would probably best be described as a decent sized walk-in closet, and we've never used it for anything. My cats used to hide out in there from time to time, but now it's sitting empty and abandoned. This year I'd like to rip out the flooring, put in something new, fix the lighting situation and line the walls with bookshelves because I have no more space in my house for books, and I like buying books too much to stop because of a minor detail like having no place to put them. I need the library from Beauty and the Beast, but until I can buy a castle in France, I'll make due with this. Of course, I have absolutely no idea how to do such a renovation, but that's what HGTV is for, right? (Disclaimer: I also have no idea if that is what HGTV is for.)

§§§

So that's going to do it for me today...Have you set any goals and/or resolutions for the new year? Have you already given up on them?

Thanks for stopping by. It's always appreciated.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Celebrating The Small Things (New Year's Edition)

Celebrate The Small Things is a weekly bloghop hosted by VikLit where participants share whatever they happen to be celebrating from the past week. Please click on the pic on the left or the above link for a complete list of participants.

It's been a while since I've been able to participate in this bloghop—the end of 2013 was a wild and crazy time here at My Pet Blog—but I'm thrilled to be back at it.

Here's what I'm celebrating this week:

1. The holidays are over! 

I'm one of those people who really just look to survive the holiday season (a by-product of working in retail, I suppose), but I still managed to have some great times with friends and family. I received some lovely and thoughtful gifts—including a giant slinky (seriously, it's giant. Like, I can wear it on my leg.) and a slew of new notebooks and notebook covers—that show just how well these people know me. And, if you happened to see my Twitter feed, you'll know that my beautiful and talented niece, Jupiter, made me a sword and dagger:



The sword, with attached dagger
My god, I love that kid.

2. The tourists are gone!

The holidays have gone, and the tourists have (mostly) gone with them. It's just so nice to be able to drive through town and not have to contend with an endless amount of traffic or drivers who don't understand what a turn lane is for. And the best part is that because the tourists have (mostly) gone, my day job hours have shrunk back to their normal levels. Which, in theory, means that I can get back to what matters...

Playing with my awesome new sword. And maybe some writing—if there's any time left over.

3. The Patriots are in the playoffs!

It's been a long, stressful season with some too close victories (Saints. Broncos. Browns.) and maddening defeats (the @#$%&^* Jets.) and heart breaking injuries (Wilfork. Vollmer. GRONK! Why, Gronk, why?). I'm kind of glad the Pats have a first round bye. My blood pressure could use the reprieve.

4. Watching Firefly.

That's just what I happen to be doing right at this particular moment. But it's always worth celebrating. Because it's gorram awesome. Until you get to the end of "Objects in Space" and remember all over again that there are no more episodes. Damn you, Fox Executives!

That's going to do it for me today and for the week. I'll be back on Monday, though, with a finalized list of my sure-to-be-successful goals for this brand new year of ours. (Consider yourselves warned...)

Until next time...