Archive for April, 2013

17 & GoneI’ve become such a champion of this book in such a short amount of time. I read it for Hypable’s Book Club, which is part of the Book Hype podcast. We’ve read The Darkest Minds and then City of a Thousand Dolls. And they were good. Not great. Not perfect. But they were pretty good. I enjoyed them.

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma is a different story all together. Literally, actually. It’s a completely different genre with a completely different purpose. It gets into your head and messes with you.

And that’s one of the reasons why I love it.

I’m not going to tell you much about it, except for what the official blurb offers. And the reason is that this book should be experienced without knowing anything about it. You should be totally blind going in. Only then will you get the full impact of the story. It’s very real and very raw. It should be read as if it were a true account, because only then, I think, you can get the full impact of the story.

Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

I don’t think this is the type of book everyone will like. The writing is excellent, as is the storytelling, but the story is rough, and there’s a lot of death and sadness. It’s not a book you can particularly say you enjoy, but I think it makes a big impact, and that’s the sort of thing it was meant to do. It’s supposed to bother you and send chills down your spine. And boy does it deliver.

If you’ve read the book, join me in the comments for a little discussion. To those that haven’t read it, note that the comment section may not be spoiler free.

We’re going to be discussing this on an upcoming episode of Book Hype, so stay tuned for that as well. I always release the episodes on my Facebook page, or you can check out my ROW80 updates I post every Sunday morning.

Have you ever read a book that you love but don’t particularly enjoy because it’s so heavy? I thought Tuesdays with Morrie was like that too.

ROW80 – R2C4 – Bust

Posted: April 28, 2013 in ROW80
Tags: , , ,

ROW80LogocopyWell, having two awesome weeks back to back might just have been too much awesome for the world. I have to compensate, you know. So this week was a bust.

On purpose.

Of course.


Main Goals

  1. Write or edit every day. 0/7 NOTHING. Usually I try to get at least one day in a week, if I’m super busy, but this week just flew by.
  2. Read every day. 6/7 I finished 17 & Gone (OMG it was so good), and I’m working on War of the Worlds on audio as well. I’m not sure which book to pick up next. Maybe Insurgent? I have an ARC I need to read for an author by June, and I’m thinking I might just hop on that ASAP and get it out of the way. (Plus, you know, I’m excited to read it!)
  3. Exercise three times a week. 1/3 Just once this week, although I’ve been running around with the dog at work quite a bit, and that has to count too, right?

Bonus Goals

  1. Rewrite one of my short stories. I actually opened this up last night to take a look at it, then had to work on something else. 😦
  2. Think up a concept for another short story. Wish I’d put some thought into this, but it didn’t even cross my mind.
  3. Update my contests doc. Nope.

List of Awesome

  1. I finished The Wonderful Wizard of Oz! It was pretty good, but very, very different from the movie. Like, very different.
  2. ReWatchable came out with another episode, and this time we talked about Firefly‘s sixth episode, “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” It’s probably the only episode I give a thumbs down to!
  3. Speaking of podcasts, if you’ve listened to any of the ones I’ve been on (Onceable, Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast, ReWatchable, Book Hype) or are so inclined, would you mind popping over to iTunes and leaving us a rating? It’d be very much appreciated!
  4. Just a few more days and then it’s MAY. *sings* Springs is in the aaaairrrrrr, everywhere you look arounddddd.

Points and Words

Each of my main goals gets FIVE POINTS. Bonus goals get TEN POINTS if they’re completed.

  • Week 1 – 15 points
  • Week 2 – 60 points
  • Week 3 – 85 points
  • Week 4 – 35 points

This week I wrote:

  • Week 1 – 0 words
  • Week 2 – 1,188 words
  • Week 3 – 2,509 words
  • Week 4 – 0 words

Total words written in round 2: 3,697 words

Total words for the year: 62,399 words written since January 1, 2013

Do you guys have any summer plans yet? Heading anywhere new and different?

You might recall that one of my all-time favorite videos on YouTube is Heather Traska’s “One Woman A Capella Disney Medley.” It’s quite possibly the most intricate and well put together video I’ve ever seen.

And guess what? She just released her second one! It features a lot more villains, including a quick cameo of her as Hades. If you know anything about me, you’ll know my love for Disney’s Hercules has no bounds.

Check out part two right here!

Which was your favorite part?

I always feel kind of bad thinking this. I mean, I’m an avid reader, AND I’m a writer. Shouldn’t I be completely in love with the classics? It’s like an art history student going up to a painting by Michelangelo and saying, “Meh.”

Some people are going to look at you funny.

But I can’t help it! There are a few “classics” I do enjoy. 1984 is one of my all-time favorite books. I love Lord of the Flies. But beyond that? There are maybe only a few others.

1984 George OrwellIf you read my post about audiobooks on Monday, you’ll know I’ve been using them to listen to the classics because it’s a lot easier for me to get through them that way. I’ve read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass, and I’m just about done with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

And you know what? I didn’t really like them.

Okay, so they’re imaginative, and they’re inspiring and they’ve launched TV shows and movies and toys and a million other things. But I found the writing to be juvenile and the descriptions, in a lot of cases, to be pointless.

Now, this isn’t totally the fault of the author. And this is sort of the point I want to drive home. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written in 1865. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900. These times are a world away from ours. Certain things were expected in stories – things that would be looked down upon by today’s standards. So many descriptions go on for pages and pages and pages. Nowadays? That’d land your MS in the circular file.

So, okay. The classics are hard to relate to. The writing is not the same as we’d expect if we were to pick up a contemporary novel. But what about the story? Wouldn’t that be its saving grace?

Yes, I think that’s where a classic is saved. If you can get through all the junk and read for the meaning of the story, that’s where the love for the novel comes into play. Let’s face it, if you actually enjoy reading A Tale of Two Cities, you might be a bit of a masochist. The writing is so roundabout, so dragged out, that I found myself able to get through only a few pages at a time. (This was before I discovered the joy of audiobooks, which probably would’ve brought this story more to life than my imagination was able to.)

But once you read the words and reflect back on the story, the love for the character arc and journey the characters went on becomes apparent. It’s only after the fact that the story becomes what we treasure. While we’re reading it? It’s torture. At least, that’s how I feel.

And sometimes I think people love the classics just because they’re classics. And I don’t get that. Maybe that’s why I feel so guilty when I say I have a hard time getting through them – shouldn’t I love them all if reading and writing are such a big part of my life?

Maybe. But maybe not. I think everyone should read the classics and try to understand them. But you don’t have to like them. A like for those stories, just like any other story, is subjective. And it isn’t required. Just because you don’t like Macbeth doesn’t mean you haven’t read it and doesn’t mean you don’t understand it. It just means you didn’t like it. Plain and simple.

Or, at least, that’s what I’m telling myself to ease the guilt.

What do you guys think? Are you advocates of the classics, or do you have trouble with them too? Are there any that you absolutely love? Are there any that you feel guilty about not liking?

Alice's Adventures in WonderlandYesterday at my check-in for ROW80 I told you guys I started listening to audiobooks. This is actually my first experience with audiobooks, and…I don’t know how I feel about them just yet.

I’m having that same internal struggle I had when I started reading eBooks. I feel like it’s cheating in a way, but at the same time, it’s still the same information. I’m still experiencing a story, even if I’m not reading it myself.

I’ve made a list of pros and cons to figure how I really feel about audiobooks. (The lists are pretty much dead even.) Feel free to chime in and let me know what you think about them or if you have any points to add to my list.


  • More visual: When listening to an audiobook, the story seems to come more alive for me. The verbs are more visual. You can’t focus on the words and the way they look, which I guess is what I often do when reading. Instead, you have to focus on the images those words produce in your mind. Now, I always picture a book as I read it, but I realized that with an audiobook, the images just seem to be more vivid.
  • Multitasking: This is probably my favorite thing about audiobooks. There are some things I have to do for work or otherwise that, frankly, don’t take a lot of brain power. So I can put on an audiobook while I do these tasks, and not only am I getting work done, but I’m reading too! It’s really a great way to keep myself occupied.
  • Personality of the narrator: The personality of the narrator enhances the story a great deal. Sometimes there are multiple narrators, which is always fun, and sometimes it’s just one person. Either way, it’s nice to hear someone else telling you a story. The people who narrate these books are always enthusiastic about them, and it makes for a more interesting experience.
  • Read the classics: I have trouble reading all those classics, but I’ve started listening to them as audiobooks and it’s made the experience a lot easier. Not only can I get through one of them a lot quicker (in a couple of hours instead of weeks at a time), but it makes the story come alive in ways I have trouble with when I read it myself. I actually have a lot more to say about classics and why they’re so difficult for me, so look for that blog post later this week. For now, suffice it to say that this makes reading everything I should have already been familiar with a lot easier.


  • Repetitive: When you read a book, as opposed to listening to it, you don’t notice all the he said, she said dialogue tags. Your eyes just sort of skim over them. But when you have a lengthy dialogue exchange, the repetition of these dialogue days can be quite annoying. This is especially true when you have multiple narrators, because you don’t need this information repeated. Additionally, I find the use of adverbs – when totally necessary in the story – is unnecessary in an audio book. When a narrator says, “The cat climbed up the tree,” he said wryly, his voice already sounds wry. Therefore, the adverbs just get annoying because the narrator’s tone has already implied what a reader would need to know if they were merely reading the book.
  • Not good for visual learners: I’m a visual learner, and listening to audiobooks has proven difficult. I have a hard time keeping track of characters, even when there are different voices to help ease the transition. There’s just something about seeing the character name written out that makes it a lot easier to file that information away in my brain.
  • Narrator’s interpretations: This does sort of go against what I sent in the list of pros, but I think it is a separate occurrence. Or, at least, it’s dependent on the narrator. When you read a book, that experience is all your own. The voices of the characters fill your head, and you control the way they sound. However, when a narrator reads the book to you, they interpret the inflections and tones of the characters, and this can be a little jarring if you don’t quite agree with them about how a character says some of their dialogue.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  • Cheating: I can’t help it. It DOES feel like cheating to me. Or, at the very least, it feels like something completely different from reading a book. Have I truly read Alice in Wonderland? Technically, yes. I’ve experienced the same story everyone else has, despite the fact I’ve listened to it as an audiobook instead of reading it for myself. And, really, there’s nothing wrong with listening to audiobooks. If it gets people to experience a story they would’ve otherwise avoided, then I’m all for it! Perhaps this point goes back to the fact that I’m a visual learner and I have trouble cementing the details into my brain when I just listen to the story. I don’t feel as closely connected to it.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you think it’s “cheating”? Are there certain books, like the classics, that you’d rather listen to as an audiobook?

ROW80 – R2C3 – Awesome

Posted: April 21, 2013 in ROW80
Tags: , , ,

ROW80LogocopyThis week was amazing. I have so many things to put on my List of Awesome that it’s a bit overwhelming to go back and look at it. Such a nice feeling after these last few weeks of not getting much done. And considering the type of week the whole world just experienced, I’m not above infusing every word with positivity in order to bring us back to where we should be.

Main Goals

  1. Write or edit every day. 3/7 Three days this week, but boy were they good days. I’m forcing myself to focus on my short story collection even though I want to work on my novel, because this collection needs to be DONE so I can finally say I’m published. 😀
  2. Read every day. 7/7 I’m having no problems keeping up with this goal at the moment. 17 & Gone is an incredible book, and I’m not even halfway done with it yet. I also “read” a few other books this week – more on that down below. 
  3. Exercise three times a week. 5/3 I got in some really solid workouts this week. It definitely helped that I got a new dancing game, so now I feel more invigorated than ever!

Bonus Goals

  1. Rewrite one of my short stories. Instead of doing this, I finished the new one I started last week. This one needs less of an overhaul than the other one, so I’ll probably edit it first, then move onto the first one.
  2. Catch up on my e-mails. Er, looks like I forgot to replace this goal last week. Well, I’m still staying on top of my e-mails, and that’s more than I expected! For this week, I’d like to think up a concept for another short story.
  3. Update my contests doc. Didn’t get around to it this week.

List of Awesome

*Puts on Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious”* I don’t think you can handle this!

  1. I beat Just Dance 4 last week, so I ordered The Hip-Hop Experience, which is by the same company. It’s not quite the same as the Just Dance games, and I can’t decide if I like it better or not. However, it definitely makes me want to workout more now that I have something shiny and new!
  2. I got this awesome portable charger that runs on batteries for my iPhone. Now I never have to worry about my phone going dead again,which was a big concern I had about going to Comic-Con and being busy all day.
  3. I watched the 2009 Stark Trek film! I feel like my nerd street cred has gone up several points. I liked it, and I can’t wait for the next one. (Benedict Cumberbaaaaatch!!!!)
  4. This week I also read The B-Team by John Scalzi, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carol. I actually listened to them as audiobooks, which I realized it a great thing to do when I’m doing something brainless and need to distract myself from being horribly bored. This is how I’m going to get through so many classics that I have difficulty with. I’m listening to The Wizard of Oz next.
  5. I’ve officially completed over 400 freelance editing jobs. When I started doing this a little over a year ago, I never though it would take off like it has!
  6. I finally finished transferring all my files from my old computer to my new one. This was a HUGE accomplishment!

Points and Words

Each of my main goals gets FIVE POINTS. Bonus goals get TEN POINTS if they’re completed.

  • Week 1 – 15 points
  • Week 2 – 60 points
  • Week 3 – 85 points

This week I wrote:

  • Week 1 – 0 words
  • Week 2 – 1,188 words
  • Week 3 – 2,509 words

Total words written in round 2: 3,697 words

Total words for the year: 62,399 words written since January 1, 2013

What sorts of things have kept you positive and feeling amazing in the last week or so?

Wednesday’s post was a bit heavy, and in the wake of everything, I think we all need a dose of cuteness, don’t you?

I literally can’t stop watching this video. And I can’t stop laughing. HE’S SO ADORABLE.

Tragedy seems to be striking us – as people, not just as Americans – more and more each day. Or maybe we’re just becoming more aware of it considering how connected everyone is to the world these days.

There’s a lot to be said about the Boston bombings. There’s a lot that has already been said. But words, in my opinion, don’t console people in this type of situation. Therefore, all I will say is that I was as surprised, shocked, horrified, and saddened as everyone else. And leave it at that. I’ll be following the news and keeping everyone in my thoughts. There’s no point in turning this post into another memorial for the victims. My philosophy is to mourn and move on as best we can, but to also never forget. The best of life comes from those moments you don’t think you can get through. And only by moving on can we get to that point.

Young Bruce Wayne after his parents were murdered

Young Bruce Wayne after his parents were murdered

So, the topic today, while still related, is about something else. It’s about the fact that it’s important for us to realize fictional violence is a completely separate matter from real violence.

Chuck Wendig, writer and blogger extraordinaire, wrote a post titled “A thrown fist always hurts the hand” that really got me thinking about this, and although he took the words right out of my mouth (and probably used them better than I would have), I thought I’d add my voice to the air.

In particular, it was this passage that struck me:

Someone then responded on Twitter with an interesting question of whether or not I feel bad about the violence in my fiction, and my thought then and now was, well, that’s a bit different, isn’t it? Violence in fiction is, first of all, fiction. But it’s generally expected — we read a crime novel or a horror novel, that violence is usually part and parcel. And in the realm of fiction, violence can be framed by context and informed by consequence.

One of the writers I edit for ran into a similar situation in one of his novels. There was a section where several kids were gunned down. He wrote it before Sandy Hook, but he e-mailed me after the tragedy and asked my opinion. “Should I take that section out?”

My answer was a pretty resounding no. It might be a harsh reality, but if we took out parts of our story every time something happened, we’d have nothing left of our book. Art imitates life, and so readers have to expect violence is going to crop up in a lot of novels. Every genre and every category, except maybe picture books for children, will have violence.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be careful. There’s definitely a possibility of stepping over a line. But feeling guilty about putting violence in your story is like feeling guilty for putting romance in your story. Will everyone enjoy it? Maybe not. Is it necessary? It depends on the story. Will it offend some people? Oh, absolutely.

Beatrix Kiddo

Beatrix Kiddo avenging her near death

But here’s the thing. Heroes are born of tragedy and pain. Violence in stories serve to bring someone down so low that you’re unsure they’ll ever be able to make it out of their hell hole. And then when they do, it makes it more fulfilling. Static characters are boring. Having to deal with all that suffering makes readers empathize with the characters and consequently cheer for them when they finally make it to the top.

One final thought: violence in fiction does not mean the author supports violence in reality. I guess this is the point I’m really trying to drive home. Just because a writer has a character that tortures people for information doesn’t mean they believe in torture. Just because their hero goes around killing criminals doesn’t mean they think real life people should go around taking justice into their own hands.

That’s why it’s called fiction.

Violence in fiction is a means to an end. It has a calculated purpose, and that is to make the character change and evolve and ultimately end up being the best version of themselves by the end of the book. Readers and writers alike should realize that fictional violence and real violence are two completely different things. If you’re uncomfortable with violence in your books, that’s completely fine. Find another book, another genre, or another writer. There’s no harm in that. But making someone feel ashamed of the story they’ve written because it’s gritty and realistic is out of line. It truly has nothing to do with real world events, and I hope no one out there bends themselves over backwards to please people who, frankly, will probably never be pleased no matter what you do.

What do you think?

Why Twitter is awesome for writers

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Writing
Tags: ,


Sure, you can go for the obvious in that it’s a great way to connect with other writers, as well as your audience. And, yeah. That’s totally true. But I love Twitter for another reason.


Some of you may argue that fact, but I’m not talking about simplicity of use. I’m talking about the fact that it causes us to simplify our sentences, to get to the bare minimum truth of what we’re trying to say. We must condense our words. Minimize. Purify.

This is something that I’ve always struggled with. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know this to be true. I don’t always go for the direct approach. I tend to ramble. This isn’t a terrible thing, but ambiguity isn’t exactly the mark of a great writer.

Twitter makes me pause and look over what I’m trying to say. 140 characters isn’t a whole lot to work with. I tend to throw in words I don’t need. Instead of thinking about which verb would paint a stronger picture, I tend to write out a phrase that isn’t as full of imagery.

As a writer, that’s not a habit you want to hold onto.

Sure, rewriting my tweets can be time consuming. I could just send out two tweets instead of one. It’ll get my point across. People will read them and probably not think anything more about them than what I’m trying to say. My followers probably don’t even take stock of how I’m saying something. They just notice what I’m saying.

But that’s no excuse.

Twitter presents the opportunity to challenge ourselves. It gives us a set limit – absolutely no more than 140 characters. It’s a fair amount. You can say quite a bit in that amount of space. But it’s still an amount that makes you thinking about your punctuation, your word choice, your sentence structure.

Being a writer, I bet you’re like me and don’t want to break any grammatical rules. This is yet another dimension added to the game. How to be grammatically correct and get your point across.

It’s definitely not easy.

But I’ve learned a lot about my style of writing. Particularly that I do tend to throw in unimportant words. I’ve noticed that, recently, it’s been easier to part with some words. Or, at the very least, replace them with something better. And I’m not just talking about in my tweets.

In blog posts, in my WIPs, in my articles on Hypable, I’ve noticed a more streamlined approach to what I’m trying to say. It’s getting much easier to avoid fluff words (the word ‘that’ is, apparently, a personal favorite). It’s also getting easier to choose a single verb compared to a string of words that don’t paint as vivid of a picture.

Dare I say I’m learning?

Looks like it. And even though a big part of this comes from editing other people’s works, I definitely know  Twitter has also helped me out quite a bit.

What about you? Has Twitter taught you anything about writing? Has it made you better at choosing your words with more care?

ROW80LogocopyLast year I told you guys I had a special guest for my second round 2 check-in, but in actuality I just put in a picture of R2D2. That still makes me laugh. 🙂

Main Goals

  1. Write or edit every day. 2/7 Just two days this week, but I’ve been slowly chipping away on my latest short story for my collection, and I quite like the concept for this one. It isn’t going to be long, so even though I’ve only added about 1100 words to it, it’s close to being completed.
  2. Read every day. 5/7 I finished City of a Thousand Dolls Friday night (er, Saturday morning?). The last 50 pages were great, I just wish it hadn’t taken 200 pages to get to that point. Now I’m reading 17 & Gone
  3. Exercise three times a week. 3/3 Bingo! And, you know, these were some solid exercises. I’ve been using ankle weights to add a little more resistance. I think it’s going to really help. Bummer is, though, that I just beat my Just Dance 4 game, which means I have no more upgrades to strive for. I may have to find another game so I can keep my motivation up.

Bonus Goals

  1. Rewrite one of my short stories. Elected to start a new one before the idea left me, rather than finish up this one. Hopefully I can tackle this next week.
  2. Catch up on my e-mails. Done! I totally did this. It’s a great feeling to get down to the point where all you really have are a couple of e-mails in your inbox. Some I have to keep until I deal with them, but I’ve only got a couple of them left!
  3. Update my contests doc. I did not get a chance to finish this, but I definitely started it!

List of Awesome

  1. I did an interview with one of my favorite contemporary artists, Karen Hallion. She draws a lot of pop-culture things, including Doctor Who. I focused on her Doctor Who and Disney Heroines collection.
  2. Natalie and I interviewed someone from Teen Wolf on Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast! Check it out.
  3. C.G. Cooper has another short story up on Amazon called Running. This was an interesting look at Cal (his main character) before we saw him in the Corps Justice books.
  4. The other day I went for a walk around our yard and ended up finding a lot of garbage strewn around the place (we live next to a highway). I picked up 2 WalMart bags full and three medium sized boxes in about 15 minutes. It makes me so mad when people litter, but it was definitely a great feeling to do something about it.

Points and Words

Each of my main goals gets FIVE POINTS. Bonus goals get TEN POINTS if they’re completed.

  • Week 1 – 15 points
  • Week 2 – 60 points

This week I wrote:

  • Week 1 – 0 words
  • Week 2 – 1,188 words

Total words written in round 2: 1,188 words

Total words for the year: 58,702 words written since January 1, 2013

Have you done anything outside since the weather has been getting nicer?