Review Excerpts

Sunday, August 6, 2017

So Much For Relaxing During the Summer

First off, I just got the mock-up for the Seductive Suspect cover, and as always, it's fantastic. It's not completely finished, so I can't share it yet, but I can't wait until it's ready!

That exciting email with the cover stuff might just motivate me to write soon. So far this summer has been CRAZY, and I haven't had time to start a new book. The short version is we have a major construction/renovation project going on at the Landen house, and as such, we've been bouncing between both sets of parents' houses and the Cape house (because if you can't go home, you might as well be someplace with a private beach at the end of the street). I've been hesitant to even start something because I know how little time I'll have, especially with squeezing in some day job work around everything else, but my writing fingers are starting to get a little antsy. I will have some time this weekend, so we'll see what happens then!

Watch this space for the official cover reveal!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Off to a Good Start...Or a Terrible Start...Okay, Some Kind of Start

I'm never one to pass up jumping on a good bandwagon. Writing/blogging buddies Krystal and Michelle recently made great posts about going back to their old writing projects and critiquing their opening lines. They were a ton of fun to read, and I also never shy away from self-deprecating humor, so I figured I'd have a go at it!

The vast majority of my early writings were Phantasy Star fanfic. Actually, those were the only stories I ever finished. I'll start as far back as I can find, and I'll also toss in some more recent ones, because why not? Some aren't too bad, some are, and there's one in particular that, due to a proofreading fail, is dumpster fire-levels of awful. Onwards!


My first fanfic ever. I think I was around 12 or 13 years old:

I see trees, I see sand, I see ice. And I see hell.

Okay, not too bad. Like lots of games and sci-fi in general, Phantasy Star made use of the Single-Biome Planet, hence the first line. I suppose my career as a writer didn't get off to a terrible start.


Another fanfic. I'm pretty sure I was 16:

The sun shone brightly over the sands of the desert. Because of the planet's irregular orbit around the sun, there was no actual night - daylight was a constant on in this barren world. The majority the population was in bed sleeping, having adjusted to the consistent sunlight long ago. But deep in the mountains, far from the sunlight, someone was awake.

First off, that's not how science works, Thea. Next year you'll take astronomy in high school and learn more about planets and orbits and such. (And then many years later, you'll enlist the help of a friend to teach you even more about orbits to set up the concept of a book.) Also, I'm so glad it's specified that the sun shone brightly, as opposed to all those dimly-shining suns.


Here it is, the laughably bad one I promised. Also fanfic. I think I was 17 or 18?

The light of the two moons cast a dim light over the small village. While the outside temperature was not unbearably hot, the villagers kept all their windows open to take advantage of the sporadic cool breeze.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRGHHsdghoijasengeiwsdf. How did I not catch the two instances of "light" in the VERY FIRST LINE OF THE STORY?!?!?! And the kicker is, this was actually one of my best fanfics. It's held up over time. It's poignant and heartbreaking. It took a new spin on a topic that had been written about before. BUT OH MY GOD, THAT FIRST LINE.

In the immortal words of Blanche Devereaux, "God, I wish I was dead." Even 15ish years later.


At some point, a long writing break happened while I was off doing other life stuff. Let's see how I re-entered the writing world with one more fanfic example:

Alys shielded her eyes from the sun. In the distance, she could make out the silhouettes of the tents at the edge of the native Motavian village of Molcum. “Finally,” she muttered to herself as she approached the outskirts of the small village.

Maybe not the most attention-grabbiest thing ever, but it works. That was late 2010, and I'd say my style hasn't changed drastically since then (based off this example, anyway).


Now let's see what I actually got published. Here's the opening of Searching the Skies, my first published book (written in 2011):

Geneva Greyson removed one of her twin daggers from the throat of her enemy and watched him fall to the ground, wondering yet again what could have possibly possessed her people to land on this planet centuries ago. Ophari was a cold, desolate world with little to offer in the ways of food, minerals, or technology, as the Opharians were not nearly as advanced as the humans who had stumbled upon them. Had it been up to her, she would have passed over the near-barren rock without a second look. Her ancestors, however, had thought differently; they had sought to colonize it and add the small planet to their ever-growing empire.

Not too shabby. Definitely screams "this is sci-fi!" from the get go. Funnily enough, very little information in this opening paragraph is actually relevant to the rest of the book.


Elysium remains one of my favorites; let's see how it holds up under the magnifying glass (written in 2014):

Janie stood in my living room, one hand holding a bag of food from the local Chinese take-out place and the other planted firmly on her hip. She fixed me with a stern glare. “You shouldn’t leave your door unlocked."

Well, we learned a lot about Janie in a few lines. Too bad she's not a main character.


I might be getting too full of myself. Let's look at Flight of the Dragon Queen (written in 2014-2015):

“Hey, Caleb. How’s it going?”
I glanced toward the entrance of the cubicle. Ricky, my closest acquaintance at the office, leaned against the edge of the flimsy wall. “Hey,” I greeted him in return. “I’m all right, can’t complain."

SNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE. It's a good thing this book has dragons and magic and shit, because something has to make up for this opening. If I recall correctly, even the editor had some qualms about the whole prologue, but sometimes you just need to quickly establish the parameters of the story and then get to the good stuff.


Might as well end on a high note with Out of Orbit (written mostly in 2015):

“Captain Hale, are you okay?”
Jasmine winced as she scrambled to her feet, trying to ignore the pain radiating from where her back had slammed into the floor. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” A quick glance around the spaceship’s deck indicated she hadn’t been the only one knocked off balance by the blast. Concern flitted through her mind, but tending to injuries wasn’t her responsibility or priority. “Keep firing!”

This is one of the few times I was really happy with an entire introduction/first chapter. When discussing this post with another writing friend, I also realized that OoO is probably the only time when I really felt I wrote a good opening, ending to the main story, AND ending to the epilogue. Yay.


I just sent in another round of edits for Seductive Suspect. The whole opening chapter is quite long and a lot happens, but the first couple lines/paragraphs probably fall somewhere in the middle between awesome and Blanche Devereaux both in quality and level of excitement. I can live with that!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Repetition Repetition Repetition Repetition....

Hey, a post that's actually about writing! Or something close to it, anyway. Though I haven't actually written anything lately, I did just finish the first round of edits on Seductive Suspect.

When doing my own proofing/editing before submitting a manuscript, I have my list of words I check for to make sure I haven't overused them. I've discussed "that" here before, and even though I've gotten better, it still sneaks in every now and then. The list grows because lately it seems that with every book I write, a new word gets overused. Granted, every editor has his or her own words that bug them with overuse, and what stands out to one may not stand out to another. Most of the time, though, I find myself agreeing with the words they pick out and check for them in the future.

The overused word for Flight of the Dragon Queen was "just". Like "that", it's often unnecessary, almost like superfluous adverbs. For Out of Orbit, it was "look". That got a little trickier, because to me, repetitive use of words like "stare" and "gaze" stand out more. I did try to mix it up more in that book, and "look" is now on the list.

So what's THE word for Seductive Suspect? "Make/made/making". As always, it can be hard to notice something until someone else comes along and highlights it. Like, literally highlights it. And then I see how many times it came up in a short span and say UGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH how did I not catch that earlier?

Like I said earlier, it's possible that "make/made/making" is just this editor's pet word. Since I already have enough on my plate, I'm not going to go back to previous works and see how often it popped up. However, it came up SO much in Seductive Suspect, it's probably going on the list. And I'm sure it'll be joined by something else next time around.

"That" count (aside from the times I used it to illustrate a point and put it in quotes): 7
"Just" count (same stipulation): 2
"Overuse" count (ironically): 4
Level of caring for this blog post: 0

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Women and Storytelling (and TV, I suppose)

There's not much to report on the writing front over here, and then when I decided to check in and write a blog post anyway, I was having issues with Blogger loading. I know, excuses, excuses. So I figured I might as well grab some of my tags to use as a title and ramble a bit about what I've been doing to entertain myself recently.

I believe I've mentioned it on here before at least once, but I'm a fan of Orange is the New Black. Gone are the days of binge watching stuff, as I'm a boring adult who has other obligations/responsibilities, but we still got through all 13 episodes in about a week. And it was SO GOOD. Like, the kind of good that makes you want to run around shouting it from the rooftops, or just shout in general because your body simply can't contain the level of good-ness it just experienced. Was this season flawless? No, of course not. But it was some damn fine television.

I'm in the camp that does believe the show is/was groundbreaking, as it went against a lot of what the entertainment industry believes people want to see (or what they tell people they want to see, anyway). Right off the bat, stories with a female lead are often a harder sell than those with a male lead. And when it comes to the stories OITNB tells, that's just the tip of the iceberg. I found this quote about the main character from an NPR interview with Jenji Kohan (the show's creator) both a little sad and not surprising at all:

"In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful."

I'll admit to being similar to Piper in terms of background and privilege, so I'm not going to spout off about a lot of things I have little personal experience with. But I hope the fact that the show has been so successful will mean good things in the future when it comes to storytelling and how women are portrayed in the media. There's a large audience filled with people who will now demand diversity in what they want to see and who will refuse to believe that such stories aren't marketable, because there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Which, in turn, will mean good things (I hope) for those of us who create art and want to find an audience of our own, even when what we create is different from "the way things have always been done".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nothing to See Here!

No, really, not much to see here. I finished Mass Effect: Andromeda, and it was very good; while I will replay it soon, I haven't felt the burning need to start over again yet. I've also been reading for a change, and paying attention to my neglected knitting. Edits haven't started yet for Seductive Suspect, so I'm trying to spread the love between my other hobbies in my limited free time.

I feel like I should start a new writing project soon, though. I have one idea pretty much completely fully outlined, and two more that need a little more baking. I'm debating whether to start the former and work on it whenever I feel like it (and try to get back into good writing habits), or wait until I'm feeling really fired up and attack it head on. There's no good answer, of course. And let's face it, with two rambunctious toddlers running around, a day job that's in an upswing on the busy spectrum, and some lingering issues with my chronic illness, sometimes I am just TIRED. But one way or another, writing always manages to worm its way back onto my list of priorities. I'll get there, I promise!

(Oh, and I suppose I could write a better follow-up post about ME:A, but all in good time!)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Setting the Pace

As promised, here are some spoiler-free thoughts on Mass Effect: Andromeda. The game's been out for almost a month and I'm not finished with it yet (how's that for pacing?), and I'm really not sure how much I have left to go. Based on the level requirements to unlock certain things, I think there's still a decent amount left, but I can't say for sure. That said, I've played enough of it to spout off some of my thoughts and how they relate to storytelling.

So far, I'm really enjoying the game. Some parts of it have been frustrating, but the good stuff more than makes up for it. While I do love Dragon Age: Inquisition, as we all know (the previous BioWare game), I wouldn't say the game was without its faults. MEA has improved on the elements I took issue with, which I appreciate.

As the title of this post indicates, I'm going to talk about pacing. That was my number one qualm with DAI, in that the pacing seemed really uneven and There are certain plot points you have to hit in order to progress the main plot, and in some cases, you can choose the order in which you do them, but the sheer number of side quests (many optional, to be fair) killed the sense of urgency for me. And what really bugged me was that the main plot quests were SO GOOD. Like, I distinctly recall staying up way too late while playing one of them because I HAD to know what happened next (a mark of good storytelling). I wish there had been more of that instead of Fetch Quest #2837.

To be fair, the structure of MEA isn't too dissimilar, but something about it flows better for me. Maybe it's because all the little side quests add up to a bigger whole, or contribute more to the overall story. It's funny, in DAI, the Big Bad is established relatively early on and you know your goal is to defeat him. In MEA, I'm pretty sure, though not positive, I know who the final boss is going to be, but the overall goal is just making a safe place for your people to live. You'd think that the game with the more defined goal would be the one with better pacing, but it's not working out that way for me.

Moving on! The other issue I had with DAI is that I thought there were way too many characters, and as such, not all of them felt as developed and well-written as they could have been. (For the record, I said the same exact thing about Mass Effect 2.) MEA pared down the number of companions and as a result, I don't feel like any of them are useless or redundant. Sure, there are some I like better than others, but even my least favorite has a detailed background and has had some good moments.

I'll stop here before this gets too long. I know you're all wondering about the romances, because obviously that's the main reason people play these games ( ;) ). I've chosen who I'm going to pursue the first time around, but the romance hasn't progressed super far, so I'll get back to you on that!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring into Romance Blog Hop and Giveaway!

Spring is here! What better time to share our favorite reads for the season? Join in and tell everyone about what new reads you're excited about!

For my stop on the hop, I'm giving away an e-copy of Elysium. The book takes place in the spring, and for good reason—themes include new beginnings, taking a chance on a new romance, and all sorts of other ideas we associate with the season. (Heck, the heroine's name is even April!) All the participating sites are hosting giveaways, so be sure to check them all out!


And here's the blurb and giveaway for Elysium. Good luck, and happy spring!

Two years have passed since April Patterson’s husband was shot and killed in the line of duty, and she’s trapped in a haze of grief and uncertainty. Having grown frustrated by all other efforts to engage her in activities where she could meet new people, her cousin pays for a date via 1Night Stand. Not thrilled with the idea, April nevertheless contacts Madame Eve and requests the impossible: a date with her deceased husband.

Brilliant software engineer Drew Monroe created his company, Elysium, to help give closure to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, through the use of virtual reality. Though passionate about his work, being constantly surrounded by heartache and death has taken a toll on his mental health. When he accepts the case of a young widow referred to him by Madame Eve, her tragic tale depresses him further, but he commits himself to programming April the romantic date she desires.

April arrives at Elysium and prepares to enter Drew’s virtual realm. Will she find the solace she seeks within? Or will she discover she doesn’t need a fantasy world to discover happiness again? 

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