Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop: 10 Questions about Noxumbra Manor

Emily Rachelle from Emily Rachelle Writes has nominated me to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Thanks Emily! To participate, I have to answer 10 questions about my current work in progress, and so I shall.

1: What is the working title of your book?
Noxumbra Manor because that's where a good portion of the story takes place. I've also considered The Lady Lord, but my mom said that might sound like the main character is a transvestite, and I just didn't want to go there.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
The original idea spark came in the summer of 2011, when my mom asked me what my dream pen name would be.  I'd recently become infatuated with the name Gwendolyn, and I'd just seen the name "Copperstone" somewhere, so I said Gwendolyn Copperstone. That November, I used "Gwendolyn Copperstone" as my NaNoWriMo username. Well, Gwen wasn't happy just being a username. Before long, she'd evolved into a really flat, story-less character, who I decided should be a fantasy-set detective. When NaNo 2012 started to draw near, I decided I'd give Gwen a story. After some brainstorming, she was no longer a detective, but an heiress of an estate that someone didn't want her to have.

3: What genre does your book come under?
Fantasy and mystery, though I've removed pretty much all of the traditional fantasy story elements. So it's a mystery set in a world that doesn't exist.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Honestly, I've been so focused on writing the thing, that I haven't thought of this. Except for one character. If this were to be made into a movie, I'd want Ben Aldridge to play Lord Delstone, the guy I put in an unrequited love situation I refer to as The Nomance.

I do, however, have a Pinterest board with some pictures of character look-a-likes on it here.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
A young herbalist is flung into a world of mystery and deceit when she inherits an insolvent estate that someone doesn't want her to have.

I've very proud of this elevator pitch, since it placed in the top 25 finalists in the Go Teen Writers Pitch Us Your Story contest. It didn't make the top ten, but out of 140 contestants, one of the top 25 isn't bad.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
None of the above. It's still in the Really Big Mess first draft stage. 

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started it back in November for NaNoWriMo, and I typed the words "the end" a couple of weeks ago, but there's a bunch of stuff in the middle that I skipped over that I need to fill in. 

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
I have no idea. You could say it's like a Dickens-ish or Austen-ish story set in a world that doesn't exist, but that might be kind of a stretch.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I needed a story to write for NaNo '12, and I wanted to try my hand at fantasy, so I chose this one over all my other ideas.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, there aren't many fantasy-set mysteries out there (that I'm aware of, at least), and it's got lies and betrayal and scandal and secrets, and other good stuff like that.

If you have any other questions about Noxumbra, leave a comment and I shall answer them.

Now I'm supposed to nominate five other bloggers, but pretty much everyone else has done this already, so I nominate anyone who reads this and wants to give it a go. 

And a good day/night/morning/afternoon/whatever to you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

We Interupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Here's the deal. I don't like writing book reviews. So, I'm not going to post a review of every single book I read anymore, just the ones that are SUPER AWESOME DROP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING AND GO TO THE LIBRARY NOW worthy.

So, instead today I'm going to share something I wrote. This is the first 700 words from a story I just started called Falsely Accused (at least until I find a better title). Please feel free to critique. I'd love to hear any thoughts you have.

Awaiting your execution is nerve wracking, no matter how many times you do it.
I should know, I’ve learned the hard way.
Yet no matter how many times I try, I can never manage to convince myself that this time won’t be any different from the others.
The time I spent awaiting my sixth attempted execution was no different. Goosebumps ran a marathon up and down my arms, trying to win out over my racing heartbeat. Taking deep, calming breaths was out of the question, since the Ootwoxans had stuck me in the rankest part of the Royal Dungeon. Apparently I’d commit enough crimes against them that they’d stuck me with the murderers. Great.
At least the Spryllians kept their jails clean.
Maybe he won’t come this time. That nagging thought danced around my mind. 
“Oh, shut up.”
A dark mass moved in the cell across from mine. “I didn’t say nothin’.”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Horace.”
He humphed. “Have ye finally gone mad, then?”
I laughed. “No, I’ve been in far worse places than this.” Yes, I had.  And in far worse situations.
Well, in theory. 
At any rate, I was going to get out. No dying today.
I jumped as a loud bang raddled the room with enough force to knock my cup off the shallow ledge I’d set it on. A dim scrap of light crawled along the floor and dodged around the shadow of the prison guard.
“Mesonoxia Svensora! Your turn at the noose.”
I swallowed hard and stood. “Here.”
“Eager t’ die, are you?”
I bit my tongue and waited while he unlocked my cell.
“Nice knowin’ ye,” said Horace.
Several others mumbled goodbyes as the guard led me up a narrow flight of stairs.  He pounded on a wooded door until it whined open, flooding the dark stairway with blinding light. I blinked several times.  The first thing my eyes focused on was the noose. Not a welcome sight.
The guard laughed. He trembled like an earring on a noblewoman’s ear. “Where’s your confidence, now?”
Oh, that was me trembling. 
I scanned the crowd of people come to view my demise. My heart leapt at the sight of the back of a tall redhead. Jasp was here. I wasn’t going to die.
“We meet again, Miss Svensora.”
I turned to face the short, dark man standing before the noose. “Hello, Boris.”
“I believe we have some unfinished business.”
I smiled. “Aye, but we won’t finish it to…” The tall redhead had turned around.
It wasn’t Jasp.
I swallowed. No. No, I wasn’t going to die. Boris was short, even by Ootwoxan standards, maybe I could make a break for it and run…
“Brought before you today, ladies and gentlemen, is the notorious Mesonoxia Svensora, charged with the murder of Duke Limeberry. Her punishment…”
“Wait, what?” I asked, brought out of my plans for escape. “Murder? I’ve never killed anyone.” I was a petty thief and a traitor to the crown, but not a killer.
Boris glared at me. “Excuse me, I’m trying to announce your death.”
“But I’ve never killed anyone. I don’t even know who Duke Berriedlime is.”
He shrugged. “That’s not what they told me.” He turned back to the crowd. “She shall be hung from the neck until dead.”
A smattering of applause ran through the audience.
I shook my head. “But… you can’t hang me for something I didn’t do.” I took a step back, and bumped into the guard. My heart pounded in my ears.
“The king says you killed Duke Limeberry, you killed Duke Limeberry.” Boris stepped forward with a leather bag.
I tried to run, but the big Sudethen guard grabbed me and pinned my arms behind my back.
This could not be happening. I struggled against him, but he was too big.
“No! No, I didn’t do it! Stop!” Dizziness swept over me. 
Boris smiled. “Time to finish our business.”
He slipped the bag over my head, and the world dissolved into darkness. I gagged on the smell of other prisoner’s sweat, and I-didn’t-want-to-know-what-else.
“NO! Jasp! Jasper! Help!”
The guard pushed me forward.
“Stop stop stop s-s-stoooop!”
The noose fell down around my shoulders. Tears poured down my face. “I didn’t do it! Stop!”

And I'm going to stop there and exercise my Evil Writer Cliffhanger muscles. This hasn't been edited, and as I said before, I'd love to hear any thoughts you have.

In other news, I've recently been tagged for an "Answer 10 questions about your work in progress" blog hop, in which I'm supposed to tag 5 other people, but I don't know who to tag. Pretty much everyone in the two Facebook teen writer groups I'm in has done it already. So, if you want me to tag you, please leave a comment telling me so, and I shall do it. Here's the post by the girl who tagged me, if you want to see it.

And a good day/afternoon/evening/morning/whatever to you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tips For Changing Your Manuscript From One POV to Another

So, at around the 60k mark in my WiP, I decided to try writing in 3rd person instead of 1st person, and I liked writing in 3rd person better.  This means I now have to change the first SIXTY FREAKING THOUSAND words from "I said/nodded/walked/died" to "Gwen said/nodded/walked/died".  Yeah. A little daunting.

I got started a few weeks back, and I thought, "This would make a great blog post!" So, here it is. I may come back and edit it to add more tips, as I have 74 pages left to convert. 

NOTE:  I use Microsoft Word, so these tips will work for it, but I don't know about other programs.

Tip #1: Listen to fun music so you don't get frustrated/bored.
I like to listen to music without lyrics, 'cause lyrics clog up my head. I usually listen to my writing playlist on YouTube.

Tip #2: MS Word's Find and Replace feature is your best friend (usually).
The first thing I did was search for "I said" (it appeared in my doc about 150 times), and replaced it with "Gwen said".  So much better than changing each one individually.  Other terms I searched for and replaced with their 3rd person equivalents were:

- I nodded
- I shook my head
- I raised an eyebrow
- I stood

 And other actions I know Gwen does a lot.  Now, a potential source of error is if you have another character say that they "verbed" in a bit of dialogue, and it getting changed to "Gwen verbed".  For instance, I just did a search for "I hated" and got three results. Two were Gwen's narration of the story, and the other was this bit of dialogue from my character Merig:  "At first I hated you for [SPOILER]" which he said to Gwen.  So, if I'd Replaced all the "I hated"s, this would have turned into: "At first Gwen hated you for [SPOILER]" So, Merig would be telling her that she hated herself. Um, no.  "I saw" also is proving problematic.  There are only 26 of those, and not all of them will have to be changed, so I think I'll do those manually.  Speaking of doing it manually, if you use the Find feature to find all the instances of a certain phrase, assuming there aren't a ton of them, you can sift through the results and change them one by one. 

Also, look for "we verbed"s and change them to "they verbed"s.  

Also also, include punctuation in your searches. For example: "I asked." and "I asked," with a period and a comma.  That may weed out bits of dialogue, 'cause it won't include things like "'I asked her for her pink flamingo slippers, but only got the purple elephants,' I said." You can use spaces in this way, too.

However, the lovely Find and Replace feature does have it's downsides. For instance, I was rereading a scene this morning and I noticed that when I replaced all the "I said"s with "Gwen said"s, it changed the "Leoli said"s to "LeolGwen said"s, since "Leoli" ends in an "i".  Sigh. 

Tip #3: Search for the more frequent terms twice. 
I am positive I searched for "I looked" and "I nodded", but I found an unchanged one of each, and searched again.  Word had missed 68 of one of them. SIXTY EIGHT! Grr.

Tip #4: Manually change the rest in manageable chunks. 
 Because it can get boring, and everything will suffer if you are irritable, and it does no good to dread reading/fixing your story.  I have personal experience.  So, when you start to get sick of it, take a break. Eat something. Walk around. Get away from the computer. Fight off an imaginary army of garden gnomes dressed as the Grim Reaper. Whatever.

Tip #5: Keep a notebook close by.
Because you are going to find things that you need to take notes about.  Plot holes, missing descriptions, a character who talks of nothing but llamas because you needed extra words one day during NaNoWriMo...

Yes, there is one of those in my work in progress.

NaNo has the power to make us do silly things in the name of The Word Count.

And I think that is all.  As I said before, I may add more tips if I think of any more. Got any advice on changing POV, or a story of something silly you did in the name of The Word Count? I'd love to hear it! 

Until next time, my friends. [insert really cool sign-off/end-of-post thing here]

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: Emily the Strange: The Lost Days by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner

Yeah, not The World Above by Cameron Dokey that my side bar says I'm reading. But last weekend it became very apparent that I would not finish it in time, so I read the book my sister had just finished and loved (and which was much shorter and that I could read in a day) Emily the Strange: The Lost Days by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner.


It. Is.


Well, strange.

And really, really fun. 

Allow me to present the Amazon description:

"13 things you will find in the first Emily the Strange novel:
1. Mystery
2. A beautiful golem
3. Souped-up slingshots
4. Four black cats
5. Amnesia
6. Calamity Poker
7. Angry ponies
8. A shady truant officer
9. Top-13 lists
10. A sandstorm generator
11. Doppelgängers
12. A secret mission
13. Earwigs"

Yeah, not very informative. Yet very fitting for the story, which is about a girl who wakes up with amnesia in a little town in the middle of the desert called Blackrock, and her quest to recover her memories. The novel is presented as her notebook (complete with illustrations), so you get to learn about her as she learns about herself. And you get to read all her hilarious, snarky comments about everything.

Emily herself is an awesome character. Come to think of it, she's the classic anti-social genius homeschooler. And she's like that because she's tried to fit in with the rest of the world, finds it boring, and
prefers to spend time in her lab experimenting with explosives and time travel and snuggling her cats.

She doesn't remember that 'til the end of this book, but my sister's been reading the rest of the series and I've been hearing about it all week. 

So, in short, Emily's awesomeness + the 13 things listed above = great read.  And it was really clean too, which gives it lots of bonus points.

I believe that is all I have to say, chaps. A good day/night/morning/afternoon/other to you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Amazon description:

"Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall."

Of all the books I've read this year, The Archived has been one of my favorites. It's got interesting characters, mystery, and a page turning plot. 

There were, however, a few things that bothered me.  The swearing, for example. There wasn't a lot, and it was no worse than your average PG-13 movie, but it was there. And there were a couple of kissing scenes that I didn't like, and a "take off your shirt so I can look at your injuries" scene, but that was all that happened.  So, I'd recommend it to older teens, maybe 16+.  

There were also a few flashbacks that showed up right in the middle of chapters, and though they were important to the story, they were kind of annoying.

Also, it was in present tense, and it confused my past tense-using Inner Narrator. You know, that part of your brain that adds comments/metaphors/narration to your everyday life that sound like they're from a story? Suddenly it started saying things in different tense! Like, "I fail at trying to come up with a decent example" instead of "I failed at trying to come up with a decent example".  Totally bizarre. Though it was interesting to see how the different tenses acted. And they did act differently.

 Annoying things aside, it was really a good read.  And I did not see the ending coming. It was great.
I do love a good mystery.  Also, the almost-a-romantic-interest was great. Definitely my favorite character.

Before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson and Me, Just Different by Stephanie Morill are free on Amazon today.  By Darkness Hid is great, and though I haven't read Me, Just Different, I do read the teen writer's blog run by Stephanie (Go Teen Writers), and she's awesome. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey

Amazon description:

"Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.
The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants' care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon's father, and her arrival changes their lives.
When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon's new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny -- a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are."

Before Midnight (from the Once Upon a Time is Timeless series) was a delightful retelling of Cinderella. It changed several things about the story, including who the antagonist was (a bit), and added some really fun political intrigue.

It did not, however, remove all the love at first sight. There were six couples in the story, and four of them fell in love at first sight. The other two were arranged marriages and the parties hated each other.  That was a bit annoying. 

But, all in all, I enjoyed it. I give it four out of five stars. 

Fair warning, I'll be reading a lot of retold fairytales over the next few weeks.  I have a bookshelf full of books I bought at our library book sale that I haven't read yet, and several of them are in the Once Upon a Time is Timeless retold fairytales series. The shelf technically belongs to my sister, and she's informed me that she's going to start evicting books one by one, and the only way I'll be able to save them is to read them.  The next one she's chosen is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, in which Jack's sister has to save him. Should be fun.