Vacation Recap

As you know if you follow me on Twitter, I spent the last ten days roadtripping to Florida and back with some of my family. We stopped in a multitude of sketchy gas station restrooms, talked to people with the kind of accents you just pretend to understand, went swimming, took a boat onto the ocean, walked on a private beach, ate amazing crab cakes at a dockside restaurant, too silly pictures in a photo booth, bought gifts, watched fun movies, went biking on an island, and ate lots of fruit. On the way home we spent a glorious day in Louisville, walking, eating swirled salted caramel and strawberry frozen yogurt, exploring shops – including a bookstore, obviously!- and listening to old music.
I read more books in this stretch than I have in some time: The Graveyard Book, The Iron King, The Girl Who Could Fly, How We Fall, The Ring and The Crown, Gone Girl, and A Dangerous Invitation. I have some actual reviews for you on a couple of these, but suffice it to say these were all absolutely amazing and glorious choices, and I’m basically floating on a cloud of major reader satisfaction right now 🙂
I only wrote 2k on vacation, so I missed my 5k goal, but I did finish plotting almost the entire rest of the book. I use a step plot method, which I may post about at a later date, and I’m super excited for what this book holds. So far this has been seriously one of my favorite books to write ever and I’m enjoying the process in a way I never have before.
Why am I telling you all these stats? Well, partly because I’m seriously proud of my reading – come on, seven books in ten days? It’s not quite, but almost, a personal best. But also because I learned a few lessons along the way, as I often do, and I want to share them with you. These are in no particular order, but encompass my experiences on this trip:
1) Say yes to things. Even if you think you might not enjoy them or be able to them, you’ll always wonder about it if you don’t. Even the worst experiences are fodder for story and memories, and you might be surprised and delighted by something that you were nervous about.
2) Carry an emergency pack with you – not of the normal stuff, but of the following – a snack, in case you’re gone longer than you think, water, ibuprofen (or your headache medicine of choice) sunscreen, bandaids for blisters, lady supplies (should you be a lady), and pen and paper. I always had sunscreen, being the European descendent I am, but I rarely had the other things along and could have cut several headaches short.
3) Come home one day early. No matter how rested you think you are, it feels like you got run over by a semi the next day and you’ll want time to sleep, and to prepare for the real world again.
4) Get gas early. So you’re not us, and don’t have a gas light turn on in the middle of a cornfield, resulting in a forced stop at the creepiest gas station in Georgia.
5)Eat meals together. It gets easy, on vacation time, to fall into a everyone for themselves meal habit, but we ate almost all of our meals together at the table, and they were some of the most enjoyable and delightful times.
6) Find your balance between planning and spur of the moment, going and staying. Your personality should play a factor, do whatever you need to to enjoy yourself, whether that’s planning every activity or doing it all on a whim, but remember that the people you’re with may vary significantly from you in terms of natural schedules, interests, and comfort with spontaneity, and you may need to adjust one way or another. You also want to have time for the unexpected, and to rest between things so you can really enjoy yourself.
7) Enjoy. Don’t count the days until it’s over. Don’t wonder what’s next. Don’t let yourself make too many lists and plans for afterward. Just relax and be incredibly grateful for this moment in time, this experience, and who you are right now, with this breath.

What’s the best vacation you went on? What did you learn from it?

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Flash Fiction Friday #2

Today’s flash fiction piece is super tiny, and was written for a challenge which asked writers to create a 55 word short-story without using the letter E.
I really encourage y’all to try this, because it was much harder than I thought it would be, but also a great deal of fun! If you do try it, share with me in the comments!
Our girl winds through a city without harbor, no port in storms of your making. This is not my affair; you and I split and it was so. Our girl is without support but you stay lost in a world of what you had long ago. My hands hold no spot –yours carry all guilt.

Book Review: Hive and Heist

Hi friends! Today’s review might surprise some of you who know my love for a good historical romance or YA contemporary – but I’ve been branching out more in my reading, and I’m excited to share with you. Read on to find out about today’s venture into the science fiction world of Hive and Heist!

HiveandHeistTourBanner

I actually read both books in the series for this tour, so here’s a summary of both:

QCBOOK ONE:
Queen & Commander by Janine A. Southard
(Hive Queen Saga #1)
Publication date: May 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Synopsis:
**WINNER 2013 IPPY AWARD — Silver Medal for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book**

On a world where high school test scores determine your future, six students rebel. They’ll outrun society as fast as their questionably obtained spaceship will take them.

Rhiannon doesn’t technically cheat the Test. She’s smarter than the computers that administer it, and she uses that to her advantage. She emerges from Test Day with the most prestigious future career possible: Hive Queen.

Gwyn & Victor are madly in love, but their Test results will tear them apart. Good thing Rhiannon is Gwyn’s best friend. Rhiannon can fix this. Queens can do anything.

Gavin is the wild card. Raised off-planet, he can’t wait to leave again… and he’s heard of an empty ship in orbit. The Ceridwen’s Cauldron.

Both Luciano and Alan fit in the system. They don’t need to leave. Only their devotion to Rhiannon spurs them to join the Cauldron’s crew.

Spaceships. Blackmail. Anywhere but here.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00062]BOOK TWO:
Hive & Heist by Janine A. Southard
(Hive Queen Saga #2)
Publication date: May 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Synopsis:
Queen Rhiannon and her Hive have found safety on John Wayne Station, but with no way to pay their docking fees or Victor’s medical bills, their debts are racking up quickly. Thankfully, Gavin gets a job with American Space Ranger M3L-15-A, who’s hot on the trail of dangerous criminals.

The teens move in with their Ranger benefactor, but when they revisit their ship to pick up personal belongings, they realize their Alcubierre tensor jet has been stolen!

If Rhiannon and her Hivemates ever hope to leave, they must find and steal back what’s theirs. But far from home and among strangers, who can they trust? Will they be stuck on John Wayne for the rest of their lives?

REVIEW: I read both Queen and Commander and Hive and Heist within a week, and I was pleasantly entertained by the adventure that unfolds across several fascinating worlds and through space. Southard’s worlds are populated by a number of fascinating people and creations, and one of her greatest strengths is definitely her worldbuilding. Customs and cultures are diverse and reflective of many ways of life, and each is distinctive and unique. The interactions and challenges created by these differences are realistic and provide an interesting context in which the greater plot occurs.
At times it seemed there was too much repetition and it felt a bit as though Southard wanted to be very, very sure the reader understood every detail of something, rather than trusting the reader’s imagination to fill in gaps and understand characters’ motivations and the impact their actions would have on one another. There was quite a bit of head-hopping, which made it difficult for me personally to connect to some of the characters, and at times it seemed the plot dragged while aspects of character and plot were emphasized and explained in significant detail. However, for many readers this level of explanation and detail is enjoyable, and it certainly ensured that I did not have questions regarding why characters made certain choices.
I recommend these books for readers who enjoy fun and creative space adventuring and intriguing new cultures revealed in a a world filled with new frontiers and great adventures.
JanineAUTHOR BIO
Janine A. Southard writes and edits speculative fiction in between working on videogame projects. She’s attended more than the average number of universities, which she claims is a FEATURE. (“Oxford educated, but Californian at heart.”) She’s also lived and traveled in Europe, the United States, and Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle with a husband (and a cat) and sings with a Celtic band.
Author Links:

Killing Darlings

I’ve always heard this phrase, and I’m sure you’ve had, too. I was proud, because I’ve never created words I refused to change, and I’m glad I don’t grow overly attached to things and that editing, once I figure out what needs to be changed, is relatively painless in terms of losing what was (though the effort of figuring out what should be is quite painful indeed!).
Unfortunately, I’ve had a bit of a realization lately while working on revisions. Killing your darlings isn’t just about the cute guy that only shows up on page 2 and needs to go, or that gorgeous paragraph on life’s meaning you wrote that no longer has a home in this book. Killing your darlings is sometimes letting go of who you thought a character is and letting them be who they must.
Generally my characters arrive fairly well-formed. I often know what they would do before I know why, and I know things like the kind of place they live in or what they do for a job before I know what they’re trying to accomplish in a story. However, in my latest revisions, I found myself wrestling with how to make the story work and why all the chapters about my character at work didn’t seem to fit, despite how fun and hilarious writing them was and how neatly they meshed with my character’s personality.
It wasn’t the right job. In my head, Andee is a nanny, and it makes perfect sense and I have so many sweet or comical scenes pulled generously from my own experiences. It gives her and Conner some lovely moments and helps her see a different side of him.
But it’s just not right. I’ve begun reworking the book with her as an English tutor, and somewhere in the depths of the book the words are clicking together like they should be, puzzle pieces that belong, not just that can be forced together. I’m having to delete all my wonderful scenes, and it really does make me sad because they’re great parts. And maybe, in the end, the story would have worked that way. It wasn’t a bad book before, really, it just wasn’t great. I could have left her job alone, let Conner reveal his character in the same ways and Andee show hers as she did, and it would have been okay. But it wouldn’t have been perfect. I’m finding much deeper information about who the characters really are and what their goals and dreams are this way, and it’s proving to be the gateway toward fixing the biggest problem of the book, which was motivation. I’m losing a lot, but I’m gaining an answer to that giant question that wasn’t resolved before.
Killing your darlings is never fun. If it is, I’ve learned, they weren’t really your darlings. A darling isn’t a sentence you like, it’s a story component that’s personal and important and maybe even connected to your pride. But those are the things that have to be sacrificed in that search for the true story, the one you’ve been meaning to tell even when you’ve gone astray here and there. If you’re revising and feel like the pieces are just barely sticking to each other, or drafting and starting to suspect something’s not right, see if there’s anything you’re assuming – about the characters, the plot, the world – without really challenging yourself with other options.

Flash Fiction Friday

I’ve seen some people around doing these and I think they’re awesome – only I don’t post on Fridays. So, we are now having Flash Fiction Thursday, and if any of y’all can think of a better name, I shall herald your brilliance far and wide.
This one is called “10:50” and is both flash fiction and creative nonfiction.
10:50 – the haunted time of night. I was new to the realm of medications and toileting; my scrubs still had creases in them. One night, I came around a corner to a spectre, staring out at the darkened city.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
“Can’t you see them? They’re dancing,” she whispered, as if streetlights were holy things.
But this isn’t what I wish to forget.
I wish to leave behind the night a radio call came.
“127 passed. They’ll be here in 15 minutes.”
No living ghosts greeted me or saw things beyond as I waited in the lobby, but that mattered little this time.
They showed up around 10:30, classically mortician in their pallor and black suits: one male, jacketed, one female in a skirt. When I buzzed them in, the air felt colder.
It was 10:50 when the elevator chimed their return. As they came up the ramp, I spied a purple velvet bundle, jostling with each bump. I shuddered.
I buzzed them out as swiftly as possible, and have fought ever since to erase the memory of 127’s lifeless body, shrouded, bouncing through glass doors into night.
One thing, though. Death is natural and I faced many more. That’s not what I long to forget. I wish to eradicate the memory of 127 because I was afraid. And instead of facing my first death boldly, honoring a life, I shrank back.
That is what I do not wish to remember any longer.

Short and Sweet

Wednesday is hump day, the day you have to get through to get through the week. Well, that’s every day, but you know what I mean – once Wednesday is over, you’re pretty much guaranteed survival until the weekend. Or something like that.

Anyways, I’m actually on vacation as you read this post, but I do have a few things I want you to know.

1) You are courageous and strong.

2) There is no one, anywhere, who is who you are or does exactly what you do with exactly your knack and flair.

3) You are good – the way you are, quiet or outgoing, outdoorsy or indoorsy, blocked or with words flying from your fingers, you are just fine how you are.

But also:

4) You are capable of more. Whatever you are afraid of doesn’t have power over you, whatever you hesitate to do may change your life. Be wise, but be bold.

5) Someone, somewhere, needs you. Don’t be so caught in your own life that you miss the people on either side of you who need whatever love and joy you can find in your heart to give.

Be confident. Embrace beauty. Give all you have. Love without conditions. Seek peace.

That’s all, my friends.

What Matters

What Matters
It seems Mondays are for heavier topics lately, and today is going to be no exception. Don’t worry, I’ll pretend not to notice if you just want to flee out that side door there.
This isn’t actually as heavy a thing as it seems – I’m not going to talk about death or anything quite so dramatic. But I had a bit of a rough patch last week, in which my movement disorder was conquering everything from my ability to walk to my temper (red alert!) and it got me thinking.
I sometimes feel sorry for myself, and the fact that my life is never going to be the same, never going to be ordinary. I’ll never be able to trust my body, and many of the things I’ve always wanted to do are either going to be impossible, for safety reasons, or at least very difficult. And honestly, unless I’m just on a crying jag, I’ve accepted most of these things and I’m okay with it. I know that most of what I hope to achieve will be possible, and I always have new dreams to replace the old. But what matters most to me, above any of the other concerns, is that this disorder and everything it does in my life, matters.
I want to help people. I want the way I react to my disorder and the barriers it presents to mean something, not to me, but to the people around me. I want to prove that you are only held back by your beliefs about yourself, and that difficulty in your life shouldn’t change how you treat others or how much you give to the world. I want it all to matter. I’m accepting of whatever happens, as long as it matters.
You’ve chosen to write a book, at least I’m guessing that’s why you’re a reader of this blog. You’ve chosen a story, out of the thousands of ideas available to you, and you’re investing time and energy into it. Maybe years. Why have you chosen that story? What does it mean – to the characters, to you, to the world? Why does it matter?
Mattering isn’t reserved for thick works of literary genius or stories about death, sickness, and loss. Every story matters, each one is one of the threads that weave a world of diversity, beauty, and strength. I write about magical creatures, kids with homework, people falling in love, symphonies, ghosts, and secrets, but they are stories I tell for a reason. Some of the characters have trouble making friends. Some of them have disabilities, or are homeless, or know who they want to be and can’t figure out how to become that person. That’s why those stories matter.
So that’s your writing thought for today – if you’re blocked, or tired, struggling with the words or if they’re flowing freely – why do they matter? What is the heart of your story, and why does the world need to know it? Find what matters, and you just might find the words to say why.