Sunday, July 29, 2012

Short story review - Enki

As a palate cleanser between novels, I pounced on the opportunity to read the experimental 14 page short, Enki, by Literary+ member, Gabriel Fitzpatrick.

I really appreciate this kind of story. It takes a bit of daring to buck traditional story telling "rules" and a special talent to pull it off well. Gabriel does this with obviously passionate flare that compels the reader to continue. You get an encapsulated peep into the POV character's history in a taut conversational style. It begs the questions:  Who is he speaking to? How is this going to resolve? And wham! A neat twist that is quite satisfactory if a bit sudden and odd. This is far from mainstream, but that's what I love about it. Bravo, Mr. Fitzpatrick for bravely penning this unique work.

5 coffees out of 5 - cream and sugar added. ;)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book review - The Seeds

I finished reading The Seeds by Literary+ member J.D. Savage, (see his guest post here). I love anything that will get me through 30 to 40 minutes on my exercise machine so quickly and painlessly! ;)

The Seeds, a YA fantasy by Jeff Davis, is a quick-paced, fun look into the world of fairies. Jeff does an excellent job of creating a tiny world and making it seem larger than life.

The reader is instantly taken down into what I imagine is lightning bug size in the dramatic opening scene of a lone surviving soldier in a field of destruction. Agnus flies to the palace as quickly as possible and is met by two of the story's key figures--the princess generals--twins Varia, the cool headed diplomat, and Dartura, impulsive and hot-tempered. And we're instantly taken to the intrigues of palace life. As we get to know the main players through interaction and dialog, a lurking darkness threatens the peace of the kingdom.

Though the title of the book is The Seeds, the story is more about the characters, both "good" and "evil", and their struggle for power, of which the seeds are central in the fight. Agnus was by far my favorite character. I hope he gets more page time in the future. Some of the shouting matches between siblings were cringe-worthy as they would be in real life. The battle scenes were ferocious. Giant toothy moths! The enemy is interesting as is the implementation of magic and technology. The only thing that took me out of the story periodically was some wonky formatting here and there; I had to stop and figure out who was speaking. Not a huge deal, really, and easily corrected.

This looks to be the first in a series of stories, so even though the end isn't as satisfying as I'd like; it's to be expected, leaving things wide open for a continuation that I'm looking forward to reading. I have to know what happens next.

5 out of 5 coffees

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post by A.K. Flynn - The Self-Doubt Monster

Today, the lively A.K. Flynn, a member of Literary+, is a guest on my blog. She's addressing something that I still struggle with periodically--self-doubt. Read on for ten valuable tips on conquering this pesky little demon.

The Self-Doubt Monster
There are many authors that are high paid, sold millions of copies, and still they find themselves in the quandary of having self-doubt. One of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz. He had once said “I have more self-doubt than any writer I know.” Many writers have doubts and reservations regarding their literary works, and they're famous! So what does this mean for the dreamers, the enthusiasts, and the self-proclaimed novelists? Should the dreaded, dreary little monster known as self-doubt squash the opportunity to be able to spread their passions and creatively written works of art with the rest the world?

We never think that this little monster will get a hold of us, because we’re not famous and we’re not watched by the entire world in regards to our grammar and structure. (Think of Stephanie Meyer's literary upheaval.) The problem occurs when we see famous authors being criticized for their literary downfalls. It's difficult to think that our laboured efforts are really worth anything. Then there are the Bloggers who have written their work raw and bravely put it out on the Internet for the world to see, only to have negative comments tearing apart their effort and leaving it in nothing but self-doubt’s enervating wails.

Who would want to continue to write after that? The little monster finally got its earworm in your head; who are you kidding? You can’t write, look at how you placed your commas, they’re everywhere! Do you want me to splice you up? Because that’s how others will feel reading all these comma splices! Oh, did I mention your creativity for this novel was probably already about something that someone already had written and did it better than you! (Feisty little creature isn’t it?) After these types of thoughts you would feel like deleting every last word or shredding every last bit of what you’ve written, burn it, and then eat the ashes. (O.k. maybe not eat the ashes, but you would burn it, that’s probable.) However there are ways to seduce your little self-doubt monster, giving you the opportunity to grasp its mouth firmly while pinning it to your desk as you smirk with sheer enjoyment as it wriggles around trying to free itself. I will get to that in a minute!

I know for a fact that I had a very difficult time dealing with my self-doubts and when criticism hit the fan. I felt like all my self-doubts were valid and deleted three years of work and my blog five years ago. If I had continued to let that little monster get the best of me, I would not be enthralled in my passion of writing or Child and Youth Work, nor would I be writing this right now; so I want to give you a small guide that has helped me and many others tame this nasty little creature. (Self-doubts will never fully go away.) The reason I call this thing a monster or creature is because it takes on a life of its own—it can be your worst nightmare that creeps up on you or your motivation to complete your written works of art. (This can be applied in other areas of your life as well.)

  1. Remember you are not alone. Other people do have the same emotions that boil up when it comes to their fictional babies, they just may not express it.
  1. Self-doubt is part of the literary creative growth. If we never had doubt we wouldn’t be able to self-criticize our work, and we will never know if we are writing sub-par.
  1. Be kind to yourself. If you are harsh on yourself, your work will reflect that. Replace hard words with a different perspective. For example: My self-doubt’s are my insecurities showing up on paper, and no one will like it vs. I’m self-doubting this written piece because I want to make sure it is up to my standards. Doubting your work shows that you care about it!
  1. Write for yourself and not others. Once you start writing for others you lose your style, which can encapsulate the self-doubt because it’s not your literary niche. Write for you. There will always be people who love or hate your work, it's that person’s preferences, and we cannot control how someone may react to your writing.
  1. Welcome criticism like it is a kitten on your doorstep, but keep the claws at length. Criticism is something every writer must endure. It can be your worst enemy next to the self-doubt monster, but it will help you be more aware of your writing style and mindful of your mistakes to help improve your literary baby. However, poor criticism is not worth your while. To handle that, you simple say thank you for your concern; and I appreciate you reading my work. If they continue, do not give them the satisfaction by engaging.
  1. Surround yourself with other quirky, non-judgmental, and supportive writing groups, such as Literary+ and NaNoWriMo. In this kind of environment of positivity and support, it’s very hard to have the self-doubt monster whisper nasty things to you.
  1. Remember your accomplishments! They are important, writing a paragraph can be just as daunting for some as writing a novel, so relish in the moments of writing that first sentence as it is still an accomplishment to say the least.
  1. If you want to accomplish something, put mini attainable goals in place. You also cannot compare grapes to crepes. Do things at your own pace, and you will get to where you want to be.
  1. Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to tame the self-doubt monster and worries. When we’re feeling discouraged, gratitude is one of the quickest, most effective pick-me-ups around.
  1. Being a writer is all about process. It’s not about the celebratory party you have when you reach the summit of your career; it’s about the journey you experience along the way.
And as I always say “A procrastinator’s work is never done!”

More about A.K. Flynn:

Salutations! My Name is A.K. Flynn, I'm a 27 year old bright eyed bushy tailed Child and Youth Worker to be, who is very ambitious and absolutely in love with writing all sorts mind perplexing Fiction. I also tend to pour my emotions out on the screen as it  is the only thing that keeps my hectic life sane. As of right now my website and second novel seems to be a major focus and writing is my major outlet so it all pans out perfectly. Oh did I mention I was a redhead? Well now you know! So you know my writing has got to be good, because redheads are very spontaneous... (runs off into the distance babbling to herself)

G+ profile: A.K. Flynn

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The addiction

For this week's writing assignment for the Literary+ group, we were to address "writer's addiction." I'd originally thought to write about my love of coffee, but when I sat down to write, what you see below is what came off my fingertips. While not addressing a writerly addiction, per se, this is an apt metaphor for my relationship with writing. 288 words.

Light vanished along the edges of my vision, caught in the toxic space of conscious and unconscious. Aware, yet pushed back into the deep shadows where secrets scatter like rats before a scrapyard dog.

I fell. Fell into the abyss that lurks in the depths of the human soul; that place only glimpsed in dreams where the harbingers of strife and destruction, overcoming and conquering, delve willingly. I struggled briefly, but with desperate breath taken in heaving gasps, I cautiously reached out with open eyes to see that which should not be seen. I grasped the stuff of imagination and molded it with callous hands and a critical mind for pleasure or, perhaps more accurately, release.

Struggling with vice and wretched, crippling doubt, I surrendered it to the fires of hell. Waiting. Waiting until the formless shape captured heat to glowing. I peered into that brilliant pit and my eyes melted away as the pieces began to also melt away. Hot liquid tears poured down my face and I yanked it from hell’s fiery clutches. I stared at it resting in my burnt hands, so vivid and stirring.

My soul cried out in a sort of bereaved agony while I placed it on the anvil of my heart and pounded it with all my might. Tiny embers flew and snapped, biting and tearing. Little hunks of flesh sizzled away; I pounded still. I couldn’t stop until the vision transferred to that tangible treasure, sharp as any blade crafted. Steam and froth boiled up to quench the fire. I leaned on the trough. My sweat turning the water to brine.

“Why do you do it?”

I didn’t move. I stared down with blinded eyes. “I don’t know anything else.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guest Post by JD Savage - The Mom Filter

I'm very excited to have +JD Savage as a guest on my blog; part of +Literary+'s blog tour. JD is the author of The Seeds, an exciting story that takes place in the realm of fairies. I'm currently reading it now; my motivation to get on my exercise machine every day. Yes, it's that good. ;)

Today, JD discusses a topic that I've dealt with personally. 

                                    The Mom Filter
                          Writing So Others Don’t Judge

I spend a lot of time online. I check my Google Plus feed constantly. I check Facebook a few times a day. Even Twitter gets a look once or twice. As much as I like to simply lurk around and see what people are posting, I do feel compelled to comment now and then. When I do, I try to follow one simple rule. Don’t write anything that I wouldn’t want to appear, credited to me, on a billboard outside of my Mom’s house. It goes back to the lessons of childhood. The over-arching rule was to be conscious of what you do and say because it all reflects on your family.

It sounded like nonsense when I was a kid. Now that I have kids of my own, I realize that it’s true.

So that’s fine for online posting, but what about writing for real? Am I supposed to temper my speech? Do I need to rework that sentence so that it doesn’t contain a swear word? No! I’m a grown -up. I can write whatever I want. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it!

Well, that’s easy to say, but for some people, this can be one of those questions that pop up when you least expect it. You may have emboldened yourself to write about a controversial topic, but how close to the bone can you get without really offending someone who knows you? Maybe your Grandpa will be a bit put out to hear that a character that sounds a lot like him is the pedophile that drives your protagonist to the edge. Maybe your Aunt will feel a bit flustered when your character’s Aunt robs that liquor store to pay for her meth habit. Or maybe the ladies at church are simply unprepared to learn that you really write hard core porn.

Don’t try to write so that others don’t judge. It can’t be done. That’s what ‘others’ do. They judge. But, there is a secret to dealing with this unpleasant reality. Any time someone makes a snide or hurtful comment, not on how you write but what you write, tell them to kiss your ass.  Not too forceful, not too wishy-washy, this little nugget has helped me deflect more than once the slings and arrows of those I’ve offended. Sure, you’re burning bridges, but did you really want to go back to Uptightville?

Bill Cosby said it best. ”I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

You can’t please everyone. It’s impossible. You’re just going to have to try to please yourself. Make your story the best YOU think it can be. Somebody will still hate it, but that’s a given, no matter how great it is. I hated Moby Dick. I thought it was the most boring, drawn out yawn-fest ever to be celebrated as one of the greatest novels in human existence. I can hear Melville’s Mom now, “Did you have to make Ishmael so wordy, Darling? And why did he have to describe every fishhook on the boat?” And his reply, “Mother, you may kiss my posterior region, that which is just below my belt, but behind me. To be any other way would be too strange a case to make, for it would be unseemly to suggest any other course and I am extremely wordy!”

Ok, I hear you. I hear you saying, “But, what if it’s my Mom!? I can’t burn that bridge!” Ok, ok. Granted, there are some people you have to stay on the good side of, be it for familial love, respect or the possibility of inheritance.  If that’s the case, warn them before the book comes out. “Now, Mom, I gotta tell ya. There may be a few things in this that might sound a little coarse. You’re just going to have to trust me that it was necessary for the story.” If she’s anything like my Mom, that little bit of confidence you just shared will turn her from a pursed-lipped magistrate into your biggest defender. “My son/daughter, the visionary!” she’ll cry, before punching the lady who made that face when your name came up. Be prepared for the follow-up call, too. “She thought she was going to tell me what’s what! Well, I showed her!”

So, for most other people, tell them that you’re not sorry for what you do, and they can kiss your… well, you know. Give Mom a heads-up on your next work. Ask her advice. You’ll be able to turn her loose on the next reviewer who pans your work.

About The Seeds and its author:

This is not your grandmother's fairy tale. A fantasy novel that turns the genre on its head, "The Seeds" follows Trooper Angus Mayweather as he is thrust into the conflict faced by twin sisters Dartura & Varia, Generals of the Tarol Nation. As the sisters uncover a new threat from an old enemy, Angus must do what he can to help as the Tarol Nation faces all-out war.

Where to buy: The Seeds
Writer's Blog: Tarol Nation
G+ profile: JD Savage

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review-Ginnie Dare: Crimson Sands

Yesterday, I finished Literary+ member Scott Roche's book, Ginnie Dare: Crimson Sands.
Here's my review:

Ginnie Dare: the Crimson Sands by Scott Roche is a delightful YA sci-fi mystery for the whole family. The story opens with Ginnie, the daughter of a merchant, anticipating the Dare Company's next delivery. This gives an immediate look into the titular character and hooked me into the story.

Things start happening right away when Ginnie, who serves as the communications officer for her dad's ship, notices something's not quite right. As they approach their destination, they're met with silence. The mystery begins.

On the desert plant's surface, they find the colonists missing with everything set as if they were suddenly taken. A very eery atmosphere as the away team looks for clues as to where they might've gone. The story progresses at a quick pace with aliens, a mystery object, and confrontation with the military. Where have the colonists gone? What does the military want so badly? What are the alien's motives? Is the object the key to the mystery or just a pretty piece of art?

Scott does an excellent job of creating a colorful world with interesting characters. I read this while on my exercise machine, which made that chore go by very quickly. In fact, I'd often go a few more minutes to finish a chapter. While there are a few tiny things that may bother some readers, I understood the target audience for this story and easily overlooked them.

Conclusion: this is a fun, quick read that kids are sure to like as well as adults who enjoy a trip back to their youth. I hope there will be more adventures with this interesting young lady.

I give this 5 coffees out of 5.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Profanity in YA?

Kicking off LiteraryPlus's first ever blog tour is the insightful J.D. Savage, author of The Seeds. Today, he talks about Profanity in YA over on Scott Roche's blog. Be sure to check it out and share your opinion on this hot topic.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Bridge

This week's flashfiction assignment for the  +Literary+ group was to take the first line of our partner's WIP and write 300 words or less. I was paired with +Jim Hanson, who gave me a wonderfully challenging first line.

I'm pretty certain I went in the complete opposite direction of the original. In fact, I did a 180 from my usual fare, which after reading it over a few times, I didn't mind in the end. :)
(294 words)

Perched atop a hillock overlooking the north field and obscured by the sun at his back, Aldwin looked down at his field in horror. The last play of the game; Jimmy over-estimated the fly ball and missed the catch. The crowd groaned. Watching one boy, then another, and yet another cross home base was a bit like watching a slow motion scene in a bad movie.

Afterwards, his son Darren shuffled out from the dug-out. His head down and dragging his bat like he’d lost his best friend. Aldwin took a deep breath and pasted on a smile.

“Good game, son,” he said and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Not really. We sucked.”

“You almost went into overtime,” he pointed out.

“But we didn’t win.” Darren shrugged off his dad’s hand and ran ahead to the car.

‘Allison,’ he thought. ‘I wish you were here.’ It had become a silent mantra. Aldwin squared his shoulders and unlocked the car. Darren needed his mother; she always knew just what to say. Aldwin had been the disciplinarian of the family; his wife the comforter. Stepping into those uncomfortable shoes taught him just how inadequate he was at being a Dad.

“It was a good game,” he said again, feeling his ineptitude keenly.

Darren shifted in the seat and sighed.

On the drive home, the reflection of his son’s dejected face in the window made his heart ache. “You played well.”

“Not good enough,” the twelve year old mumbled. “I wanted to win.”

“Then do it.”

Darren snapped his head around. “Huh?”

“Next time, win.”

“Dad,” Darren said as if speaking to an ignoramus. “Baseball’s a team sport.”



Aldwin smiled at his son and for the first time in a long time, Darren smiled back.