Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The sequel to Divergent, this book picks up one hour after the first book ends.  No catch-up to wade through, no exposition of what happened between the end of one book and the beginning of the next, just BAM! Right into the story!

Just like Divergent, this book carried great tension with excellent character development that only irritated me because they came across as real people who simply refused to learn their lesson the first time.  But since they DO grow as characters, their mistakes only add to the overall growth, and the result is satisfying.

Of course, like Divergent, this book does struggle with a handful of scenes where the intended emotion and motivation of the protagonist aren't as clear as I would like, but they're not painful or bad.  Simply unclear.

As far as this book goes, I STRONGLY recommend it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

I read two books this weekend.  Well, sort of.  I started DIVERGENT a couple of weeks ago, got busy, and read about a chapter a night until the day before Thanksgiving.  Then I stayed up all night to finish it!  Again, sort of.  I read until I remembered that I had to get up, and then wished I'd stayed up all night to finish the book.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I NEVER give up a week of writing and video-gaming just to read.  I mean, I love reading, but I have reading time set aside.  I typically "squeeze" my reading into that time.  Unless I REALLY love a book!

It's a post-apocalyptic dystopian story where all of society is split up into five factions that each focus on one character trait that they believe makes humanity better.  The characters are well written, three-dimensional, and likable, even with their flaws.

Like THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, it's written in first-person POV, and in present tense.  And that's actually my only real complaint.  I've never been a fan of present tense writing, not because it's bad, but simply because it's not my preference.  Overall, though, it's a great, fast read, and except for two or three paragraphs here and there where the protagonist's motives, motivations, and/or emotions are unclear, it's extremely engaging.

So go get this book as soon as you can!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Broken Blogger and Book Reviews

Last week, I meant to put up three posts.  In fact, I even published two.  But Blogger decided to save the second one as a draft, even after I confirmed that it was published.  Friday being the day after Thanksgiving, and with a broken blog that I didn't feel like messing with, I decided to take a long weekend.

But it wasn't unproductive!  I reached the 30k word mark in my current WiP, finished reading not one, but TWO books (and that's a big deal for me because I'm not a fast reader), and I got to see some friends who I haven't seen in over a year!

And speaking of two books, I will review each of them this week.  One on Wednesday, the other on Friday.  I'll see you then!

But of course I have to ask, how did your Thanksgiving go?  Anything happen during or after the holiday that you're thankful for?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Focus and Motivation

I think, no matter what, it's important to stay busy.  Not crazy busy, but definitely active.  Don't get me wrong: I love taking a day off now and then, and sometimes all I want to do is drink a beer and watch TV.  But I guarantee you that J.K. Rowling never looked at her career and though, "You know, I wish I hadn't missed all those episodes of Downton Abbey."  (NOTE: I have no idea what she does or does not watch on T.V.  I'm just picking people and shows at random, here.)  Sure, there are great shows out there, and they may be very inspiring, but if the option is either write a chapter in your book or catch up on America's Next Top Model, which one is going to bring you closer to your career goal?

Recently, I've discovered that when I'm staying busy, I spend more time on my writing, even if I'm spending more time on my day job, quality time with my wife (even though that isn't taking up NEARLY as much of my time as I'd like due to our schedules), and even my new hobby of homebrewing.

This isn't to say I'm more motivated than ever.  In fact, my motivation is on a more intense roller-coaster than ever.  There are days when I'm excited to get up and write as much as I can before work, and then I get home and want to get even more writing done before bed.  But there are many days where I just want to sit around and just forget about this crazy writing dream.

But those tend to be some of my more productive days when it comes to the quality of writing I get on the page.

I guess my point in all of this is that proper time management plus determined focus can often times make up for a lack of "motivation."  Those times when we feel like giving up, or we just don't care that day.  Focus is what's needed when we don't "feel" like it.  And with focus, we develop the necessary time management skills to build the DETERMINATION to move forward, especially when the motivation just isn't there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holiday Reminder

As Thanksgiving approaches in just over a week, I want to remind everyone that we're still raising money for Child's Play.  They're in the middle of their holiday fundraising drive, and I'd love to see them beat last year's numbers.  So please head over to their site (link is to your right), and donate a couple of bucks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What was I THINKING?

I gave up coffee for almost a month, and then took up drinking it again this morning.  The PLAN was to make sure I didn't get dependent on the caffeine again (the deprivation headaches seriously sucked).  But I started off with a dark French roast.

I know, crazy, right?  I figured it would be easier on my stomach than a more acidic light roast.  But I guess it wasn't.  I'm feeling the effects, now, and I really wish I'd watered it down more and used more cream.

But that's life.  Sometimes we make decisions that, while not bad, aren't necessarily the best.  So that's my big "What was I thinking?" moment of the week.  What's yours?  Any pearls of wisdom to share?  And how can we, as writers, learn from these moments?

Friday, November 09, 2012

I'm a MAN!

I did plumbing work around the house this week.  And it was successful!  That's right: this MAN can change out plumbing fixtures in his own house.  Without professional help.

Sure, it took three trips to the hardware store over the course of four hours, but I did it.  And it makes me proud.  I keep proving to myself that I really am an adult.  I don't know how I feel about that, but the longer I live, the more secure in my adulthood I become.

It took me a while to get to that point (though it happened years ago).  But one morning, I looked around, realized I was in charge of my own life, responsible for someone else (my wife–but not in a dominant way–I just mean that my choices have to be made with her in mind), and my choices are bettering my life.

So what do you do, or what have you done, that makes you feel like a MAN or a WOMAN!??!  This is a time to brag.  Be proud of your success.  And success that is achieved without help from anyone!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Sleep Deprivation

Insomnia is no fun.  It hits me now and then, and it's always on a night before I can't call in sick to work.  Today I worked on less than an hour of sleep, and I never sank to a REM cycle.

I have no idea how genuine insomniacs cope with that.  I barely survived the day, and it's going to take all of my remaining strength to get some writing done tonight.

Hence the short post (again!).  :)

Have a great week.  See you Friday.

Monday, November 05, 2012

NaNo Advice

Are you new to writing?  Did you see the Twitterverse all-a-twitter about this National Novel Writing Month?  Yes?

Then boy do I have some advice for you!  First off: don't give up!  By the time you reach November 20th, chances are life will bog you down with many other projects that have to be completed.  That may or may not get in the way of reaching the magical 50k mark.  If that happens, stick with it, anyway.  Take more time to finish that first draft.  Nothing is more satisfying.

Second: DON'T send your work out to agents.  This is an absolute No-No!  Why?  Because once you reach "The End," it's time to revise and edit.  Revise and EDIT!  It's something all of us have to do.

Third: Chances are, 50k won't be long enough.  Unless you're writing for readers who are 13 and younger.  It's a simple fact (but there are ALWAYS exceptions) that shorter books have less things that happen in them.  Young Adult and Adult readers typically want more intricate plots.  Therefore, those books sell better.  Therefore, agents and publishers are more willing to look at books with a higher word-count.  So if you reach 50k and the book isn't "done" yet, keep writing!

Fourth: Writing can be fun, but it is work.  Expect to work VERY hard at it.

Fifth: Have high expectations, but be as realistic as possible.  If this is your first foray into the writing world, it's important to know that it'll most likely be at least five years before you get an agent.  Again, there are exceptions, but most of the people I know who are published all worked at minimum a half-decade before they took the next step toward professional authorship.  Don't get discouraged.  If this is what you want to do, stick it out.  I've been doing this for nearly 14 years, and I'm still working on getting an agent.

Sixth: Let's say you get done revising and editing.  You're sending out to agents and publishers, and they all turn you down.  Not a happy thought, but it happens more often than not.  Be VERY careful before you go to a local printer to self-publish.  Don't just throw it out there.  If no one is purchasing it inside the industry, there may be a very good reason for that.  You should be getting advice from critique groups while you edit and revise.  Before you go to the self-publish route, send your book back to them.  Get more beta readers to look through it.  And then go to as many industry insider blogs as you can and research what it takes to be successful at self-publication.  DON'T listen to the places that want to sell you self-pub services.  They'll either be limited with info, or they'll put dollar-signs in your eyes when it's really going to cost you more money than you can afford could tank your career before it starts.  So be careful, but DON'T throw it away as an option.

Seventh, and I can't stress this enough: KEEP WRITING!  You hit "The End," you finish rewrites, revisions, and edits.  WHILE you're querying, start a new book.  Seriously.  RIGHT AWAY!

Eighth and final point: Be prepared (and don't be afraid) to throw that first book away.  You do your ABSOLUTE best with that first project, but for some reason, you can't get it out into the world.  You don't want to put the effort into self-publishing.  But this is your baby!  The hardest lesson I've ever learned is to simply GET OVER IT.  I did it with four books already, and the most recent one, the best book I'd written up to that point, wasn't getting anyone's attention.  So I wrote another book.  Edited it, got it critiqued, and then started sending it out.  And then I went BACK to that book.  It was AWFUL.  So I threw it out.  I didn't realize why it bothered me until I wrote another book.  And now I know what I need to do to make that story-world into a delightful story.

This book is not your baby.  It's the first birdhouse you ever built in shop-class.  Chances are, it functions as a book, looks like a book, but if no one wants to nest in it, let it go.  Try again.  And learn from that first attempt.

And have FUN!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Charity of the Month: Child's Play Charity

Just like last month, I'm encouraging all of you to head over to Child's PlayNovember officially starts their fundraising season, and they have a huge goal to meet if they want to exceed last year's donations.

They also have links to local hospitals' Amazon wishlists for items they would like to have on hand for children stuck at the hospital over Christmas (and other times throughout the year).

Let's help them reach their goal.  Give kids some fun in their time of difficulty.  And have a great month!