25 March 2015

Beast Charming-What a Hottie

Today I'm interviewing the ever witty Jennifer Wardell.
You may poke her and make fun of her, because quite frankly, she can take it.
Just read one of her books, and you'll see.
You'll laugh and you'll cry-because you're laughing so hard.




Beast Charming is almost here!
If you've ever loved a boy, you know that they're both beastly and charming. It's okay to want to smack them.

Jennifer will now answer my random questions:

If you could start your day the exact same way every day for the rest of your life, how would you start it?

I'd have a nice, leisurely morning lazing about in bed, a stack of both new and beloved books next to me and some poor soul delivering me breakfast.

A Capella music, ya or nay? Discuss.

I've got nothing but love and admiration for people who can make beautiful music without the aid of a backup melody. The groups that add vocal rhythms using sounds can get so complex that you can't tell there aren't any instruments when you listen to the song.

What color would you paint the outside of your dream house?

I'd make it so I could change the house's color according to how I was feeling at a particular moment. Sometimes I want a classy gray house, but other times I want a purple house covered in stars.

What is your favorite foot attire?

Unless the ground might make my feet hurt, I prefer to go barefoot whenever I have the opportunity. Shoes and socks are useful, but they're also extremely confining.

What is your preferred writing ensemble?

I'll write in nearly anything – I have a notebook in my purse if inspiration hits me when I'm away from my laptop – but my ideal writing outfit is pajama pants and a nice, comfortable t-shirt (preferably with some sort of witticism on it). That way, there's nothing to distract me from what's going on inside my head.

You probably get this a lot, but if you got sucked into a fairy tale, which one would be your secret dream come true? What character would you play? (I know people who want to be the Evil Queen, I'm just sayin'.)

Oh, there are so many stories I'd love to be sucked into, but whatever one it was I'd want to be a side character like the fairy godmother or mysterious old woman by the side of the road. Even the Evil Queen is usually stuck in one spot, fulfilling her "destiny," but as a side character I could go around and completely mess everything up for the better. I could give the Evil Queen inside intel if I decided I liked her better than the protagonist, or I could keep the serving girl from marrying the idiot prince and let her run off with the farm boy she's secretly in love with anyway.

Have you had a lot of awkward moments in your life? Has this attributed to all of the fantastically awkward moments that your characters go through?

My life seems to be made entirely of awkward moments. Even on those rare occasions when I seem vaguely calm, cool and collected on the outside, inside I am always absolutely certain that I am about five seconds away from doing something mortally embarrassing.

My characters end up in those kind of situations so often because I want to imagine that even totally awkward dorks like me could still be heroes. Also, it always helps to realize that you're not the biggest screw-up in the world, and if I can give that to my readers then I've done my good deed for the day.

Which awkward moment are you particularly proud of? (In your books, sheesh.)

There are so many moments that it's hard to pick just one, but early on in "Beast Charming" Beauty tries to have a dramatic moment and instead gets completely lost in the woods around the castle. There's something really funny to me about having all that momentum – the perfect argument planned, righteous indignation firmly on your side – and not getting to do anything with it because you're not sure which way is north.

Why Beast Charming? What drew you to this story?

I always loved "Beauty and the Beast," but the unspoken message that Beast needed to be "fixed" by someone better than he was bothered me. Most of us are messed up and/or damaged in some way, and we should be saving each other rather than waiting for some mythical perfect person to come along and do the job.

Tease us. Why will we love this story?

Because the hero gets the happily ever after and supporting characters get all the best lines, and so when you make a supporting character the hero you get the best of both worlds. Also, sometimes complete disaster can be absolutely hilarious, and we all know that the butler is usually the one who's secretly running the entire show. 

You see? Read it, you won't regret it!


And if you're now dying to stalk Jennifer, here's how you can do it: (I believe she encourages the stalking But be prepared, she might fight back.)

Jennifer's



Oh, and don't forget the Rafflecopter giveaway. Free book stuff? Yes please.



23 March 2015

Jo vs. Nature...Nature is Winning

I really, really do.

As a kid, I never had to do yard work. My dad did it all. Maybe my parents had agreed early on in their marriage, that mom would take care of the house and dad was in charge of the yard. Or maybe that was the expectation of the time—they’ve been married for over 50 years. Either way, yard work never ended up as one of my chores.

Okay, there was a brief stint where I did mow the lawn, but that’s like extreme vacuuming, so I don’t really count it as yard work.

No, yard work is the weeding and the edging and the trimming and the watering and the clipping and the seeding and the tilling and the spraying…and all that jazz. Which isn’t at all jazzy.

This post is making me sound like I hate nature. I don’t hate nature, I hate having to beat it back every three seconds. Because I swear, I’ll weed a section of a flower bed, get a drink of water, go back for more weeding and little, green shoots have already started to invade the six square inches that I just cleaned out.



Weeds are like dust, you get rid of them, but they’re not gone, they’re just lurking nearby, waiting to settle back into their invasive lives. My life.

For instance, last weekend trimmed our peach tree.

This tree is a survivor. In the two falls that I’ve lived in this house, it has produced several large totes full of peaches. Big, juicy, delicious peaches.  We’ve never watered it. We’ve never sprayed it. We’ve never trimmed it. It’s like the cat of trees.

Well, I figured since last year we had to prop a bunch of the branches up—because there were so many peaches on them—that I would trim it.

First off, ask four people how to trim a peach tree and you’ll get four different answers. Make it look like a square. Only trim branches that poke up. Only trim branches that poke down. Cut off all small branches and make it start afresh. Trim it in the fall. Do it in the spring. Do it at night…okay, no one said that I had to trim the tree during the night, but you get what I mean.

I still have tendonitis in my right elbow, so I’m not supposed to use my right hand to trim branches, nor am I supposed to use the double handed trimmers. That leaves lefty and a pair a clippers that have never worked together before.

If anyone had been watching I imagine that for a few minutes, it looked as if the tree and I were having a staring contest. There should have been dramatic, whistle music. The wind rustled the branches. I narrowed my eyes. A new blossom burst open. I flexed my semi-special left hand fingers around the clippers.

After the standoff, I went in.

Remember, this tree hasn’t been cut back in at least three years. Maybe more.

I started on the outskirts, trimming anything that looked dead. I started near the bottom, because I’m short. The clippers and my left hand finally figured out a system that worked. 

I should have worn safety glasses. Lucky for my hands, I had gloves on. My arms got all scratched up when the tree repeatedly expressed its displeasure at being assaulted. It dumped pollen all over me in an attempt to breed. Or maybe that’s its version of throwing poo. A lone bee decided that the pollen on me was more attractive than that in the hundreds of blossoms still on the tree. Apparently the tree thinks sticking branches in my hair is hilarious.

Oh, and just in case anyone is wondering, the husband conveniently got an emergency call from his office and had to do an hour and a half of work from home.

I’m going to have a little chat with his boss, who apparently also got out of yard work, about the whole incident.

It took a while, but I did get the dang tree trimmed. It sort of looks like a square. Ish. There are lovely, pink blossoms on it, so it looks adorable.

I felt a momentary swell of pride and accomplishment when I was finished, but then I turned around and saw the pile of branches that I then had to wrestle into the garbage can. Not to mention getting the garbage can into the back yard through a door that’s just a tiny bit too small for it.

It never ends!

On the bright side, it only took us an hour to weed the flower bed. It looks good. We used our first installment of Weed & Feed. We might actually get more grass than weeds in our yard this year. I think we got rid of the gopher.

No, this post isn't at all about writing. It's about a very stubborn character (me) who refuses to change their stance on an issue that shouldn't be a big deal. All characters need quirks, right?

Not shockingly, I still hate yard work.

16 March 2015

Breaking Down the Trilogy


The other day I got to be a guest speaker in a high school creative writing class. During the question and answer session, one of the students asked me how I managed to pull my trilogy series for New Sight apart into a plot for three separate books.

To be honest, I’d never thought of the New Sight story as just one book, so I’d never had his dilemma—which seemed to be that his story was too big for one book, so it needed to be partitioned into three.

My answer was clumsy, but in essence what I’m about to type.

How should the progression of a trilogy go?

I’m not an expert—in oh so many things—but I’m good at stealing, er learning from others. In this case, I always go back to the original Star Wars series. For me, they are a good balance for a trilogy. I’m not sure if they are the trope or of they just used all of the tropes. Doesn’t matter, we’re going to chat about them today.




The simple and overall plot of Episodes 4-6 is that Luke has to take down the Empire. (I’m ignoring Anakin’s story for now. Mostly because I can.) To take him from moisture farming nephew to a Jedi Knight capable of convincing his no-good father that he needs to toss the Emperor out the air lock (ish) is a bit much for a two hour film. Plus, Han Solo wouldn’t have gotten nearly enough screen time, and there wouldn’t be nearly enough C3P-O comic relief moments. And we needed all of the other characters to take down the military might of the Empire while Luke takes care of the Emperor/Daddy issue.

So how do you put breaking points in a monster like this?

Let’s look.

Luke is a farm boy. The Emperor is a Sith Lord. There’s no way that Luke is getting anywhere near him without being able to use the Force. In order to become a Jedi and gain control over the Force, he needs to know what the Force is, what it does and that he can trust it.

In A New Hope, Luke is introduced to the Force by the crazy guy in the desert, he gets tossed in with the rebellion (those other characters I was mentioning), runs like mad from Darth Vader, and he is urged by the now disembodied voice of the desert dude to use the Force to blow the Death Star. Which he does. So it’s a set-up movie, but it doesn’t beat the audience over the head like many of today’s origin stories do.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is sent off to learn more about the Force—which he has obviously been working on—by his dead mentor’s ghost thing. His rebellion buddies get to tangle with the tangible bad guy while Luke runs around a smelly swamp lifting rocks and eating dirt. Luke has to gain these skills in order to go up against the Daddy/Emperor combo. Han and Leia fall in love. At the end, Luke has faced Darth Vader, and he knows all of the family secrets. He also kind of lost the fight with his dad, but he is determined to go after his friend, Han. So he’s learned about the Force, but he’s also learned what’s truly important—friends, loyalty and caring about others.

That sets him up for Return of the Jedi.  Luke has his Force skills, he’s in it deep with the Rebellion, he’s heading up the rescue party for Han and he’s mentally preparing for the fight he knows is coming. With all of that, he’s as ready as he can be to go after the big goal and take down the Emperor. And in the end, he doesn’t actually strike the Emperor down, but instead uses the Force and the loyalty and caring about others that he learned in the first two movies to NOT turn to the dark side. Which looks pretty painful, if you ask me.This brings good old Anakin (aka stupid head) out of his twenty year funk and gives him the man parts to toss the old man out like yesterday’s trash.

That’s what I told the class the other day. Use each book to bolster the main character’s set of skills and tools so that they are ready for the big fight at the end of the series.

What do you think? Do you agree? Am I way off?


02 March 2015

So He's a Vampire, So What?

A while ago I volunteered to judge for a writing contest. The first 500 words of a novel, to be precise. Most had fantastic ideas, most had decent hooks, some had good conflicts, a couple had great voices and most were clean as far as grammar and spelling go. However, I can say that every single one of them were lacking in (or completely lacked) one, very important thing.

The author hadn't given me a reason to invest my time or emotions into the characters.

Just how important is this?

Well, let's go back through my blog/ranting. What doesn't (usually) make a good beginning?

Starting in the middle of action.
Not letting the reader settle into the story.
Pacing that gives the reader whiplash.
A weak voice.

Now most of these can be salvaged, if the author gives the reader characters to care about.

The guy in a fight to the death can be interesting if we find out right up front that he is fighting to keep his daughter from being sold as a sex slave.

The cabin boy on the boat in the middle of a storm can't get swept overboard because he knows the secret of how to stop his now insane captain from raising a sea monster that will destroy the kingdom. Oh, and the captain is his father.

A vampire attacks a little girl, but one suck of blood and he realizes that she's poisoned him and now he's her slave. Just who is the bad guy here?



Stories are about change. And the most important arc of a story—as I've just recently been reminded of—is how the main character changes. They start out with a weakness that the reader picks up on near the beginning. The author takes the character through their own personal hell—sometimes kicking and screaming—until they realize that they need to change. They must change or they can't save the girl, save the world or even save themselves.

The best way to show a change is to show what things are like before anything new happens. This is another point where the stories I judges lacked. Not one of them took the time to show what a normal day looked like to the main character. It can take a few sentences to a few chapters, depending on your story, but this must be a part of the beginning of the book.

Vincent was your everyday, normal vampire—sucking blood, harassing the weak humans and partying with his rich buddies –until he makes the mistake of attacking that little girl who poisoned him. He had a feeling he shouldn't have done it, but she smelled soooo good. Now he has to decide if staying alive is important enough to bring down his own people, or if he will sacrifice his immortality to keep the vampire race from being wiped out.

If Vincent cares about the world around him before this, then the sacrifices he has to make won't be big enough to write a whole story about. If he doesn't care about his own skin then it doesn't matter when his new master sends him to kill the vampire leaders. Oh, and one of the leaders should be a relative he doesn't. That always makes things interesting.

Last year I went to a Comic Con panel titled “Why we love Joss Whedon.” The overwhelming response was that he creates awesome characters. Characters are why most readers keep reading. Give the reader enough about the characters to make them care. That is all.

What are some of your favorite characters and why?



23 February 2015

The Voice-No, Not the Show

The voice of a story or a character is better experienced than explained. So I picked a few from the seven books I pulled off the shelf.

Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy
Gordon Edgley's sudden death came as a shock to everyone—not least himself. One moment he was in his study, seven words into the twenty-fifth sentence of the final chapter of his new book And the Darkness Rained upon Them, and the next he was dead. A tragic loss, his mind echoed numbly as he slipped away.

Already I know that this is going to be a fun romp. This is not the main character, so we don't have a character voice, but the voice of the story. If I don't chuckle at least once per chapter in this book I will be very disappointed. If I want humor, fun and adventure, I'm in the right place.

Mistborn, by Bradon Sanderson
Ash fell from the sky.
Vin watched the downy flakes drift through the air. Leisurely. Careless. Free. The puffs of soot fell like black snowflakes, descending upon the dark city of Luthadel. They drifted in corners, blowing in the breeze and curling in tiny whirlwinds over the cobblestones. They seemed so uncaring. What would that be like?

I've got five words for this one: Dark, dreary, deep, precipice and beautiful.
The tone is dark, the world dreary, as is the character's tone. Both the writing and the point of view that the character is looking out from is deep, thoughtful and bleak. Still, I already feel like Vin, whomever she is, is about to be thrust onto a precipice of her life, one that will change her. The writing is also beautiful, which means I'm in for a real treat as a reader.

Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein
I always get the shakes before a drop. I've had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can't really be afraid. The ship's psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn't fear, it isn't anything important—it's just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.
I couldn't say about that; I've never been a race horse. But the fact is: I'm scared silly, every time.

Here we have the brutal honestly of a first person point of view. This one dives straight to the heart of every reader on the planet, because who hasn't been scared even after someone else has told them there's nothing to worry about? Dad says there aren't monsters under the bed, but that doesn't stop my pounding heart each night as I try to go to sleep and hear the creaking of the floorboards. Just these first few lines let me know that whatever this book is about, I'm going to understand it intimately, because the character has already established that he might be afraid of the drop, but he's not afraid to be honest with himself.

With each of these examples, I already know how I will feel when I'm reading these stories. Readers are often looking for a specific emotional experience as they read, and the beginning of your story should give them a taste for what is coming.

This is one of the biggest factors in selling a story, it is also the mark of an author that has put in a great deal of effort toward their craft.

What novel have you read that has a voice that drew you in right away?


Next time: So He's a Vampire, so What?

16 February 2015

Pacing-Easy Tiger

Last time I typed about starting a novel in the middle of an action scene. Not the best idea. It can work—all rules can be twisted or ignored if you're good—but there are more intriguing and solid ways to being a story.

Years ago I was at a writing conference, and I signed up for a review of the first five pages of my manuscript by two almost professional authors and a small group of my peers. I was terrified, but I did it anyway.

My entry started out with my cast of swaggering, bad a** characters infiltrating the temple of the snake god, in the middle of the jungle. There was action, there was humor, there was a guy in cursed, pastel, chaos warrior armor with an ax named Daisy. It was awesome. It really was.

But it wasn't a good start. I learned most of what I typed about last time from this little group. Even so, I'm still tempted to launch into a story just like I do toward just-out-of-the-oven brownies.

Out of the way, awesomeness coming through!

For a long time, I still wanted serious action at the beginning of my stories. But I knew better, so I would toss in a little about what was going on—just enough not to totally confuse the reader—and then I would go to action. Because that's where the awesome lies.

Again, there are better ways.

The pacing of a story is very important, and the pacing of each scene is even more so. Especially the beginning.

The goal, as I mentioned last post, is to keep the reader reading. Simple, right? So things need to move fast so the reader doesn't get bored. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

One of the books I pulled out to read the first 500 words was I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells.

The main character of this book believes he exhibits all of the attributes of a serial killer, and he does. You might think it would start out with him thinking dark thought and drawing us in with the horror element of the story. Instead, it starts out in a mortuary, where the main character pseudo works. The scene is slow, but as a reader I get pulled in and immersed before I even realize that ten pages has passed.

Why, you ask? Because Mr. Wells sets the tone and the mood for most of the book with this opening scene. The main character is disturbed, but he does his best to keep himself on a normal track. He is obsessed with death—he practically worships it—and this opening scene shows the reader what the main problem of the character arc is going to be. I don't care that the scene is him and his aunt washing the body of a dead woman from the small town they live in. Not very action packed, but more, and better, is that I now care about the character and his problem. And the author allowed me, the reader, the opportunity to settle into the scene, the character and the beginning of the story.

Most of the other beginnings I read exhibited a similar feel. Slow and quiet, but intriguing. And then the author will twist something that makes me go, “Wait, what?”

And then I keep reading. Because I don't want to stop.

Objective obtained.

What are your favorite beginnings?



Next time: The Voice (No, Not the Show)

11 February 2015

Defiance

Hello all. Today we have the lovely and talented (and all around awesome) Adrienne Monson visiting. The second book in her vampire trilogy, Defiance, is almost here!

Be nice to her. Because I said so.



What did you have for breakfast this morning. What do you wish you would have had?
Raw almonds. Wish I could have had a Bavarian cream doughnut! Alas, I’m not young anymore… but I have a vivid imagination. So, it’s almost like I had one anyway.

What is your favorite accessory? How many do you own? What are you eying next?
Earrings! No idea how many pairs I own. I’d love to get a pair of Game of Throne dragon ones!

Toothpaste: gel or paste? Discuss.
Did you know you can make your own toothpaste with baking soda? You can also whiten your teeth with hydrogen peroxide! I don’t do any of these thing – effort factor, ya know? But to answer your question, don’t care!

Did you dream about vampires last night? If not, why not?
Lol. No. Guess I’ve already had my feel of vampire dreams. Now is time to move onto to other things… like hybrids or something. ;)

What has been the most challenging part of writing book 2? Or did it just magically appear on your computer one day?
Actually writing it was the challenge! I knew book one and three, but wasn’t sure how I’d bridge them with book two. However, now that I’ve written the whole trilogy, I think book two is my favorite!

What is your favorite aspect of the world you've created for this series?
I can only pick one? Hmm… I guess  enjoy putting a new spin on vampires. They’re still somewhat traditional, but I love making them unique to my imagination.

Of all the scenes you've written for this book, which are you the most proud of?
It’s always the dark scenes I like to write. In this case, the one towards the end with Samantha and Nik. I’d love to say more, but can’t without major spoilers.

Why vampires? Why not unicorns or werewolves or aliens? Tell us why you love them the most. So we can judge you.
What can I say? I was obsessed with them since I was eleven. I had to finally get them out of my system! At least, I had to start with them. There will be plenty of other obsessions I’ll get around to writing as well. J

In 250 words or less, tell us about your story like it is one of your children. Favorite story about it, best picture you have of it, the time you didn't kill it. That sort of thing.
It’s impossible to accomplish all that in under 250 words! But I can tell you, it IS like having a kid. You’re so excited about its conception, and it takes so much work to bring it into the world. But then, it goes in a different direction than you’d planned and you have to move with it. You have to work with it and take a lot of time and patience to rewrite and revise and make it perfect, and sometimes it won’t listen to you. But it’s even better than you planned!
My favorite story about it involves more spoilers, so I’m just going to say that Samantha surprised me as I wrote her character. I had everyone else pegged pretty well, but Samantha decided she wanted to be different than I’d originally intended. And I was so happy to have more of Rinwa in this book. She makes me smile!

Describe the feeling you get when you hold your book in your hands. Make us all jealous!

It’s the best! You think you’re happy when you finally finish the manuscript. Then, you’re ecstatic when you land a publishing contract. But seriously, holding the physical book in your hands and putting it on your bookshelf is total nirvana.  

So there you go!



You can stalk Adrienne here: