Chromosomes, by Ashleigh Reynolds

8_7_17 Chromosomes

4 stars

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If you’re into paranormal/science-fiction-type romances that follow nearly every trope set down by the genre, Chromosomes is for you.

 

Emma’s kidnapped and held at a mysterious facility, only to be broken out by one of the residents. Holden, better known as “Subject Seven” is a very dangerous person, and his relationship with Emma begins for one reason, and one reason only. Of course, that changes during the course of their escape.

 

Now, I’ll start by saying that the narrative was very well-written. An excellent first-person tone was maintained throughout. For the most part, I loved the way Emma’s personality was constructed. She was smart, sassy, and just generally likeable. To be honest, all the character personalities were done well. I liked the way their individual stories progressed. Even their development was on-point. Overall conflict was external, but the majority of the driving conflict was internal. It allowed the novel to focus more on the characters and properly develop them.

 

What bothered me about Emma’s character was that she was the classic “damsel in distress.” She was always being saved, being knocked out, and constantly had to be protected. It got a little repetitive. To be honest, aside from the role she was required to play by the facility, it felt like she didn’t do a whole lot. She was there strictly for Holden and his development. Holden’s character wasn’t free of tropey standards, either. While the story was told from Emma’s point of view, it felt like his story, not hers. He was the main focus of everything, not her, regardless of how important she was made out to be.

 

The romance aspect wasn’t bad. Again, followed the classic formula, but was better written than quite a few I’ve read. Because of that, progression was easily predictable, so the climax and resolution wasn’t much of a stunning surprise. Their relationship, all things considered, leaned more on the healthy side. That was definitely a point in their favor.

 

A sequel is a certainty. I can say that things were written well enough that I want to find out what happens. There’s a few different routes that follow-ups could take. They could turn out to be pretty epic if genre shackles could be broken.

 

The novel itself and the story weren’t inherently bad. They just lacked some originality. Character personalities really helped make up for weaker areas. The writing style was excellent and very enjoyable. Writing in first person is a huge strength of the author, something I wish I could say for a lot of novels.

 

Buy it here!

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Writing Advice as Given by Stephen King

Writing’s not easy, no matter how many people say it is. Chances are, the people who believe that are struggling to write a 1,000 word essay while you’re stuck on the ending of a 75,000 word novel. 

You’re plagued by self-doubt and self-consciousness. A little troll in your ear telling you that your work isn’t good enough, that no one’s ever going to read it. That first rough draft’s been sitting for months because…what’s the point?

Let’s take a moment and see what words of encouragement the master can offer us, hm?

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?” (I highly recommend the Hemingway Editor for this)

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?” (Again, Hemingway Editor is a godsend) 

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.” “While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all. “

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”

7. Read, read, read. “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “Most exercise facilities are now equipped with TVs, but TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs. If you feel you must have the news analyst blowhard on CNN while you exercise, or the stock market blowhards on MSNBC, or the sports blowhards on ESPN, it’s time for you to question how serious you really are about becoming a writer. You must be prepared to do some serious turning inward toward the life of the imagination, and that means, I’m afraid, that Geraldo, Keigh Obermann, and Jay Leno must go. Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “When I’m asked for ‘the secret of my success’ (an absurd idea, that, but impossible to get away from), I sometimes say there are two: I stayed physically healthy, and I stayed married. It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because there is an element of truth in it. The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self reliant woman who takes zero shit from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible. And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.”

12. Write one word at a time. “A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord Of The Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer is doing may seem. You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile, in other words. People who decide to make a fortune writing lik John Grisham or Tom Clancy produce nothing but pale imitations, by and large, because vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling and plot is light years from the truth as it is understood by the mind and the heart.”

15. Dig. “When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer (Mark Singer) that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that that was fine, as long as he believed that I believe it. And I do. Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or Game Boys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

16. Take a break. “If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings that it is to kill your own.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your ecgocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it. You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. Faulkner learned his trade while working in the Oxford, Mississippi post office. Other writers have learned the basics while serving in the Navy, working in steel mills or doing time in America’s finer crossbar hotels. I learned the most valuable (and commercial) part of my life’s work while washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths at the New Franklin Laundry in Bangor. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

What do you think of Mr. King’s advice? How well do you think it would apply to your situation?

Tears of Glass, by David Lake

8_5_17 Tears of Glass

stars-3-0._CB192240710_

 

Tears of Glass feels like a narrative constructed for a screen rather than a novel. There were quite a few moments where visual cues would have significantly helped the reader get a better idea of what was happening.

 

Morgan is an ex-football player that seems to be holding a bit of nostalgia for those days. He has the classic ‘bad boy’ feel to him, without embracing the excess hostility or emotional distress. Which, I suppose is a good thing considering people around him are dying left and right. All because of a mysterious tape. From there, things blow up on a huge scale.

 

An air of mystery surrounds the first few chapters. There a lot of information purposefully withheld to leave the readers in the dark about certain things. Things are left rather vague. Now, normally, that would be an excellent device to draw readers in and keep them guessing. Unfortunately, this one worked a little too well. It took a few chapters to get the story, plot, and characters organized and discerned into their proper places.

 

Once things got organized, the story was interesting enough. I liked how things started small, but once they got going, the repercussions were massive. I think the ending was pretty fitting for the sequence of events. A little on the cliché side, and definitely with a romantic hero vibe.

 

The language of the narrative was lighthearted and wordy. It seemed to add to the relaxed tone of the novel itself. There’s quite a bit of action, but the way it’s told and the way the characters react make things seem more mellow than they’re supposed to be.

 

Characters weren’t bad. Making an effort to make the female lead a feminist was nice. However, she was stereotyped as a “man hater” and illustrated some of the misconceptions of feminists. Sara was still a very likeable character, though. Morgan’s character wasn’t bad either. I enjoyed the fact that he was a music nut. Beyond that, his character didn’t feel too original. He felt very two-dimensional. Sort of like he had a cardboard cutout standing in for him while everything else was going on.

 

Feeling lost at the beginning of a novel isn’t always a good thing. I think there are areas that could be polished a little better and made to fit the platform. It had its ups and downs, like any novel. All in all, though, it wasn’t a bad book.

 

Buy it here!

Social Media: Strategies to Mastering Your Brand, by David Kelly


Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

To be honest, there’s no way I can do this review without sounding like a sellout. So here we go: I’m just going to sound like a sellout.

A lot of self-help books and marketing guides out there that profess big money if you follow their step-by-step instructions. Then said instructions are frustratingly convoluted about their process, and most of it is fairly common sense. They’re “tips and tricks” that are common knowledge in the vaguest way. That’s one of the first things that makes this book stand out: it doesn’t try to sell you with the promise of big bucks or a “get rich quick scheme.”

The second thing that stands out is the level of detail, organization, and the general breakdown of each platform they mention. It even gives examples of things to make the tasks easier. There’s helpful links (in the Kindle version, at least). The author’s tone manages to sound like they know what they’re talking about without being a salesperson.

It flowed well, it made sense, and the topics were relevant to the current headings. I actually managed to garner a few new ideas , which is not something I can usually say. I was actually pretty impressed with how this one was laid out.

Buy it here!

WyvaCon 2017

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WyvaCon Home

 

WyvaCon was honestly so much fun. I met some really awesome fellow nerds, and the smaller venue made things feel a bit more personal. I’m sad I didn’t get to take more pictures, but I do have a few for you!

 

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Pre-con prep

 

As promised, one of the first things I did was drop off Shari Sakurai’s Adam at the nerdy book exchange. There were quite a few titles available for trade or purchase, but none of them looked nearly as sleek 😉

 

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#sosleeksosexy

 

I checked on it periodically throughout the day. It got moved around a lot, so people were picking it up and checking it out. I didn’t see it before I left, so I’m hoping someone out there is about to be really happy!

 

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Because Grand Maws eat nachos too

There was an interesting panel from the 501st Legion. They showed us how they made their armor so flawless, offered painting techniques, as well as an open-floor Q&A. They were all super-nice, and super-dedicated to their craft.

 

501
by Bear Creek Studios

There was, of course, a game room (one that didn’t smell entirely offensive). A dealers room. Tabletop gaming had their own little section down below. I managed to snag a sweet pair of Batman earrings, and then promptly proceeded to lose one. A friend of mine entered the Smash tournament. He won one. At least there was that for him. A volleyball tournament (that I lost the photos for) between heroes and villains, with Deadpool commentating. I’m sure you can imagine how great that was.

 

game
by Bear Creek Studios

 

All of this was organized and executed by the awesome guys over at Nightwatch Haunt. Take a look, give them some love.

 

To be honest, this is my first time blogging about a con I’ve gone to. I think I’m going to start making it a regular thing–except I’ll be more prepared with an overload of pictures, I think. And more stories. There’s only so much that can happen at smaller venues, but I had an absolute blast.

 

Until next time!

 

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WyvaCon Home

The Horror Writer, by Jerry Jay Carroll

8_1_17 Horror Writer

 

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Full of nothing but satire and accurate demonstrations of what I believe goes through every horror writer’s head, The Horror Writer is equal parts hilarious and creepy.

 

 

After crash landing in the jungle, author Thom Hearn and his companion, Carrie Alexander, finally made it to their paradise retreat. Only, they came to find out that Thom wasn’t supposed to be there. It was a mistake. Except, those at Echchols don’t make mistakes. Ever. What was really going on was far more sinister and surprising.

 

 

The life of an author isn’t always glamorous. I think oftentimes it ends up romanticized into something it’s not. I really liked the way the author conveyed the darker, less attractive side of the writing world. At the same time, it also showed that inspiration could happen anywhere, at any time, for any reason. There were definitely some bright notes for aspiring, and current, authors.
Points of the plot were confusing at times. Thom tended to have some long-winded monologues—which, usually was okay because it worked with his personality—but occasionally it sidetracked me as a reader. I lost track of what was happening more than once. There were time jumps in funny places. Perspective switches weren’t always the smoothest.

 

 

The writing style was great for the narrative. There were weird allusions and metaphors. Odd, satirical descriptions. To be honest, the tone felt as though the author had personal dealings with some of the themes, and was looking for a good, comedic outlet. The characters really helped that along. They were snarky, sarcastic, and up to the challenge of the circumstances. However, it doesn’t feel like an overused character stereotype. Nor is it annoying. I have to say I didn’t feel like there were many commonly used tropes. It was very different—and sometimes bizarre—but in all the right ways. Creativity really shows in the way the novel was constructed.

 

 

As for the plot, it was done well. Keeping with the rest of the novel, the plot twist was fairly out there. It made sense, though, and it didn’t take it to an unbelievable extreme.

 

 

I love when novels aren’t afraid to go the extra mile to be weird. I think it makes them fun and entertaining, as well as differentiating them from everything else. The Horror Writer managed to do just that. I would recommend it for authors that need a good laugh at their own industry. A good read for anyone, however.

 

 

BUy it here!