Superhero Syndrome, by Caryn Larrinaga

12_31_17 Superhero Sydnrome

 

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To summarize this novel in a few words: a romanticized Kick-Ass with an actual superpowered origin story.

Tess finds herself with a new lease on life when her debilitating and mysterious illness is cured. She gets involved with the vigilante subculture of her hometown. Costumed vigilante, at that. Oh—costumed vigilante with superpowers.

This was a novel that captured the origin story formula perfectly. The sequence of events leading to the birth of her superpowers, the reveal of the bad guy—it was all purposefully and meticulously placed. Great pains were taken to remain loyal to the classic way.

It was really the interactions of the characters that gave me the Kickass vibe. There’s definitely other overtones involved, but that’s the one that stands out. As such, character interactions were well-done and their relationships meaningful.

One thing I did have a problem with was how easy things felt for Tess. In a few ways, she felt more like a Mary-Sue. The speed at which she gains control over her powers, the ease at which she accomplishes her goals—nothing really felt like a challenge for her to overcome and so some of the intense scenes felt a little flat.

Regardless, the entire thing is well-written. I wouldn’t mind seeing a proper comic adaptation. It definitely pays tribute to the genre, and does it well.

Buy it here!

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Devourer: A Minister Knight Novel, by Nicole Givens Kurtz

 

12_30_17 Devourer

4 stars

 

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Oh, man. The past few books I’ve read, Harkworth Hall and Anarchy, have made good on delivering some aspects of diversity. I’m very happy to announce that Devourer does so as well, and the author makes sure there’s no misinterpreting that fact.

A great evil is coming back to Veloris. Skin, once called a Devourer, seeks to protect a former lover from the evil, and as such, save the world. Of course she fails, and is not set on a dangerous path that could potentially end the life of everything she’s ever loved.

When I started reading, I noticed that the world building was really spaced out, like I’d been dropped into the second or third novel in the series. Lo and behold, I had. There were things that made more sense once I realized where I was at in the series, and yet I still feel like I missed critical bits of information. I would definitely start with the first of the series to familiarize yourself with what kind of world you’re dealing with.

The writing style was pretty good. Description and detail felt on the level, though perspective switches felt awkward and abrupt mid-chapter. It ended up being a little jarring. Hopefully it was just the formatting of the copy I received.

Betrayal, redemption, and forgiveness were heavy themes throughout and the aided in character development. Each of the characters had their own storyline to accomplish. Their stories served to aid the plot and their development, too. For the most part, the characters felt different from each other and three-dimensional. There were a few spots where their individual voices sort of started to blend together, but they managed to come back and right themselves.

There were a lot of good qualities contained within this novel. It’s an interesting story with a diverse cast of characters, something that’s pretty important to me as a reader. Magic and science-fiction can be combined for a good backdrop, which is exactly what this novel manages.

Buy it here!

Anarchy: Strange Tales of Outsiders

12_28_17 Anarchy.jpg

stars-3-0._CB192240710_

 

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I will give this book praise for having the single-most accurate and descriptive title I’ve seen in a while. Tales of outcasts indeed; this book gets weird.

 

A collection of short stories and poems from days past, Anarchy presents some very off-the-wall storytelling that mainly features a cast of LGTB+ characters—which is awesome, by the way. I don’t think I can express that enough. The author touches on taboo subjects, but they fit well within both the theme and story. Punk, in fact, is the overarching theme of the book, and I will say that this novel delivers an actual punk experience.

 

There’s a lot of good story elements contained within. There’s also quite a few editing and polishing opportunities to be had, as well. The author has a unique take on horror, and I would love to see more edited versions of all the tales, really. There are places where storylines could be clearer, description a little more active, and some more depth added to the characters so the reader has a stronger connection with them during their strife.

 

I love weird, off-the-wall tales. I love it when stories push the limits—sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but the point is that an effort was made towards individuality. The literary world is so saturated with the same formula over and over again. It gets boring. That being said, there’s still some work to be done on this one. I think there’s a fair amount of potential.

 

Buy it here!

Things I Learned During NaNoWriMo: Why Editing is the Devil

There’s a lot of advice running around the internet as to whether or not an author should self-edit during the initial writing process. Keep in mind that different methods work for different people, so what I’m sharing below is what worked for me and why. Arguments could be made both ways, but the important thing is to find what works best for you.

 

For me, self-editing turned out to be my biggest weakness. To break it down simply: I got too distracted by trying to make things look presentable. I hyper-fixated on everything that was wrong with what I’d written, and I eventually discouraged myself from continuing. “You can’t even get this sentence right; you really think people are going to want to read this?” was a familiar mantra. I’d get to maybe 15,000 words and stagnate, eventually losing all desire and motivation to carry on.

 

So, when NaNoWriMo started, I vowed I was going to get it done. It was easy for me to see what I needed to do in order to make my word counts. Doing it was going to be the problem. Because of that, I had a shaky start. the words came slower because I was trying to incorporate everything I thought I wanted. Occasionally I found myself going back and tweaking some things just to make them match what I wrote further on.

 

Not good.

 

Eventually I lightened up and I kept the bare-bones descriptions, the skeletons of dialogues, and flatbread characters. It was like a crack appeared in the dam. Words began to trickle out faster.

 

Then I hit the writers mortal enemy: the block. I had a scene coming up that I could see in my mind’s eye, yet had no idea how to articulate it into words. Pretty sure I stopped writing for a few days after that. I started adding up the deficit I was going to have to make up on my days off. Panic settled in around 10,000 words or so. I had two days off coming up, so I thought whatever, I’ll bust it out then. I figured maybe taking a few days off would replenish the urn of inspiration.

 

No such luck. The moment I sat down I knew I was doomed. I was getting angry. I was starting to see the discouragement coming. I was disgusted with myself. Finally I got fed up enough that I outlined the scene as an actual paragraph, and moved on to the next scene. Or, as I’m going to demonstrate below, when my scenes began to contradict things that I wrote earlier, I wrote notes to myself to go back and fix areas later. Sometimes it happened right in the middle of a paragraph.

 

noediting.jpg

 

Some of those notes happened to refer to scenes I hadn’t written, but now wanted to write based off ideas that were literally just written down. I chose this particular paragraph because it also demonstrates my lack of caring when it came to how well-written things were (i. e.: word vomit).

 

Now, for me, this switch was easy enough to flip. I managed to shut my brain up long enough to look at an annoying, glaring error and continue on.

 

Some people aren’t so lucky. I’ve found a couple of things that might help those that need a little extra motivation, or maybe a heavier, more disciplined hand. These are the two easiest that come to mind while also maintaining the low price of: free.

  • BlindWrite blurs out your words as you go so you can’t judge what you’ve already written
  • Earnest locks you out of editing, formatting, grammar/spellchecking, ect…

 

RescueTime and Freedom are both paid, internet browser writing apps.

 

Freedom is also available for free in the Apple App Store. so is Unplugged and Focus Keeper.

 

Much like the time-constraints of NaNoWriMo itself, I’ve found that setting a timer will increase the likelihood of me just writing. Some people perform well under applied pressure.

 

Now these methods aren’t for all people. Some manage to make it through NaNo just fine, editing the whole way. Ted Boone’s managed to finish several rounds of NaNo, all the while editing his novel as he went. If you’re struggling one way, try it the other. If you’re struggling that way too, try a blend of both. Find what works best for you and stick with it.

 

PREVIOUS: WORD VOMIT                                                    NEXT: OUTLINES ARE GUIDELINES

 

Harkworth Hall, by L. S. Johnson

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4 stars

 

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It’s hard to craft such a full story in so few pages. One with such awesome character development and plot twists. I positively loved this from start to finish.

 

Caroline Daniels, a young woman whose ambitions defy the stereotypes of her era, gets sucked into a bizarre mystery that has just the right amount of supernatural.

 

The storytelling and writing style felt well-adapted to mimic a journal or something written in 1752 England. Very well researched, I felt. The world was just as alive as the narrative.

 

I absolutely adored the characters and their relationships. I was especially fond of the love story managed through all the life-threatening detective work. It felt paced right, the characters had chemistry—anyone who reads my reviews knows that I critique the romantic subplot harshly. This one gets the highest praised for how well-executed it was.

 

Best news of my life: there’s going to be a follow-up. I. Can’t. Wait.

 

Buy it here!

 

The Euclidian: Alien Hitman, by Jay Cannon

12_17_15 Alien Hitman

4 stars

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Left alone on Earth to retrieve alien fugitives, Adar quickly put to use a very unique method to tracking his quarry. An alien himself, his options are severely limited.

 

Adar felt a bit like Captain Kirk as he navigated his way through life on Earth (and its women). Smooth, for the most part. Purposeful. Always got the girl. Only, Adar loved to kill and smash. He was smart, however, and yet lacked empathy at the beginning. The human race has an excellent track record of assisting the development of this kind of character. Noticeable at the end, the friends Adar made along the way really opened his eyes.

 

There was a very intergalactic united front. Various kinds of aliens from different planets worked together cohesively. Earth is, of course, the exception. Earth is always the exception. It blended many different sci-fi tropes into one novel. Some were relatively cliché, but there were a few that had very nice twists to them. One thing I had an issue with was how easily people accepted aliens into their midst. Sure, it helped the plot right along, but it felt too easy in places.

 

Writing style wasn’t bad. The pacing of the novel fit the way the story unfolded. There was lots of action and the wording fit that. I liked the way the characters dealt with each other. Characters themselves were certainly a different breed, but I liked it. The author managed to take heavy stereotypes and made them meaningful. A female character wasn’t hypersexual because she had daddy issues—she just enjoyed it. There was a different kind of depth to the characters that made them stand out.

 

Alien Hitman is a sci-fi novel with non-traditional overtones. It was pretty well-written, and managed to show the reader just why moral grey areas are such quandaries. There was a cast of great characters, and all the action a reader could want.

 

Buy it here!

 

 

A Guardian Falls, by Rebecca Tran

12_6_17 A Guardian Falls

4 stars

 

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Fulfilling prophecies seems to be Mara’s talent in life as she becomes the Rashade’ of legend and continues to defy the role set forth by her gender. She returns with a familiar cast of characters in the final showdown with Laran.

The writing style is consistent between both novels, as are the characters. However, with the way that the recaps are paced, the reader might spend a little time wondering how things got to where they are if they haven’t read the first novel.

Thankfully the relationships were already established in the first one, so the timelines for their progression made little difference in this one. Things didn’t move too fast or slow.

While most series tend to aim for a trilogy to share their whole story and characters, A Guardian Falls was a two-parter. There was a lot of information contained within both of them. It never felt like an overload or “too much.” The world felt complete and constant. Everything felt wrapped up nice, except for maybe one little thing. Attention to detail certainly showed.

There’s a small amount of technical editing to be done, but the story was solid. It climaxed and resolved in a manner that made sense and was consistent with the fantasy genre. It was a relatively predictable ending that didn’t detract from the overall narrative.

It was a standard fantasy novel that did quite a bit to challenge traditional gender roles. I liked that very much. It empowered women, and those tradition challenges—while simple—made a powerful statement without starting controversy.

As far as series go, this is a good one to pick up. A blend of traditional and nontraditional fantasy that is well put-together and consistent from start to finish.

Buy it here!

What I Learned During NaNoWriMo

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So, with November behind us, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) is behind us as well. I really want to take a few minutes and discuss just what I learned in such a short amount of time.

I think that as an author, there are many concepts of which we are aware of–things that we see written in every advice column. Things like: “write what you know,” “show, don’t tell,” and “don’t use adverbs/passive voice.” Sounds familiar, right? With rules like those, it’s no wonder that so many authors get intimidated before they can get a single word down; some level of perfection is required of a rough draft. Perfection? From a rough draft? Looking back, it strikes me as one of the most ridiculous concepts, and I can’t believe I thought that was actually a thing.


 

WORD VOMIT IS A GOOD THING

From 6 of the Best Pieces of Advice from Successful Writers:

[…] writing well doesn’t come so easily for a lot of us (including me). It takes a lot of mental energy, strains your working memory and often makes you feel vulnerable if you try to be open and honest in your work.

The pure effort of writing is hard enough, but coupled with the pain of putting your work out into the world and letting others judge it, this can be enough to stop you from getting started at all.

The trick to overcoming this isn’t easy, but it’s surprisingly effective: give yourself permission to write badly, and just start.

I would honestly give the links provided above a look-through. All three articles were very relevant and helpful.

Below is an excellent example of ‘give yourself permission to write badly.’ I did it using my phone, which I later e-mailed to myself. This will make you feel better about yourself, guaranteed.

ex_realybadwordvomit

Oh, man. That’s terrible on so many levels. However, it is the result of just getting the words out. I didn’t give a lick about punctuation, spelling, or even what words emerged. As long as the basic concept was written out, I stopped caring. The time-crunch associated with NaNo puts enough pressure on you that caring becomes too much effort. Additionally, the more you care, the slower your word count will come. 50,000 is already an intimidating number, you don’t want to slow the process down any more than you have to.

To be honest, this might be the single, most important thing that I learned. With your aspirations as an author, your work is going to be seen by millions, right? Sure, they’re going to see your best effort, but the people working with you to get you there will be seeing your worst. You need to get comfortable with that, and this is a good way to start. Now, not everyone can flip that switch in their brain to just stop caring. For some people, it’s nearly impossible.

If you’re someone that is bothered by the thought of someone reading over your shoulder while you’re spewing out this absolute garbage, take your phone and hide in a corner where no one can see you unless they’re actively trying. And even then, you’ll easily be aware of it. Writing on your phone can be a pain (hence part of the reason why the excerpt just sort of runs together), so I found a few nifty apps to help me out. Please note: I’m not being compensated for the following.

wersmith
Werdsmith

Werdsmith is the one I use most often. It does have a “pro” version which gives you access to different layouts (screenplay, novel), and categories to sort your different projects. However just the vanilla version is fine for me, as the singular category that I have allows me to have multiple projects within, just in a less organized manner. It keeps track of word count (which really came in handy). You can set word goals, get breakdowns, and even an undo button in case you accidentally delete everything (I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved me).

Now, go figure, the one I use the least is the one that I paid for. Writing Toolkit is $3.99 in the app store, but this one is more of a portable literary reference guide.

It’s got lots of nifty little tools for where you’re on the go or don’t have access to the internet. Writing terms, a place to organize your characters, and plot devices are all available in one place. This one’s more dedicated to keeping track of everything you need while you’re writing so you can focus on more important things: like writing. I flipped back and forth between the two the entire time. Using these apps kept prying eyes away from my really crappy writing and therefore gave me a bit more confidence to keep going.

You can always use a notebook or a laptop towards the same end, but as I quickly learned, it’s easier to keep your phone away from nosy passerby. It took me a few days to acclimate to being so secretive. Eventually, though, I found that without anyone looking over my shoulder, I could just write, write, and write. The very last day was a word sprint of approximately 5,000 words. It wasn’t the only day I had word sprints like that, either.

The point is: JUST GET IT OUT! Is it relevant to the plot? No clue. Sort it out later. Is it what you wanted? Not really, but it’s a good placeholder. Hell, you might not even end up using it, which is okay. Quite a few difficulties authors face are in their heads, and are usually the hardest things to overcome. IT. WILL. BE. OKAY.

In the next blog post for the NaNoWriMo series, I’ll talk about the hangups of editing.

UP NEXT: WHY EDITING IS THE DEVIL

 

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