Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Creative Tuesday #4

Each week on Tuesday, I post a creative writing prompt and my response to it.  The best way to get better at writing is to practice.  It gives me a chance to write a little flash fiction and spend some time writing outside of my WIP. :)  You are welcome to do the same and post your response in the comments!

Creative Prompt #135
List 10 things you'll never do.

1.  Eat a spider - NO WAY!  Eww.
2.  Swim in a tank of piranhas
3.  Cheat on my husband (when I get married)
4.  Travel into space - I don't think the technology will allow me, though I'd love to.
5.  Be a race car driver
6.  Watch two horror movies in a row - I probably would never watch one.  Casper used to scare me.
7.  Own a bird... just nope.
8.  Starve myself to look thin
9.  Win a hula-hoop competition - I'm terrible at it!
10.  Be on "The Price is Right" - I'm not good at guessing.

What are some things that you'd never do?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Storms in Teacups: A Review

This book was self-published by one of my blogger friends - Christine Murray at her lovely blog, which you should check out! :) 

Title: Storms in Teacups 
Author: Christine Murray
Publisher: Mermaiden Media
Publication Date: December 21, 2011

Genre: Women's Fiction

Plot: First, here is the summary of "Storms in Teacups" from Amazon - ALEX is a journalist who has always dreamed of working for a glossy women’s magazine. Instead, she finds herself working for Dublin’s most notorious tabloid newspaper, rewriting press releases and covering for her colleague Jodie, a well-connected neurotic who still hasn’t figured out how to use an apostrophe.
ROSE thinks that she has life sorted. She loves her job as a teacher in a disadvantaged school, and has just moved in with her gorgeous actor boyfriend, Daniel. The only clouds on her horizon are a headmaster with a passion for new-age team-building and a stack of envelopes that she refuses to open but can’t quite bring herself to throw out.
SHANNON feels like she’s stagnating. When she graduated at the top of her class from drama college everyone thought it would be just a matter of time until she got her big break. Instead, she pays the bills with parts in small plays and some low rent television shows. Now she’s in her thirties, is it time she gives up on her dreams and get a proper job?
When a scandal shakes up the lives of all three women, will they manage to stay true to their dreams? Or will the betrayal of one man change their plans for good?

My first impressions of the book were the rich descriptions of the characters and their lives, almost a little too much at times, but it was very visual for the reader.  These three women have interesting lives and at the same time, are very down to Earth women that the reader can identify with.  They deal with problems that almost all women come into contact with - budding romance, difficult careers, betrayal, and love.  I admit that it was hard to get into the story at first and it confused me a little bit when the chapters switched to each different woman. I had a little bit of a problem keeping them straight in my mind.  It took about a fourth of the book for me to discover some conflict within their lives and it captured me.  

Romantic Element:  Rose and Daniel, Shannon and Ian, Alex and Carl - there is a lot of romance in this book!  And it's not all of that "perfect" romantic relationships for these women.  There's a lot of romantic drama!  It was almost too much for me at times and was a little confusing to remember which woman was with which guy, but it became very clear as the story progressed.  There were even a few surprises that had me going "Oh!  He didn't!" 

Overall: The book was very good and captivating.  I admit that Rose was my favorite character - an incredibly sweet school teacher working in a secondary school for disadvantaged youth, really made her a character that I enjoyed reading about.  Alex's story was a bit harder for me to get into, but Shannon was a delight.  Her partner was very funny!  There were a few technical errors that made it hard to read; some formatting of the dialogue that didn't line up and two typographical errors on the first page distracted me, but that didn't take away from the quality of the book.  I really enjoyed the book and I definitely recommend this book to others!

Hope you have a great Monday! :)

EDIT: (I would like to state that I was not paid for this review, she didn't even know I was going to do it.) 

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm in!

I stayed up late last night, perfecting the ending of my novel for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, which submission opens today!  I submitted my entry at 2 am this morning and it has been accepted.  Yay!  *crosses fingers*  If you don't know, the contest winner is awarded a publishing contract with Penguin and a $15,000 advance, along with publishing on Amazon.com. 

I entered "To Love Without Hope".  It was entered last year and made it past the first round, but was cut from the second round.  I've done two full revisions since, added 6,000 words, new subplots, and edited my 300 word pitch, so I really hope that it does better this year.  I'm praying that it does very well this year.

The first round is judged on a 300 pitch of your book, and the 1,000 from each category that move on to the second round will be released on February 23, 2012.  Waiting is the worst part, but I'm patient. 

Here is my pitch for the contest:

The faded image on the missing poster haunts every waking thought of Sophie Olson’s life.  Jordan Michaels disappeared two months ago without a trace.  His body was never found. 
Nineteen-year-old Sophie is no stranger to pain.  She believes that no one should know the truth about her and is content to lie.  Everything is okay.  Sophie has lived her entire life with a neglectful father, but it’s nothing compared to the horror that begins one April night at the hands of a sinister and eerie man named Everett.  Her best friend Matt tries to protect her and is taken into the darkness with her. 
Sophie quickly finds herself face to face with the boy from the poster.  Jordan is broken and beaten.  The chains on their wrists clink on the stone floor, the very depiction of the slaves they have become to their new master.  Sophie begins to believe Everett’s lies; there is no hope of escape from the basement, only death for them.  Despite it all, Sophie starts to fall in love with Jordan and Matt and it’s a deeper love than she could ever imagine.  But will love be enough to save her?
Inspired by a true story, TO LOVE WITHOUT HOPE is a 56,000 word journey of broken faith in God and a love that will break our hearts and heal them.  This life-changing story tells the tale of unbearable pain, lost hope, and the fight to overcome.

*crosses fingers*  I wish anyone else in the contest, good luck! :) 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Repeating Loop

Just when you think you've got something done... it doesn't work again.  My computer. 

I am trying to be calm about the whole thing... actually, I am surprisingly calm.  That could be partly that I am drugged up on cold medication, suffering the worst cold I've had in years.  I had been hoping to lounge and play the Sims 3 while watching a movie, but alas my disc drive is not functioning again.  It must be an update that my computer has because it worked two days ago and was reformatted nine days ago. 

Steve is mocking me...
Hopefully, I can figure that out soon.

In other news, I did get some good work done on my revisions the past few days, but I'm stuck on rewriting a kiss scene, that's one of the most romantic moments of the book.  It might have to wait until tomorrow, when I am hopefully less drugged.  I tried to put a box of cereal in the fridge earlier and I couldn't figure out why my car key wouldn't fit in the door key to my apartment.  Not firing on all thrusters today.  And Iowa has finally decided that it wants to be cold and wintery, with a few inches of snow.  Yuk.

Hope you are keeping healthy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Funnies

I've just come up with a great little sub-plot to my novel, which needs to be ready for ABNA by Monday - so I am going to work on that today and I'll share with you with a little video to make you laugh.  Jenna Cooper at her blog (Finding the Write Way) shared this and I thought I would send it on! 

Have a great Friday!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Idiot's Guide to Choosing Your Book Title

What makes a good title?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Water for Elephants - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - The Hunger Games - The Lord of the Rings - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - To Kill a Mockingbird  - A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Joy of Sex - A Tale of Two Cities

That's just a sample of some of the book titles that have sold millions of copies!  Granted, they have more than a title working for them, but their titles encouraged people to read them.  Last year, my favorite title in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest was "The Revenge of the Squishes".  What?  What on Earth is that story about?  The title grabs you!

So... without further ado -

The Idiot's Guide to Choosing Your Book Title

1.  Write down all possible title ideas, yes all of them.  Even if it sounds stupid, write it down!

2.  Ask for ideas from your friends or critique partners!  If they've read your book, that helps.  Have them add to your list or cross off ones that don't even make sense, such as "The Murder of Elmo" for a book about rabbits that knit mittens.  It wouldn't work.  You may still like that title, but it isn't a good fit for your book.

3.  In that same thought, make sure that the title actually fits your manuscript.  My first book was originally called "Pink Roses", but after I finished the first draft I realized that the story had nothing to do with pink or roses.  It eventually became "Falling Star" since that was an important discussion in the story and it was a symbolism that I connected with the main character's life.

4.  Pairing a color with an object.  Yes, it can be done, but it's not very original.  Anyone can pair an object with a color to make a title, so try to be a little more creative!  Unless it really fits like "Blue Gathering" by Lois Lowry.

5.  Length - your title should not be longer than your book as a rule of thumb.  How to add decorative frosting to your delicious cake and loose your virginity with the baker's son - catchy, but way too long!  A title shouldn't give away all of your plot points.  An average length of a book title is one to seven words.

6.  Research the title that you chose to see if other books have the same title!  Titles are not copyrighted, so there may be several books with that title.  (The only thing that can be copyrighted is the content, same with movies or songs.)  Such as "Book of the Dead" by... five different authors because they are five different books.  Though I wouldn't suggest making your title "Curious George and the High Voltage Fence" just to get children to see the name Curious George.  Bad marketing for your book unless it really is about the monkey dying, which would make a lot of children sad.  If your title is already popular, it may help to get others to read your book.  You never know.

7.  Your title should intrigue your reader and be clear.  Too much symbolism in a title can confuse a reader.

8.  LOVE YOUR TITLE!  You are the one naming your precious "baby" and giving it a beautiful life.  It should be a title that you love.

I have never really struggled with titles.  Usually, I could come up with a title before I wrote the story, but I do have one that I don't love.  "To Love Without Hope" - I can't tell you how many titles that this book has had and I'm still not content with it.  Since this novel is inspired by a true story, I really want to name it "Jon".  But there's no character in the book named Jon and it wouldn't fit.  Jon is the name of the real person that the story is based on.  I'll stick with this title for now, but if someone came up with a better title... I might consider it.

How to you come up with titles?  Do you always love your title?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Live your Dream

"Go, live your dream."  -Guy from "Tangled"

How badly do you want something?  Sometimes it hurts to dream because I want my dream so bad.  I want to be published and I want to go to New Zealand.  I don’t have the money and I can only pray that I have the talent to be published.  I really want to win this contest.  To be published and to have enough money for New Zealand and so I can pay off my student loans, it would be amazing.  I keep thinking of that scene in “Tangled” at the Ugly Duckling and Rapunzel sings about her dreams.  Then as Rapunzel and Flynn flee, the guy says to her, “Go, live your dream."  I want to, but I'm kinda stuck.  I need something to happen to change my circumstances.  

I wish my parents would say that to me.  I just wish that they would support me in my dreams to write and leave the country.  I understand that they want to be a voice of reason, but at some point... when do you stop and just believe in your child?  They were ashamed of me for quitting my full time job as a caseworker and now I’m just trying to find out what God wants me to do.  It’s really hard.  I don’t want to be frustrated with them, but at the same time a part of me just wants them to be proud of me.  But I can’t give up who I am to be who they want me to be.  I probably won't ever be perfect and exactly what they want, but I like who I am. 

I've been dreaming of being an author since I was a little girl, not a teacher or a doctor.  I will live my dreams, no matter what. I will prove to them that they can be proud of their daughter.

Do your parents support your dreams?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Love/Hate Technology

I am happy to say that my computer has been reformatted and all of my novels survived the take-over of evil that tried to destroy my laptop.  I was tempted several times to take a hammer to it.

All I really understand was that the optic drive on the CD-rom suddenly stopped functioning due to the driver and the driver refused to reinstall.  I had no back-up CDs because I forgot to make them, so I ended up make a system restore on a USB and spending way too much time reading and downloading unhelpful "patches" and updates.  Altogether I probably spent a good six to eight hours on fixing it.  Very very frustrating, especially for someone that has little understanding of technology and computers.

I did manage to back-up all of my files and music, but somehow iTunes stored my downloaded music/TV shows in a different location and I lost all the music that I've purchased since I got the computer eight months ago.  That's a lot of music.  I also lost the whole first season of "Merlin", an awesome BBC television show that I had downloaded from iTunes.  Very sad. :(  I sent an email to Apple and hopefully they will allow me to download them again.  I had just bought some music too and it vanished. :(

Another loss... I lost all of the bookmarked agents/publishing companies that I had been saving.  I can't get them back, but a fresh start there might a good thing.  And I lost my Sims 3 games that I had saved.  One of my families had just had a baby... darn.  At least I can reinstall that.  Also, I have to find my disc for Microsoft Office or writing will be difficult.

Gah, yeah... the last two days with my computer have been really painful. At least, I am grateful that all of my novels were saved and they were the updated versions, so my corrections that I've been doing for ABNA survived.  Yay!

I do have to say that the final score is; Technology - 1, Krista - 1.  (It gets a point for taking away my Merlin and I get a point for saving my novels.) 

Sorry for the complaining, but I had to just it off my chest before I dive back in to reinstalling things.  Hope you had a better day!

UPDATE:  So... I found it!  iTunes, under iTunes store - on the home page is "Quick links" and in that box is "Purchased" where you can see all the items that you've purchased from iTunes and what you purchased, but is not on your computer.  I am re-downloading all of my songs and I got my Merlin back!  That makes the score; Technology - 1, Krista - 2.  :D

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Water for Elephants: A Review

My sister has been asking me if I had read "Water for Elephants" and she recommended it, promising that we'll watch the movie together.  I usually like to read a book before I watch a movie and thought I would try it out.

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: April 8, 2007

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: First, here is the summary of "Water for Elephants" from Amazon - As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

A New York Times Best Seller - my first impressions were that this book was painfully hard to get into!  I started the book a few weeks ago and I couldn't get past the first few chapters.  Since I'm jobless right now, I decided to finally sit down and finish the book.  I finally got into the book around chapter eight.  This book is definitely not a young adult book - but is plainly an adult book due to the sometimes erotic and sexually charged scenes.  I really didn't want to read about the woman putting her breast into her mouth and sucking it.  Not very tasteful in my opinion.  

The book was interesting, since it was written in two perspectives - one from Jacob at age 23 and the other at age 93 and they switched throughout the story.  It did help reading that way.  Also, the plot seemed original - A veterinary student dropping out before finals as his parents have suddenly died and he has nothing, so he joins the circus.  Not something I've read before.

Romantic Element: The romantic relationship between Jacob and Marlena was sweet, though I really did not expect to read all of the details of their love making.  (Too much information there.)  The reader does not know really until the ending of the story what will happen with the relationship, even though the 93 year old Jacob was married, but it never says to who and I liked that element.  I like being able to guess.  Though partly, the relationship was a little flat and that bothered me.  I had a hard time really believing their love due to that.  There's also the abusive relationship between Marlena and her husband, August, which adds another element to the forbidden romance.  He was a horrible person, which he was supposed to be and I didn't care for his character.

Overall:   The book was pretty good, but I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters.  It reminded me of "The Great Gatsby" where you aren't supposed to actually like any of the characters.  I think I liked the bitter 93 year old Jacob best since I never really felt much connection to the younger Jacob, even though he's the exact same age as me.  I liked the book, but it was a difficult read at times.  It just wasn't fantastic.  I'm a little squeamish and I didn't really like the details of beating animals and women and lots of sex. I give it a 3/5 stars.  Good, but not really fantastic.

At least in other news, I got some wonderful help from three lovely ladies and I'm much happier with my pitch for ABNA.  Thanks to Dawn, Cheryl, and Krista!  You should definitely check out these ladies blogs! :)  I will share my pitch with you on the opening day for the contest!