The Not-So-Dry Spell

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I haven’t worked on a novel in almost a year. This was a pretty shocking revelation to me as a writer, but one I’m glad I realized. Novel writers are an interesting breed in that they believe every waking moment should be devoted to doing something on one work in progress or another. I lived this belief for five years as I cranked out not one, but two novels.

When the last line is written and the last page has been revised for the fourth time. The novel is done, leaving nothing else but the “what now,” moment. Suddenly, the novel writer has minimally eight extra hours a day that is not filled with word count goals or a blinking cursor. Some writers immediately start on a new project to keep the mojo going, but others revel in the down time. I’d always been the former, a literal Energizer Bunny that never, ever stopped. That is until, I had a little epiphany.

After completing my first novel, I jumped right into brainstorming ideas for the next one. I was on a roll and I didn’t want to break the cycle. However, after completing my second novel, I found I was a little reluctant to start the process of writing a third novel. At first, I was a little worried that my muse had finally run out of juice, but then I realized I was desperately in need of a break. I loved my characters and the worlds I created for them, but I found I was missing the real people in my life and the real world. It was time to look away from the screen and jump back into the world that had inspired me in the first place.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss working on my novels. I do. A copy of The Muse is on my Kindle and on my computer desktop.  A partial outline for The Muse: Lineage sits on my writing desk, while a stack of CDs is waiting for me to peruse them for songs to go on a playlist for Lineage. Despite a long hiatus from butt on chair, fingers on keyboard work, my novels are never far from my mind. Still, I think my characters understand that I needed a little space to gather my thoughts and consider my next steps.

Some would call this a dry spell, but I call it a writer’s reboot. My time away from novel writing hasn’t been wasted by any means. Between agent hunting, experimenting with poetic forms, free writes and rediscovering my love of writing short stories, it’s been a productive chunk of time. The initial feeling of guilt for not constantly working on a novel has all but disappeared and I am enjoying the freedom of being able to truly follow my muse.

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Last Books

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Any reader of a series has mixed feelings about the last book. This is especially true of Young Adult readers that spend large portions of their lives immersed in other worlds built of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance. We don’t just read these books, we live them. Even those of us well into our thirties. There’s something to be said for the magic and escape only Young Adult series books can offer.

Sitting on my bookshelf is no less than thirteen series of Young Adult novels. I anxiously wait for the next book in each series to come out and I buy it the day it hits stores. In many cases, I drop whatever I’m currently reading, so I can dive right into the newest addition of a given series. That is until the series concludes with the last book. Part of me is ready to read it in one sitting, but the other more powerful side is hesitant to even crack open the cover.

Over the last year I’ve made a pile of books, each of which are the last book of a series. They sat and collected dust as I found myself wedged between two very strong emotions. On one end there’s the uncontainable excitement of finally learning the fates of much beloved characters. One the other end is the sadness of having to bid them goodbye. Thanks to the evidence of dust, its easy to guess which end of the dichotomy rules my psyche.

Once the dust layer started evolving into dust bunnies, I knew it was time to get over my crippling hesitance. Since January, I’ve managed to clear four last books from the pile and it’s been an interesting experience of highs and lows.

Allegiant (Divergent Series) by Veronica Roth

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The first foray into last books almost doomed my mission from the start. I loved the first two books of Roth’s thrilling Divergent series, but the last book left me feeling cheated and angry. I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed with a book at every level (i.e. character development, end of story, legacy, etc.). The silver lining: It was super easy to let go considering the entire series was essentially ruined.

Beautiful Redemption (Beautiful Creatures Series) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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This last book more than made up for the disaster of Allegient. It offers a satisfying ending to a fantastic series in that it gives the story a solid ending without becoming predictable. My only complaint was the use of multiple points of view (I hate that. See One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea), but ultimately the story was strong enough to overcome that one little glitch.

Rapture (Fallen Series) by Lauren Kate

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Another fantastic last book. Not only does it deliver on wrapping up multiple story lines, but it includes a completely unexpected plot twist. In addition, the last chapter is perhaps one of the best endings ever conjured. Beautifully done.

Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices Series) by Cassandra Clare

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Clare certainly knows how to weave a mesmerizing tale, but she does get a little carried away in some places, (i.e. scenes that go on much too long, repetitive dialogue, etc). This is somewhat forgivable as her characters are interesting and very likable. The final book offers a satisfying ending, but the epilogue left me scratching my head a bit as it diminished the emotional conflict of the entire series.  Still, it was a pretty darn good book!

Currently, I am immersed in the final book of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush SagaFinale. So far, I have no complaints. One of Fitzpatrick’s strengths is character development in that she allows her characters to grow without letting them grow too far out of their skin (a common problem in YA).The story is progressing nicely and I am becoming more and more curious of how it will all end. For that reason, last books are my favorite thing this week!

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Next on the list is City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments Series) by Cassandra Clare. It won’t be released until later this month, but I am anxiously awaiting its arrival, (even though this series was technically supposed to end two books ago). I promise no dust will be collecting on this last book!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

 

 

Book Review: Perfect Ruin

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23658Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin (Book #1 of The Internment Chronicles) is a perfect combination of fantasy and allegory wrapped up with a beautiful Young Adult series bow. Destafano is already known for expert world-building, (as in her Chemical Garden series), but she takes it to a new level in her latest book.

Imagine a city on a hunk of land that floats high above the ground. A large dome protects the city from the atmosphere and creates a barrier between the population and the Edge. Trains run around the city to get people where they need to go, but they are also the dividing line between an orderly civilization and forbidden territory.

In a city where everyone and everything is controlled by an all powerful king, the concepts of individuality and free thought are virtually nonexistent. The government arranges marriages, dictates when babies can be born, assigns jobs and living quarters, and essentially brainwashes the entire population with a state religion and fictional history. Anyone who dares to think outside these boundaries is declared as “irrational” and subjected to therapy and medications, or worse.

Morgan has lived in the city her all her life and she knows the rules. The Edge is a dangerous place and there are serious consequences for even thinking about what lies on the ground. Still, her imagination often tries to picture the landscape and who might live there. Both her best friend, Pen, and betrothed partner, Basil, can see the danger of her daydreams, but they too share her curiosity. All can’t help but wonder if this one city is all there is in this life. The distant land below beckons as Morgan and her friends begin to question the life laid out by their government.

Perfect Ruin is a high concept story that digs deep into social and adolescent issues like independence, family, and self-discovery. At the same time, it is a compelling allegory that explores the folly of master societies and dictatorial states.

Verdict: Well worth reading.

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c.b.w. 2014

 

Blink, Part 3

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The scratches clawed with long sweeps and short taps across the surface of the door. It was same kind of noise Barnaby made with his nails when he chased a bug across the floor. Fear suctioned the breath out of her. The scratches moved faster and became louder, the door shook against the hinges. She squeezed her eyes shut and clamped her hands over her ears. If she couldn’t see or hear, none of this was real. That’s right, it was all a ridiculous figment of her imagination. A sleep deprived hallucination at the very worst.

And then it stopped. Silence enveloped the room – not even the usual noises that came in through the window dared to make a peep. An eerie chill trembled through her spine and down to her toes. She tried to breath, but only gasps stole from her lungs. The silence was so unnerving she almost preferred the scratching. The absence of those haunting sounds  made not knowing their origin unbearable, signaling a masochistic curiosity. She had to prove there was nothing there, that it was all in her head.

She moved closer to the door, cautiously eying the peep hole. The locks would stay locked, the doorknob unturned. She folded her arms as her nose just cleared the door in front of her. The smell of musty wood and old varnish filled her nose. She hesitated in peeking through the small glass hole, afraid of what she might or might not see. What sounded like fingertips began to drag in long strokes down the face of the door. Intermittent squeaks followed the strokes, where skin would catch on the grain of the wood. Something was most definitely out there.

She gulped the breath she should have taken and centered her eye over the small lookout into the hall. At first, she saw nothing. The idea of relief was on the cusp of reality. She looked up and down, side to side; seeing only the hall’s white wall and dark walnut banister rail.

The “fingertips” kept moving until their swishing and squeaking honed in on a central target – the peephole.  The silence returned and her heart thudded against her ribs. There was nothing there, yet she felt an ugly presence. She closed her eyes in one long blink salvage the last of her courage. Within seconds of opening them again, she knew her attempt was futile.  Terror seized every nerve as hundreds of pairs of eyes stared at her, unblinking, angry, frustrated, and determined to . . . get her.

She jumped back and tried to scream, but tentacles clamped around her throat. The eyes had found her. They weren’t part of some phantasmagorical realm. They were real. And it was only a matter of time before they found their way in. Once they did, they would torment her her with a glare so penetrating and terrifying her instincts screamed with the premonition of pain.

Claws dug at the door, again, desperate to find a way inside. To her.

She ran to the window and slammed it shut. She fumbled with the brass lock, it’s hinge tight with disuse. She ran to all the windows and fought with all the locks. A shaft of light struck the corner of her eye. The crack between the floor and door was unguarded; a perfect gateway for them to enter. The scratching intensified as they clamored towards the slit where they could easily seep.

She darted to the couch and grabbed Barnaby’s favorite blanket. She jammed it tightly into the crack, hoping it would be enough of a barrier. She snatched Barnaby and sprinted to the bathroom. She closed the door behind her, leaving only the dim glow of a night light to show the way. She dared not turn on the rest of the lights. Another crack beneath another door was another place for the eyes to break in and find her. She rammed the bathmat between the floor and the door.

Barnaby balled up behind the toilet, low growls bellowing from his throat. Besides a crumpled up bathmat, he was her only ward. She hunkered down in the bathtub, hugging her knees to her chest. She heard nothing, but it didn’t stop the fear of knowing they were out there and they would find her again. She kept her eyes squeezed tightly shut to hold off the inevitable, to hold in the tears.

The tea kettle screeched it’s alarm, startling her eyes to open. She was not alone. The eyes surrounded her; watching her from every angle. The whistle kept squeeling; the eyes moved in closer and closer cocooning her in their grip. The largest pair of them all stared at her front and center. They were her own – blue and bright – the same ones she saw in the mirror this morning. Only they were sharper. Something dark lurked in the pupils. Something hopeless and terrifying. Something derelict and devoid of life. It wasn’t her but then it was or could be. She screamed as they descended upon her. Flecks of blue and black encroached and devoured her whole.

Finis

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Blink, Part 1

Blink, Part 2

Thanks so much for stopping by to read the final installment of Blink. This story started as a few scribbles in my journal and it’s been so exciting to watch it grow into something that so many readers enjoyed. The experience has inspired me to start writing short stories again after a long spell. Stay tuned as more shorts are sure to come.

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c.b.w. 2014

“A Life” Faces The Truth

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128618A Life by Guy de Maupassant is the story of a woman who grasps the reality that life is rarely fair. While the premise is nothing new in terms of storytelling, the way in which Maupassant approaches it is revolutionary.

The story begins with a young woman who is full of dreams and bright imaginings of her future. Unfortunately, her innocent fairy tale mentality clouds her perspective. When real life begins to unfold she feels the pain of crumbling fantasies as life deals her a few cruel blows and her choices further entrap her into an existence she never imagined for herself. As she approaches midlife, she becomes jaded and full of self-pity. It’s only when old age sets in that she starts to sift through the memories of life with a new eye. Instead of tragedy, she finds herself remembering only the joys.

The beauty of the novel lies in how Maupassant contrasts different views of life. There is always something influencing the character’s point of view – whether it be the innocence of youth, scorn of adulthood, or impending death, never does she view life in an unbiased mindset. In the process, Maupassant unveils the universal emotions we feel when faced with our own mortality.

One of Maupassant’s strengths is his ability to transform a rather simple story into something beautiful with well-crafted imagery and flowing prose. Lengthy descriptions of nature are used to represent the feelings, emotions, and rites of passage for the main character. Rather than explore these realms the old fashioned way through the mind of the character, he creates magnificent and sometimes haunting images of emotion with landscapes, water, and plantlife. These passages are often long and sometimes drag, but I was swept into them as soon as I viewed them as part of the character and not just insanely long descriptions.

The last line is where Maupassant dazzles with subtlety. Never does he end a story with everything tied up into a neat little package. There is room to wonder what happens next, while saying goodbye to the characters. For a novel that depicts the often unfair attributes of life, he manages to put it all in perspective with a perfectly balanced dose of optimism and pessimism.

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c.b.w. 2014