And So It Begins…

I’ve really been a slacker this year when it comes to NaNoWriMo. Not that I wanted to be, but I just couldn’t get one idea to mesh together into a cohesive plot. I’m still having some issues with that one. However, I have a very basic, one page, outline now, and I really hope that will be enough. We’ll see.

I still don’t have a title. I’m terrible with titles! I still hate the title I’m using for last year’s NaNo novel. But maybe that will come to me as November progresses. I did post this short synopsis on the NaNoWriMo website:

Monica Gray is an artist who is still trying to make it on the art scene. She has a show opening at a gallery and a mysterious stranger with an Irish accent purchases nearly all of her pieces. Shortly after shipping this large order overseas, she receives a letter inviting her to Donovan Manor, in County Clare, Ireland, with an offer for a commission she can’t refuse. She packs herself and her cat Sebastian across the Atlantic to this great estate house, which is a functioning farm and idyllic B&B.

Monica quickly befriends the house staff and a few of the guests, including an American who is a European history professor, and two quirky elderly sisters, Mary and Maud. She has yet to meet her employer, the mysterious Mr. Donovan, but she has had a few glimpses of his grandson, Aidan. This isn’t quite the peaceful holiday Monica had in mind. Her dreams are plagued with visions and frightening events. She begins to lose track of where her dreams end and reality begins. Sometimes she even sees the shadow of a man, but she has yet to determine if he is the man of her dreams….or her nightmares.

This is a bit more adult than last year’s project, which I definitely consider YA. I don’t think this is a bad idea, I just hope I can do it justice. That being said, I’ve also done other things to prepare for the month of November. I’ve stocked up on chocolate and tea. And I’ve got a vacation from work coming up, too. So that should definitely give me a bit more time to write. Hopefully, I can continue my “winning” streak and reach at least 50,000 words.

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The Scorpio Races

Without a doubt, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races is the best young adult book I’ve read in a very long time. This book appeals to a large audience, too. It is not solely fantasy or romance, even though it does have those elements.

Kate “Puck” Connolly has found herself in an interesting situation. Fate has forced her into being a contender in the Scorpio Races, a very exciting, and dangerous, game. As the first woman who has ever entered the races, she faces some challenges that the other riders don’t have to experience. Sean Kendrick is the returning champion, but unlike the rest of the island of Thisby, he doesn’t discount Puck. He actually sees her as a person, and eventually a woman.

Honestly, this book seemed to have quite a few slow parts when I think back on when the action actually happened. It didn’t seem slow while I was reading it though. I felt like I was getting to know the island of Thisby and all of its inhabitants. The descriptions of the different characters and the places were amazing — I actually felt like part of the community!

The action of the racing, the fantastical element of the flesh-eating water horses, the slow burning romance, and the beautiful and detailed setting make for a winning combination. I haven’t read The Wolves of Mercy Falls yet, but I have read the author’s fey novels. While I enjoyed them immensely, I can definitely see how much she has grown as an author, which only excites me about her future works. (And yes, Shiver, Linger, and Forever are now on my to-read list.)

Unearthly

Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand, was a surprisingly great story, and not exactly what I had expected.

Clara Gardener has been having visions of a boy standing in the trees, and of a forest fire that she believes may put him in danger. Knowing that this is the beginning of Clara’s purpose, her half-angel mother packs up Clara and her brother and moves to Wyoming, the setting of Clara’s visions. At her new high school, Clara meets Christian, the boy in her dreams. She also makes other friends and meets another boy, Tucker, who any mother except Clara’s would love.

As Clara learns new things about the angels here on earth, she finds herself in a world she no longer understands. And what’s worse, when the forest fires are raging, she is forced to make a decision between love and duty, a decision that will most likely change her forever.

It’s been a long time since a young adult novel could make me feel a character’s emotions this intensely. And this was such a unique plot, too. For both of those things, I’m grateful. I can’t wait to read the next installment of Clara’s story.

Possessed

After another trip to the local library, one of the books that found its way home with me was Possessed, by Kate Cann. The book read like a pretty creepy ghost story, but the main plot didn’t really involve ghosts.

Rayne has decided that she needs to get away from her mother, her three-year-old brother, her boyfriend, and the overall busyness of London. She finds a job at a country estate, Morton’s Keep, that is steeped in history. She has finally found the silence and the space that she so craved, but the eeriness of the mansion and the stories and sounds keep her up at night. Before too long, she meets a group of other teenagers her own age, who immediately befriend her. St. John, the group’s unofficial leader, also decided that he likes her and the two begin a relationship.

Things aren’t as they seem, though, and Rayne soon feels like her inclusion in this group is just for show and that she is being used. Rayne speaks to the owner of the house and discovers that quite a bit of evil occurred at the house, and that every so often, there are “reoccurrences.” And he feels like it’s happening again. Soon, Rayne is able to see things, and people, for what they really are and discovers the secrets of the house as well as her new boyfriend.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. Parts of it, specifically some of the dialogue, didn’t seem to flow as easily as it could have, although this might be because the author is English and stayed true to local dialect. It wasn’t very distracting, though. The writing also seemed geared towards the younger age group of the YA genre, even though the book mentioned sex, which seems to not to be directed at a younger age group. Anyway, I found it entertaining, but I probably won’t read the sequel.

Wither

As I was saying in a recent book post about the YA genre, I was ready for something a bit more original. And I found it!

Wither, by Lauren DeStefano, takes place in the future USA, and something has gone terribly wrong. Aside from the “first generation,” females only live to be 20-years-old, and males to 25-years-old thanks to some sort of genetic virus. Orphans are abundant, and there is a race to prevent extinction by mating early to produce offspring. The Gatherers kidnap young women as potential brides in polygamous marriages. Rhine Ellery, a 16-year-old, is captured and separated from her twin brother Rowan.

She and two other chosen girls are taken to a mansion far from her home in New York and are married to House Governor Linden, a 21-year-old man. Rhine tries to earn his trust by playing nice and she eventually gets the title of “first wife.” Although she has not consummated the marriage, her 13-year-old sister wife is already pregnant. And Rhine is beginning to have conflicting emotions regarding her husband captor. Linden’s father, a first generation man, is a doctor and scientist and claims to be constantly working on an antidote for the virus, but he only has four years left to save his son.

Rhine finds an ally in a servant boy, Gabriel, and begins to have feelings for him. She shares her plans of escape and insists that he come with her. But if they are caught, it could very well cost them their lives…or worse.

I’m definitely eager to discover what happens next in this story, and if Rhine will have a happy rest of her life, or if there will somehow be an antidote that will allow her to live beyond the ripe old age of twenty. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t discovered any other YA books with this premise yet, but I found the concept and plot to be like a breath of fresh air, especially considering the other books I’ve read lately that all seem like basically repeats of one another. I’m looking forward to Fever, the second book in The Chemical Garden series, which is scheduled to be released in February 2012.

 

Short Story

A few weeks ago, I found out about a local writer’s group in my town. They meet once a month for a couple of hours, on the third Saturday of the month. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I decided to go to the September meeting. The current assignment, or challenge, was to write a short story around 4,000 to 6,000 words. So I began tossing a few ideas around, and over the past couple of weeks I wrote my first short story, weighing in right at the upper limit of 6,000 words.

And so I took it with me to the meeting today. Like last month, it was a small group, but after reading it, one person did compliment me, saying that I wrote really well. The assignment for the November meeting is to research possible publishers and bring information about 3-6 publishing companies or magazines that are possibilities. Again, I don’t have anything to lose, and there’s the (small) chance that my story might actually be accepted and published! Then I could truly call myself a published author!!

The title of my short story is “Elmsgate.”

In the town of Elmsgate, all sixteen-year-olds must undergo testing, and possibly treatment, in order to be considered an adult and join society. There is no place for creativity or diversity. Any differences are deemed abnormal and are considered illnesses that must be cured. Sam dreams of being an artist, creating his pieces with smuggled paints. His girlfriend, Lily, writes music, both melodies and lyrics. Sam tries to convince Lily to escape, but she can’t bear to leave her little sister, and Sam can’t bear to leave without her. The only option is to get through the testing and probable treatment so they can be together. But treatment can change people, or even be fatal.

There’s still a bit of polishing left to do on my story, but it’s got a great start. And it really didn’t take me that long to write it–just a couple of weeks. The hardest part was coming up with an idea that I deemed “good enough.” That seems to be the problem I’m having right now preparing for NaNoWriMo, but that’s another topic for another day.

Hush, Hush

Continuing with my YA paranormal romance kick, I read Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick. I’ve read a few differing reviews. It seems like quite a few people have extreme reactions to this book, either loving it or hating it. I really didn’t fit into either category. I liked it better than the last book I read, but I didn’t hate it. I didn’t think it was amazing either, though.

Nora Grey seems like a typical high school girl. She has a boy-crazy best friend, gets good grades, but doesn’t think twice about the boys at her school. Until she is assigned Patch as her biology partner. He has an edge to him, a danger that draws Nora closer. As she begins to see things that aren’t really there, she begins to direct her suspicions at many people around her. Patch must have beaten up a girl she doesn’t like. A new guy at school, Elliott, must have murdered his ex-girlfriend and now is after Nora’s best friend, Vee. It did seem like there was quite a bit going on in the villain department.

Also, there was the whole Twilight theme: I really want to kill you to achieve my own selfish means, but I love you, so I won’t. I want my cake and want to eat it, too!

Anyway, Nora has many questions about Patch’s mysterious past. As she discovers more about him, she is torn between wanting to be with him and wanting to run and hide. Patch is a fallen angel who has aspirations of being human. Killing Nora, a descendent of Patch’s Nephilim (half-fallen angel, half-human) vassal, would provide Patch with the means of attaining humanity. Conversely, if he saves a life, he will gain his wings back, albeit just guardian wings, which would allow him back into Heaven. But Patch’s vassal, Chauncey, has tracked him down and is determined to take his revenge on Patch. He knows that he can’t hurt Patch, so he will take what Patch loves. Nora is then faced with a decision to either die a meaningless death, or give Patch what he has wanted for so long.

Oh, and another pharmacist note. Nora is anemic, but for some reason she doesn’t take an iron supplement everyday. Instead, when she gets dizzy, or stressed out, it’s somehow because of low iron and she pops two iron pills and miraculously feels better. When did iron begin working like Xanax? This detail was ridiculous and irritating. No excuse for this sloppiness and lack of research.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I read it fairly quickly, so I can definitely say it was entertaining. I haven’t decided if I will continue to read the series, but I do believe I’m ready for something a bit more original, though.

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