Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Mini-Reviews: Just Finished And What’s Next

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So lately, I’ve gone through a few reading selections! One was an ARC, one was from the TBR, the rest happened because of the long sickness, and the fact that I simply didn’t have the energy to do much besides sit and read. (Yeah, I know, the tragedy.)

Anyway, onto the reviews…

The ARC: The Traveler by EB Dawson

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This is an interesting cross of sort of a spec-fic mystery and third world travel guide. (Yes, this works, trust me.) It was a bit slow to start, but definitely picked up the action about a third of the way in, and kept going. The world-building felt a little tricky early on, as it seemed we weren’t really given a concrete reason for Anissa’s disconnect to the society she lived in. Once we get to the “other world” (no spoilers, I promise), we definitely get a lot of established emotions and background and connections with other characters to propel the plot forward. There is a somewhat open ending, but I am aware a sequel is planned. If you like unique tales that don’t just tick the boxes of genre fiction, you might want to give this one a try! It’s a very clean writing style, little violence, no swearing or sexual references, totally appropriate for YA, but the subject matter may be more suited to adults.

The library-helping-me-through-my-sickness: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

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I’m aware that there are many, very negative ratings for Thirteen Reasons Why. This was a novel that I’d decided never to read, based solely on the negative comments. But I saw it as a completely new selection to my local library (it’s a small town, this is a big deal), and went for it, after all. While I could definitely see some holes in the writing/plotting, and could understand why certain scenes upset some readers, overall there is a lot in this novel that’s very important to consider and discuss and mull over.

One, I don’t agree at all with anyone who felt that the book actually condones suicide and suggests it as a “solution”. I didn’t see that depicted at all. Nor the idea that the narration somehow supported Hannah’s method of making the tapes and sending them out to blame individuals for her death. Some of the characters were truly horrible people, and something had to be said or done; but Hannah’s logic was skewed because of her depression and whatever else was going on with her that they weren’t responsible for. Are they actually to blame for her decision to take her life? No, of course not. Just because she felt that way doesn’t make it true. And while I don’t agree with Hannah’s ultimate choice (it was a selfish, cowardly move — the really hard part is sticking around trying to make it get better), I can honestly sympathize with her in a way. As someone who was a suicidal teen myself (well, this remark will get some interesting reactions), I completely understand her anger, her lack of rationing, her confusion and denial and urge to self-destruct.

Suicide is such an important topic to address, and most people are not. Novels like this are a good step — even if you thought it addressed the topic in the wrong way!, because that gets a necessary conversation started.

Onto lighter things now…

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I am still in a hurry, but still don’t understand astrophysics. I’ve wanted Neil DeGrasse Tyson on TV, but in text, I had a hard time pinning down the explanations. It seems that Tyson has created an interesting breed of celebrity scientist, while maintaining the elite view of keeping science unfathomable to the general public. I’m really not sure how I feel about this book.

Reading it in the doctor’s office will give you major bonus points with the staff, though, as you’ll appear smart and deep. 10/10 for that.

The TBR conquer: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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And “conquer” is totally accurate — this book is a doorstop. (If you’re being attacked by a Wildling or an Other, just throw a copy at them — you’ll survive.) I was so surprised I managed to read it within 2 weeks. Towards the end, there were parts I really didn’t like, and characters that made me want to scream, but overall this was a compelling tale with an engaging writing style and a well-thought-out plot. I found it easy to connect the dots as I progressed, and for a novel of this length (most over 400 pages can’t seem to follow their own stories after 75%), that’s impressive.

What’s next: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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Since it’s next in the series, makes sense, right? There are a few other random holds kicking around my library requests list, but most likely this will be the one that shows up the quickest. (There are multiple copies in the system, thanks to the popularity of the show.)

Anyway, here’s my latest round-up. Hope you all are doing well, moths!

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family, health, writing

Hello from the Other Side…

So, this past week the Muffin and I were sick. Really sick. The sort of can’t-breathe-can’t-sleep-can’t-eat-for-coughing sick. BLEHHHHH.

It was a very, very hard week. There were times I literally could not get off the couch, or recliner, or floor. The snot was an uphill battle. The aches and chills made me fear for the safety of my joints. Sleep was a rare, precious gem.

I have not been that sick in quite some time.

Muffin did not make the process of getting better very easy. He was a massive pain in the rear. He wouldn’t nap, or blow his nose, or stop throwing a tantrum when we asked him to let us wipe up the snot. (At least he cooperated for the doctor.)

There was a lot of other crap going on, too. We were out of everything, at once. (Doesn’t that always happen, though?) The weather — thanks to recent hurricanes — was downright miserable until yesterday. Since Muffin and I weren’t sleeping well, tempers were short.

All of this combined meant that by Thursday, I was utterly exhausted.

I did manage to post a couple pre-scheduled blogs, and keep up on my social media, and even engage with others a little (in the form of comments), partly to keep my own sanity. But there was far too much else that I had to let slide.

I have packages to mail that won’t be going out until next week. Future blog posts are definitely up for debate.

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And my plan of completing the Volume 2 revisions this week went completely out the window.

And although I know there was a very good reason for it, I still feel bad.

After all, I have been trying to finish this particular story since April, and I really wanted to get all the plot holes filled up and the characters flushed out by October 1st. So that I can do NaNo if I want to. Also because there are people eagerly awaiting Volume 2. I know this for a fact, as they’ve told me. (And not to sound intensely selfish, but I am not made of a money-growing tree, and some sales would be nice.)

But after this week, I’ve begun to rethink a few things.

The concept of attempting NaNo this year feels equivalent to Frodo and Mount Doom and the One Ring. Or escaping Smaug without getting fried to a crisp. Or winning the Scorpio Races. You get the idea. I am quickly realizing that to spend my November on a brand new, timed-down-to-the-wire project would not be wise.

Last year, I was honestly really proud of myself for finishing NaNo (although my family was not supportive in the slightest after the end of week 2, and in fact became a major pain in the neck — #sorrynotsorry for saying that out loud). But this year — which I was originally expecting to be easier — is now seeming like an even greater monster.

However, I do have writing to accomplish. At least the bare bones of Volume 3 and the companion prequel to the series. And I know that having the deadline of NaNo helps inspire the discipline to create something and get it into some formation.

BUUUUT…

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When something happens like getting hit with an unexpected flu, something that is easily fixed in the grand scale of things, and yet in the moment completely throws off your whole schedule and leaves you scrambling to pick up the pieces those first few days, it makes you remember what you’re really trying to accomplish.

This isn’t a huge philosophical statement (it was just a week of upper respiratory misery). But seeing how my whole household nearly came crashing down just because I was out of commission (which is not a good thing in itself — don’t take your mothers/wives for granted, guys) made me feel that the burden is simply too heavy.

So, this fall, I will make sure Volume 2 becomes the best it can be. And I won’t guilt myself into entering a writing contest.

Or stress out about my blog stats.

Or sign up for any more ARCs. Or panic if I haven’t reviewed every single book I’ve ever finished on Goodreads.

Really. I swear.

You get the idea.

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community, writing

Indie Authors Do’s and Don’t’s

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Is there any one surefire way to get people to read your self-published work? Nope, sorry. Are there certain things that do seem to work better than other approaches, though? That’d be a yup.

Not that I’m a huge expert (only 5 months after printing my debut novel), but I’ve found that are particular methods to writing and marketing that will help set your publication apart from the masses, and encourage readers to spend their hard-earned money on it.

DO network and interact with other indie authors. Finding connections on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress or Blogspot, and all the online communities is very important. Word of mouth does sell books for us independents. A handful of detailed reviews on Goodreads or Amazon can really push people towards choosing our title over a bunch of other available options.

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DON’T spam people to read your book. Only Tweeting about your latest release, only subscribing to others whose messages include the “am writing” hashtag, so you can DM them with a very brash, “Hey, you exist, so buy my books!”, will tick people off. Building personal associations with potential readers first, then politely asking if they’re interested in reviewing your work, generally goes down very well.

DO write your story in a unique, unfamiliar way. Many readers are honestly tired of the usual tropes of genre fiction, and hungry for something different. They are more likely to try an unknown author advertising a tale or style that doesn’t sound like all the new novels released last year, than another same-old-same-old by a traditional publishing company playing to a worn-out formula.

DON’T worry about being the next JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or Maggie Stiefvater. Number one — none of these authors got to be who they are now overnight. Number two — their writing styles and stories are unique to who they are as authors and as people. So there’s no pressure to become an amazing literary master — or someone you simply aren’t. Your readers will appreciate your style and story if it’s coming from a real place.

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DO take the time to edit your manuscripts thoroughly. Are we all human, and going to make mistakes now and then? Of course. But when it comes to first impressions, let’s be realistic and understand that most people aren’t going to say, “Oh, well, they’re only human,” after they hit the 125th typo in your published book. A few (literally, under 10) scattered throughout a self-edited work (by someone who most likely is not a professional proofreader) won’t really irk most readers. But much more than that, and it can make following your story more (unnecessarily) difficult, and may cause people to wonder how important their satisfaction was to you — translating into lower sales (when it could be avoided).

DON’T ignore others’ feedback. No one wants to be told that somebody thought their work was about as interesting as watching paint dry. But when you’re going through the beta-reading process or ARC reviews, if several people regularly note the same thing as giving them trouble, you might want to pay attention. Not that you absolutely have to do what others suggest for your work. It can definitely help your sales, though, if you make some tweaks that reflect common critiques. (This is also why you ask for beta-readers prior to printing. It can be a massive help!)

DO have fun with the whole self-publishing thing. Since you’re not traditionally published, that means you’re not fulfilling a contract or getting paid a large sum of money to write, so that usually indicates you are undertaking this endeavor purely for the joy of completing your work and sharing it with others. And if it’s not fun, then, in this instance, what’s the point?

Yes, becoming a published author (even doing it by yourself) is a big deal, and a real rush (I won’t lie). But although we are after fame and fortune (at least a little!), we also are trying to tell a story, and if other people think it’s awesome sauce, that’s even better.

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blogging, books

Book Bloggers Do’s and Don’t’s

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Not that there are actual rules (nobody panic). (Unless you’re doing something I expressly put on the list of don’t’s. Then wallow in your shame and change your ways.)

No, kidding. But being a book blogger is in fact much harder than many people realize; so here are some tips to help you survive the online jungle, and successfully continue your endeavors for sharing your love of reading.

DO read what you like, and post what you want to. There are few things more frustrating for a bookdragon than feeling compelled to read books they simply have no interest in, just because “everybody else is reading it.” There’s nothing wrong in sticking to your favorite genres. Only write reviews if that’s your preference. Or only post discussions. Whatever — it’s your blog, and most of us are not being paid to do this, so what’s the point of not enjoying it?

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DON’T turn your comments section into Confrontation Central. Yes, you have every right to express your opinion. So do those who comment on your blog. Even if it doesn’t match up with yours. The trick is to maintain a presence that keeps yourself and your readers comfortable. Most people who didn’t like a certain author/series will just say so nicely, and not mind if you loved the minature pandas out of it. If you feel somebody’s really getting out of hand, though, probably the best thing to do is just ignore it, or block it (I mean literally, via technology).

Also, know how much disagreeing is too much for you. If “Mysteries are so retardedly boring, I don’t know how anybody with half a brain cell can read them” honestly doesn’t bother you, then don’t draw the line there. But if you’d really prefer people to stick to, “This one just wasn’t my thing, thanks,” then don’t be afraid to lay down the law. Again, it is your blog, and ultimately your decision.

DO visit other blogs. Especially when you find another blogger who reads a lot of the same stuff you do. Not only can you find some great new authors this way, you build online relationships that may become important and lasting.

DON’T do the “follow for follow” thing. If you really like someone’s content and want to subscribe to their blog, please go ahead. But subscribing only with the hopes that they’ll do the same for you is kind of like only sending forwards of crude jokes to your distant relatives. Most of us do end up following each other, because we build friendships through our common interests. That’s the ultimate hope for a lot of us, not to have 10,000 subscribers (9,000 of which may not even read our posts).

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DO give your honest opinions about books. Yes, I really mean that. And “honest” does not mean the same as “cruel and unusual ways of expressing your personal dislike of a specific novel.”

Of course, it is your blog, and ultimately your decision on how negative is too negative. But personally, as an author myself, I would feel really horrible if I read a review that basically told me to go jump off a bridge (including gory details of what it would look like after I hit bottom), simply because the person didn’t enjoy my book. That’s where I get my guideline from. Tactfully saying, “I just felt this was too dull and I couldn’t relate to the characters since they all seemed not to care that they hurt the old lady’s feelings,” can make the difference between losing and gaining respect among your fellow bookdragons/authors.

DON’T worry about doing ARCs. Now, I may feel a little blue in the face, because this is a topic I’ve covered a lot lately, but it bears repeating. ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy, and is a free edition of an impending release, sent either by the author or the publisher, in the hopes of getting lots of reviews out before the sale date. Many book bloggers feel becoming someone who gets all the coveted ARCs is the Holy Grail of this venture. However, there are a lot of downsides to having to read a book you may not even like, on a deadline, and needing to post a review that other people are going to make a big deal of. My advice is don’t sweat getting approved for ARCs if it sounds like your seventh circle of hell.

DO become as engaged as you want to be. Jump on the bandwagon for tags if you think they’re really fun. Start accounts on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and Pinterest if it makes your little heart flutter with joy. Sign up for blog tours, guest posts (writing and receiving), host giveaways.

And also, never be afraid to step back and disconnect from certain platforms or activities when you know it’s simply overwhelming you.

Remember, all of this only works if you’re truly happy with it.

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blogging, community

Masters and Beginners Updates and Announcements (Read My Book or I’ll Take Away Your Coffee)

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No, I won’t actually take away your coffee (or will I???), but people on Twitter seemed to find this a very sufficient threat. (Since I can’t drink coffee anymore myself, the severity of this hypothetical situation will remain a mystery to me.)

Anyway, recently I a) ran a giveaway for a copy of the re-release, b) suggested starting a book club for my own work (which I swear is not an act of extreme hubris), and c) tried to made serious headway on the revisions for Volume 2.

The results of all this is a) the winner has been selected and notified, and if that happens not to be you, please feel free to acquire your copy through Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press website (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956?ean=9781538033111), or I still have copies of the first edition, featuring Toby.

b) I am starting a book club for my own books.

c) My goal is to have Volume 2 ready for publication before November 1st.

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In the meantime, let’s start a book club all about The Order of the Twelve Tribes!

I’m thinking that the discussion date for Volume 1 will be around October 30th. It’s short, easy to get through (I’m not a fan of 17-letter words), and that date also nicely coincides with an important date in the story (no spoilers, moths in the know!).

If you’d like to participate, just obtain or re-read your copy of Volume 1: Masters and Beginners (by the way, either cover, it’s the exact same story), and watch this space for a discussion post that you can all jump in on!

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blogging, community, writing

Two Tags in One (Be Impressed…)

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…because these will be the only tags I do this year. Remember, the thing about time not growing on trees.

But it has been suggested that my readers would be interested in my answers to the Strangest Browser Searches and Writing Rituals tags.

(And I could use an easy post. There are other things going on behind the scenes that are making my life a bit challenging.)

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Honestly, I don’t consider most of my browser searches (for writing) to be that strange. Usually it consists of topics like, “what do you call the daughter of a Countess?” and “depiction of faeries in art”. Once I looked up “which colors to wear if you’re blonde/brunette/redheaded” for a scene where Sophie and Gwen were getting ready for a party, and I was drawing a complete blank on how they would have been dressed.

Most of my searches include things like the correct spelling of Gallifrey (the Doctor’s home planet) and Minecraft stuff (to make sure I get those references right — and even then, I have to double check it with White Fang).

Once I did have to look up Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (because that’s Amelia’s last name, and while I had a general knowledge of the city’s history, I wanted to make sure of the facts.)

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Now the questions for the Writing Rituals tag:

When do you write? (time of day, day of week)

Whenever I can. Though I’ve found better ideas tend to happen earlier in the day.

How do you seclude yourself from the outside world?

Give me a moment to look at this question with the most sarcasm that can be put into an expression. There is no such thing.


How do you review what you wrote the previous day?

With extreme caution. No, it’s usually not that bad. Generally I read the last page or so of what I wrote last the day before, to remind myself where I was and what the plan is.


What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired?

Lately “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron and my guilty-pleasure-80s-classics (like Def Leppard and The Cure).

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What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch youtube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block?

Avoid writing, generally (ha, ha). Sometimes I’ll focus on reading or blogging more. Every once in a while, bingeing on a favorite movie or TV show gives me that spark of inspiration.


What tools do you use when you’re writing?

Only the software or the pen and paper, sometimes music, sometimes a movie. (Yes, those count, in big ways, trust me.)


What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session?

TEA.


How do you fuel yourself during your writing session?

See above. Also, the creative input part of music, etc. And taking breaks during the process is very important. Trying to force yourself to sit still and pour forth words when you’re just not feeling it won’t do any good. Taking 10 minutes to throw that laundry in the dryer and empty the dishwasher can make the difference between breaking writer’s block and staying stuck in it.


How do you know when you’re done writing?

I am never done writing, never, mwhahaha… Usually, it’s when the story seems to have reached a natural conclusion. At least for that installment (since I am apparently incapable of writing a stand-alone novel; maybe one day I’ll try).

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blogging, community

The Liebster Award

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Good morning! How are we all? I’m not sure I even remember what day it is! But I do have this post for you! The lovely Susannah Metzler over at A Tea with Tumnus has nominated me for the Liebster Award; I just don’t do the awards/tags circuit usually these days, mostly as a result of time not growing on trees. But I am quite aware that the appreciation for my blog is genuine, and I am very grateful for that.

So I won’t be tagging/nominating anyone else, but I will be answering the questions.

What is your favorite film score/movie soundtrack?

Hmmm. Generally I don’t listen to film scores — well, obviously I’m aware of them when I watch a movie. But otherwise, I don’t really look up the CD or anything. Though I do like the Lord of the Rings score (except I can’t make it through 2 lines of the Annie Lennox song at the end of Return of the King without completely losing it).

What is your favorite band?

Pink Floyd, Adele, Coldplay, and I am utter trash for Taylor Swift’s “1989” album.

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If you could play any fictional character in a movie adaptation of your favorite book, whom would you be?

Do I get to say Avery McKinnon in my own work? Otherwise, probably Sandstorm from Warriors (yes, I am aware she’s a cat), or Susan Sto Helit in Discworld.

Explain what your WIP is about in at least three sentences.

More faeries, talking cats, and geek references. Uncovering a deeper plot (not nefarious, though). Long-lost relatives coming home. More on autism, angels, and background of the Order.

What are your three favorite superheros?

I have to come up with 3? Sorry, folks, I’m just not huge on the superheroes thing. Thor. Doctor Strange. Maybe Logan (circa 2000-2010 in the movie franchise).

What would you name a boat if you had one?

Okay, this will be a lame answer, as I would not have a boat — I’m afraid of deep water. Can I get a toy sailboat for Muffin to use in a kiddie pool? Then I could call it The S.S. Munchkin or something.

Which fictional character would you think would be the most boring to meet in real life?

Wow, I need to beg people not to throw things at me right now! Probably Prof. Trelawney from Harry Potter (although I honestly appreciate that she had a real gift she had to hide). Or the talking tree dude from Guardians of the Galaxy (nobody hit me! — just, how many times can you hear him say the one word over and over?!).

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If you decided to change your name, what would that name be, and why?

Ahh, this is a trick question for me, as Daley Downing is a pen name (but I guard my reasons for assuming this nom de plume with my life — sorry, guys).

What is your favorite genre to write?

Definitely fantasy. Though I’ve tried my hand at contemporary and historical fiction, too.

What are three things you share in common with your main character?

Which one? Since I have several. Also, I don’t tend to have a lot in common with any of them. Well, for Emma or Madison, I am an only child. I definitely agree with Flynn’s love of Pink Floyd and Doctor Who. And like Sophie and Cal, I have read most of the Warriors books.

What is your favorite movie/book quote right now?

“This must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

And in one episode of Supernatural, Crowley said something fantastic to his minions — “Under pain of infinite pain!” (I finish my instructions to White Fang a lot with that one.)

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