I Finished It!!!! (Plus “On Holiday”)

Hey All,

What a busy summer it’s been. Reading, writing, walks, camping, movie nights, yoga, blogging, talking, spending time family and friends, and just getting caught up on chores that I don’t have time for during the year. It’s been beautiful and fun, and I don’t know where the time’s gone (especially August, which always goes waaayyy faster than it should!) I hope that you all have had as amazing summers as I have!!! :)

Guess what? I finished my book!!! I had to abbreviate the cut-off word-count a little bit, simply because I knew that it was time and I wanted to have the chance to reflect on it before I start school again and begin to edit. I also want to rest my back and wrists so I don’t get repetitive motion strain, and just spend some time with my family before I’m back to crazy. Just thought I’d share.

I’ll update soon on some of what I’ve learnt from my latest book-writing journey. Meanwhile, I am taking a little break from blogging/writing (might casually update on Twitter). From today, up until September, I don’t expect to be on here a lot. On Sept. 6, I will be hosting two blog tours, so that will be exciting. Also expect a book review some time this fall, and some updates. Other than that, you may not hear a lot from me for the next little bit. But fear not: even when my fingers aren’t working, my mind is. I’m hoping to incubate a ton of new ideas for my next round of blogging!!!

Loads of love and blessings! Emily X

Book Review: “Queen of Someday” by Sherry D. Ficklin

Word is out; I’m missing The Selection series. Ever since that series came out, I’ve been infected with an insatiable princess fever. So when I saw “Queen of Someday” by Sherry D. Ficklin (correction: when I saw the gorgeous cover), I knew it was something I needed to read.

Queen of Someday is about fifteen year old Sophie (aka, Catherine the Great), a Prussian princess who is being encouraged by her mother to vie for the affections of the Grand Duke Peter of Russia, in hopes that their marriage will save their family from poverty. At first, Sophie not only complies to her mother’s wishes, but is excited at the prospect of actually winning the hand of the dashing Peter. However, as Sophie finds out more about Peter, and meets the handsome Sergei and Alexander, her feelings are complicated.

When I first realized that there was going to be not only a love triangle, but a love “box” (for lack of a better word), I started to get a little leery. I like love triangles, but I wondered how many love interests you can actually jam into one book. However, this particular “love box” was handled with good structure in mind. While Sophie is attracted to all three men, in different ways, she doesn’t flip from one guy to another too easily. Peter turns out to be a good-for-nothing pretty early in the game, which leaves Sophie with one man who she is passionately in love with and one for whom she has a subtle attraction and deep trust. What results is a scenario that, to my non-history-buff brain, is pretty realistic to what a royal teenager may have gone through at the time.

This brings me to my one and only complaint for this book. This read was quick, yet very lush and satisfying throughout. However, I would have liked Sophie to be a little less attracted to all three men, all at once. Some build-up time would have been nice, especially where Sergei was concerned. That said, this is a minor detail, and I was very impressed with how romance was handled in this book. Bodice-ripper this is not, there is actually a lot of depth here.

Sophie! She is just such a great character. One previous reviewer compared her to “Katniss or Tris in a ball gown” and I totally agree with that statement. Sophie can be tough when she needs to be, but she has a very vulnerable, feminine, young side to her that makes her really well-rounded and interesting. What’s especially intriguing, is that instead of just being physically tough, she is able to manipulate and plot in order to avoid becoming lost in the corrupt Russian kingdom.

The book’s pace was also really great. Chapters are very cleanly divided, and this book as a whole is well-paced, interesting, and easy to follow. I appreciated the author’s writing style for the historical fiction genre; when Sophie speaks to other characters, she has the formal tone of the era, but when she speaks to the reader in her first-person narration, she uses more modern language. Readers who are turned off of historical fiction will like this book for that.

One final aspect that I loved is how many twists and turns there are. There were many parts where I thought I had this book figured out, then was totally surprised. The ending was an epic shocker that even I wouldn’t have thought of (and I guessed the Broadchurch killer in episode two), and left me both majorly impressed, and excited for book #2.

Overall, Queen of Someday is excellent for fans of princess-themed books, like The Selection, historical fiction, or just really engaging heroines. Loved it!!!

Book Review: “Win the Rings” by K.D. VanBrunt

I brought this book along with me on a camping trip that I technically did not want to go on. Trying to make the best of my time (in heatstroke weather) I nestled into my beach chair as I started to read. And kept on reading. “Win the Rings” is extremely addictive and fast-paced. Each time I told myself that I was going to read just one more chapter, I couldn’t do it. I was that compelled.

Quick summary: “Win the Rings” tells the stories, in alternating POVs, of Jace and Gray, two teenagers who are shifters. Shifting is the ability to acquire the form of other humans through physical touch. With their physical shape, also comes the individual’s memories, thoughts, etc. Shifters are wanted by the U.S. Military, and as such, Jace has lived with the military since she was a little girl. Gray, on the other hand, was saved from military recruitment by his older sister, Nia, and the two have been on the run for nearly eleven years.

When Jace gets a chance to graduate from her military training by finding Gray and hauling him in, she takes it immediately. During the city-to-city chase that results, Both Gray and Jace end up revaluating their personal lives and choices as well as what freedom means.

I’m not one to save the worst for last, so here it is: My only real complaint with this novel, was that Jace and Gray both use a lot of the same swear words and slang, and have similar voice idiosyncrasies. This is not a major issue, but sometimes I had a hard time keeping track of who was talking. I would have preferred some differentiation in their voices. That said, I really loved this book. I liked the vibrancy of all of the characters, as well as their emotional depth. Both Gray and Jace are engaging characters in their own ways, and while they both have unique challenges- Gray, wanting to have a home base, and Jace wanting to be able to travel beyond the confines of her academy- they both strive towards freedom, giving the story arch a definable thread. And despite the action and drama, there are also some truly funny moments that appealed to my quirky sense of humour.

Ultimately, I’m happy to have read this book, and would definitely recommend it to fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent or E.R. Arroyo’s Sovereign. If you feel like a super breathless, well-paced novel, this is one for you!

Editing Tips

A few weeks ago, I posted on how to get your first-draft manuscript written. Plugging out your first book is exhilarating and emotional (I actually spent two years writing my first book,so it was a real journey). But the fun (or agony, depending on your personality) doesn’t end when you finish that first draft. Even the second draft. Truth is, writing is a fulfilling and potentially lucrative hobby or profession, but it is also time-consuming and there will very likely come a point where you just feel like slogging off, instead of slogging in front of you computer. In particular, the editing process can become quite tedious. So here’s some tips that will hopefully make that process a little more fun and efficient!

1.  Make time for it. A polished manuscript is essential for success, whether you choose to publish traditionally or self- publish. If you self-publish, your readers will enjoy what they buy, and you will seem more credible in their eyes. If you submit to a traditional publisher, the editor who looks at your book won’t get frustrated with trying understand yr typos (see what I did here?). This means that they can focus on how fab your story is, and how the world won’t be the same without your literary masterpiece! Additionally, the credibility thing comes in. Obviously, the manuscript you send is not going to be perfect in terms of content or grammar, no book ever is. Even Suzanne Collins’ books were heavily edited (fun fact: while Suzanne originally focused more on the war story in the HG series, her editor convinced her to incorperate more of the love story. Good descision in my mind!). But having a well-crafted, thought-out, polished manuscript says that you are committed to creating a quality product. Make time for many read-throughs and levels of editing, as well as some time away from your book.

2. Read Through. I wish I had left more time for this with my last book. After you finish draft #1, read through it as a reader. Not as the appraising author, but as a reader would. Think: Do I like the flow of this story? Do I feel the characters’ plights? Does some of their dialogue feel repetetive? Pretend you’re a reviewer of the work, and don’t edit while you’re reading, but keep a list. What do you like, what not. What would make it better? If you feel a sense of emotion of any kind while reading, it’s a good sign that you have a viable foundation. Plus doing this makes what you’ve just done seem more real. You’ve written a book! Congratulations!

3. Enlist the Help of Others. And make sure to enlist both genders. Case in point: last year, I took a course at U of Winn on writing for the screen, and had to write a story treatment. While I revised it, I was prepping other final papers and was struggling to see if it was any good. My mom and brother graciously helped by offering their imput and it was a much better story for it. Interestingly though,  I disregarded  one of my brother’s comments, and it made a difference to the final reader (my prof.). I had a character die in a wartime explosion, and my brother response was, “you should say he died from heavy artillery fire!” My response: “that’s just plain silly. It’s a wartime explosion, it speaks for itself.” Well,when I read my professor’s comments on my (A grade!) story treatment, one of the comments was, “what kind of explosion?” Apparently it did matter. And since others will be the ones who read your stuff, you should seriously listen! Besides that, others just see things that you don’t because you’re too close to your story.
4. Don’t Copy Edit ANYTHING Until You’ve Finished Revising. I spent a ton of time correcting grammar and spelling on parts of my book that I didn’t end up keeping in my first novel. Waste of time and energy. Make sure that you have your story and character development in place and that you’re keeping that content before you copy edit.
5. Write a Story Treatment. I know I used this in my writing tips post, but that was more for getting your story going. This is to check that everything is in place. With a story treatment or in-depth synopsis, you get to see how events flow, and how characters develop over time. Another prof. Of mine, Catherine Hunter, did a version of this when writing her mystery books. She wrote scenes on index cards, then arranged them in order, so that she could monitor the flow if information the reader was recieving. Either way, it’s a way of making sure that everything makes sense and flows well.
6. Make Sure That Your Character’s Motivations Are Clear. A big one that will help you. This comes from Jonathan Ball, who taught the class that I wrote the screen treatment in. When your characters have a clear purpose, they will likely be more sympathetic and rounded, and your story will have meaning. Do this, and things fall into line much easier.

More later, but hopefully this helps! Good luck in all of your writing adventures!

Moorhouse: My Writing Progress

Hey All!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my writing progress. It’s going really well! I wrote almost 6,000 words last weekend alone, which was great. But then I ended up going on a three night camping trip, which took out my writing schedule a bit. The good news is that I had the opportunity to read K.D. Van Brunt’s Win the Rings trilogy, which I will review soon. I also read some of Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden (I LOVE Kate Morton’s books. If you ever get the chance to read The Secret Keeper, do it.), as well as some of my Kobo previews (Crewel by Gennifer Albin and The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik are both super good, and “T.L.B.K. seems so adorable and has one of the best titles ever!) Plus I also got some thinking time (plenty of thinking time, it was so painfully hot during the day, and so painfully cold during the night) to contemplate my novel.

Then we got home, and I remembered that it was movie night at one of the parks where I live. And it was Divergent! Hey, I’m all for free movies outdoors that are out before they’re even released on DVD. Very fun!

Any way, I’m getting back to it. And I promise, I have new ideas that’ll make it better than ever.

Best of luck in all your summer reading and writing endeavors!!!

Blog Tour: Madly, Deeply by Erica Crouch

Erica Banner (1)

Hey All! Today I’m hosting a blog tour for Erica Crouch’s Madly, Deeply. Inspired by Poe’s classic poem, “Annabel Lee,” this book looks like an awesome summer read!

You can find out more here: http://www.reviews.snarkybooks.com/2014/07/19/blog-tour-madly-deeply-erica-crouch/

Sounds good, huh? Bonus!: We have a giveaway! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s some info on Erica: Erica Crouch is a young adult and new adult author from the colorful city of Baltimore, Maryland. Her debut novel, Ignite, was published June 2013, and its e-novella sequel, Entice, was released Nov. 2013. The final book in the Ignite series, Incite, is expected 2014. A compilation of the series will be released winter 2014.

Her first new adult novel — Madly, Deeply, a paranormal romance based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Annabel Lee — arrives June 2014. She is working on a new adult science fiction series (Undying) due 2014, and a Robin Hood gender-swap retelling (Feathered series) due 2015.

Erica is the cofounder of Patchwork Press, an author-powered publisher of MG, YA, and NA titles. She is the head of editorial services and design, with more than ten projects to her name.

Currently, she is studying English and Creative Writing with a specialization in Fiction at Southern New Hampshire University. She is a vlogger for the YAWordNerds with over 500 subscribers. When Erica isn’t writing, she’s reading an overwhelming stack of books,
watching an obscene amount of Netflix, and procrastinating
Erica Crouch is a young adult and new adult author from the colorful city of Baltimore, Maryland. Her debut novel, Ignite, was published June 2013, and its e-novella sequel, Entice, was released Nov. 2013. The final book in the Ignite series, Incite, is expected 2014. A compilation of the series will be released winter 2014.

Her first new adult novel — Madly, Deeply, a paranormal romance based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Annabel Lee — arrives June 2014. She is working on a new adult science fiction series (Undying) due 2014, and a Robin Hood gender-swap retelling (Feathered series) due 2015.

Erica is the cofounder of Patchwork Press, an author-powered publisher of MG, YA, and NA titles. She is the head of editorial services and design, with more than ten projects to her name.

Currently, she is studying English and Creative Writing with a specialization in Fiction at Southern New Hampshire University. She is a vlogger for the YAWordNerds with over 500 subscribers. When Erica isn’t writing, she’s reading an overwhelming stack of books, watching an obscene amount of Netflix, and procrastinating.

And here’s some buy links so that you can buy this fabulous book! :
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Madly-Deeply-Erica-Crouch/dp/1927940052/ref=la_B00D7NONVE_1_2_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403017186&sr=1-2
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Madly-Deeply-Erica-Crouch-ebook/dp/B00KYBE75E/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1402673364&sr=8-4&keywords=erica+crouch
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/madly-deeply-erica-crouch/1119692106?ean=9781927940051
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/madly-deeply-erica-crouch/1119692106?ean=9781927940068&itm=1&usri=9781927940068
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/madly-deeply
Apple ibooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/madly-deeply/id886227632?mt=11
Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/book/230509086/Madly-Deeply
Inktera: http://www.inktera.com/store/title/43f96a5b-6431-475e-b6b3-ae14dd06ee4c


Writing Tips: How to Finish Writing Your Novel

Hi All!

I’m not a really braggy, attention-seeking type of person (although my weight-loss posts may have been a little TMI for some!:)). So a lot of people are actually really surprised when they hear that I have written one entire novel, start to finish. Sometimes I get questions about how I accomplished this, or how I got enough ideas to make it work. So I thought I’d share some tips, especially since now that I’m working on novel #2, and am beginning to realize what really works for me, and what just doesn’t.

Now, keep in mind that these are not all necessarily my tips (I’m not that brilliant). Some I borrowed from various writing instructors from school (I’ll try to mention what I got from which instructor), and some are common knowledge-type tips that I really have found work for me, or that I’ve re-configured a bit. Also keep in mind that this is not a “how to get yourself published” guide. I’m not published, as of yet (although my first novel is still being considered), and it’s not that type of post anyways. Final thing to consider: do what works for you. This is what works for me, but everyone has their own way, and no way is right or wrong! :)

So here we go!

1. Set Aside a Writing Time/Quota (and don’t feel compelled to stick to it!):
This is one of the most popular tips that instructors, authors, and just about anyone will give you for writing. The reason: it works. I usually try to stick to a set amount of time or words per day. Although it may vary slightly (some days you write five chapters, some days you write one), and I don’t torture myself over sticking with it, having some sense of how long I should write for per day on average gives me an idea of how long a first draft may take.

The trick is to let it nurture your inner discipline, without making you crazy. While the word count quota allows you to monitor your progress and estimate an end-date, setting a time allotment is often more reasonable, and doesn’t drive you as crazy if you don’t meet it. Two ideas to remedy this: 1. This one comes from Winnipeg writer and one of my profs. at U of Winn., Jonathan Ball (http://www.jonathanball.com/). He advises counting only time spent writing as writing time. Not research, not reading, not the time you spend doing a little correcting here and there. This makes sense, as a little bit of “research time” can often seriously cut into writing time as we get lured into the trap of the internet. 2. This is my idea. Spend an hour or half an hour free-writing. Don’t stop, don’t get tea, don’t log into Facebook, don’t re-read anything, just write. Then check your word count. The word count you get is probably what is reasonable for you to accomplish per writing session.

Another two ideas come from Anita Daher (http://www.anitadaher.com/), who is a teen book editor at Great Plains Fiction, a children’s and young adult author, and writing instructor who instructed me in a writing intensive at the University of Winnipeg. She says that even if it isn’t feasible to do a lot of writing per day, if you can write a page a day, then in a year you can write 365 pages, give or take a few. Even if that isn’t working for you, she suggests staying in touch with your novel all the same. Every day, open your file, write a sentence or two, then put it away. It will get you somewhere, and will prevent writer’s block and disillusionment with your novel :)

2. Free-write: I’ve been doing this for this novel, and it helps you get the words down so much faster. While you need to pay attention to things like word choice, flowing style, chemistry between characters, etc. that can come in the second draft. Just sit down and get to it. Which brings me to…

3. Do Drop Everything and Write Days: Is anyone here the right age to remember Drop Everything and Read? We waste so much time doing stupid things like Googling old acquaintances from nursery school and reading about how Zac Efron got caught kissing somebody. So the next time you have fifteen, twenty minutes to kill, don’t waste them. Just drop everything, pull up your manuscript, and write non-stop for the whole time. Free-writing is important. Don’t re-read anything that you’ve written until time is up.

4. Write Out of Order: When I wrote my first novel, I wrote in linear order, start to finish, beginning to end. While it did sort of work for my story in the end, as I gained more insight into my characters’ journeys, it took a long time, especially when I got writer’s block. This time I’m still writing linearly, but anytime I get really stuck or I feel particularly inspired by a certain scene, I’ll skip ahead and write a future scene, saving it to a another file. This helps me to test out how I feel about certain ideas or story elements before I frame my entire story around them. It also gives me momentum to keep moving ahead.

5. Write a Story Treatment: Story treatments are basically a detailed summary of events in a story. They are commonly used in screenwriting. I did one for a course, and found the entire practice to be very helpful in developing a storyline. By the end of my treatment, I felt as though I knew my characters well, and that their chemistry and dialogue was solidified. Even if you’re not a plotter, using the story treatment during writing can help you to write through tough spots in your story, and using it after can help you to notice where there are problems or holes in your story.

So there we are! If I remember some more ideas, I will post them. Also, feel free to leave me a comment below if you have any ideas of your own. Happy writing and good luck!!! :) x Em


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