Friday, August 31, 2012

I Killed an Adverb ... and I Liked It.

     "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs." ~ Stephen King, On Writing.  

Any seasoned writer has heard this phrase at least once in their life, yet it seems to miss the mark with many. I'm on the fence about them. Too often, writers tend to lean on adverbs like a crutch, using them as an excuse for lazy writing.

For example, "The book hit the floor loudly," is a sorry excuse of a sentence.

But what if that's what I'm trying to say? one asks.

Then say it better! If you want the reader to know the land is noisy, show them.

For example, "The book clattered to the floor." Better, right? Or this, "Pages fluttered against the wind before the book met the tile with an echoing crack." There are an infinite number of ways to improve the original sentence. It merely takes some effort! I assure you, it's worth the trouble. Once you learn to identify lazy writing, you soon begin avoiding it altogether. 

Things to Watch

Repetitive Adverbs: These would fall under the 'duh' category. Confession: I do this all the time, and I want to smack myself for it. 

For example, "Megan smiled happily." Well, yeah. How do most people smile, painfully? I realize one can smile and it be in sarcasm or even sadness. Most of the time, however, smiles are a result of joy, so smiling happily is redundant.

A few more examples would include, "Mindy bounced up and down excitedly," or "Todd paced back and forth anxiously." Again, there are times you'll need to clarify these actions to say more than the obvious, but it's rare.

Intensifiers: These are words which, you guessed it, intensify! Extremely, very, truly, honestly, massively, etc are all intensifiers. According to Grammar Girl, you should avoid these at all costs *except* in dialog ... if your characters are surfers. I truly ::wink wink:: love intensifiers, especially in YA. With teens, everything is bigger, stronger, and more intense. In my opinion, I find they work for me -- sparingly, of course -- because most of my characters are teens. I wouldn't recommend intensifiers if you're trying to be professional or in any way serious. 

Dialog Diatribe: This is one of the areas my editor calls me out every time. On occasion, I'm justified in using a particular adverb. These typically involve fast-moving scenes or places where there's already a lot going on, and I don't want to weigh it down. More often than not, adverbs attached to a dialog tag are a result of either unclear or lazy writing. Most of the time, the sentence should speak for itself. When you need more oomph, you add action. If all else fails, then and only then, you may use an adverb. But keep in mind, if you can read the dialog, and it's just as strong without the adverb, leave it out. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

 I'd heard nothing but glowing praise for Shadow and Bone when I picked it up, so needless to say, I had very high expectations. Certain parts of the book were everything I hoped for...others, well, not so much. I'm going to try and be brief, but it isn't as simple as I liked or didn't like the story. Bear with me!

The Good: First off, I just have to say, as cliche as it is, I've never read anything like this before. My sister asked me, "What's it about?" and I found myself struggling to even begin to tell her. This is a good thing! I ADORE stories that include characters/beings/situations I've never read about. Bardugo nailed it in originality.

The characters are very well done. The Darkness is definitely my favorite (in an odd way) of them all. I think he's the most...layered, I guess. He's very multifaceted. Alina and Mal, of course, are well written though I think they could've been deeper. Mal more so than Alina. We didn't see as much of Mal though, so here's hoping in Book 2 he's more involved!

The world-building as far as government/society/etc is entirely brilliant! I love the play between the Grisha (the people with special powers) and the monarchy, though I suspected things would play out the way they did. It was still well done though. I wasn't disappointed.

 The world of the Grisha is just fascinating. I love their abilities, limitations, restrictions, and such. So glad to read about people/beings who are absolutely unique. I've yet to read anything like that! It's like a mishmash of the elements, science, and a touch of magic but not in a "fantasy" kind of way per se. 

The Mediocre: The plot was painfully S-L-O-W. It wasn't until chapter 6 or so that I really got into the story. I felt like 30% of the story could've been culled entirely. There was massive description where it didn't matter, such as describing how ornate a door was. Then there was massive description missing where it would've lent itself to the story. A lot of our time is spent talking and meandering. I found myself skimming quite a bit early on. Had Chi not been so adamant that it picked up, I would've quit reading. I will say, the latter half of the story makes the slow start worth it.

Confusing terminology. The story is based to an extent on Russian...stuff. Many of the names and much of the terminology was Russian. This frustrated the everliving CRAP out of me. I can't stand when I have to stare at a name/word/description and sound it out. It pulls me out of the story entirely, and I just make up a word in my head to replace it. Not to mention, WAY too many things had Russian words that sounded similar, so I was constantly going back to see who/what Alina was seeing.

The beginning, up to about chapter 3, was uberconfusing. You don't know who people are when they show up, what the terms mean, and more until many chapters in. This left me frustrated because by the time I learned "what" it was, I'd forgotten why I needed to know to begin with. I really feel like the people in charge of editing and such, must've been too close to the story. They knew who/what the Grisha were, so they must not have realized it needed clarifying.

Finally, the writing. Like I said earlier, there's a lot of description and personification. As always when I have writing complaints, it was every ounce telling. Sigh. I know some may say it's a style thing, but please, agents/editors/publishers, don't tell me to show not tell all the dang time if it isn't truly important. It seems I'm extraordinarily picky about this though, so disregard this section if you're not a psycho about the craft. I will say this, the telling really didn't bother me as much as the passive voice. There's no reason to say "I could see" ever. I'm most assuredly guilty of this, too. This isn't me being a douche, but we all know, this book underwent some serious editing and revision from some of the BIGS. There's no excuse for that to slip through. Don't throw rubber chickens at me please. I'm just being honest.

In Conclusion: I'd definitely recommend Shadow and Bone with the warning: It gets clearer after chapter 3, and much more interesting after chapter 6! The second half of the book is absolutely masterful as far as being interesting and different. The last couple of chapters are really well done! So, in this case, I'm going to rate the story on originality. Still I can't help but mourn what could've been...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

From Goodreads
Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

Wow. That's the best the way to sum up Nevermore by Kentucky author Kelly Creagh. I met Kelly at a multi-author signing in Louisville. At the time, I'd seen Nevermore, but never really paid attention to it. It wasn't until I saw the Raven on the shelf and the Edgar Allan Poe trinkets scattered around the table that I realized the title was actually associated with Poe himself. It was at this point, my heart did a little dance.

Okay, the story starts out with an interesting (and very well written) prologue. I know, I know. God forbid there's a prologue! It's necessary, I assure you. In the case of this book, it encouraged me to read it! Creagh introduces us to Poe here in such a cool way. She brings in some little known facts about his (very real) untimely death and uses them as the basis of the story.

The first chapter soon starts off with the cheerleader Isobel Lanley being paired up for a writing project with goth-boy Varen Nethers ... much to jock-guy, quarterback boyfriend's dismay. I'll admit it. I had more than a moment's pause about the cheerleader/goth/jock thing. I don't like cheerleader/goth/jock stories, because more often than not, they end up being so cliche. However, cliche can also be defined by the quiet nerdy girl who likes to read or the misunderstood nobody boy who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. It's all a matter of plot and perspective, how unique the STORY is, and how WELL is it WRITTEN.

There's a lot of awesomeness to cover in this one, so I'm going to categorize here.


Varen. Varen is dark and brooding at first. I wondered if Miss Author-pants could pull it off without succumbing to the Count Gothica experience we've all had in YA books. Let's face it, tortured and brooding is tough to pull off these days. Creagh nailed it! While Varen has a very dark side to him, he has good reason, and Creagh defines it beautifully without going over the top. Her ability to paint the perfect picture of him and his emotion is enviable. I think he comes across exactly how she intended, and not as a woe-is-me emo kid.

Isobel. Isobel has her ups and downs in the story. On occasion, the moment kind of fell flat for me with her or an opportunity was missed for Isobel to shine. There were times when I really didn't like her in fact. Isobel let other people manipulate her because she wouldn't just put her foot down and stand up for the right thing. She overreacted in some situations and underacted in others. All in all, she was relatively wishy-washy in the beginning, but Varen's strong character and Creagh's beautiful writing kept me in the story. As the story progressed though, Isobel gained quite a bit of momentum, growing into the type of heroine I like to see: scared yet strong; flawed yet willing. I'm eager to see how her character develops in the sequel.

Secondary characters. Isobel's friends are a group of douche-canoes. I realize that's somewhat reminiscent of high school, but it took a while for Isobel to stand up to them, and they weren't even worth her time. When she did though, it felt real. Honestly, I could've done without the others. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

* I LOVED Gwen. I have to say she's one of the best YA characters I've ever read. Her personality is fabulous, and Creagh captured it in the most realistic way.
* Pinfeathers is quite interesting. I haven't quite figured him out yet. I really liked the way Creagh incorporated "those guys" into the story. I don't want to give anything away, but they're cool in a twisted kind of way.
* Reynolds, though not in the story as much as I would've liked, is superb. He's blurred somewhere between the good guy and bad guy. He has a job to do. While he doesn't want to hurt anyone, he looks out for the overall best interest.


I won't get into everything because I hate spoilers, and this one is hard not to spoil. I will say this, the plot was unique and riveting. The pace was perfect in an unusual way. There were times I was ready for it to move on, almost to skimming, but then it picked back up. Different readers have different points of "too fast/too slow". This one's on the fence, but paced just right for me!

The writing. Oh my gosh, the writing. I fell in love with the prologue and it continued throughout the entire book! Excellent writing is something insanely hard to come by. Most readers don't mind, but as a writer too, it's epically important to me. The descriptive writing is incredible, but not overdone. The sensory aspect is perfectly done, making me feel like I was there, which is tough considering the third person POV. I didn't feel like I was missing any emotion, any experience like I sometimes do with third person. Overall, the writing was impeccable.

Final Thoughts:

I've never read anything like Nevermore. It's based loosely on Poe's life and works. I'm a HUGE Poe fan, so I found this just freaking amazing! The story is definitely dark and very creepy, but it's eerily charming. I don't see it being an across-the-board success from a plot/genre point of view, but the gorgeous writing, a handful of fabulous characters, and the epic uniqueness guarantee a great read! I absolutely recommend to ages 15 and up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The War of Worldcraft: Creating New Worlds

World building is one of the most important factors of a good story. It puts the reader in a place they've never been otherwise, so it's imperative they grasp the full concept laid down by the author. Unique details make this place its own universe filled with distinct (and oftentimes inhuman) characters, a government with unusual politics, and an unfamiliar social structure. The author has to take into consideration factors like the weather, varying laws, architecture, landscape, history, settings, biological factors such as animals and plants, mythology and so on. The more fantastical the world, the more building is required. The reader must have a good grip on your reality!

Some genres involve greater attention than others. My paranormal novel (The Willows: Haven) takes place on earth, but involves some non-human characters in enhanced places. The primary focus of my world building revolves around the social structure of this new society, the biological aspects of the beings themselves, some ancient history, a little architecture and mythology, and the law. This means I don't have to worry about creating animals like a chimera or filling the heavens with a purple moon. A good look at your story will determine which aspects affect your world-building.

This is a longer post, but I wanted to include everything I could! 

Social Construct/Law: This is an extremely important feature in Haven. The characters don't live under the same rules as humans. They have their own social constructs and hierarchies. Different laws govern most aspects of their lives, and it's very important that I make those laws clear to the reader. If the weight of their choices isn't felt, it defeats the purpose and loses power. What laws govern the world you've built? What are the consequences of breaking said laws?

Characters (Biology/Science): I don't want to get into "what" my characters are as I don't want to spoil it, but you already know they aren't human. While they have human traits, their biology is entirely different. The way they react to things in their environment, their preferences and requirements to thrive, are different from humans. It makes them what they are! This is one area where clear detail is imperative. If typical things such as food and sleep don't sustain them, something else does. Just like humans, there are requirements and limitations to flesh out here. The characters are as much a part of the "world" as the trees, unicorns, or space stations!

History: The history behind my characters' lives and situations is the basis behind the whole story. It's the thing that drives the plot. If there isn't reason for the characters to behave the way they do, then the story is going to fail. The events leading up to my protag's current state are the drive behind their social structure and law. Even if you don't have the history in your story, it's important to have it in your head. Cause must drive action, otherwise it's unrealistic. How did your world come to be? Is it a utopian society? Dystopian? What happened to land your world in its current state, good or bad?

Architecture: For most of Haven, the architecture is modern but hints at the life my protag experienced during her life. As the story unfolds, she's introduced to a society where the beings value nature and bend it to their purposes rather than destroy it. In a world where the characters are as much a part of nature as nature itself, I had to find a way to incorporate that. If you have a story set in the future, what about the buildings makes them unique? Is it their design? Is it some valuable or rare material that's never been seen or is at risk of disappearing entirely? What makes it special/scary/peaceful/exciting in your world?

Climate/Weather: For a lot of writers, weather isn't a big part of their story, but it's a part of your world nonetheless. What happens if your character gets caught outside in a storm without an umbrella? In my characters' world, nothing. They get wet. In Julie Kagawa's world, they get melted by acid rain. How does the weather affect your world? Is the ozone layer gone? Sounds hot and dangerous! Has the ocean risen to threatening levels? Have years of pollution damaged the Earth or is your character on a planet where it never snows?

Magic/Technology/Nature/Science: Do you have faeries walking around? Can they make potions? How about cyborgs? Do they have laser vision? Can your mermaids enchant people? Or do you characters live in the 21st century where iPhones are a dime a dozen, and like the rest of society, your guy can't function without telling his peers his every move through Facebook? Explore how magic, technology, and superhuman gifts play out in your world. 

Religion/Morality/Beliefs: Heaven knows we as people know where we stand on these issues. Why are these things important in your imaginary world? Are your characters at war over varying beliefs? Are your characters willing to go to the mats over a moral injustice? Or do they live in a world where immorality (by your unique world standards) is rewarded? Your world must have some code of standards to operate under, otherwise there will never be conflict.

Entertainment: How do you characters kick back after a hard day at work? What do they enjoy doing on the weekends or with their friends? Are they risk takers or bookworms? How does their playtime affect their lives?

There are countless aspects to consider when world building. Every tiny facet of life has to be addressed in some form or fashion and characterized if you want a believable setting. Find the balance in what to include.

Ask yourself a few basic questions and think about how it relates to your world.
 (borrowed from Janice Hardy)
  • What is a normal day like for your protag? Your other characters?
  • Who are your protag's enemies? (not just the antag, but people who don't like them) What social or economic group do they belong to?
  • Who are their friends? What social or economic group do they belong to?
  • What are the things your protag tries to avoid on a regular basis?
  • What are things they try to get on a regular basis?
  • Where do they fit on the social and economic ladder?
  • Where do they live?
  • Where do they work or go to school?
  • What are some challenges living in that world present?
  • What are some advantages living in that world present?

Happy writing!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

***Last Days of Freedom Giveaway Hop***

Update: Congrats to the winner, Pam C!!! Thanks to everyone who played along. Hope to see you soon for the next giveaway!


Sadly, summer is coming to a close. But what better way to bid adieu to the waning beaches and bikinis than to snuggle up with a delicious read? Enter, me!

I'm giving away one SIGNED copy of Veronica Roth's Insurgent!!! Yeah, I said signed. Much thanks to the folks at I am a Reader, Not a Writer and The Elliott Review. Be sure and check out the linky below for a list of everyone else giving away awesomeness.

Here we go!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines

Being the good girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Ashton Gray has grown weary of playing the part to please her parents, and to be worthy of the town’s prince charming, Sawyer Vincent. Maybe That’s why she’s found herself spending time with Sawyer’s cousin, Beau, while he’s away for the summer camping with his family.

Beau is nothing like her perfect boyfriend. He’s the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, dangerous in ways she’s only day dreamed about, and the one guy she should stay away from.

Beau never envied Sawyer his loving parents, his big nice home, or his position as quarterback. He loves him like a brother. Which is why he's tried everything in his power to keep his distance from Sawyer’s girlfriend. Even if he has loved her since the age of five, Ashton is Sawyer’s girl, so therefore she’s off limits. But when Sawyer leaves for the summer, Ashton, the one girl Beau would move Heaven and Earth for, decides she wants to get into trouble. Stabbing the one person who’s always accepted him and stood by him in the back, is the cost of finally holding Ashton Gray in his arms. Is she worth losing his cousin over?.... Hell Yeah.

I've been mulling over this review for about a week now. I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, so this is relatively new ground for me, and I want to portray The Vincent Boys in the right light. Here goes!

The Good: Abbi has an absolutely incredible grasp of humanness. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. Her insight into teens' emotions and thought processes, their reasoning and reactions, it's just awesome! Her characters, 98% of the time, are entirely relatable and believable. You understand their angst and why they make the choices they do. You really feel for Ashton as she struggles to make the right decisions regarding her feelings and actions. Abbi paints a beautiful character in Beau as well. Not only is he dreamy, he feels someone you could see yourself loving, too. You get an intimate look at his life, leaving you hopeless not to cheer for him!

The story has a laid-back pace, and is a great "fun" read! I really enjoyed the dual character POV. I thought we got nice insight into the characters' personalities, being in both Ashton and Beau's heads. Abbi did a nice job of hopping back and forth without losing perspective or voice.

I also adored the way she wrote the fun, Southern colloquialisms. It reminds me of talking to my own family. Abbi did a beautiful job of including that distinct touch without it being confusing or pulling you out of the story.

The Mediocre: Story wise, I enjoyed 90% of it. At the point Ashton decides to tell Sawyer what happened, I feel like the characters went a little soft. By that, I mean this: Ashton refused to stand up for herself when everyone turned on her, which really bugged me. If she'd had a legit reason for letting everyone run over her, I could've gone with it. But she disappointed me as a character when she just rolled over. It didn't seem consistent with this spit-fire of a girl I'd grown to love.

The other guy, Sawyer. The "good" one. With Sawyer, I didn't feel as connected. In all reality, I didn't real care for him that much. He has a brief, shining moment near the end of the story where he finally mans up, but give me Beau all day long! He fights for what he wants! I understand who he is as a character, but still, Sawyer's kind of a douche-canoe.

Now then, the part I don't like to analyze: the writing. Abbi has a phenomenal talent for storytelling. The story is delightful and has a voice of its own, but an editor could spiff it up SO much more! There were numerous times I didn't know what was meant or who was talking because there weren't commas or the dialog ended where someone else's actions picked up. Commas, commas, commas. I missed them so much I nearly quit reading. There were other problems such as formatting or dialog tags. Once during the read, an entire paragraph slipped from past tense to present. It made it choppy and very frustrating. Thankfully, Abbi's mad skills in character development and voicing made up for it!

In conclusion: Abbi is a great storyteller! I would never not recommend her, but I would very much suggest a rockin' awesome line editor. I would've rated this even higher had it been a little neater. I'd hate for anyone not to enjoy her delicious stories over something like commas. Write on, Abbi. Write on!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wordsmith Wednesday: Teaser #7

The objective:
Show us a scene from your current project. It can be creepy, adventurous, romantic, etc. Just a snippet to let readers see what they're in for!

The guidelines:
 * Must be from a current work-in-progress (WIP). Nothing already published.
 * You may choose from any section of the manuscript, but be mindful not to include spoilers.
 * Keep it clean and YA audience friendly, please. No erotica.
 * Stay under 300 words or about one page. It can be as little as a few lines if you prefer. We just want to give readers a chance to see everyone's selection.
 * Link back to Chirenjenzie to enjoy others' work as well!

 A little taste of The Willows: Thorn, book 2 in The Willows series.

“My mother—” I began.
“Made a decision for herself,” Allie interrupted. “The family’s laws don’t always make sense, but they’re expected to be followed. Your mom was just stronger than the law. You should be proud of that.”
I smiled. Of course Allie would think that way.
“I love that she found Charlie and lived a short but happy life with him.” I sighed. “But…”
“But you wish things had been different?” Allie finished.
I laughed without humor. “I learned some time ago that wishing doesn’t change what is, or was, or will be. Wishing is futile.”
“That stinks really bad of bitterness, Ash.” Allie frowned. “Don’t let disappointment convince you that wishing is a hopeless pursuit.” 

What are YOU working on now? Happy writing!