Friday, August 28, 2015

Cephalopod Coffeehouse - The Fault in Our Stars

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts and our books with other enthusiastic readers. Please join us:
http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-august-2015.html


This month I'm going to tell you about The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.


The story begins with Hazel, 16, who has cancer and is probably going to die, barring a miracle. Her day revolves around her illness which is in a sort of holding pattern thanks to an experimental drug trial. But she still needs to carry an oxygen tank around with her and gets tired easy, which limits what she can do. She spends a lot of time reading, and watching reality shows like America's Next Top Model. She's also very funny. For example, when forced to attend a cancer support group, she has this to say about it:

"This Support Group featured a rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness. Why did the cast rotate? A side-effect of dying."

Hazel is very snarky, and wise beyond her years, but also inexperienced when it comes to real life and boys. She was diagnosed at the age of thirteen and not expected to live. She hasn't been to school since and has one 'real' friend left from the days when she was well. But it is exactly this mix of wisdom and inexperience that makes her relationship with Augustus - whom she meets at said cancer support group - so charming.


"Both kids are preternaturally intelligent, and Hazel is fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Most particularly, she longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, the enterprising Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives..."(Booklist)


I won't tell you what happens, but lets just say you won't expect it and you're probably going to want a hanky. The last time a book made me this sad was Mockingjay.

This book easily gets five-stars. I adored Hazel and Gus, their sharp sense of humors, their brutal honesty in the face of death, their dear parents, and their fellow sufferers. Booklist says, "Beautifully conceived and executed..." and I couldn't agree more. I've read two other John Green books and this is by far my favorite.

Monday, August 17, 2015

What if you lost six hours?

I have a morning routine I follow which begins with getting up at the fairly reasonable hour of 7:30AM, coffee, blogging, and then writing for a half hour before I take Jonah out for a walk, shower, and head off to work at 10AM. Last week I had just come back from my walk and was in  the kitchen drinking water when I noticed the time - which should've said somewhere around 9:30AM. Instead, the clock said 4:10PM.

Now I knew that wasn't right since I'd just gotten up and it was definitely morning outside, but I did go into the other room and check another clock, just to be sure. Because if the kitchen clock was right, then I'd lost over six hours of my day with no recollection of where I was, what I'd been doing.

This of course sparked the idea, what if that really happened? What would you do to try and find out how you lost six hours? Probably check your phone for messages, right? I mean, I'm sure my boss would've called or texted to find out why I didn't show up at work. Maybe go outside and look at the car, see if the gas gauge was different, which would tell me I might've used the car. If I was really desperate to know I might try hypnosis, although I tried that before it it didn't work. Or maybe a doctor to see see of anything was physically wrong. Then...I don't know...maybe freak out a little?

Anyway. The kitchen clock was wrong and I was right on schedule, but I couldn't help wonder, how would that play out?

What would you do if you discovered you lost six hours?




Monday, August 10, 2015

The Pawn Shop Files

So. August in Maine. It's a nice month. My new header pic was taken in August at the Boothbay Botanical Gardens, which is fairly close by (20 minutes, depending on traffic). My own gardens (I hesitate to use such a grand name for what I've got) are quite sad due to lack of time but I do have some Hosta


and some strange mushrooms growing. They're very orange.


lovely Hydrangea (I adore how the white turns that lovely shade of green)


and these pretty white flowers whose name I've forgotten. Anyone?


And then there's the pawn shop, which has been quite busy with summer people as well as our many regulars (and oh, aren't they a colorful bunch...). We've got lots of stuff, including a ton of old bottles we just got in. Those two boxes are just a fraction.


Here's a shelf in our kitchen. Don't you love the roosters?


And finally, some of my favorite artwork, like this floating tree. We wants it.


And this watercolor (I do like a nice seascape - something with movement and mood)


And this one. It's a watercolor, too, and so intricately drawn...*sigh*


Yep. It's a pretty fun place to work. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

While Walking





I’m one of those people who’s always thinking about something, be it my stories, the things I have to do that day, or random stuff that makes me launch into a silent monolog on the subject. Suffice it to say, my mind is always spinning, making me a poor candidate for meditation. Anyway. The other day I was walking and thinking sadly about my boss’s dog, Sam, who had collapsed at work and was rushed to the vet where it was discovered he had a tumor next to his heart that had burst. Nothing to be done. It was especially sad since Sam was such an awesome dog, greeting everyone who came into the shop, following people around who patted him, or just sitting next to a shopper with his head in their lap while they raved about what a great dog he was and were we sure he wasn’t for sale? This led to my thoughts about Heaven and how I hope it is and I thought I’d share that hope with you.

First off, all my critters are there, from my first Tigger cat to my old Jasper cat, along with all my dogs. And they will all live happily together. Second, everyone I love is there.  My dad will be there (no doubt thrilled to be reunited with his favorite cat, Matthew), and my grandmother, Mimi, whom I still miss. Sisters, brothers, moms (I’m lucky; I have two!), and anyone else who wants to live in the heaven I created.

We will all live near enough to walk to one another’s homes, but there will be fields and stone walls and dirt roads between us. There will be a library nearby where I can always get the latest books published back in the world of the living, a movie theatre with couches and extra comfy pillows, and a train station so we can go visit any place we like. There will be a Heavenly Boston, a Heavenly San Francisco, and an extra Heavenly London – all the cities we know, and only a train ride away through country side and valleys and over bridges until we’re ready to get off the train and arrive at our destination. And of course there will people there, because some people would want their Heaven to look like Tokyo, or Istanbul.

Me, I’ll be happy with my country house where meals magically appear on my table whenever I don’t feel like cooking, there is always time to read books, watch movies, play scrabble with my mom, take walks with the dogs down to the ocean, and write something divine.

What does your Heaven look like?


I think I would like a trellis like this to sit beneath.

Monday, August 3, 2015

First Impressions - Goodnight Sweet Prince



I can't believe it's August already. How does that happen? Why does summer seem to fly by while winter drags on forever? Anyway. Welcome to another edition of First Impressions! Today we have the first page of Maria Ann Witt's YA contemporary re-envisioning of Hamlet, GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE. You can see more of Maria over at never mind wasting time.


Five hours into the ten hour flight from Copenhagen to Detroit most of the first class passengers were asleep. Harm tried. Seat reclined, headphones on, eyes closed, music playing, pushing ‘next’ repeatedly before accepting that next was never any better. He switched over to replay the voice mail message from three days ago.
Harm, they’re talking about a new contract. Whatever you do, don’t sign anything without talking to me first. And don’t let Mars sign anything either. Call me when you get a chance.
Listening to Dad’s voice, he could picture him—gray hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and kind, serious expression. He hadn’t called back. Between late night shows, and later night parties, and sleeping it off, there hadn’t been time.
Christmas. That was the last time he’d talked to Dad in person. Lied to him. How was everything going, was he getting enough sleep? Sure, Harm said.
“Touring is tough, I’m proud of you.”
Dad had toured a year before quitting his band and becoming a wildly successful songwriter. He clapped a firm hand on Harm’s shoulder. “Good grades, last report. That’s important. Gotta think long term.”
The tutor must have taken the tests. All Harm did was scribble his own handwriting on the papers and get a recap of what he’d learned. The formalities of being a minor in show business. Dad knew a lot about the business, but he didn’t seem to know that.
The last time he’d seen his dad and he’d lied. It hadn’t bothered him then, but now, it felt like someone was strangling him. He gasped and sat up, arms flailing defensively.
“You okay?” Mars asked. Next to him, his younger brother’s seat was upright, his skinny arms and shoulders tense under his tight black leather jacket, as he turned his phone over and over in his hands.
“Can’t sleep.” Harm said, shoving his headphones off. He thought about the Ativan in his pocket. He was trying not use them. Didn’t trust Mom and her doctors. So easy to get hooked on stuff.
Mars nodded, and turned toward the window, even though the plastic shade was closed. His phone vibrated with a loud hum, and he jumped and almost dropped it.
“The funeral’s Monday,” he said, checking the message.
“Huh,” Harm said. “Guess Paolo canceled Oslo for nothing.”
“We couldn’t have done anything. . . ”
“He didn’t know that!” Harm’s voice came out harsh in the steady hum of the plane, and he dropped it back to a half-whisper. “All he knows is the show must go on. Dad was in the hospital and we were out there shuffling. We should have been on this plane yesterday.”

***

My thoughts: My first thought is that I was hard pressed to find much to pick on and the two bits I did find are pretty subjective. The first was this sentence: "The last time he’d seen his dad and he’d lied." For some reason I want to cut the and. I think. The second spot is near the end: 

“The funeral’s Monday,” he said, checking the message.
“Huh,” Harm said. “Guess Paolo canceled Oslo for nothing.”
“We couldn’t have done anything. . . ”
“He didn’t know that!” Harm’s voice came out harsh in the steady hum of the plane, and he dropped it back to a half-whisper. “All he knows is the show must go on. Dad was in the hospital and we were out there shuffling. We should have been on this plane yesterday.”

I was a little confused by this exchange and by the word 'shuffling.' Does he mean performing? And if all Paolo knows is that the show must go on, then why did he cancel Oslo?
  
My last thought is that I think this is a great first page and I adore the premise. I would totally pick this up and want to buy it to see how it all plays out. Will Harm die in the end? Who will be his Ophelia? What's Mars' role? Very intriguing.

Readers, what did you think? And if you want to see a different take on this first page, check out what Dianne Salerni and Krystalyn Drown had to say. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffehouse - The Paying Guests

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-july-2015.html

I have an admission. I didn't finish  a single book this month. I started two new ones (well, one I've read before so one new one), but didn't finish either. In fact, I've been a terrible reader all year long. However, there is a book I read on vacation I will share with you today. It's called The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.



I was especially fascinated by the setting, which is just after WWI, and the exploration of society at that time. The premise is this: It is 1922 and Frances Wray and her mother are barely recovering from the loss of both the older Mr. Wray as well as the younger. They are in bad financial straights and are forced to take in borders - The Paying Guests. At first Frances keeps her distance from Lillian and Leonard Barber, but slowly they grow on her, especially Lillian, with whom she forms a relationship.

And then someone is killed. I won't say who but suffice it to say it was unexpected and how it all turned out was equally surprising. The characters were wonderfully drawn; I could totally picture the carefree, sensual Lillian and the stiff, trying-to-be-good Frances. Leonard annoyed me as he did Frances and the elder Mrs. Wray was exactly the sort of mother you could imagine trying her best to put on a good front while pretending not to see things. And of course there's London in the post war period, a character almost unto itself.

"Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction, and here she has delivered again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place, The Paying Guests is Sarah Waters’s finest achievement yet." (Amazon)


Next month I promise I will have finished at least one book!  





Monday, July 27, 2015

A Brieft Update...

 This week I'm over at Unicorn Bell critiquing the first chapter of an Adult Urban Fantasy and I hope you'll stop by to offer the author any suggestions or comments you might have. I will be back Friday for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. Meanwhile it's been damp and dreary here this weekend, even a little cool, which I'm not appreciating since it's supposed to be SUMMER. I have, however, made good progress on my revisions for NO REST, and I think it will be a kick-ass story once I finish. I'll also share my idea for a cover with you - not that this will be the cover, but I like it and it fits. Just imagine the title, NO REST, in white letters somewhere in the black. Wouldn't that look cool as hell? Anyway, have a good week all, and I'll see you back here on Friday perhaps :)


From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository      
"An artist's impression of a wormhole from an observer's perspective, crossing the event horizon of a Schwarzschild wormhole that bridges two different universes. The observer originates from the right, and another universe becomes visible in the center of the wormhole’s shadow once the horizon is crossed, the observer seeing light that has fallen into the black hole interior region from the other universe; however, this other universe is unreachable in the case of a Schwarzschild wormhole, as the bridge always collapses before the observer has time to cross it, and everything that has fallen through the event horizon of either universe is inevitably crushed in the singularity."


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Evolution of a Query


So. I’ve started revising another manuscript (NO REST), figuring, hey, if I’m on the revision roll I might as well go with it, right? Anyway, I was working on the query for it and I thought I’d share how it starts off, NOT looking like a query but rather the disjointed ideas for one. This is what my query looks like in the beginning. As I revise, make it better, I’ll share those drafts with you as well. Maybe this will be interesting. Or not…

Query – NO REST



Character/setting – Camille Zinn who wants to follow her mother’s footsteps into space and secretly hopes to find her – it’s the future and it looks like this [name three things: super luminal tunnels are coming soon along with the latest chemical enhancement. Want to be smarter? Try the Einstein enhancement. Poor Eyesight? Ask for Eagle Eye. This is the world Camille Zinn grows up in and while she’s never been off her homeworld she’s about to leave for the first time, courtesy of the Corporation who owns her world, CGE, the same company Cam’s mother worked for before being declared MIA.

Conflict – But After a hazing gone wrong, Cam gets a chemical enhancement she didn’t want whose effects are permanent: Cam can’t sleep. More amazing? She finds a way to deal with not sleeping without going crazy. Bad news: the company she’s signed on with to follow her dream wants to use her to replicate the enhancement to make super workers

Choice: …what she finds isn’t what she expected and the choices she’ll have to make will have deep repercussions [really?]

In the future, Corporations own everything and are constantly scouting blah blag blah. Most people are okay with that, including Camille Zinn, who grows up on the backwater world of Cedar, the latest addition to CGE’s  holdings.


In the future, Corporations own everything, including the planet Camille Zinn grows up on. But that’s okay with Cam, because the company that owns her homeworld (Carina Genetics Engineering) is going to give her the opportunity to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a scout, looking for new worlds – and new profits. But after a hazing gone wrong, Cam gets a chemical enhancement she didn’t want whose effects are permanent: Cam can’t sleep. More amazing? She finds a way to deal with not sleeping without going crazy. Bad news: the company she’s signed on with to follow her dream wants to use her to replicate the enhancement to make super workers….volunteers, among them, her boyfriend, Jin. If she doesn’t help, the volunteers won’t make it, but if she does, CGE will make more super-workers who can’t sleep, even though some of them are dying to. Literally. 

[yes, start with grandfather and his distrust of CGE, Cam’s not to worry attitude, and her plan to follow in her mother’s footsteps] Grandfather says they’re lucky. Cedar was one of the last free planets and it’s retained more local rights than most under the CGE banner.
***


So, what do your queries look like in the beginning?

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Hollowing


The Hollowing, by Robert Holdstock, tells the tale of Alex Bradley, a boy who goes missing in Ryhope Wood. It is also the story of his father, Richard Bradley, who refuses to believe when his body is found. Instead Richard embarks on a search for his lost son – in Ryhope Wood. As you may imagine, this forest is much more than it seems. Within it live Mythagos, or ghost heroes, like Jason and the Argonauts, and other things, like the hollyjack and the giggler. This is the sort of magical wood it is dangerous to enter unless you possess a familiarity with melee weapons. Like Mythago Wood (an earlier work by the author), the mystery is in the forest, “Britain’s last fragment of primeval forest,” a place “larger inside than out.”

I've always loved stories about enchanted woods, and Ryhope definitely qualifies. But it's a dark and dangerous enchantment, so dangerous Richard has to be slowly introduced to "its properties and inhabitants, which range through the deeply embedded myths of all times. Meanwhile, Lytton wants Bradley to find Alexander because the fearful boy's vivid fantasies are changing the very nature of the wood that Lytton and his crew have been studying for years...Holdstock weaves a dense and, at times, impenetrable tale, but a careful reading brings to light a variety of treasures, including a telling portrayal of Jason and the Argonauts in old age."*

I've read this book twice.

What book's have you read more than once?


* quoted portion from Publisher's Weekly and the two books, The Hollowing, and Mythago Wood

Monday, July 13, 2015

What I learned from revising GRIMOIRE


What I learned from revising GRIMOIRE

1. I do not always place events in their proper order. The problem is I get them close which makes the issue harder to spot. I spent a lot of time moving things around, especially in the middle. All that cutting and pasting meant reworking transitions from one scene to the next. I spent a lot of time on this part.

2. I do write a good beginning. There was very little revising to be done there except I re-inserted the original prologue - and then removed it again. As much as I love the prologue, it just doesn’t work. Dammit.

3. I had a weak climactic scene in the last third of the novel involving a trap that needed to be entirely re-worked. It was lame and unbelievable and hard to fix. I’m much happier with it now.

4. I had an event near the end I glossed over and put right all too quickly. My CP suggested upping the ante and I did. That was a fun fix.

5. I needed more period detail to place the reader in the time. This was hard because too much detail bogs everything down while too little makes the reader wonder where they are. I hope I added just the right amount.


So. Tell me about your experience revising. What have you learned lately?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hallalujah!

I am finally done with revision #whatever of GRIMOIRE, my Witchy Regency Romance. Of course, I know that when we say we're finished with our manuscript it almost never means we're really finished. That doesn't happen until our book is on the shelf. Nevertheless, I feel pretty good about what I've accomplished! You can see the query and first chapter here if you're interested.


Meanwhile, can you spot the spy?






Hope you have a fabulous weekend :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

First Impressions - DreamKatcher


Welcome to our second and last First Impressions for July. Today we have the first page of Stacie Dempsey's  YA SF/Fantasy novel, DREAMKATCHER. Stacie is an elementary school teacher and you can find her at Smocussmocus or on Facebook





***

DreamKatcher - Chapter One

I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I can see the outline of the old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows and matching the sky’s intensity. My heart pounds as I try to make my way back in. Heat sears my cheeks just as tears come flooding down to cool them. Their trapped cries resonate in my ears as a lone thought repeats in my head… I have to save them.

This dream clings to my consciousness, hanging like a low fog. A fog that a thousand suns couldn’t lift. There’s only one way to rid these terrible thoughts from my mind, something I should have done last night. I reach for the BAND on my wrist, knowing what I will find before I see it there. Blank screen, battery dead.

As I stumble across the room, limbs still heavy with sleep, my body begins convulsing with sobs. Overwhelming pain takes over and threatens to pull me back into the abyss of depression. It’s as if each sob slices into my soul, fracturing it until I’m spread thin enough to be carried away by the morning breeze. Wrapping my arms around myself I attempt to pull the pieces of me back together long enough to reach the port.

Racing the last five feet to the wall, I hold my wrist against the port ready to evict the nightmare from my mind. The glass panel glows red, confirming it’s dead battery and my failure to sync. As the BAND charges the panel slowly changes from red to yellow and finally green. The sync begins and I can feel my thoughts flowing out of me like a stream. It’s as if a dam has been released and is washing away these painful memories that infest my sleep.

Four years later and still the same nightmare plagues my thoughts. The same feeling that I should have done more, I should have tried harder to get them out. The same feeling of guilt for having survived.

This latest episode marks the second time this month I’ve forgotten to keep my BAND charged. Gram will be furious when she finds out. “Our BAND’s are meant to relieve the burden the day’s thoughts have on our soul. Without a proper sync each night we won’t be able to make it through the day”. It won’t be the first time I’ve received this lecture. Taking one last deep breath, I pull myself together and head downstairs to face Gram.

***

My thoughts: In the first paragraph there are some changes in tenses that make things a little confusing:

I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was (past tense) a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I can see (present tense) the outline of the old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows and matching the sky’s intensity" I might suggest changing it to read thus: 

"I woke with a jolt of familiarity. There was a memory digging footholds into my brain trying to resurface. The imagined stench of a charred experiment gone wrong lingering in my nose. Behind my still closed eyes I could see the outline of an old brick laboratory, black against the waking sky, flames escaping through its windows." and matching the sky’s intensity. I think shorter is a little sweeter here.

After this it gets interesting regarding the BAND, setting up all kinds of questions. What exactly is the BAND? Why do they need it? Where do these dreams come from and why do they affect these people the way they do? Why does our narrator keep forgetting to charge hers, knowing the consequences? And why does she (I'm guessing) keep having the same dream? Or is it a memory?

Readers, what did you think of this first page? Would you have turned to the page to find out what happens next? I would've.

And I almost forgot! To see what Dianne and Kristin thought about this page head on over to their places: Kristin @ See the Stars and Dianne at her blog.





Friday, July 3, 2015

An Award and News from the Trenches...




The Armchair Squid Nominated me for this sweet award 




The rules:

1. Thank and post the link of the person who nominated you.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers.
3. Nominate 10-20 blogs and notify them.
4. Pass on the rules.


Thank-you Squid! And if you don't know the Armchair Squid, he has a great blog and runs the Cephalopod Coffeehouse at the end of every month in which we share the books we've read.

Five Facts:

1. I love looking at the real estate section - always have, ever since I was kid. I get my fix through the NYT Real Estate section and Julia at Hooked on Houses.
2. I also love my dog, Jonah, even though he does naughty things sometimes.

3. I find shelling extremely relaxing - especially on Sanibel Island, one of my most favorite vacation spots.
4. I think History is pretty neat.
5. Oh, yeah, I wrote a book! West of Paradise :)



My nominations - and for those listed, please feel free to accept or decline as time and/or interest permits!

1. Krystalyn Drown @See the Stars
2. Ivy @The Happy Whisk
3. Liz @ Laws of Gravity
4. Liza @ Middle Passages
5. Huntress @ Spirit Called



And whoever else would like a pretty award to hang on their wall!

Lastly, News from the Trenches:

If you've been following my progress with GRIMOIRE you'll see I'm around 94% complete - only two chapters left...

Have a wicked good weekend, and for my fellow US residents, Happy Fourth and have fun!

http://www.afsl.org/



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First Impressions - Temple Beyond the Sea




 Welcome to First Impressions for the month of July. Today we have an NA Historical Fantasy by Mark Murata titled, TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA. Mark blogs over at Suburban Fantasy if you want to say Hi.




***



To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside. 
At the doorway itself she paused, heavy stonework on either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to blink—though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like, its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar. Any supplicant standing directly in front of her would have seen her framed by darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.
The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist.
Her lips parted. There was no need for a last glance at any polished bronze mirror. The red on her lips was perfect, the same as the whiteness of her face. She stiffened her belly for the pronouncement, her voice deep and confident.
#
The goddess will have her sacrifice
Virgin am I, who serve her
All you who stand here, adore
#
Silence greeted the words. If any worshipers had been present, they would be murmuring in awe and fear. As it was, only two guards from the palace stood in the place for worshipers—no one else occupied the temple grounds, bordered by sharp cliffs that dropped off on either side to the sea below. Beyond a heath a few young women watched in rapt fascination, hoping the distance would keep them from being rousted out by the spear butts of the guards. 
 ***

My thoughts:  In the first paragraph there is this: "...the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood." I want to know how Iphi feels about this. The fact that she thinks about it at all tells me she has feelings and I want to know what they are. Then there is the walk, the perfect walk of a priestess. "Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect..." This makes me feel distant from Iphi. I would think she'd be thinking how she was walking perfectly, exactly as she's supposed to. I also wonder about the word 'victims.' Does Iphi consider them victims? Or sacrifices, which is used later. There's a big difference.
In the second paragraph I get the sense that Iphi enjoys appearing foreboding. Is this intentional? Lastly, when Iphi pauses to contemplate this last thing she has to do, this might be a good place to tell us how she feels. Is she nervous? Confident? Excited? This will help the reader bond with Iphi and thus want to turn the page to see what will happen next...

Readers what do you think? Any comments or suggestions to help Mark? And do go see what Krystalyn and Dianne had to say about this first page if you have the chance.We will back with our second First Impression the month on Monday, July 6. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - Eleanor & Park

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:


http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-june-2015.html

This month I'm going to tell you about Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I was convinced to buy it after reading an article from the Bent Agency (which I would link to if I wasn't such an idiot and deleted the message AND emptied my trash.) which talked about characters and how to deepen them, give the reader more. Eleanor & Park was given as an example and this prompted me to click buy.



Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.


I loved this book. I loved Eleanor (who happens to have my favorite name) and Park, both of whom embody all the awkwardness of being a teenager combined with being different. Eleanor might be white, but she's poor white trash (and I mean poor, like she has to hold her bra together with a safety pin), overweight, with bright red completely unmanageable hair. Park is Asian (Korean actually - and I totally would've fallen in love with him, too) and perhaps the only person of color in their homogenous high school. Somehow they fall in love. And that's all I'm going to say except that I adored them both. Also, Park's parents were totally awesome.  


Monday, June 22, 2015

A Surprise

I hadn't heard of this movie but my son started to watch it and then insisted I watch with him. I'm glad I did because what a little gem of a movie!




The Premise: A group of people are trapped in an elevator and the Devil is mysteriously amongst them.

Story by M. Knight Shyamalin
Screenplay by  Brian Nelson.

If you look this film up on IMBD or Rotten Tomatoes, it doesn't get a very good rating, but all I can say is that those people are wrong, wrong, wrong. I loved this film. It did everything right. Solid performances, great music, just the right amount of creepy, and a perfectly surprising ending.

Anyway. I just had to share, it was that much fun.

Have you watched any movies lately that have surprised and impressed you?


Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (story)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Freud and Changing Gears

This is one of those things I'm always reluctant to do. Mainly because I think if I keep changing gears then nothing ever gets done. So I have to rationalize to myself why it's okay to work on two things at the same time (more or less). It's totally Freud:

According to his model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego. The super-ego can stop one from doing certain things that one's id may want to do.


It's sort of like this constant war between three parties: the one who wants to sit on the couch and watch Netflix and eat cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting, the one who's industrious and constantly cites the dangers of not following her advice - exactly, and the one who mediates between them.

Anyway. A compromise was reached between the parties in which it was agreed that if we weren't going to work on RUN (my YA/NA Apocalyptic), then it was okay to finish revising GRIMOIRE (my witchy regency romance). Out of everything, it's the most revised piece of work I have, and all I had to do was fix the ending, a mere fifty pages. As you can from my progress on my sidebar, I'm at 92% which is a pretty nice number to be at. Almost done. I can do this. Then I can figure out the character issue I'm having with RUN. But that's another story...


So, do you argue with yourself? Who wins?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Pawn Shop Files

As many of you recall, I took a job last year at a Pawn Shop, which has turned out to be the funnest job I've ever had (and yes, I know funnest isn't a proper word). We see a lot of interesting people - characters in the truest sense of the word - and even more interesting stuff. Some of it is pawn, which goes down into the special 'pawn' room to stay until the people come back and pay for the item. The rest of it is stuff people bring in to sell outright. Like the Frankenstein Machine. That's what its owner called it but it's really a shock treatment machine and as soon as we get the plug and cord back from being rewired, we'll see if it works.



























Pretty cool, eh?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Apparently I'm a Redneck

The other day my son saw a plaque at someone's house that said:

You know you're a redneck if you have to move a cat in order to have a meal. 

Damn. Who knew?


In other news, I totally forgot to announce the winner of West of Paradise last Friday so, without further ado, Congratulations Sheri! Shoot me an email with your mailing address and I'll send your prize out asap :)



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

First Impressions - Silhouette


Here we are back again with our second and final installment of First Impressions for this month. Today we have the first page of SILHOUETTE, from Shannon Cortazar, a YA Fantasy. You can also find her on Twitter @SLCortazar. Authors Dianne Salerni and Krystalyn Drown will aslo be critting this first page so hop on over to their places to see what their thoughts were. My thoughts will be at the end.

 
We were invaded the day we buried my brother. It was autumn, crisp and bright. “A good day for a burial” I heard someone say behind me. A tragic death, such a shame, the voices went on and on. Clucking their tongues as if rationalizing his death would make it okay. The coffin bore the mark of the Throne, a twisting tree within a circle and a three pointed crown above. That same mark was branded on his wrist when I took a peek at him lying still on white satin.
They’d sent a note thanking us for our cooperation in these “changing times”. It was signed by Elin Grayl, the new leader of our Nation.
The coffin was a token of their gratitude, to ease our financial burden, they said. I thought it was ironic, since they’re the ones who killed him.
A few hours later chaos broke out. From my bedroom I saw a quick purposeful momentum come from each of the hundred or so legion. They were herding everyone they could find. Before I knew it I was sitting between my parents tearing through town in my dad’s pickup truck, heading for the mountains flanking our crumbling community. And it’s here I sit, waiting for the next onslaught.
I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill. One, focus on my target. Two, steady my breath. Three, account for the wind.
Four, don’t hesitate. Aim between the eyes.
I don’t worry about the snap of the bow, just the direction which the arrow will soar. If it were an animal, I’d quiet my release. But the human boy daring to enter our village is too dumb or too careless for me to bother. He’s just another threat, I tell myself. One I won’t think twice about killing.
I wait, watch him. He isn’t moving like someone who’s controlled. From this distance, at least a hundred yards, I can’t see the Thrones mark on his wrist.
But they’re clever, so I wait.
To my left I can see a lone magpie land on the thin branch of a birch tree. One for sorrow, I think it goes, the rhyme I learned years ago. It’s appropriate; since we live in a suffocating state of sadness. Tufts of snow fall to the frozen ground below him as he sits perched with his eyes darting around. Until they land on me. I refocus and clear my mind, ease the tremors in my arm.
“You have to kill him Noelle.” A voice behind me whispers.

***

My thoughts: Having read this through more than once, I really want to know more about the invasion in more detail and with more clarity. I'm also confused by this: "From my bedroom I saw a quick purposeful momentum come from each of the hundred or so legion" Who are the legion? I want to see them and the invaders, even if it's just a glimpse before our narrator flees. Give me a hint of what sort of invasion this is. Aliens? Outlanders? Foreigners?
Second thoughts: "I’ve learned that counting calms me before a kill." I love this transition to the now and what follows but, is this true: "One I won’t think twice about killing."? Just asking...I also love the subtle hints that this world is different than the one we know, like this: "The coffin bore the mark of the Throne, a twisting tree within a circle and a three pointed crown above. That same mark was branded on his wrist..." and this: "He isn’t moving like someone who’s controlled. From this distance, at least a hundred yards, I can’t see the Thrones mark on his wrist." Maybe he/she's (I get a sense it's she but could go either way and I'm ok not knowing - for now) right not to hesitate...And of course the last line, which begs the question, is she going to kill the boy? Should she? Plus a whole host of other questions, like what's going on here?!
Final thoughts: One idea would be to begin with the now, and then have the narrator recall the past and how they all got to where they are now. The other option would be to insert a little more back story into the beginning. I know a lot of people aren't big fans of back story but one advantage here would be to show who this character was at the time of the brother's death in comparison to who the character is now, however many months/years it is after the invasion. But, these are just my thoughts and Dianne and Krystalyn may have something completely different to say...
Bottom line: Would I turn the page? You betcha.

Readers, any thoughts?