Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Dark Triumph

From Goodreads

My latest read has been "Dark Triumph" by Robin LaFevers. This is the second in her "His Fair Assassin" Series. The first book, Grave Mercy, I really liked. These books are dark, and about girls who are nuns of St. Mortain (the god of death) and assassins who do his will. Which sounds uber creepy but these are done so, so well and in a way that is unexpected. 

St. Mortain sounds a lot like Satan but death is presented here as both justice and mercy. "Grave Mercy" dealt with the mercy part. "Dark Triumph" deals with the justice part. Sybella is trained to kill and wants to because of her past and what she's had to suffer through and endure.

There'a lot of political drama and intrigue in the first book that is not as forefront as this one. This one is much more personal and the lead character, Sybella, a very, very wounded person. I really loved this book and how it chronicles her coming to grips with her past and dealing with her brokenness. (Reminds me a lot of my own main character). It also serves as a great flip side of the same coin that Grave Mercy sets up. I loved the love story in this too. The guy isn't good looking but is charismatic and endearing and is the perfect fit for our wounded girl. A great story about healing and self discovery,all within the context of adventure and high stakes.

I will be honest and say that I wouldn't recommend this book to a young reader. A lot of YA is gritty, and this is a very dark story. There is some sexual incest mentioned and alluded to that I think would disturb a younger reader. It would have disturbed me to read that at fifteen. Granted, I grew up very sheltered and what most could handle at 15 I couldn't handle until I was in my late 20's. So take that with a grain of salt. 

I love this series. The third book comes out this fall and I will definitely be begging our local library to get it. I like that these books are different. There are a lot of girl assassin books on the YA shelves right now, but these are different because of the religious element. These girls serve the god of death, but it's not all demons and satan (in fact, none of that). The author has a Catholic background which you definitely see elements of and I love the world and religions she created in these books.

Again, a dark read, so if that's not your thing steer clear. But if you can get into it and love characters who overcome and are not just stupid silly girls intent on being a damsel in distress, you should definitely check this out. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Two

Exciting rough draft of Book Two is officially done, coming in at a nice 59,000 words (up from 48k last time I had it drafted out).  Now the real work starts!  Crazy but true. Writing is rewriting and rewriting and rewriting....But, I am excited to have a complete novel to start with. Now it can sit and be shipped off to my first readers for overall feedback. I shall let is ferment like a good wine and come back to it a few weeks from now and see what I think (because like a car wreck or a bad relationship, manuscripts are best seen from a distance).

Book Two has become so dear to me, which I did not expect it to do, and here's why:

One of the best pieces of writing advice I have ever read or gotten was this:
Put your character up in a tree.
Set the tree on fire.
Get your character down.

Sounds incredibly sadistic, but in truth, conflict it what makes a story so great. Oh, you have to choose a faction and leave your family?  Your sister got picked for the Reaping and you volunteer to take her place?  Ashley is marrying Melanie Hamilton?  You get the idea...

It was never my intention to write anything beyond Book One of my story. But after I had written the very, very first draft, I was so stinkin' in love with my characters that I couldn't not continue their story. I mulled over in my head what could happen because sometimes just throwing bad events into a story is dumb, and quite frankly, cheating (I'm looking at you first season of 24...woman gets spontaneous amnesia??  Please.  That my friends, is bad writing.)

Anywho, I couldn't wrap my mind around a new conflict that I liked. But then, oh people, then....I was on my way to Kroger after work one day mulling things out loud (I get some of my best writing ideas talking out loud to myself). And I asked myself this question: Other than someone dying, what is the worst thing I can do to my main character, R. And then I said something out loud that was so right, so wonderfully horrible, that it became Book Two.

Oh people, I kill my sweet MC in book two. Not literally kill her, mind you. But I did a whole bunch of stuff to her that she would consider worse than death. Doesn't that sound just awful??

Don't hate me though. Once I thought of the conflict, it just bred conflict. I mean, bad stuff acting like rabbits and birthing more and more bad stuff.  It just wouldn't stop.

BUT, it starts off really wonderfully. Twitterpated.

Ah, this is where we start

Then.....bad happens.  But it's OK. Bad stuff teaches us things. Draws out strength in us we didn't know we had. 


At the beginning of Book Two, R is in a good place (finally, bless her dear heart). Ah, but a lifetime of brokenness is not mended so soon. She has come a long way, but is still not healed.

Her father and M do a great job with her, but some new characters show up in Book Two.

Like H. Total bad guy. (I named him after my elementary school principal who was a horrible, horrible man. Lesson here is don't be a jerk to kids or they grow up and immortalize you in fiction. Clearly mercy is not my spiritual gift). Good ole Woody gave me my bad guy image. Doesn't he just look like a creep?

Bad, bad dude
And, as so often happens, bad guys and bad things turn our beloved MC into pretty much a horrible version of herself. And surely nothing can love her, right?

Love this truth (and this look--you can buy this!)
 Ah, but this truth is woven throughout the story. Though to be honest, it does not appear in Book Two. But Book Three, ah, redemption cometh! (though glory, not the way she wants it to, cause ain't that life in a nutshell?)

Stronger than we give her credit for

 Oh hope. You sweet, blessed, tiny little fighter you. Hope is what will keep R going despite all the crap and horror I throw at her in Book Two. Because the worst thing is never the last thing...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When your words get ripped to shreds

Fail Better.

I saw this a few months ago and pinned it because it's good wisdom for many things in life, especially writing. I even remember changing the words in my head the first time I saw it to "Write again. Fail Again. Fail better."

Failure is a part of life, and a part of creating. It's agonizing though. I submitted the pitch for my book in a contest recently and got horrible, horrible feedback. It was bad.  Both the feedback, and what I had written.

I understood and agreed with all the feedback and criticism I got. But man, it totally killed me. I think because my manuscript is somewhat done and I had finally felt so proud of this thing I had written and had begun to think 'Wow, this isn't crap." And then I got feedback on what I had written and it essentially said, "This is crap."  I had an awful moment where I felt that I had no talent for what I most want to do, and it hit me so hard it was all I could do to keep from running to the bathroom at work to cry.

But, I got over it. I had some sweet encouragement and even though I told myself I would take a week off, I got into super attack mode (cause that is what I do) and edited the crap out of my blurb. Blurbs and queries are hard. It's like going speed dating. You are trying to convince a total stranger that you are actually a wonderful, lovable person worth pursuing. You have 120 seconds to do it.

Craziness, right?

That is the publishing industry as I understand it, and I haven't even dove into it yet. I'm just getting educated and testing the waters and holy crap, this pool of publishing scares me to death. I am all "do you like my floaties they keep me alive" and a thousand Michael Phelps are in the pool laughing at me because their skill puts me to shame.


But I learn. I take feedback and use it to make things better. And I cling to hope because she is like a wart you can't get to leave and clings to me despite my Debbie Downer attempts to fling her off.  And I try again. I write. I struggle, I edit. I write some more.

The truth is, I would love to get published.
The truth is, that if that never happened, and a time travel fairy came to tell me that she had seen the future and there was absolutely no publishing in my future, I would still write like crazy. Because I love it. Because it is who I am. Because stories are my favorite thing and creating them is the best, wildest, most wonderful thing. And because I have friends who love me enough to read what I write anyways, even if every agent and editor in the world were to tell me it's garbage. 

I would say that I write because it makes me happy, but really, I write because I have to. Because words and feelings and realities and hopes get locked inside of me, but find a way out in a fictional story.

So here's to writing despite someone taking my words and stomping all over them. The victory is not that the words got liked, but that they got written.