Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What's Up Wednesday

It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!


What I'm reading

I read Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, which is wonderfully creepy and well-written! I also read Shatter Me, another book I've been meaning to get to for ages. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I really, really love the poetic writing style - it's totally unique! So I bought the rest of the series, fell into the story, and devoured them in less than two days. Gasp. #bookhangover

What I'm writing

I'm back into drafting my artsy YA urban fantasy WIP, plus I've been working on another novella-length project. ^_^ Finally making some consistent progress! So naturally, more editorial emails came along. But it's all good! I'm being offered contracts for Books 4 and 5 in the Darkworld series!!!!!!! :D :D *happydance* This has been a LONG time in the making! :D *dances everywhere again*

I also have a super-exciting cover reveal coming up on Monday! *more happydancing*


What inspires me

Hmm...well, it came as a bit of a shock to realise it's been over a year since I graduated from university! So I guess I'm inspired by what I've achieved in the past year with my freelance editing/proofreading business! As for writing, I guess I can say I'm inspired by how I've managed to keep going through what's often felt like a landslide of disappointments and setbacks. Like a lot of people, I try to only share the positives online, but the journey to getting a series published, not to mention querying, has had more ups and downs than the Big Dipper! Writers inspire me with their tenacity and determination!


What else I've been up to

My boyfriend came to visit, and we watched How To Train Your Dragon 2, which was awesome. :D I also finally saw The Fault in Our Stars, and loved it. *sobs* *lies in pieces on floor*

There's been a heatwave this week, so I've been spending a lot of time outside in the sun! Except during the random spontaneous thunderstorms. o.O

Cover Reveal - The Undead: Playing For Keeps

The Undead Cover

THE UNDEAD: Playing for Keeps by Elsie Elmore
Genere: YA Paranormal
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
Cover Artist: Alexandria Thompson (gothicfate.com)
Release Date: September 3, 2014

Blurb When an undead woman with serious de-comp issues stalks sixteen-year-old Lyla Grimm, her hope of rescuing her rock-bottom reputation takes a back seat. Especially once Lyla’s new talent of resurrecting the dead draws the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder. While Lyla navigates the gossip-ridden halls, Eric works to gain her trust and discover why Death’s clients aren’t staying down. If she passes on her gift, his death-messenger destiny might be altered. But the closer he gets to Lyla, the less sure he is of his plan. The dead are way easier to deal with than the living. Gossip explodes, the Grimm family implodes, and desperation sets in. Death wants the gift and a soul. Lyla and Eric face hard choices with hidden consequences. Sometimes life’s choices aren’t really choices at all.

 Chapter One Excerpt 
CHAPTER ONE 
 Lyla   

My stomach drops when I see the dead woman lying on the table. Convinced the dim light is playing tricks on my eyes, I reach over and flip the switch. The overhead fluorescents flicker on and light cascades down onto the body. Dread replaces the doubt. I move closer for a better look. She’s not peaceful like the others. This is bad, really bad. Mom will go ballistic when she sees this.

 “Lyla, what are you doing back here?” Ben whispers and gives me a playful shove. I flinch, almost coming out of my skin. Ben’s always been better at the scaring game we started a long time ago. While I both love and hate our game, I also suck at it. I turn and squint at him.

“Asshole. This room should be off limits.”

 “Language,” he chides and clicks his tongue. After glancing at the body, he steps up beside me and snickers. “You’re in so much trouble,” he says, drawing out each word as if it were a paragraph.

“No, I’m not.”

 “Where’s Kate?”

 “She’s gone, I guess.” Kate Huntington, the eccentric beautician with tacky green highlights is gone, and only her handiwork remains. Glittery blue eye shadow and sapphire eyeliner cover the dead woman’s lids. Black mascara coats her lashes so thickly that her eye sockets resemble piles of tangled spider legs. She looks like a showgirl, an old, dead showgirl. I don’t even want to acknowledge the dark foundation, the cherry red lipstick, or the words “I quit” scrawled in eyeliner across her forehead. “Mom and Dad are going to freak when they find out she left this. Mrs. Weller’s visitation is tonight.”

“Wait.” Ben’s interest shifts and he takes a closer look at the still body. “This is Mrs. Weller?”

“Yeah.”

 “Leave her. Nobody will come see her anyway.” His nose wrinkles at the lifeless form. “Everybody hated her.”

“You hated her. I don’t think everyone else did.”

“She was horrible.”

 “You’re still holding a grudge? You were in seventh grade when she busted you for taking off during the Chamber of Commerce field trip. Let it go.” I lean closer to Mrs. Weller’s face. She looks like a sweet old lady, if you ignore what Kate did, but Ben always hated her. Then again, Ben dislikes most of his teachers. They all want him to work harder to meet his potential. Ben has other plans for his potential.

“Whatever. You wouldn’t know. Your nose stays stuck so far up their—” I elbow him in the ribs. “Grab me a wet washrag. I’ve got to fix this.”

“No. I’m not touching anything in here, her included.”

 “I didn’t ask you to touch her. I just asked you to get a washrag. You scared?”

“Disgusted is more like it.” I huff, walking over to the sink. The room reeks of disinfectant, but it’s better than the embalming room smell that clings to everything like cobwebs.

 “Are you worried Dad will mistake your help for interest? You know, this place isn’t the enemy.”

“Easy for you to say. He’s not trying to steal your future.” He crosses his arms. Ben’s senior year has been a struggle about his future. He and Dad both want control. Grimm Funeral Home is now run by the fifth generation of Grimms. Dad worked here part-time as a teenager and returned after college just as his father before him had and so on and so on. “What are you doing here anyway?” he asks. “Mom and Dad will be pissed if they catch you back here.”

 “I came to ask Mom about spending the night at Cassie’s.”

“But Mom’s not in here.”

"I know. But I couldn’t walk by the door without peeking. And this is what I found.”

The water from the faucet splashes around the big white ceramic basin. Every room down the back hallway has too much white: white walls, white counters, and white cabinets. Everything feels sterile, worse than a doctor’s office.

 “You’re really going to touch her?” Ben asks, now standing farther away from the table.

“Yep. I am.” I haven’t thought about it enough to freak myself out, unlike Ben. “It’s just a body without a soul, like a table. No big deal. Well, except for the horrendous makeup.”

 “I wouldn’t. Mom and Dad are going to rail on you if you screw this up, which you’re going to do.” He sweeps his dark hair off his forehead while he inches backwards. “You don’t wear makeup. How are you going to know how to put it on?”

“I’ll rely on my artistic ability.” I dab Mrs. Weller’s face with the warm rag. “Besides, I do wear makeup.”

 “Lyla, stop.” He points at the table. “Aren’t you supposed to be licensed or vaccinated to do this? What if she was sick or something?” Is that genuine concern in his voice?

“I’ll be fine. Besides, it has to get done. Mom’s got too much going on today and Dad doesn’t know the first thing about makeup.”

“Touching her is a bad idea,” he snaps.


Want to put The Undead: Playing for Keeps on your Want To Read list on Goodreads:


ElsieElmore

  Author Bio Elsie Elmore lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids. With a science education degree from NCSU, she never imagined she would someday write stories that challenge the laws of nature. She loves the color red, has an appreciation for chocolate and coffee that borders on obsession, and wishes fall temperatures would linger year round. Elsie is a member of several writing organizations: RWA, SCBWI, and WSW. The Undead : Playing for Keeps is her debut novel. Find her on the web: on twitter at @ElsieWriter, her blog, or on Facebook.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Ready. Set. Write! Week 6 Update

Ready. Set. Write! is a writing challenge hosted by Alison Miller, Katy Upperman, Erin L. Funk and Jaime Morrow, between now and the 25th August!



How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I finished all the nitpicky edits on my MG fantasy! Just waiting for last feedback from a couple of readers, and then I might dare to call it "ready" to query! o.O

I also actually got some words down on my draft! I managed 11K this week across two projects (my WIP and a novella). ^_^


My goal(s) for this week


Well, I finally got my latest Email of Doom (with pre-edit notes on Darkworld books 4 and 5), and Book 3 is with my editor, so it looks like I'm going back into the editing cave soon! (Why yes, this is exactly as confusing as it sounds.) I'm going to be crazy and aim to get 5000 words down on a draft, too.


A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

A chapter opening from my MG fantasy I'm rather fond of: 
Felix was good at making plans, even if they didn't always work. He had not, however, intended to gatecrash the Clockmasters' ceremony.


The biggest challenge I faced this week
  
I've struggled a bit with getting back into drafting after working on edits for so long. The Inner Editor is prowling around being nitpicky about every sentence I write, and it's been ages since I made consistent progress with a draft. But I'm slowly getting back into it!

Also, trying to judge when a project is "ready" to submit. I've had feedback from 8 different beta readers/CP's on my MG fantasy, not to mention all the people who've helped critique my query. And I'm still paranoid there are issues I've missed, possibly due to my less-than-impressive record in the query trenches. I know I need to let go, but I love this book, and I can't help feeling that if this isn't the one to get me an agent, then I'm not sure if any of my books will be. This is my fifth time in the trenches in less than four years, and this is the only MS I have which even comes close to viably marketable...so I've been trying to stave off the doom-and-gloom thoughts lately!
 
Something I love about my WIP  

I love my MG fantasy because it's bonkers. It's about a 12-universe system governed by tyrants, and two misfits who can manipulate Time. Also, there's a dragon.

Monday Mini-Reviews - The Beautiful and the Cursed and The Lovely and the Lost by Page Morgan

The Beautiful and the Cursed (The Dispossessed, #1)

After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.



The Lovely and the Lost (The Dispossessed, #2)



Ingrid and Gabby survived the Underneath. They saved their brother, Grayson, from a future of dark servitude and exposed a plot to undermine the Alliance. But danger still lurks in the streets of Paris, and the Dispossessed, perched on the city's bridges and rooftops, might not be able to save their human wards this time.



My review

I loved this series! It's a fabulous historical fantasy set in 1890's Paris, with gargoyles, angels and demons. Ingrid's and Gabby's brother Grayson has disappeared, and when they arrive at their new home in Paris, odd things start happening. Author Page Morgan does a wonderful job of creating an atmospheric, creepy setting with the mysterious gargoyle statues at the old abbey, and monster attacks in the streets. And there's something different about their new servant, Luc...

I really liked that the plot took several turns and wasn't easy to predict, and the rotating viewpoints kept things moving forwards and keep the suspense at a constant high! I loved the characters. Ingrid is reserved and sensible yet possesses a strange ability she can't control, whereas her sister Gabby is impulsive and reckless, keen to learn to defend herself despite not having any supernatural talents of her own. But both are brave and resourceful, determined to find out what really happened to their brother. We learn pretty quickly that Luc, their servant, is actually a gargoyle bound to serve them due to a crime he committed, making him one of the Dispossessed. Relationships between the Dispossessed and their charges are strictly forbidden, but Luc may have already fallen for one of the sisters.


I've read other books about demons and gargoyles, but this felt really fresh, and the gothic romance angle works really well. The various plot threads and relationships could easily have become confusing, but they're expertly woven together. The action and suspense are well-balanced with the historical setting, and I was thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. 

Happily, I enjoyed the sequel even more! Ingrid, Gabby and Grayson are dealing with the aftermath of the events of the first book (no spoilers!), and the author delves deeper into the world of the Dispossessed and the Alliance. Again, the suspense, action and mystery had me hooked, and I loved the development of each character.

With vivid writing, great conflict, and a new twist on mythology, this is a fantastic series I'd highly recommend to anyone looking for something new in YA!

Rating: ****1/2*

Friday, 18 July 2014

Writing - it's not a race! :)


I’ve blogged before about how I fast-draft, and sometimes I think we can get the wrong impression about how long writing should take, especially when surrounded by other writers who seem to be knocking out thousands of words per day. Writing, of course, is hard work, and every writer has a different process – so it’s important not to get discouraged when you see others talking about how quickly they finished their draft, or who seem to breeze through the whole process. This is rarely the case!
For instance, I drafted five novels last year, and this year so far, I've finished three. That’s drafted – it doesn’t include the other stages. I blogged a few months ago about how I plan a novel, and this stage alone can take anything from a month up to a year or so. I’ve never gone straight from idea to plan to draft. Thinking time is essential, and the more details I have down before I start writing, the smoother the drafting stage goes. The drafting stage is where things seem to move deceptively fast, but I’m actually quite a slow writer, rarely going over 2000 words a day. My first drafts are often too short and need whole scenes and even chapters adding afterwards. And, oh, the plot holes…
Which brings me to…editing. The one stage which, I think, can never be rushed. While I’m drafting, I rarely take a day off because I’m focused on forward momentum. When editing, however, the focus is on perfection – or as close to it as possible. I’m filling in plot holes, rewriting whole scenes, re-establishing character motivations, sparking up dialogue and descriptions. I have to be completely in the “zone”, otherwise the lack of enthusiasm will spill over into my writing. And it often takes several rounds, and yet more after receiving feedback from critique partners and beta readers. For my Darkworld novels, the process is about a year from first draft to publication, including at least three rounds of edits. Walking Shadow, which is out in November, was actually drafted in October-December 2012, but I rewrote most of it from scratch during the four intensive revision rounds that followed!
So: here's what happened to those five drafts I finished last year (and the three I've finished since then!):
1.         March - May 2013: Darkworld 3 - This actually came out in decent shape, but a bit too short. I needed to add in a lot of details and extra scenes with some characters who'd kind of been left behind. Also, layers and foreshadowing - two things that I can only really add in with hindsight. I did three rounds of intensive self-edits, and then worked on more preliminary edits with CQ's editing team.

2.         June - July 2013: Darkworld 4 - This was a serious mess, full of gaping plot holes, and at least 10,000 words too short. Again, I did several intensive self-edits, including a serious overhaul of most of the plot, before sending to my publishers. I'm currently waiting for feedback!

3.         August - September 2013: Darkworld 5 - See above. Too short, not enough resolution, and lots of loose ends. In the end, I completely rewrote the last few chapters.

4.         July - October 2013: Beneath the Waves (YA high fantasy). This was the first draft I'd written that didn't come out too short, but the plot was a mess and so were the characters. I did three rounds of intensive edits with CP/beta feedback, including a complete overhaul of the first ten chapters. When I'd polished it until it gleamed, I entered Pitch Wars as a test to see if I was ready to start querying. After very encouraging feedback from mentors (although I didn't get into the contest), I jumped into the trenches...and no one's buying stories that even mention merpeople. *headdesk*

5.         October - December 2013: The Clockmaker's Key (MG fantasy) - This turned into a very rough first draft. It needed major work. I avoided it for months before finally pulling it out and making a revision plan. Like most of my first drafts, it was too short, convoluted, and light on details (which is worrying, seeing as how complex the world is!). I actually ended up rewriting the whole book from scratch, before doing more revisions with input from beta readers and CP's. And this one's almost query-ready!

6.         December 2013 - January 2014: Indestructible (YA post-apocalyptic fantasy) - This one came out of nowhere and seemed to write itself! The draft was, surprisingly, in pretty good shape, but needed some work on character development and on certain background elements. I revised three times, with the help of my CP's, and it's now "ready" - though I've not decided on the right path for this project, yet.

7.         February - April 2014: Untitled YA contemporary fantasy - This story completely went off the rails. I had my outline ready but I hadn't put enough thought into it beforehand, and around Chapter 6, I panicked. I thought I didn't have enough story so I made a bunch of subplots up and winged it...and suddenly I was juggling three minor characters' stories which were threatening to overshadow the MC's storyline. I was under a ton of stress at the time, and this was more of a "fun" project anyway... This one's going to be left on my hard drive for a long while until I think of a solution! (And this, if anything, proves that even when you think you've got a handle on this writing thing, it surprises you!)

8.         And my most recently-completed draft is the sequel to Indestructible. I don't plan on looking at this one again for a while, seeing as I never intended to write it in the first place, but it was a lot of fun!

 Take it from me: there's no one single way to write a book. Some people take a year to draft and then a month to edit, some the other way around. There's no need to panic if it looks like everyone else is finishing manuscript after manuscript while you're still on your first (remember the Hare and the Tortoise?). It's different for every writer. Take your time. Learn your process. Because in the end, the result will be the same: a manuscript you can be proud of.