Tuesday, January 31

What are you reading?

Here's a little wrap-up o' reading for January. I read a grand total of twenty books. Check out the link titled The Reads at the top of my blog for my final list. Twenty sounds like a lot, but a few of them are novellas. I think I normally read more than that. This month, I've been busy with my big editing workshop and kind of set the reading aside more than usual. Now I've signed up for yet another workshop in February so we'll see if I can beat the past month.

I've already fangirled a little over Anne Gallagher's books and also at the end of this post here over Roland Yeomans' books so I won't beat you over the head with it. I do want to add a couple more favs from this month's list. Some of these I encountered because of the Romance Reading Challenge for January. This required me to read the first of a new series, an erotica novel, or a romance with a teen protagonist. Of course, I chose to do all three challenges. Roland's Legend of Victor Standish was my teen protagonist read, though the book isn't all-out romance. The romantic elements are absolutely all over this series.

Yet another historical series has surprised me. I read two Italian Medieval historical romances by Jannine Corti-Petska, and now I can't wait for another one to come out. She did an amazing job pulling me into the place and time and into the culture without getting away from the story or losing me in too much detail or in dry facts. I loved the heroes and heroines, and I hope Niccolo gets his own story soon *hint hint*

I tried the erotica, though I normally shy away from them. I've read too many baaaaaad ones in the past, and I don't mean bad in the good way ;P However, I read Doubled by Charlotte Stein, and the characterization and relationship development were superb and the love scenes were blazing.

And last but definitely not least, there is Zoe Archer's Devil's Kiss, the first in her Hellraisers series. What better kind of conflict is there than the conflict with oneself? The heroes of this series are cursed with gifts of ultimate gain. Their biggest battles are between what they think they want vs what they truly need. I couldn't put this book down. It was absolutely a straight read through. Man, 4 am is a crazy bedtime!

So what's on your nightstand or on your e-reader device? Have you delved out of your usual genre lately? Has anyone set a goal to read more this year? What's the most books you've ever read in a month (and yeah, you can count school assignments I suppose)? Is anyone entering Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award for the chance at publication via Penguin? OK, that last Q was random, but I'm curious...

Sunday, January 22

The beauty of mating rituals

Four red eyes sense moon phase light from mates
I visited Lynn Rush at her blog today. The picture she posted reminded me so much of being out to sea, and the many gorgeous and unique sights you can see out there. In the Gulf, I saw the biggest pod of dolphins EVER. There had to be more than a hundred of them. I was so upset I didn't have my camera. I kept it with me from then on, hoping I'd see them again, but I never did.

I saw flying fish and poisonous sea snakes (they looked perfectly harmless, like toys floating on top of the water). I saw whales, though not as up close as I'd wanted. I saw amazing and some very strange sunsets and sunrises. One pitch black night, I caught flashes of light in my periphery. It was lightning, but unlike anything I've ever seen, like big, round blasts of yellow from the cloud to the ocean surface.

By far, one of my favorite sights is the bioluminescence, when the ocean water glows in the dark. Sometimes it's blue or green or sometimes it's somewhere in between. In the wake of our ship, a fireworks display bubbled just under the surface. Along the Pacific SoCal Coast, the green glow is caused by fireworms. Yeah, kinda gross but cool. One underway from San Diego to Port Hueneme, the entire ocean lit up the blackest night. It peaked most on the wave crests where the ocean churned and in the upset from our ship. Such beauty, and all because these little worms secrete bioluminescent goo to attract their mates. Other bioluminescence can come from jellies, phytoplankton, algae, sea snails, bacteria, or a host of other creatures.

Seen anything amazing come from a mating ritual? Anyone been out to sea and want to share an experience? Anyone find where my monster pod o' dolphins went? I really want that picture, darn it! 

In other news, please join amazing blogger friend and writer, DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude 2.0, in the Origins Blogfest. Tell us about your journey as a writer and how your dreams began. Meet some great new people you can identify with and find a bunch of fantastic blogs to follow! I know I haven't signed up yet, but I will. You can also help DL out with his query over at Matthew MacNish's blog The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (the QQQE). Matt is another amazing blogger who helps others craft queries so they can improve their chances at publishing.

Anyone joining in this blogfest or some other you have coming up?

Tuesday, January 17

Mmmmmm... lasagna!

A friend just starting on the writer's journey asked me how I deal with character descriptions, and sheesh, that is so not an easy topic to answer in a sentence or two. As I wrote her a mile-long email complete with helpful attachments, I realized I was describing lasagna to her. Yep, I write my own special recipe of literary lasagna, layering backstory with setting with character description with dialogue with conflict with ricotta.

Several times, I've heard writing a book compared to childbirth. I thought, "Wow, it must be so much more painful for men to write a book." I've heard it compared to learning to drive. Eventually it becomes second nature, but maybe after you've totaled an MS or two. How about dentist visits, anyone???

How best describes your writing process? Heard of other analogies I missed? Do you do small layers or do you work in chunks? Personally, I don't start with layers, but it's what I end up with after edits. Now the real reason behind this post: I'm starving!!!

A quick note to Roland Yeomans: If you happen to see this, I tell you I don't read such young protags normally, but now I eagerly (impatiently) await your next installment of The Legend of Victor Standish. Your writing is like a painting to me. I think it's amazing you're donating proceeds this month to Salvation Army, but I still kinda wanna smack you in the cliffhanger. Please take that as a compliment. You have me happily hanging here :)

Friday, January 13

Whaleshark shifters and other such nonsense

Whaleshark Code of Conduct courtesy of Ningaloo Atlas

Truly, this post has nothing to do with whalesharks. Sorry to disappoint. I was thinking about innovation in the writing community, and it has really quite impressed me. Writers have a way of bringing unlike things together or creating themes not previously published, though we hear continuously that there's nothing under the sun that hasn't been written about already.

I remember back when a shifter romance brought together a wolf shifter and another wolf shifter or a wolf shifter and a human. Now I'm seeing otter shifters with wolf shifters and swan shifters with hawk shifters. Heck, why not a whaleshark shifter? There's inherent conflict in being restricted to an ocean. Pair that shifter with an avian shifter, and BAM! they can never be together as a shifted pair. I'm seeing now romances with a rock 'n roll theme or with a culinary theme (ala Louisa Edwards). I'm seeing more hero variety, like nerd-types and outcasts and handicaps/physical imperfections.

Personally, a well-written story even without something unique can grab me by the nape and pull me in. It's all in the writing. For example, and I know you might groan at this, the vampire stories. I heard this statement somewhere on the internet, and I wish I could remember where so I can attribute it properly, but I find that the concept is one I agree with: I'll get tired of vampires in novels the day I get tired of people in novels. Heck yeah! Because even though I love to see the crazy plot ideas people come up with, it is execution that counts most. This supports the 'write what you love' idea whole-heartedly over writing to the market.

What's the most outlandish story idea (in any genre) you've ever encountered? What are some plot ideas you believe haven't been done yet? Have you been captivated by a novel even though the plot was unoriginal? If so, what was it about the story that hooked you?

Quick side note: If you have any short stories, novellas, etc., ready for submission, go visit Jami Gold for her Pitch Your Shorts event. She has several editors from Entangled Publishing taking two-sentence pitches plus first 100 words for multiple genres. They're taking pitches until January 16. Good luck! BTW, the awesome Lisa Kessler is pubbed via EP, and she says they are fantastic to work with.

Friday, January 6

I'm full of it!

Challenges, that is. Full of challenges. Er, well, if I was perfectly honest, I'd have to admit that writing fiction, by definition, requires being full of it... Anyway, in addition to the A to Z challenge, I'm adding a reading challenge too. I figured I might as well since I read so many books anyway, particularly romance. So here's the deets:

The Reading Romances Challenge 2012:

The goal with this challenge is to read the widest variety of books possible, as many sub-genres as you can find, as opposed to just quantity. This is totally an "expand your horizons" kind of challenge. Since my genre selection has gotten pretty narrow, I figured this would push me to read outside of my habitual path. So here are the guidlines:
  • This challenge runs all year from 01 Jan through 31 Dec.
  • Anyone can join, even if you don't blog. You can post reviews to any book site (Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, Smashwords, etc.).
  • A list of romance sub-genres and themes will be posted to choose from each month.
  • You can list your books before reading them (by leaving a comment on the post with the topics for that month) or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, don’t feel obligated to read them, changes are welcomed!
  • When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the Reading Romances Challenge. If you don’t have a blog, please link it to the page where you post your reviews (Goodreads, Shelfari, Amazon etc).
  • You don’t have to participate every month, but please try to!
  • Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
There will be random giveaways for active participants throughout the year. Yay, contest! If you'd like to join me in this challenge, sign up right here on Reading Romances. I'm trying to avoid challenges I already know I can do in favor of choosing ones that push me to be better or to try something different. What challenges are you braving this year? What keeps you motivated to meet your challenges?

In other news, one of my fav paranormal romance stories ever:

Alex. Two weeks...

Tuesday, January 3

I'm not one to gush...

Especially about a historical. I've nothing against them but my cuppa usually runs along the steamy paranormal or military/romantic suspense line. Now Anne Gallagher has me hooked on her Reluctant Grooms series.

I first read A Wife For Winsbarren (only a 99 cent read), and you can see my review for that novella here on Amazon. Then a couple of days ago, I read The Lady's Fate until the wee hours of the morning because I couldn't put it down. My favorite aspect about this book is the way Anne develops a beautiful, sweet relationship between the hero and heroine without in any way, shape or form diminishing the love the hero had for his deceased wife. Yes, there were a few times I wanted to knock him on the head and tell him to wake up, but I didn't need to worry because Anne did it for me. Honestly, I haven't enjoyed a historical series this much since I read Pamela Clare's historicals. As Pamela writes an unusual era, you may tell that I prefer historicals with something different to offer. Anne told me she currently has a novella entitled A Husband For Miss Trent available for free download for a limited time on Smashwords. Can't get better than free! But I have to warn you, if you enjoy characters not cut from a cookie-cutter, you might get hooked on her writing style like I did.

In other news, I have officially decided to test my mettle with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in which bloggers post the alphabet every day in April minus Sundays. I heard about this challenge via one of my favorite bloggers (and I'm sure you'll love him, too), Alex J. Cavanaugh. Who else could have started this craziness but Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out? Sign ups begin on January 30, and such early notice gives you plenty of time to create a plan of attack. So who's up for this? I have to say challenges like this are a great way to meet new bloggers.

Okay, I really love blogfests, and I've been eager to dive in again. So I found Cassie May's Valentine's Day blog hop, Is It Getting Hot In Here. Yes, a kissing scene--hey, that should be right up my alley, right? Well, I got excited about it and then reviewed my WIPs for something appropriate. To my dismay, all of my writing was too racy for public display. I think I might have to post a sufficiently censored version, lol. Thank you Roland Yeomans for the referral!

Aaaaaaannnd I see I've gotten quite link-happy with this post. How about you? Any links or good stuff going on around the blogosphere you'd like to share? Workshops or contests? Blogfests you're participating in or hosting?

Sunday, January 1

A kind of addiction

Oh, don't look at my screen like that! I'm talking the good kind of addiction, the writing kind. It's such a great one to have because it means the words are flowing and the word count is climbing. LOL, of course it doesn't mean the words aren't garbage, but if that was too horribly important in a first draft, NaNoWriMo wouldn't exist!

My most recent addiction, cause ya know it comes and goes, is to my new WIP, a vampire paranormal romance. Man, I never thought I'd write a vampire novel, but it grabbed me by my pen hand and dragged me right through it. So my good addiction news: I started a week and a half ago, on Thursday, with an 8,000 word count. I'm now at 35,000 words *happy dance* and it still won't let go of that pen hand. What a great kick-off for the new year! Why can't this happen every time? Only down side is I'm supposed to be in revision mode with another WIP right now. Oh, well. Gotta love it while it lasts...

In other news, tomorrow is the first day of Savvy Authors EditPalooza and I'm psyched about it. I found Savvy Authors via one of my dear RWA San Diego Chaptermates, Melissa Cutler (who btw has two shiny new contracts with Harlequin and Kensington *cheer*). Savvy Authors has a bazillion workshops and great articles on everything writerly. This is also where I found Jodi Henley and her character arc workshops. Amazing! I had my greatest writerly AHA! moment on the first day of her workshop. I highly recommend taking one of hers, especially you fellow pantsers. This was the ultimate plotting for pantsers instruction I've ever received.

Now, I haven't been completely glued to the keyboard. I've been catching up on my TBR list. My most recent reads: Anne Gallagher's A WIFE FOR WINSBARREN (sweet historical novella with an original hero who made my heart melt), Lisa Kessler's NIGHT WALKER (hot paranormal with a drool-worthy hero, cover to match, and a vivid setting), Linda Thomas-Sundstrom's Veronica and the Vampire (fun,quirky paranormal with an original premise--lol, vampire pick-a-date), Stephanie Draven's THE FEVER AND THE FURY (erotic romance novella with compelling hero and heroine--they're supposed to be killing each other, yeah, right!) I've read several others over the past week-ish, but these are my favs.

Next up TBR is CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY. I got sidetracked after reading the first one, but now Sondrae got me wondering which side of the love/hate fence I'm on with this series, and seeing how the first movie comes out in March, I'd thought I'd find out. First, I want to get to Anne G's THE LADY'S FATE. Stieg Larsson's taking a back seat for now. Don't know if I'm in the mood for reaaaaallly long books!

So what's your good addiction news? Any writing progress? Reading? Who's working on revisions from NaNo? Who's waiting eagerly for 2012 releases? Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

WDWParksgal @ DeviantArt