Figgy Idol

Figgy Idol

I’ve moved on to Round Two of Figgy Idol! And not only that, but I made Top Writer of Round One with my story A Real Fighter.

But Round Two is giving me serious difficulties.

When summed up, the prompt told us to create a plot driven story in which there is a death neither at the beginning or the end that will affect the reader with the strength of the writing. The issue is that we only have 6000 words total, which means at the most 4k words with which to attach the readers firmly to the characters we kill off and leave to deal with the aftermath. And then we have to sew up the plot completely afterwards!

If that wasn’t hard enough, I’ve selected a crime story as my genre. Crime, mystery, detectives… I read very little of this as compared to other genres growing up (I didn’t have the patience) so it’s far from my forte.

Which is exactly what Figgy Idol is supposed to do; it’s there to push you out of your comfort zone and force you to grow. But geeze, I sure can pick ’em.

Anyways, here’s the summary of Haint. Although I’m considering changing it to A Real Witch to match my other stories.

Haint Blue paint is said to keep away evil spirits. But practical Sheriff Lance knows that no amount of Appalachian superstition will keep away the bad guys found in his line of work. When a girl obsessed with the occult goes missing, however, Lance will have to rely on the local “Granny Witch”–a young woman named Nona–to help him with the case.

Where his mind fails him, hers works wonders, and when her herbs can’t save a life, his bullets just may.

As to other writing, I’m extremely close to finishing Queen. That makes me so excited! It’s considerably longer than Beast already, coming in at around 80k. Whereas Beast is a mere little 30k in need of lots of editing. After some discussion with a few writing (and reading!) friends, I’ve decided to not expand as much as I’d planned and leave a little more up to the publishers. I’ll just be adding in the second part for introductions to Snow for Book Two, and a little more setup for some sub-plots of Beast and overarching plots of the trilogy as a whole. Overall, I’m really excited about how this is turning out!

In non-writing news, my family is still awaiting military orders on where to move next. We hope to know by the end of this week! It sure would make planning a lot easier if we knew what side of the world we’d be on.

Those are all the updates for now! Keep your eyes peeled for a Book Blab later on this week!

Blessings,

J.A.

Challenger Deep

My family and I recently took a little trip to L.A. While the intent of the visit was Universal Studios (which was very cool), we also stopped at some watch shops, quilt shops… and book shops.

They were independently owned book stores that my mom researched before going, like Book Soup or The Last Bookstore. At Book Soup, I picked up a book called Challenger Deep. And I believe it could very well be one of my favorite stand-alone books I’ve ever read.

 

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Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Basic Summary- Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

 

My Thoughts- That’s the summary that the book came with, and I really liked it. A summary that gives a little more away is that Caden has a mess of mental illnesses, most prominently schizophrenia.  Neal Shusterman did a masterful job of showing a thought process eerily similar to my own in a way that is both poetic, but also deeply connects you to the character. Neal managed to make me feel like Caden, which is a connection that the neurodivergent community desperately needs.

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

Tackle the Big Stuff

I’m not going to lie to you. Challenger Deep goes deep. Mental illness is not a joke, and while this book has its humorous lines, it knows that. They cover topics as simple as wanting your family to understand you, to the issue of suicide. This is a difficult book to read from that standpoint.

But it proves an important point. These are the things that people need to be reading. Whether it’s to know that they are understood by the world, or to show someone how to understand another person, these are topics that have been ignored by far too long for the majority of the world.

Schizophrenia is a joke, depression is misunderstood, bipolar is taboo. This book tears that all down and proves that it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be that way. Those are the kinds of strong, world-changing points that I wish every piece of writing to make.

I Understand Nothing

 

On a less deep note, this book makes zero sense about 90% of the time. As a reader, you have to just sort of accept the fact that it will make sense eventually. And when it does, it’s both mind-blowing and poignant. But my complete lack of understanding–while overdone for most books–urged me to keep reading.

Mystery, mystery, mystery. It’s not an action scene that makes someone keep reading; it’s the wondering if the character will survive it. It isn’t the romance that keeps a person involved in the story; it’s the burning desire to know if it works out in the end. Mystery is one of your most valuable tools. Learn how to wield it wisely.

 

Overall

 

This book was amazing. It could be a struggle for some readers, either from the dark tones or the sometimes confusing plot. (Or the slightly slow beginning, I’ll admit.) But it’s a thrilling ride that opened my eyes in many ways, and proves that no one is beyond being understood, and everyone is capable of being saved from drowning.

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

I’ve had this book on my wishlist for quite some time. What book lover wouldn’t adore it? The title is riveting, and the cover alone could give me shivers of ecstasy.

 

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Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

 

Basic Summary- The Great Library (*more happy shivers*) controls everything in this world. It is forbidden to own books. In fact, everything is centered around books, which are gathered up and taken care of by Scholars. Jess, the loveable MC, comes from a family of book smugglers. They sell books to anyone with enough money, from Inklickers (who eat books to prove they own them) to Burners (who burn books to prove the Great Library is evil and that human lives matter more than books.) Jess is chosen to become a worker of the Great Library, but learns that there is much more to his world–and his heart–than smuggling books.

 

My Thoughts- That summary, of course, does nothing to really capture this book. It’s a stunning work, and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel. (Paper & Fire, another fantastic title.) Caine writes quite unlike anyone else I’ve read before, which made reading Ink & Bone an experience not just for the riveting characters, world-building, and story arcs, but for the writing itself.

 

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

 

Don’t Stress So Much About Your MC… But Do Stress About the Minors 

Jess is nearly perfect MC. Not because the person himself is perfect. He has plenty of faults, all of which work perfectly in the story. But he doesn’t have a show-stealing personality or center-of-the-attention-all-the-time actions.

Minor characters had a major role in Ink & Bone. Each of them was distinct and unique, and had as much say in how the plot progressed as Jess himself. That’s not to say that Jess was replaceable. He was very much the main character, and not just a narrator. (I’m looking at you, Nick of The Great Gatsby.)

But likewise, the minor characters weren’t replaceable. This is an aspect of writing that is much glossed over. I’m so happy with Rachel Caine’s portrayal of all her characters.

 

Pacing? What Pacing? 

Caine’s pacing was unlike anything I’ve seen before. At first, it irritated me about. She flew by what felt like weeks of important world building as Jess and the other Postulants studied. Then I realized that it was irrelevant to her true plot, which then blew me away.

Caine spat in the face of most pacing I’ve seen, and did so pretty eloquently. I stand in awe. I’m still struggling to see how I can apply this to my own writing (and horrible pacing) but I believe that the ultimate lesson is play around. Don’t stick to a strict formula. You might find something amazing.

 

Overall

This is bloody fantastic. I loved every word, and tried to savor it as long as I could. (A struggle for a speed-reader. And a reader who has the tendency to fly by multiple pages without comprehending a word when the plot thickens.) I absolutely loved Ink & Bone and look forward to the sequel.

 

Have a favorite book you’ve received this Christmas? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

 

 

Stepping Into the World of Freelance

Stepping Into the World of Freelance

Project Freelancer. Those words jerk me back to the days of roleplaying with friends, when they were obsessed with the internet show “Red vs Blue.” But while those Freelancers were from the world of Halo and sent off as mercs for hire, I’ll be doing something a little more legal. Specifically, freelance writing.

It should have occurred to me much sooner, really. I enjoy both the creative and the technical parts of writing, and my friends (and total strangers) have been asking me to help them with writing many times before. From simple revision and proofing to practically ghost writing and collabs, I’ve always been doing the same thing.

If you’re good at something, never do it for free.  -The Joker

While that quote was taken from one of the most heinous villains to grace comic books, it seems pretty solid. So after stumbling across this conclusion, I joined Upwork.

Upwork seems to get mixed reviews. “Real” freelancers seem to dislike it, but they have no qualms concerning age, and it looks like a good springboard for someone with limited billable experience. It may not be perfect for everyone, but it seems like a good fit for me.

I spent this weekend setting up a profile, as well as linking it up to a shiny new email, Twitter and matching profile pics all across. (I’m going to be just as bad at Twitter as I am at Facebook, I assure you.)

Am I all dressed up with no place to go? I certainly hope not. As quickly as I got around to doing this, I hope it sticks around much longer. The freedom it could give me financially would be a real blessing, especially as I near the “getting kicked out of the house” age.

And if it does flop, at least I now have consistent profile pictures.

Bessings!

-J.A.

 

 

 

 

Pick Your Stereotype – Poetry

Pick Your Stereotype – Poetry

You don’t have to be who they say you are,

We are told when young.

 

See what all you can be,

They say, and they show us

Templates from which to choose.

 

Why be judged for how you are born?

Pick your stereotypes.

 

Because why dare attempt to change a system?

History will cycle on,

Only the players change.

 

Choose your character, they say.

Pick your stereotype.

 

 

When I was younger, I despised free form poetry. But I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more in the past few years. This came to me when I overhead some airmen talking about how he can either choose to be a hood black guy or a white black guy, even in the most progressive of circles. 

I hope you enjoyed this, and please feel free to leave constructive criticism. 

-J.A. 

Kiss 2016 Goodbye

Kiss 2016 Goodbye

I’ve recently been reading a book called Ink and Bone, about which I will write a book review as soon as I’ve finished it. (Keep your eyes peeled for a blog post titled Book Blab!) In it, the main characters who work at the Great Library are constantly writing in their journals. They might use it to vent about their day, or scribble down theories and plans.

I’ve struggled for years to keep a journal, but I liked the way this sounded. Write whatever you feel that day! I could write about something I don’t want to forget (like a funny quote or my grocery list), write a scene that won’t get out of my head but doesn’t fit in a story, or write about “feelings” and similar things.

I wrote this on December 31st, just before the new year. (If you think it sounds at all mature or dramatic, I’ll have you know that I wrote it with a Sonic Screwdriver while wearing llama pajama pants.)

I wonder what fuels inspiration.

One moment, I’m struggling with every other phrase, and the next my fingers glide as images, music and soul all pour from my mind.

I’m inspired by ink and leather and memories stolen from the long-gone. I’m inspired by the culture of society’s heathens, and the heathens of society’s cultured. By time, places, people, as well as art’s pale imitation of them and the caricatures that paint them all the more vibrantly.

I am inspired when emotion takes a form, however brazen or subtle. I am inspired by the fantastic, and the things so real that I can taste them, like one has pointed out my breathing.

The exclusive, the universal. The beautiful, the treacherous. The exotic, the commonplace.

What am I not inspired by?

Of course, I later went on to rail on 2016 and place a few tentative hopes for 2017, but I think that bit will resonate with most authors. I thought I’d throw it out here, in all it’s Sonic-ed and llama glory.

Have a fantastic new year!

-J.A.

 

 

Christmas Books

I write, therefore I read. 

I think this should be posted somewhere. Granted, it isn’t always true, but I struggle to think of a situation in which a writer is excused from all forms of reading ever.

Regardless, I adore reading. So it comes as no surprise that books made up the majority of my “Christmas Haul” this year.

 

How To Train Your Dragon (Book 12)

I read the first one just after watching the movie for the first time, but I often forget that I saw the movie first. I adore the book world even more, and the scope of the story is so much more endearing and epic.

And plus, tiny dragons.

And really, really huge dragons.

 

100 Deadly Skills

Of a SEAL Operative, no less.

 

Krav Maga

I happen to like the idea of being able to defend myself.

 

Igraine the Brave (In German)

I’m by no means fluent, but I thought perhaps a kid’s book would help. I have a German picture book, and a German version of Lord of the Rings. One I’d mastered and one… well, reading it in English can be a challenge.

 

Space Case

I loved Spy School and the subsequent novels, and space is so darn cool. I had to give this a try.

 

Ink and Bone

I have no idea what this book is about, but that title is irresistible.

 

Wheel of Time (Book 1)

I feel like such a bad book person for taking so long to read Wheel of Time. I had it on my Amazon wish list for forever, but no one seemed interested in buying it for me, and I could never find book one anywhere. I finally stumbled across it at a thrift store. So it technically wasn’t a Christmas gift, but I’ll throw it in just to celebrate finally getting it.

 

Now to make sure I’m not a bad book person for neglecting my own! I’ve been picking up steam with writing again, although I have yet to touch Queen. For some reason, it now feels daunting. (Probably because I left off right before the very important bit of the final building stages of the climax.) But it will be tackled tonight! Wish me luck, and let’s put on the kettle.

-J.A.