Thursday, October 4, 2012

Surprise! I'm pregnant.

Well, I promised to blog about the "surprise" so here it goes.  I'm pregnant and am almost done with my first trimester. 

After the unfortunate incident with my first pregnancy, I was trying to wait to tell anyone the news.  That was incredibly difficult.  Still, I can spread the news now, so I will.  We're not out of the woods yet, but I still think the chances are better that this one will work out, especially now that the first trimester is nearly over.  Even if it doesn't, I'm not going to give up, but I'm hoping and praying that everything will go smoothly this time.  We don't know the gender of the baby yet, but from what we saw on the ultrasound he or she certainly is active. 

Currently, we have a few names that we like for girls and boys, but we may end up changing our mind when the time comes.  Disclaimer: none of these names are after something/someone in particular.  They're just names that we've always liked.  Many of them were on the list years and years ago.  Any family names will probably be middle names and we have a few ideas for those, but that will be a surprise if we decide to do it.  Our current favorite first names for boys are, "Christian", "Nicholas," "Roman," "Skylar," "Caleb," and "Abel."  The current favorite girl names are, "Evangeline," "Lydia," "Ariel," "Gabrielle," and "Alyssa." 

Truthfully, we've had more trouble thinking of names for girls than boys for some reason.  Evangeline and Lydia are my two top choices for a girl for now.  As for the boys, I like all of those names, but we have some time to think about it since we won't know the gender until another ten weeks.

Anyway, that's the big news.  Please be praying for me.  I'm allowing myself to be excited now.  Seeing that baby move was amazing and he/she is beautiful.  I'm very, very happy, and truthfully a little bit nervous.  Still, I think I'm ready for this now.

50 Shades of...Oh My!

Well, I promised that I would write this review about the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy before I thought better of it, so here it goes.  I'm going to try to explain what is good and bad about these books, and I'm going to try to, above all, be fair.  Initially, I was going to make this more amusing and poke a bit of fun at it, but I've noticed from others who have read these books that the reviews tend to totally trash them.  There are actually good things about these books and I think being that harsh with a new writer is rude.  So, here is what I hope is a fair assessment.  Let's get the bad over with first...   

First of all, I'm not sure what all of the fuss is about.  These kinds of stories have been around for a very long time.  Just look up BDSM short stories on the internet and see what comes up.  I assure you it'll be ten times worse than the 50 Shades of Grey series.  I think the "big deal" is that this one was marketed towards a normal book store as opposed to where you would normally find a book like this.  Also, many people never were exposed to this lifestyle before reading these books.  However, despite the fact that the books are mildly pornographic, the scenes are no worse than those of any other trashy romance novel.  There's a lot of sex in the trilogy, to the point it eventually gets to be repetitive, almost boring, but clearly there is a market for that sort of thing.

The biggest problem I saw with this series are problems that stem from the fact E. L. James is a new writer.  She repeats words and phrases throughout the entire book series.  Word variation is one of those things that's important because a reader literally gets bored when you use the same words over and over again, and it makes it seem that you don't have an extensive vocabulary.  I think E. L. James can do better due to the use of words like "mercurial."  (Though, I have to admit, "mercurial" got on my nerves.  I had never heard that word before I got these books and by the end of them it was ingrained in my head.)  Also, let's just say George Takei ruined the phrase "oh my" for me.  Every time there was an "oh my" in a love scene, I heard it in the George Takei voice and saw him saying it.  Kind of a mood killer...

There was another problem with the third book that the other two didn't have that I feel needs to be mentioned.  At the beginning there are a series of flashbacks.  The flashbacks occur every other chapter until about page eighty.  Never put that many flashbacks in a book, especially in the beginning of one.  It was hard to get into "Fifty Shades Freed" because I was interested in what was happening in the "now" and when we backtracked it derailed my interest.  Too many disjointed flashbacks is a common problem for new writers as well.  I've done that before, but not every other chapter like that.  Truthfully, there is a long flashback in the opening of my new book, but it isn't disjointed.  It's jarring to go from flashback to present, flashback to present, flashback to present.

Finally, I do take issue that this was a Twilight fanfic.  I somehow managed to look at it from an unbiased perspective, but occasionally, I just couldn't.  I felt more needed to be changed for me to appreciate it as a work that stood alone.

Still, there are several good things she did to make it stand apart.  The back story for Christian Grey was good (it actually reminded me a good deal of the back story for "Dexter," making me wonder if she was inspired by that as well).  The characters weren't as annoying as those in Twilight either.  I could actually identify with the main character, even though she was VERY naive for her age, something I had trouble doing with Bella, Edward, or Jacob when I read that series.  (I'm not even going to bother to review that one.  The story falls apart when you realize that Edward is over a hundred years old and falls in love with a teenager.  I'm thirty and I hate angsty teenagers now.  Also, he's practically starving on the animal blood, and she smells like a steak--he would've eaten her.)  Anyway, Christian Grey was a very interesting character that had emotional depth.  Even though we're seeing things through Anastasia's eyes, Christian is the main character of the series, which I thought was a kind of interesting twist.

Also, for being a "dominant" Grey actually is a pretty likeable character.  If you've ever read anything else like this, most of the time the men are complete and utter scoundrels with no redeeming qualities.  If you are just learning about this sort of thing from these books DON'T read Anne Rice's "Sleeping Beauty."  I've read stories like this before, and I couldn't get sixty pages into that book because the man was such a jerk I wanted to kill him.  Grey is different.  He actually does have redeeming qualities, but you do need to keep an open mind and give the series a chance for them to come into play.  Also, this is a story about redemption and overcoming the things from his past that make him the way that he is.  By the end of the series, he's changed a good deal and so has Ana.
The stories themselves were actually pretty addictive.  There was enough action going on in the background that I found myself skimming some of the sex scenes because I wanted to see what happened next.  Even though it was "convenient" for one of the villains from Christian's past to come up randomly by crossing Anastasia's path, I think that's a plot device that all of us are guilty of using every now and again.  And, I know from experience, the world is a lot smaller than I'd like it to be, so that's one of the complaints about these books I don't agree with and found actually plausible.

Long story short, I actually liked these books.  The action (I mean the story not the ahem...action) kept my attention and I read all three.  The writing style needs work, but I think E.L. James could be a much better writer with more practice.  By the third book many of my complaints except for the additional one were already getting better.  She's extremely lucky to have her books catch on like wildfire, but I think she knows that, and I'm happy for her.  I'm legitimately happy for her.  It was a pleasant surprise at the end of the series that she had a large, all caps "Thank you so much for reading," blurb.  She appreciates her fans, and that's a good quality in a writer.

J.K. Rowling said, when she found out how well this book sold, "maybe I should've had Harry be more creative with his wand."  What a smarmy thing to say about someone else's work when Rowling was just as lucky to have her work catch on like it did.  The witch and wizard school concept has been done before.  The first time I was exposed to it was from the Disney movie "Worst Witch."  I swear, the more I hear about that woman the less I like her...don't get me started on the "resource book" case.  She's a good writer, but I'm becoming convinced that fame has gone to her head and being a good writer isn't everything. 

My point is, I think we're all being a little harsh and I think it stems more out of jealousy than legitimate complaint.  We try and try to do everything right so that our books will get published.  We strive to make our books less cliche, make sure our grammar is impeccable, not repeat our words, and someone came along who broke those rules and is now a millionaire with the biggest audience base a book has gotten in a very long time.  It actually gives me hope.  I think that means that if there's a market for a certain type of story, your audience will forgive you for your stylistic shortcomings.  Thank goodness for that, because I know I have a long way to go.

And that's my review.  This has been pretty long...oh my!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

So close to sending query letters...

Hello all,

I know I promised an amusing book review, but I'm not quite done with the last one of the series yet, so it'll have to wait.  In the meantime, I thought I would blog a quick update about what's new. 

First of all, I finished making the changes on "Blood Rain" and am almost done with a one page synopsis.  I feel better about this synopsis since it focuses on the main plot and seems to flow pretty well.  We'll see, though.  I think it still needs a little work, so I'm going to run it by my friends who have read the book and those who haven't. 

I still have a good feeling about "Blood Rain."  I might even be able to start submitting my query letter to agents early next week.  That would be nice.  Either way, I need to hear the opinions of my test readers first to make sure the changes I've made are adequate.  Once I've submitted it to as many agents as I can that are into young adult fantasy stories, then I'll probably finish up book two.  If I work on book two again soon enough, I really might be able to finish it before NaNoWriMo and then work on book three during that time.  Wish me luck.

No luck on the Tron costumes for the Halloween party.  Long story short, we've run out of time to order a costume, try it on, and then send it back if it doesn't fit.  Also, none of the Halloween stores around here are selling them this year.  Ideas that I'm throwing around now are Sweeny Todd and Mrs. Lovett, Luigi from Luigi's mansion and a ghost, or a zombie bride and groom.  Still, I'm trying to be flexible.  We still have a little time to buy a costume, so we'll probably go shopping this weekend.  I'll figure something out even if I have to recycle a costume from a previous year.  Still, I'd rather get a cheap new one if possible.

Looking forward to Halloween as always.  I've got lots of fun things coming up.  There's my a birthday party for one of my friends, Rifftrax Live, the Doobie Brothers in concert at the fair (I grew up listening to the Doobie Brothers, and I haven't been to the fair in years), and my Halloween Party.  I'm also planning to cook up some new treats this year such as caramel coated apples, deviled eggs, and two new flavors of punch.  Totally psyched.  :-D

Anyway, I should have that review for you by the end of the week or the beginning of next week.  In the meantime, I'll be writing, proofing, and sending query letters.  I also have a surprise to announce later this week.  I might send something out about that tomorrow...