Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sample Sunday: Finding Fiona

Last week, I posted the first 500 words of my novella Finding Fiona, which will be released in September. Here's another excerpt, this time from the second chapter:


Fiona wanted to tell Hannah everything, but she knew how outlandish it all sounded. She thought she was Elizabeth Normans, even though the firefighters had pulled her body out of a fire. It couldn’t be possible. There was some mistake. There had to be. She was Elizabeth Normans, and some other girl had died in the fire.

“When’s the next time you’re going to New York?”

Hannah shrugged. “Not sure. Probably not long, it’s been two weeks.”

“I want to go whenever you go,” Fiona said, trying to sound casual.

“Yeah, that’d be fun.”

Troy watched them, but when Fiona looked at him, he averted his eyes. She didn’t want to say it in front of Hannah, but hopefully Troy wouldn’t come to New York. He’d nearly ruined the trip today. If James hadn’t shown up, the only good thing that would have happened was the article.

Fiona’s heart slammed against her chest. She’d completely forgot about the article. It would run in the Boston Herald this week. The reporter said it could even be tomorrow. Would the Alarias see it? She started to walk back to her room.

“Dinner’s ready!” Troy called after her.

“I’ll be out in a second,” Fiona said.

She shut the door to her room and called James. He answered on the second ring. “Hey,” he said.

“Hi. It’s me.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Fiona’s breath caught in her throat, and neither of them said anything. She closed her eyes, exhaling. “Which one do you think I am?”

“I think you’re Elizabeth,” he said quickly.

“Why? What makes you think that? I have no memories.”

“You have some,” he said, urgency in his voice. “You do remember things, Fiona, just not. . .just not everything.”

“I could be the replica, though – wait, no. No, this machine isn’t even possible. It’s not – I mean, it’s insane to think of a machine just duplicating living things. That goes against so many laws of physics it’s not even funny.”

“Well, you definitely know more than I do.”

“It’s not possible,” she whispered. It hurt her head, and she couldn’t think about it right now. “Look, today, I talked to a reporter. It was a follow-up piece on my amnesia. She said it could run this week. Do you think the Alarias will see it?”

“Oh, god,” James breathed. “What paper?”

“The Boston Herald.”

He swore. “They definitely could. Daniel works at NYU. They have all kinds of papers in the library. You should call them and ask them not to run it.”

“Are you sure? I mean. . .” Fiona trailed off. Her argument with Troy didn’t make sense anymore. She’d found someone from her past. She didn’t need the article anymore. “Okay, I’ll call them.”

“Okay. . .I wish I could see you again.”

Fiona smiled. She wished the same thing. She wanted to talk with him about the past until her throat hurt. “Hannah might come to New York soon.”

“Oh, I don’t know if that’s a good idea. The Alarias are here. They could be watching the house.”

“It’s a huge city.” She and Hannah had gotten lost there plenty of times, but Fiona usually got them out by instinctively knowing which roads to take.

“I just don’t know, okay? The last time I talked to the Alarias, they threatened to put a restraining order on me if I told anyone about the Remus project.”

“Really?” Fiona was starting to trust him, but maybe she shouldn’t. She kept bouncing between the two: trust him or don’t, trust him or don’t.


Pounding on the door made Fiona jump. Troy called that dinner was ready.

“I should go,” Fiona told James. “I’ll talk to you later.” She hung up before he could say much else. She didn’t want him to say something like, ‘I love you.’ She had no idea how she’d respond to that.


Finding Fiona will be available anywhere ebooks are sold in September. Come back next Sunday for more :)

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Kindle edition, published 2011.

Wow! I stumbled upon this author on a blog (The Bookshelf Muse), and the first thing that caught my eye was that cover. Great job to whoever did that! I read a couple sentences of the blurb and got the sample from But I really had no idea what it was about other than the dystopian setting of the global heating crisis. So, going in, I had pretty much no idea where it was going, and it was really cool reading it that way! Reading without any preconceived notions, just enjoying the book for what it was - great writing!

Enough about me - onto the book. It starts off as a "typical" dystopian, introducing the reader to the world of the future. Piper's world is stuck in the Global Heating Crisis. It's been summer for eighteen years and there's no end in sight. There heat bubbles, cooling gels, little air conditioning, missiles to dispel the heat bubbles, domes to protect people. It's a fascinating world that probably could have been a novel in and of itself, but then we start to see inklings that there's more to Piper and her family than meets the eye. She receives a mysterious box for birthday present. She meets a guy who says he's known her for a year. P.J. Hoover soon pulls you into a world of mythology with finely crafted language that constantly kept me wanting more.

This book was addicting! When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about when I'd have time to. When I was reading it, I was forcing myself to slow down. The world is so vivid; it's like I could feel the heat. There were lots of twists, and it kept you guessing (although I knew what was up about two thirds of the way through, and I was yelling at Piper to get it). It's so imaginative, too. I want to see this on film. I think it would be awesome. I'm definitely not an expert in Greek mythology, but my high school was pretty big on it, and I loved revisiting some of those myths and also seeing a new take on them.

There were times when Piper seemed to passive, but overall, I liked her. She grew into herself, for sure. There were some great characters and concepts. I liked the author's take on the Underworld.

I really, REALLY liked this story. I recommend it for any young adult or dystopian or mythology or Indie readers. Or just anyone, really. It's a very enjoyable read, and I can't wait for more from this author. I hope she writes a sequel. I'd be all over that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My reader pet peeve: Black and Grey Eyes

I'm going to start this off by saying I know I'm being irrational. I can't help it, okay? When I read a character has "black" or "grey/gray" eyes, I cringe.

I've been lucky enough to avoid the REALLY strange eye colors - like amethyst or orange. Some strange eye colors are actually part of the plot, like Shatter by Elizabeth Mock or a paranormal I'm beta reading in which eye colors change when the wolf is close to the surface. But some just get on my nerves.

Like black and grey eyes.

When I read black eyes, I think of demons. You know, when the iris blends with the pupil blends with the white. Like this:

Blech! Now, I know some people have brown eyes that are so dark they look black. A few people have said that about my eyes. But it still doesn't change the fact that they're brown. Not black. Right? Maybe I'm misunderstanding eye pigment or something. I know pictures online look like someone may have black eyes, but I've never thought that in real life.

This doesn't tick me off as much as grey eyes do.

I don't know what it is, but they pop up EVERYWHERE. Is it like a rule if you write a fantasy book, you have to have a character with grey eyes? Why? This color is so uncommon. In fact, it's more likely that the character's eyes are just blue or green, but they want to say grey to feel special.

When I read grey eyes, I think of model Jessica Stam. And you know what? I'm looking at pictures of her, and they're just light blue.

I can't deny these are gorgeous eyes, but it's so rare. I don't know, maybe the problem isn't the extreme overuse of it (BUT IT IS) but the fact that I don't know what grey eyes are.

I could definitely consider Aishwarya Rai (spelled that wrong the first time!) as grey-eyed.

I'm just saying. . .it's so rare, and yet everybody has them.

OMG, there's even a TV Trope about grey eyes, but they're missing the point! Grey eyes don't have a purpose or significance - authors just give them to EVERYONE!

Case in point. . .my list of grey-eyed characters/authors. And yes, I got a lot of my list TV Tropes there because I try to block grey eyes out of my memory.

1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling. JK is just grey-happy:
a. Sirius Black (this is the one I remembered)
b. Luna Lovegood (SILVER!)
c. Draco and Lucius Malfoy
d. Cedric Diggory
e. Mr. Ollivander

2. Annabeth from Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

3. JRR Tolkien. Lots of grey eyes there.

4. Katniss, Gale, and Haymith from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. Many of the Stark family in A Song of Fire and Ice by George Martin (I've only read the sample on Kindle, but he mentioned it a dozen times)

6. Anne in Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (What? I always thought they were green! Red hair and green eyes, that's another one overdone)

7. Lolita from Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

8. Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I'm coming back to this and adding to it every time I catch grey eyes in the books I'm reading.

Sigh. Brown eyes make up the majority of the human population, but you've just got to make everyone GREY. The least common eye color EVER. Because your characters are special snowflakes. I could definitely bring up some kind of race issue, but that might be blowing it out of proportion.

It doesn't annoy me as much as I make it seem like it does. It's just overdone. Especially when it's the first thing you learn about a character's description. I hardly notice eye color when I first meet someone unless they have stunning eyes - like any of the three pictures I posted (I'd really notice demon black eyes).

End rant.

Do you have any reader pet peeves? Things you're sick to death of reading about?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sample Sunday: Finding Fiona

My novella (40K words) Finding Fiona has an expected released date of September 2011. Here is a small excerpt of the first chapter:


Seagulls cried above her, only small flecks in the endless blue sky. The water ebbed back and forth, splashing against the rocks where Hannah had found her four months ago.

Fiona stared down at the waves as the breeze brushed her hair over her face. She clenched her teeth, waiting for the memories to come. Maybe if she wished for it hard enough, she’d remember.

Behind her, Troy mumbled something to Hannah. Fiona tried to block him out, crossing her arms and looking across the harbor.

Nothing new. The same disconnected memories floated around in her mind, searching for meaning. Pointless things like playing in a McDonald’s play place and taking a driver’s test. She wasn’t even sure if some of the images were memories. The fire and its suffocating smoke. The two men dragging her into a van. The girl who drove a different car while Fiona bled from her stomach. After that, the first clear memory she had was the ride in Hannah’s car and the name Fiona mumbled the entire way: James.

The strange images left her with nothing. Fiona didn’t know who James was, or who the other, blurry faces belonged to. She didn’t know what had happened to her. She didn’t even know what her name was. When looking through the name book Hannah had brought her, the name Fiona had stood out, but she didn’t know why.

Hannah touched Fiona’s arm, smiling softly. “How do you feel?”

Fiona shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”

Troy walked over to them from the car. “Do you remember anything?”

“Don’t you think I would have said something if I did?” Fiona asked.

“Sorry for asking.” Troy rolled his eyes.

“Hey, you guys hungry?” Hannah said, too brightly. “Let’s go to Cafe Mecca before I have that meeting.”

They walked back to Hannah’s green Land Rover. Fiona glanced back at the harbor once more before getting in the back seat. Someone had left her here four months ago. . .who? And why?

Hannah started the engine and pulled out of her parking space. “Well, that article should run in the Boston Herald soon. Maybe someone will see it.”

“Hopefully the right people,” Troy muttered. “You know, we could still call her and ask her not to run it.”

“It’s running,” Fiona said firmly. “Maybe a family member or a friend will see it.”

“Yeah, or someone else,” Troy said.

“Wow, this conversation sounds really familiar.” She tuned out his response. She wanted the article to run.

Troy had complained about the follow-up article all day, saying it seemed like someone had been after Fiona and publicity might bring trouble. Fiona had weighed the benefits with the risks, though. If her family saw it, it might be worth the chance of someone else seeing it.


Keep watching, I'll post more next Sunday!

Practice with Potter Makes Perfect (or at least Better)

Well, my friends, I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I went to the midnight premiere and cried and everything. I will have a book/movie comparison post very soon, but I'm kind of letting it sink in right now.

To be honest, I wasn't a big fan of the movies. They just seemed to miss so much - and I don't mean subplots and scenes they left out, because I can get over that stuff. There was just something missing. I wasn't expecting much when I went to see Deathly Hallows Part 1, but I was completely blown away. One of my biggest problems with the earlier movies was the stagnant acting of the trio, but in the Deathly Hallows movie, they've really improved. The last two movies are definitely my favorites, but I'm not sure which one I like more. I'll just have to see Part 2 again to make my decision!

Harry Potter had a huge hand in my writing. I wrote dozens - no, probably hundreds - of Harry Potter fanfiction stories. For fun, I perused through some old fanfic stories. Wow. Just wow. Look at this gem:

“What is it with jealous Weasley’s?” Hermione asked from behind a book. “When Ron saw me at the Yule Ball with Viktor, I thought he was going to explode.”

“I was not jealous!” Ron said, and rather loudly at that. He had been jealous. Ginny wasn’t a jealous type, she was fine with Kellie while everyone else in Hogwarts always asked about Kellie and Harry and their ‘relationship’ and Ginny didn’t mind if Harry went to study with Hermione, or to play Quidditch with Jennifer, but if his giggling fan club waltzed up to him in the corridors, Ginny was very quick to pull him away. Most of the time he was thankful, but sometimes he liked bragging about his last Quidditch game, or something else. Ginny was the kind of person who trusted people with time.

This was set in an Alternate Universe, where Ron and Ginny had twin cousins, Jennifer and Kellie. Huge Mary Sues, but I was in love with them. And in case you're confused, this is Harry's POV.

I'm just itching to critique my own work (Weasley's = Weasleys, and what is with that run-on sentence??) but it's in the past. I have to leave it alone so I can look back and see how much my writing has changed. I don't have a definite date, but I wrote this somewhere between 2001 to 2005. (I know that because I remember the bedroom where I wrote this whole story!)

I could post many more embarrassing excerpts, but I think I've already done enough damage. I'm grateful for JK Rowling's beautiful world. She inspired me to make my own stories, and because of her, I got so much practice. It was hard for me to start to create my own characters and my own problems. Now that I have, it's mind-boggling to think of going back to fanfiction. I actually have a few unfinished fanfiction stories and occasionally I'll try to finish them for fun, but it's really difficult. There's so much going on in my head with my other stories! And they're a lot better than what I've left behind.

For those of you who write, what kind of practice stories did you write? How have you improved in your writing?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

Published 2010, Hardcover, 336 pages. Library copy.

I was pleased to see this in my library's "Grab and Go" section, where books can't be renewed or held. I picked it up, took it home, and read it in two sittings. I really enjoyed the read!

Jack is a five-year-old boy, and he's grown up with his mom in Room. He's never been Outside. He doesn't even know Outside exists at the beginning. Old Nick brings them Sundaytreats and visits Ma while Jack is hidden away in Wardrobe. But Ma knows Room can't hold them forever, so even though Jack is scared, she plans an escape for them. . .

I thought it was a very intriguing concept. I've never read a book that dealt with a kidnapping and isolation such as this. It's inspired by a true story that took place in Austria when a father held his daughter in his basement for twenty-four years, during which she birthed seven children and had one miscarriage.

The story is told through Jake's precocious voice. I thought this was an interesting choice. What is a rather depressing subject took on a very different mood, one of imagination and discovery and occasionally fear. I think the second half of the book may have suffered because of Jack's point of view. I wanted to know more, but his perception of the world was limited, and occasionally it seemed more of a laundry list of new things in his life. But I laughed out loud at some of Jack's comments or misunderstandings. I think his voice was great. Some people criticize he didn't have a great grasp on grammar, but he's only five and had five books to work with. Give him a break, people!

Because of the simple writing, it was easy for me to read through quite quickly. I was on the edge of my seat during their escape attempts and I kept talking to myself about what I wanted to happen. I was probably lucky my husband wasn't home ;)

In the end, it's a fascinating story about Jack and Ma's journey, but moreso Jack. Like I said, it would have been nice to see more of Ma, but I really think the book worked in Jack's voice. If we focused on Ma and her point of view, the book would have had completely different mood, style, content, etc. How it is now works. It's a story that will stick with me, and I will recommend it to others.

Friday, July 8, 2011

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

Purchased from the iBookstore, read on my iPhone. Published 2010. Print length is 368 pages.

I found this book from the iBooks "limited-time offers" section. Only $3, and Amazon is still selling it for that price.

Tanya is a thirteen-year-old with the second sight, meaning she can see fairies. When they continue to cause trouble for her, her mom sends her to live with her grandma. Tanya slowly finds out about a missing girl and the mysteries the strange forest near the manor holds. She and her cousin Fabian end up entangled in a deadly adventure.

The author creates a very real world from the first page. Her vividness was one of her strengths, for sure. It was a very imaginative world, especially with all the different fairies and magical items. The book had an interesting mystery to it, leaving the reader to wonder about the events surrounding the disappearance of a childhood friend of Tanya's mother.

There were some things that makes me give this book three stars out of five instead of more. For one, the characters speak so formally. You'd think they were 30, not 13. The ending seemed rushed to me. Everything was explained within a chapter. Maybe that's common of middle grade novels, but I wished there were more clues along the way.

I also found it disappointing that Tanya needed rescuing so badly. I liked her, and I realize most 13 year olds would be out of luck in a situation like that, but I don't know. Although it seems like the way Tanya is rescued (read it for yourself and see ;) ties into the sequel. I'm sorry to say I probably won't be reading it. I don't know, I liked it and I don't feel like it was a waste of anything. But I don't really care about what happens to the characters. The adults seemed more like caricatures until the last few pages. I liked Fabian the most out of everyone, but I definitely felt sorry for Tanya through the book.

In short, if you're looking for an imaginative read, check it out! Would probably be best for middle grade, but if you like young adult, you'd probably like it, too.