For all the NaNoWriMo pantsers out there who need a little help…

Okay, so I’m a plantser, with an emphasis on the pants. (And if that’s mumbo jumbo to you, it means that I by-and-large dive into my books with only a vague plan. :D) So as the start of November looms, I was intrigued when Reedsy sent me an email about their plot generator! This is a lot more thought-out than other story/character generators I’ve seen; you can set your genre (drama, romance, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi) and lock in the elements that ring true to you, until you have your perfect story.

So you can lock in any of the elements that catch your eye and keep generating more suggestions until the story’s the way you want it!

I decided to treat the “kicks off” bit as a scene in the book, rather than the very start of the book, since I already have the opening part of my project written. Some of the character jobs I treated a bit loosely, given that I already have a decent conception of my characters, but the whole thing really got me thinking and helped me come up with some decent ideas.

I’m doing a Beauty and the Beast soft sci-fi retelling, so because it has both sci-fi and romance elements I did two of them! Here was the sci-fi version I came up with:

An airship pilot, who has an obsessive nature. A supercomputer, who has the patience of a saint. It’s a soft science fiction story about what it means to be human. It kicks off in the dunes with a fight to preserve alien culture. (Note that: someone in the story has recently lost someone dear.) And there’s a twist! There is an accidental bodyswap at one point in the plot.

And here’s the romance version:

A model, who grows carnivorous plants. A prince, who tends to brood. It’s a paranormal romance story about hoping again. It kicks off at a botanical garden with a botched order for a mail-order bride. (Note that: someone in the story has been struggling to live up to societal expectations.) And there’s a twist! The protagonists don’t speak each other’s native languages.

Anyway, I know a lot of book bloggers are doing NaNo this year, so I just wanted to give everyone a useful tip in case you’re scrambling to figure out your story for tomorrow. 🙂 Check it out here, and good luck with NaNo!

Short Tuesday #33: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

It’s spooky season, and I thought the only proper way to do Short Tuesday this week would be to give a whole bunch of suggestions for short stories that will scare you senseless! No need to crack open a thousand-page Stephen King novel when you can get your scares done in less than ten thousand words. 😀 Some of these short stories are tamer than others, but all of them pack a wallop; each story is a five-star read for me, and every single one of them you can read for free! So pick your candy, and have a great Halloween.


Snickers: the crowd-pleaser

I had a couple different contenders for this category, but “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George, which I just read for the first time last week, had to be the winner. “Future” features a teen MC who just can’t stop encountering eighties slasher-type killers. It’s great for anyone who wants a more YA feel, it’s bloody, it has a start-to-finish arc (sometimes hard to come by in short fiction!), and it’s brilliant.


Popcorn: the classic

For this category I suggest H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls.” I think that Lovecraft can sometimes seem a bit unapproachable to people who haven’t read him, because there have been so many other works inspired by him. I mean, he sparked an entire horror sub-genre, for crying out loud. “The Rats in the Walls” is an easy gateway into Lovecraft, and for a story from 1924, it features some truly terrifying imagery and an awesome ending.

By the way, I just want to give a small warning that the name of the cat in this story infamously features a racial slur, and the name of the cat has featured a lot in discussion about Lovecraft’s racial views. This isn’t the place to go into that, but I just wanted to give anyone reading a heads up.


Candy Corn: the love-it-or-hate-it

I’m putting “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” by Junji Ito in this category for a couple reasons. First off, it’s a short horror manga, so if manga is not your thing then… this won’t be your thing. 😛 Secondly, this story is basically a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” has made all the rounds on the Internet, and it totally deserves its infamy; it will stick with you.

All right, you’ve been warned! ❤


King-Size Candy Bar: just keeps on giving

For this category I suggest the sprawling “Interface Series,” which was a series of bizarre, non sequitur Reddit posts by username _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9. You can start reading here. The posts swiftly attracted interest, garnering media attention and questions about whether the project would be turned into a book. There was also some speculation about whether the posts had any link to Stranger Things, as there were similar elements between the two works and the first season of the TV show was released just a few months after _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 started posting. Anyway, “The Interface Series” isn’t a short story per se, but each post is pretty short and will keep you hungering for more, so I think it’s a great fit for anyone who’s craving a king-size candy bar. 😀


Tootsie Caramel Apple Lollipop: the dark horse

If you love SCP, r/nosleep, and creepypasta, then I suggest the classic “Ted the Caver” as a seriously creepy Halloween read. (And if that’s a bunch of gobbledygook to you, well, you’re missing out!) You want to know what I love about this? It’s a website from literally 2001, that is still on Angelfire, that gets the spook done in a magnificent way. This one story has stuck with me for years. Definitely a good one for anyone who has claustrophobia as a horror trigger. 😀


Reese’s: perfection

We’re still a few months away from the end of the year, but if I had to make a prediction, “In a Canyon, In a Cavern” by Laird Barron will remain my favorite short story of 2019. Everything in this story works in perfect harmony: the characterization, the back story, the setting, the description, and the classic folk song “Oh My Darling Clementine” that forms a creepy musical background to the piece. Enough of me waffling–just go read it already!


What are some of your favorite horror bits and bobs–any suggestions? And how are you getting in the Halloween spirit this year?

The NaNoWriMo 20 Questions Tag!

I saw this awesome tag over on Sophie’s blog, and since we’re almost into NaNo season I thought it would be a super fun tag to do! Thanks for putting this together, Sophie. 🙂

Rules

  1. Thank the awesome blogger who tagged you!
  2. Link back to the creator of this tag, Sophie @ Sophie’s Corner. (I want to hear about your NaNo novels!!)
  3. Feel free to use the NaNoWriMo 20 Questions Tag graphics!
  4. Answer the questions.
  5. Tag some friends who are also doing NaNo this year.
  6. And have fun!!!

Tell me about your NaNoWriMo project this year! Give me a blurb!

I’m mostly a discovery writer, which means writing a blurb is nigh on impossible since I don’t know most details of the story until I get to them, but I’ll give the briefest of hooks:

A girl takes her father’s place in an alien abduction gone awry, only to find that her surly extraterrestrial captor may not be the villain he at first appears.

What’s the genre?

Sci-fi fairy tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast!

Describe your MC in three words.

Intelligent, brave, beautiful (I mean, this is Beauty and the Beast lol)

Without spoilers, describe your villain in three words.

Manipulative, tenacious, handsome (can you all guess who I’m talking about? :P)

What is your goal? (the traditional 50K? 20K? 5K? or……. 100K?)

I think I’m going for 21k, which is 700 words/day. I’m a slow writer, for better or for worse. :/

Is this your first draft? Second? Third?

First draft! Ugh, drafting is the worst.

Are you starting a new project (or draft), or continuing an existing one?

I’m continuing an existing draft, which is about 14,000 words long at the moment.

What is your favourite time to write in the day?

Any time I can write with friends, whether that’s after work or in the morning. Having friends with me for “butt in chair” time makes it sooooo much easier to make progress.

Where are you going to write?

At home, at work, at NaNo meetups… Anywhere I can!

Computer or paper?

Computer, using the writing service Dabble. Oh my God, I could never draft on paper. I revise my sentences so much that the paper would be all scratched out scribbles.

NaNoWriMo is a huge commitment!! How are you going to make time to write?

I’m fortunate enough to have some downtime at work right now, so I’m able to write during the day. Also, I’ve actually taken a few days off of work in November to focus on NaNo!

Are you going to participate in local or online NaNoWriMo events? (e.g. kick-off parties in your city, write-ins, virtual writing sprints…)

Yes, absolutely! NaNo events are how I met most of my writer friends. This will be my fourth anniversary for some of my NaNo friendships! ❤

Do you write from beginning to end or skip around?

Beginning to end. I’m a super linear writer, mostly because I’m by-and-large a pantser.

Planner or pantser? (or plantser?)

Plantser, with an emphasis on the pants. I do my best to plan, but things always go awry, and I find my most creative ideas are spur-of-the-moment inventions!

What will be your go-to NaNoWriMo snack?

Hrmm, I mostly write in coffee shops where there are abundant, tempting baked goods. That is not what I need to be eating right now, so… string cheese? Haha, that’s my go-to if I’m at a Starbucks.

Choice of caffeine? (or no caffeine?)

Teaaaaaaaa. Doesn’t matter if there’s caffeine in it or not, just give me an infinite supply, preferably hot and loose-leaf.

Any rewards for milestone achievements? For finishing NaNoWriMo?

Maybe I’ll buy myself a nice pair of shoes; that’s what I did as a reward for finishing my first book. 🙂

Share a tip for other NaNo-ers!

Go to the events! The camaraderie makes it way easier to get words on the page.

Also, try to end each day in the middle of a scene, or even in the middle of a sentence. It makes it easier to start writing again the next day.

How are you feeling about NaNoWriMo? (Excited?! Nervous!? Terrified?!)

Excited and scared, since this book is much more vague in my mind than previous projects. I need to do whatever planning I can prior to November 1st!

Share an aesthetic for your NaNoWriMo novel!


Since I’m not sure who’s doing NaNo, I tag everybody!! 😀 Thanks again to Sophie for creating the tag!

Leave a line down below if you’re doing NaNo this year! What’s your project about?

Short Tuesday #32: “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday; I mean, it’s almost Halloween, so how can I not? The short story I picked this week was “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story from start to finish! It details a high school girl who keeps finding herself in eighties slasher-type situations where she is the only survivor. After all her friends and her mom are killed, she decides to leave town to embark on a journey where she inserts herself into situations where a killer is bound to surface: frat parties, sleepy two-bit towns, etc. The hope is that she saves some people in each massacre, who will give her some money to continue her journey. If you’re into self-referential horror (and what true horror fan isn’t?), then this is the story for you.

The use of a second-person POV is an interesting narrative choice, and I don’t mean that in a “bad-interesting” type of way; I think it really works for the piece! Basically I don’t have anything critical to say here; it’s a great read for Halloween, especially if you’re at all a fan of eighties slashers.

Chapter Twenty of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twentienth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and sometimes earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or now also on Wattpad!

These past few weeks I’ve been absolutely consumed by Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series; I’ve read three or four of them in just a couple weeks. I’m a bit intimidated to write full-blown individual reviews for all of the books (especially because the binge-reading is kind of mushing them all together in my mind), but I think I’ll do one big post about the whole series once I finish. I’ve been so impressed with the consistency of the series; I can see from the Goodreads ratings that the quality might start to drop off in the last couple books, but so far it’s been a rip-roaring good time.

You can’t help but really get in tune with an author’s style when you’re that immersed in their writing. I’ve found that this is the perfect series for me to be reading right now in terms of my own WIP; it’s voicey, it has a stream-of-consciousness feel, it combines a grounded-feeling MC and setting with magic, serious scenarios, and humor. There are a couple other things I really admire about Harris’s writing style, too. One is that she is a master of describing her characters in terms of each one’s unique physicality and look. I’m doing my best to take this to heart, since I’ve had issues in the past including character descriptions in my own work, mostly because I can often barely picture what each character looks like myself. XD I know that I’m not the only writer who struggles with this; I’ve met more than a few writers who have issues keeping their MCs hair color/eye color/etc straight. So I’m trying to force myself in recent days to include more detailed character descriptions; I think it’s only courteous to readers, and it adds a lot of color to the narrative.

Another thing I really admire about the Sookie Stackhouse books is that they’re very unpredictable, but not in a way that feels cheap. (I’ll exclude #7, All Together Dead, from this; I had that bitch figured out wayyyyy before the reveal. Still loved it, though.) I think that’s what makes them so binge-worthy: there’s always some twist right around the corner that makes sense when you think about it, but will surprise you nonetheless. I can only imagine that Harris is a plotter, but who knows, some pantsers are seriously amazing at what they do. I’m interested to learn more about her writing process. Has she had all the books plotted out since the start of the series? Or is she just that good? Either way is impressive.

Anyway, those are the things I’ve been mulling over writing-wise as I speed through the series towards the end. It’s so enjoyable to read a book where you know you’re in good hands. Have you read any of Harris’s work, either the Sookie Stackhouse series or one of her other series? Comment down below if you have!

That’s all for now, folks! Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty.

Short Tuesday #31: “Glove Box” by Annie Neugebauer

This week I again happened to be looking up short fiction by Stoker nominees and found myself reading “Glove Box” by Annie Neugebauer, published in Dark City Magazine. You can read the story for free here…

I really enjoyed this short story! I don’t want to give much away, but it details a woman in a convenience store who is frightened of one of her customers, due to a string of violent events that have happened recently. The author manages to maintain a level of dread all while concealing background information from the audience until the very last moment. The story feels very grounded in the real world, without a hint of anything supernatural, but somehow you get the sense that there might be eerie forces lurking, ready to spring.

The prose is simple and fits the story well, and the MC, Rose, is very relatable; you can easily imagine yourself in her position, on high alert all while doubting her paranoia. If you want a quick, eerie story, “Glove Box” is definitely one to check out.

ARC: Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Escaping Exodus debuts October 15th.

The seemingly acid trip-inspired cover of Escaping Exodus does the words inside justice: this book is unabashedly weird.

Just look at this cover, omg. I want it on my wall.

Drayden chronicles a matriarchal society that has made the innards of a gargantuan, living space beast their home; when one space beast is on the way out health-wise, they literally jump ship (har har) to the next one in the herd. It’s mad, it’s trippy, it’s body horror at times, and it’s the kind of book you really need to experience for yourself.

I inch closer to the pond of cool, debris-ridden slime that rims the sphincter. It pulses, back and forth, back and forth, a putrid-looking pucker of flesh. Adalla sticks both of her hands in the hole and pulls hard, her muscles rippling and bulging. The rim tries to hold tight, even looks like it’s tugging against her, but eventually it gives, and the hole widens just enough for a person to slip through.

And is the book YA? The main characters are certainly the proper age, but I’d say not really; it doesn’t have the tone you’d expect, which I chalk up to the MCs living in such an alien society and feeling so young and brash that they’re completely unrelatable. There were times I had a really hard time buying the decisions of the MCs; for people living in a society that faces the constant threat of extinction, they have no issues throwing caution to the wind at every opportunity.

The pacing of the book was also strange, to say the least. From start to finish action is stuffed together in a kind of madcap jumble, but then threads of story seem to wither away into nothingness, never to be picked up again. I think the blurb for the book is kind of telling: one big infodump followed by the most blah of final hooks:

And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.

Notice how unspecific that is? There’s too much going on in this book to condense the plot into “If X character doesn’t do Y near-impossible thing, then Z terrible consequence will happen!” We’ve got a lesbian princess and subject forbidden love affair, an underclass uprising, people communicating in code by making out, sex with baby space beasts, an obtuse matriarchal and polyamorous family system with like eight moms and a couple dads per child, court intrigue, clone rights, inter-space beast communications, forgotten histories… I could continue if needed. As per usual, the social justice themes were a turn-off for me, but even that kind of got drowned out by all the crazy, constant details. And yet, for a book with so much detailed worldbuilding, I somehow found it hard to picture exactly what was going on in a lot of scenes, I think because the whole book takes an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach.

Basically, Escaping Exodus felt far too ambitious; I would have liked to see more nuance. Nevertheless, many scenes were absolutely riveting, and some bits have really stuck with me. (I read this book back in July.) It’s obvious that this author has tons of potential, so I’m definitely up for reading more of her work.

ARC: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Speed of Falling Objects debuted October 1st.

If there ever was a book to convince me that I don’t want to visit the Amazon rain forest, this is it. The book progresses from a page one plane crash to poison dart frogs, killer snakes, leeches, and all the creepy crawlies you could ever want. MC Danny, short for Danielle, must confront all these and more as she and her survival TV star father, along with a reality television crew and a teen heartthrob movie star, endeavor to make their way to safety.

But this book isn’t just about the perils of the Amazon. Danny’s mission is to use the time in the jungle to get closer to her dad, who, to put it bluntly, is a total dick. She hardly knows him, but has spent most of her life obsessed with his wilderness survival television show. Much of the book revolves around her hopes and expectations about her father being summarily dashed; she has to learn who her father really is and whether she can accept that reality or not. The book was a bit introspective for my taste, but that’s a personal preference thing.

The writing is strong, and Fischer holds no punches. The inclusion of the teen heartthrob character made me think at the outset that this would be a bit of a fluffier read, but it’s definitely not. People die in this book, permanently, and not just the ones you’re kind of hoping might. If you’re looking for a wilderness-themed page-turner, this is definitely a book to pick up!

Short Tuesday #29: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

This past weekend I happened to be looking up Stoker Award nominees and finalists for the past few years and noticed that one of the award winners for short fiction was published in Nightmare Magazine! So you know me and my love of good old NM; I plowed through Alyssa Wong’s story in no time. You can read the short story here…

Kirkus called “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” a take on a vampire story, but as I was reading I was feeling succubus vibes all the way; the MC literally sucks evil thoughts from her (usually male) victims. She normally meets her victims through Tindr, a touch that I just loved for whatever reason, maybe for the subverting of the common wisdom that it’s normally dangerous men you have to watch out for when it comes to online dating, rather than women.

Other things I enjoyed about this story included the touches of Chinese culture throughout the piece and especially the opening scene, which was just so unexpected in the best way possible. I will say, though, that this story did go a little off the rails for me in the final act. There’s a turn of events that felt a bit too much “betcha didn’t expect that” for my tastes. Nevertheless, I can see why this piece garnered attention for literary awards, and it’s definitely worth a read.

My One Year Blogiversary!

Cue the streamers and party hats and confetti, because it’s my one year blogiversary! 😀

It’s pretty funny to say that, because making a blog was a total snap decision. I knew that starting a website was theoretically a good thing to do, since I was preparing to publish a first book, but really I think the main reason was because I just had a lot to say about everything I was reading! Reading a veritable shitton will do that to a girl. So on a lazy Sunday morning I did exactly zero research before signing up for a WordPress account and voila, here we are! Little did I know that it would bloom into this beautiful new mode of self expression, where I’d be serially releasing my first book, reading a new short story every week, getting the chance to read ARCs (I still can’t get over how cool that is), and keeping logs of my writing journey.

Even so, I still have that niggling feeling that I haven’t quite arrived yet. It’s a funny thing, to be both a blogger who does reviews and an author, and I’m still trying to feel out a good balance between the two of them so as not to step on any toes. Maybe a post on that a little later, when I have my thoughts straight.

Anyway, blogging is crazy fun, and I’m so grateful for the book blogging community. People here are so friendly, supportive, and thoughtful. It’s been mega-cool to look at my stats and see that people are visiting this little corner of the blog from such faraway places as Indonesia, Kenya, and Iraq. Basically, I’m feeling all the love right now, and I’m sure I’ll be here for years to come. Love you guys, and here’s to many more. ❤