Review: SEEKER by Arwen Elys Dayton

Herein lies my longest book review ever.  I had so much to say about this book that you may be surprised by its rating, but perhaps not if you’ve read my THE SELECTION review (a lot of people actually have).  I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.   This review dives into more of the story than the first third that’s covered in the book’s description on Goodreads or Amazon. So if you don’t want to know more than 35% of this book, stop reading the review at “STRUCTURE” and skip to the “OVERALL” It would be impossible for me to fairly review this book without going into parts 2 and 3, because each part is so different. However, I don’t feel like anything I mention is particularly “plot twisty,” if you know what I mean.

I’m giving this book 3.5 stars, but rounding up to four.  The main reason for the high rating was that I found it much of it very engaging, despite the problems I had with it, and in the end, that’s what’s most important to me when rating a book.  I liked the MCs (caveat to come). Quin’s unwavering faith in becoming a Seeker in the first third of the book was a beautiful contrast to John’s desire to become a Seeker with knowledge (hinted at, as it was) that her faith is misplaced. Shinobu wasn’t as developed in that first third, which I think was a shame because he gets more and more focus as the book continues, and I wish we could see his character arc—the best of the three—more thoroughly from the beginning. Maud’s POV was late coming into that first third, and at first it surprised me to see her there, but from beginning to end, I was drawn into her POV. And yet, I will probably not talk about her much in this review because most of the action is around the other three.

SEEKER is quite an interesting book, in many ways unlike others of “its” genre. If I had to pick a genre, it would be fantasy, although the “dear reader” note at the beginning of the galley claims that the story transcends genre. There’s some futuristic science in there that could be seen as sci-fi (mainly in the form of an airship and weaponry), but I would call this primarily fantasy. The time period was a little confusing—I got mixed signals, thinking it was in the future at some point early on, then maybe an alternate now later. We could just call it sci-fantasy or speculative fiction. To me, it doesn’t matter, but some people like a well-defined genre, so here’s a paragraph for you about that.

So far, I have only addressed the first 35% of the book, which consists of the first Part. One more thing to mention about this section is that there’s a lot of withholding of information in here. Skipping scenes and “I don’t want to talk about it or even think about it” types of withholding of information, as well as a character vaguely thinking about hints from his past. If this is the sort of thing that you can’t stand, don’t bother picking up this book.

Some details about this book:

STRUCTURE: This book is the most oddly structured book I’ve ever read. There were three parts plus an “interlude,” which I am keeping separate in my part count because the book does too. The first Part is what’s in the book’s description. Quin, Shinobu, and John try to become Seekers, told that they will basically be superheroes. John doesn’t pass his tests—which seems a little weird at the time, but is understandable in retrospect—so he’s kicked out and Quin & Shinobu—the two who had always believed the superhero line—go through the ritual and find out that they were wrong about what a Seeker does. But they’re stuck in the role now. John’s obsessed with becoming a Seeker, and getting the athame (which is a special knife, like on the cover), so after he’s kicked out, he comes back, this time with hired guns to help him get the athame. Quin and Shinobu use his actions as an excuse to escape that life.

We go to the interlude. It’s a short section of memories, mostly John’s, but also Maud and Quin and Shinobu’s are in there too. It mostly shows us what John’s been hinting at from his past and gives us a good bead on on his motivation. Maud’s is very good, and I’m not sure the chapter about Quin and Shinobu is needed. What’s strangest about this section is that it is not the only place where we spend full chapters in the past. It’s not even the first place in the book with flashbacks, because both John and Quin tell us about their feelings when they first met (John’s memory in more flashback-y form than Quin’s). So when we later get a Maud chapter set in the past with no indication that it’s set before the events of the book, it’s very disorienting and calls into question as to why have this “interlude” at all.

And perhaps it’s so that we can feel like we’ve spent some time before Part 2, which jumps to 18 months after Part 1. Okay, that’s a reasonable excuse. However, what really struck me as I went into Part 2 was that I felt like I was going into the second book in a trilogy. What often happens in book 2 in a trilogy is that there’s some sort of time jump and a huge change in the role of MC(s) and the reader is completely disoriented, and likely disappointed after book 1. That’s exactly what Part 2 feels like. Quin has no memories and Shinobu hides himself in drugs, and only John actually drives the story that we started reading. Another weird thing about Part 2 is that for *absolutely no reason* the first chapter is from the point of view of a harbor. Well, that’s how the chapter is labeled, but it’s actually a random omniscient POV (the harbor cannot actually know all the information given in the chapter). But nothing nothing nothing in the chapter is necessary. Everything in this chapter is shown or told to us in past or future chapters. In the end, Part 2 kinda feels like the filler between the beginning and the climax (ha, just like most book 2s in trilogies). It ends about the time Quin gets her memories back and Shinobu gets over his “worthlessness.”

Part 3 is exactly what you expect it to be. The book is back on track and we go into the nice big showdown that we’ve been waiting for.

CHARACTER ARCS: I started out liking Quin and John, and feeling like we didn’t really know Shinobu or Maud (whose POV came in late). Quin’s wide-eyed faith in what she was doing, followed by her reaction to finding out what it truly meant to be a Seeker was easy to identify with (although the latter would be easier to identify with if we actually knew what happened as a Seeker at that point). She was tough and focused and easy to root for. But in Part 2, she has no memories and turns into a frustratingly different person. Perhaps what makes it even more frustrating is that she sometimes acts like she remembers what she doesn’t remember and like she’s trying to atone for this thing that her memories were erased over. If the atonement was so important to her character during this time, I would have rather seen her in her healer role trying to make up for her past, rather than germ-phobic, repressing-anything-weird-that-happens Quin (because really that was all the personality she got during this time period). When she gets her memories back (which was kinda an iffy point of time because she sort of goes back and forth on this), she basically returns to her original character, so I’m not sure she gets any growth at all.

John’s motivations and character are clear throughout the book, but sadly he doesn’t learn from anything he does in it. At the beginning, he is easy to root for. His family’s been wronged, and he believes in what he is doing to right that wrong. In Part 2, he drives the story, since Quin and Shinobu want nothing to do with the whole Seeker business. In Part 3, he continues with the exact same tactics that he’s failed at using over and over again. One thing that I noticed is that every time he picks up a weapon or hires someone to “only threaten” with a weapon, it ends up being used. So when he takes up a weapon that terrifies him in the third part, you want to yell at him for his stupidity at trying this “threatening only” thing yet again. He also fails to realize that the only way to get sympathy for his cause is to talk to the others involved (particularly to the girl he loves, who he keeps trying to convince through force), and continuously holds back the information that might have convinced her to help him. In many ways, he is an antagonist (although there are 2 villainous figures in the book) and even a villain to Quin and Shinobu, and yet we understand where he’s coming from, even when we’re angry at him for not learning from his own failures. But there’s also something comforting about that consistency, and knowing that the emotions that keep him from being trained into an effective Seeker (particularly anger and fear) are the same ones that he shows near the end and that make his reasonable motivations turn into villainous actions.

And then there’s Shinobu. Shinobu has the best character arc of the trio, actually growing and changing throughout the book. Sadly, we don’t get a good feel for him before he becomes a Seeker, so let’s just assume he’s as full of faith as Quin is at the beginning (and in fact we’re told this is true). Really, what we see most at the beginning is that he’s jealous of John’s relationship with Quin. After he feels betrayed by his and Quin’s fathers for their lying about what Seekers do, he makes some bad decisions that haunt him even more than what they did as Seekers. He dives into a world of dare-deviling and of drugs and hides from the people he loves to avoid thinking about all that. And he says that he’s become “worthless,” and I have to admit that I sort of think of him and Quin that way during this time period. But unlike Quin, at least he’s actively doing things during this time. And even though I’m not big on the whole drug-using character thing, I find his POV during this time a lot more engaging than Quin’s was. And so when he gets past it and moves into the climax with his new perspective and shiny superhero aura (yeah), it does feel like a triumph and a successful character arc, and I really really like Shinobu in the third part…only I feel like he didn’t exactly earn that right, due to the way his “redemption” came about.

LOVE TRIANGLE: The triangle is another structural problem with the book. For the first part, the romance is strong between John and Quin, while Shinobu pouts off in the distance. In part 2, the John-Quin romance is so strong that it is the first thing that Quin remembers through her memory loss, while she doesn’t remember Shinobu at all. So it is quite surprising when Shinobu becomes a viable love interest in the third part. People may complain about the whole third cousin thing, but it’s really not that big a deal (especially since they’re not really third cousins) and the book is clear early on that within Seekers’ families there is a lot of intermarrying. If you can deal with it in the worlds of Harry Potter and Jane Austen, you can deal with it here. I like a decent love triangle, and I don’t even think that this one was unnecessary, but Quin goes from 0 to 60 with Shinobu, and it all happens while they’re preparing for battle, so it’s not only jarring but feels a little out of place. And I was initially hoping for Quin and Shinobu, even though the entire Part 1 makes that seem as likely as Xander breaking up Buffy and Angel (there is it, the obligatory Buffy reference 😉 ), despite the fact that Shinobu is described as looking like a Scottish-Asian model. From Shinobu’s POV, this is a huge triumph, again, but from Quin’s POV, her mind constantly being occupied by how maybe she wants Shinobu while they’re preparing for and in battle is out of place. Even Shinobu doesn’t think this way (and he’s the one who should be celebrating) during the climax except in the waiting moments. Quin can’t stop thinking about him or John while she’s battling. Her faith in John while he continuously gets her hurt is a little annoying too. Even though she is right that he doesn’t *want* to hurt her, he continues doing so, and her insistence that he doesn’t want to makes her look stupid, naive, and like an abuse victim about to happen. It also cheapens our ability to see that we understand where he’s coming from even while he makes poor decisions. We can see that a gun fired in the heat of battle but that he didn’t mean to shoot it, and look into his POV and see that he doesn’t want to hurt Quin but feels that the ends justify the means, and we can understand it because we know where he’s coming from. We don’t need Quin to cling to her belief that he wouldn’t hurt her while he’s doing it and giving her no explanation for it.

OVERALL: And yet, despite certain problems mentioned above, the book kept me reading. I got frustrated with part 2 and had to take a break in there, but I did keep picking up the book to see what would happen. Although I didn’t talk about Maud here much, I was fascinated by her story and wanted to see how her character arc would grow. But while she was a part of the story, she also was very separate from the others, which is why I didn’t include her much in this review. And even with their character arc problems, Quin, John, and Shinobu kept me reading. I was engaged by them and by the main plot (even with its little detour). And to me, that’s what counts.

Recommended for fans of: a mix of sci-fi and fantasy; multiple POV stories; interesting settings; uneven character arcs; strong romantic feelings in any situation; love triangles out of nowhere-ish; a trilogy arc in a single book; random unusual POVs; withheld information to be revealed later (mostly); redemption stories; watching a character fall into villainy; ancient magical characters; amnesia; drug-use; cool magical knives; Asian boys with red hair.



Review: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

I didn’t always want Tsarina.  I wasn’t in love with the cover–too much red.  But I read the premise and first pages and was enchanted by it.  When I got it for Christmas, I immediately dove into it.  Here is the review.  It will contain historical spoilers, but I’ll warn you when they’re coming.

This book started off well (“Oh, no, not another ‘this book started off well’ review,” you say). It was gorgeous and I loved the relationship of Natalya and Alexei right off the bat. Right away we’re introduced to the magic and what it means and what the dangers are, with no dancing around the lead up to it. It’s a unique world and setting, and even magic, for YA, and I really appreciated that. And to top it all off, the magic centers around a Faberge Egg, which I have always adored.

Even after we’re taken into politics and riots and kidnapping shortly after that, I’m still interested. It’s when the love triangle shows up that the book lost me as an enthralled reader. Don’t get me wrong. In YA, I practically assume love triangle as soon as a second boy shows up. I predicted about a scene early that Leo was about to become a viable candidate for a love interest, even though he really hadn’t been up until then.

But I didn’t want it. And not in a “Team Alexei” sort of way. I didn’t feel Natalya’s attraction to Leo. I anticipated it happening and could see it in a very mechanically set-up way, but that’s all it ever was until the very end. Not to mention the Stockholm Syndrome-ness of falling for your captor, but there are times that I am cool with that.

Now I will talk about something spoilery, but it’s historical spoilery. Like if you know anything about the Romanovs at all or ever watched Anastasia, you know what I’m about to talk about. So if you don’t know the history and want to remain unspoiled, skip this paragraph. I knew, of course, that Alexei would die, but it was a matter of when. I expected that Natalya would see him again, that he would die in something related to the egg in the climax, and we would get to see it. Instead he dies off screen, and just like Natalya’s relationship with Leo, it feels very mechanically handled, that he dies because he has to, and while Natalya’s initial blaming of Leo was totally understandable, I just didn’t feel her grief.

Anyway, we don’t see Alexei again after that first chapter. Yes, if you fell in love with him and with their relationship in chapter one, do not expect to see them together for the rest of the book.

The ending feels too rushed, and takes some magical suspension of disbelief considering that I never bought Natalya’s feelings for Leo. That’s all I’m going to say about that, because spoilers.

I liked both Natalya and Emilia. They were the perfect combination of spoiled and resourceful. The thing that shone most for me was Natalya’s constant desire to protect not just Alexei, but Russia, by finding the Faberge Egg, when there were much easier routes to take. Another interesting character (who we never see) is Rasputin. In this version, he is merely a catalyst, but he is also not portrayed as villainous. The number one trait we hear about him is how much he loved the tsarina and would do anything for her.

This is the theme I think that one comes away from Tsarina with. Intense love leads to magic and protection and it gets passed on throughout the book. It’s the sort of thing that a younger me might have eaten up, and perhaps I still would have, had I felt all of the relationships in this book more strongly.

Recommended for fans of: Russian history (loose); the Romanovs; Rasputin; Faberge Eggs; one-sided love triangles; politics; riots and war; Stockholm Syndrome-y relationships; strong friendships; mystics; train rides, sunflowers, & symbolic elks

Rated: 3 blue hearts


Pride and Prejudice and Staring

So having memorized the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, in the process of rereading the book for at least the third time, and having recently read Pride and Prejudice and Kitties (I bet you thought I was going somewhere else with that “and”), I decided it was about time I watched the Keira Knightly version of P&P all the way through.

So first of all, let’s take a drink every time the scene stops to let characters stare.  It starts out with Elizabeth looking in her parents’ window and the girls peeking through a door.  The dance stops to stare at the Netherfield party.  And I know that the end has an awful lot of Elizabeth staring.

So far I’ve been impressed with the shortcuts taken to fit the book into a movie, but we’ll see how I feel throughout.  We’ve cut out some characters who were unnecessary too. I’m not missing Mrs. Hurst, for example.  I like the family talking over each other too.  It’s a lot more natural than everyone waiting for everyone to speak.

Jane is properly pretty in this, though it’s hard to beat Keira for looks.  She’s doesn’t feel as sweet as I expect Jane.  So far my favorite representation of characters is Mr. Bingley and Lydia (I assume it’s Lydia because it’s hard to identify the other sisters.  I’m not sure Mary’s in it at all).  Up until Jane is sick (where I am now), I’m finding Mr. Darcy characterless.  Caroline does not compare to her A&E counterpart, nor does Mrs. Bennet.  Keira’s doing pretty well as Elizabeth.

Oh, hey, Mary is in it, and I have determined that I was right about Lydia and Kitty.

Mr. Collins isn’t as absurd as I’d like, but the family’s reaction to him is great.

I’m enjoying Mr. Wickham.

Yes, if I had Keira Knightly in my sights, I wouldn’t let her out of them either, Darcy.

Ha, this discussion during the dancing is perfectly awkward.  And the Elizabeth-Darcy dance was also well done.

It’s the swing scene.  This is where I came in before.  If you haven’t seen it, Lizzie watches time pass by swiveling around on a swing.  I thought it came further back in the movie, which just goes to show you how much I absorbed of what I saw of the movie before.

Mariah Lucas was also cut, I see.  I think Charlotte is wearing a bird on her head in this scene.  Judi Dench is Catherine De Bourgh.  Casting win. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be have been kept simply to balance out the table.

Bam, Darcy bursts in without knocking!

Ah, Fitzwilliam is here to tell her how Darcy kept Bingley from Jane.  I like the A&E Fitzwilliam better.  But let’s be honest, I wanted to date the A&E Fitzwilliam.

The chemistry shots (dancing alone, almost-kiss lean) are nice, and I’m sure were appreciated by the modern audience in a way that P&P doesn’t really allow for in the text.

Stare at the mirror, Elizabeth.

I got distracted by the internet and laundry for a while.  I wonder how much staring I missed.  Now there are lights flashing, and, oh, Elizabeth’s eyes are closed, and now she’s standing on a cliff…with her eyes closed?  That doesn’t count as staring, Lizzie.

“What a snob you are, Lizzie.”  Ha!

Oh, hey, Mrs. Gardiner is Harriet Jones.  (“Yes, we know who she is,” you say.)

Not sure what all this statue staring is about, unless we’re impressed by the naked bodies?  Why isn’t this one naked? Lizzie thinks, as she stares at the bust of Mr. Darcy.

And then she thinks, It would have been so much better if I spotted him at his house fresh from swimming in the pond.

Okay, this scene where he meets her at the house definitely doesn’t compare to the A&E version, but “I’m very fond of walking,” “Yes, I know,” was pretty cute.

The Lydia affair is thankfully short.

Bingley pacing, trying to figure out how to propose, is adorable.

What was Jane looking at before she spun around on her bed?

Why is Lady Catherine visiting in the middle of the night?  “You have a very small garden here in the dark which I can’t actually see.”

I guess it was good we started the movie by listening at a door, since the family did so at every door afterwards.

Stare at the candle, Lizzie.  It’s good practice for the great stare-a-thon coming up.

Slowly walk through the field and across the bridge.  Turn to look at Mr. Darcy slowly walk for an entire minute.  I mean, it wasn’t even exciting walking.  He wasn’t walking with passion, he was just strolling through the field in her general direction (to declare his love for her again). To be fair, though, we don’t focus on her staring at him during this time as much as I remember.

Mr. Bennet’s line at the end was great.  “If any young men come in for Kitty or Mary, send them in.”

The end is so weird.  The dialogue seems so out of place.  It would be cute in another movie, I guess.

And so ends my play-by-play.  I had much drinking with all of Elizabeth’s staring.  I was drinking cream soda, so it’s about as exciting as Mr. Darcy’s walking for everyone but me.

Lots of love,

Dubbing my Novel

This is not a teaser O_O

I’m working on an R&R of Taylor-Made, and yesterday I came to a scene I wanted to pick out and salvage from my previous version.  One of the things I did in the revision was cut out two characters, both of which were used quite a bit in the scene.  One was easily ignored, but the other had a role in the scene that I realized just couldn’t be directly given to another character without some sort of explanation.

And that’s when I was reminded of a paper I once wrote about, of all things, Sailormoon.  The paper analyzed why certain things were okay in children’s programming in Japan that were not okay in children’s programming in the United States.  Namely, LGBT characters and situations.  (The fact that Dean, the needed character that I cut out, is bisexual has no bearing on this comparison, although it is a funny coincidence).  In the paper, I pointed out the great lengths that the U.S. dubbers took to hide all things homosexual or trans.  Lesbians in a committed relationship would become cousins (and the looks between them, therefore, incestuous).  A male tea master who wears a skirt for five seconds–as part of the episode’s joke–is changed to female (making the little girl’s crush on him really awkward to dub around).  And over all that, entire conversations and plots become almost nonsensical to cover, for example, the characters joking that one of the mains is on a date with a girl or that the would-be boyfriend of one of the mains (same one, actually) is jealous that a guy–who the viewers know is really a girl–seems to be, but isn’t, flirting with her.  Because they were struggling so hard to avoid the plot points that were still there in the visuals, some conversations became awkward and convoluted.

Well.  I hope that the scene that I altered to make up for the loss of Dean is not much like the Sailormoon dub.  Unlike dubbing, I was not stuck to following the same track as the original.  In an anime, the visuals are there, and the dub must match them (to some extent, because things do occasionally get cut and in some anime dubs, completely rearranged).  In the revision, I can cut or add as needed.  On the other hand, I am trying to keep my word count down, so I did feel a little limited by what I could expand on.

So what was it I was changing?  In the original, Dean was the guy who drove everyone out of the evil corporation’s headquarters and to a safe haven.  This made sense because he was the only person in the entire book who knew where their safe haven actually was.  Once I cut him out (for word count’s sake), I had to find someone else who could find the safe haven.  That left two characters who could potentially know or receive that information.  Oops, one of them was that other character I cut.  And the second needed to stay behind while someone else drove off.  So how the heck could they find their way to the safe haven when all three characters who could possibly do it were either cut or needed elsewhere?

I did make it work, although I can’t tell you how well until I get to editing my revisions.  It involved creating the ability steer the car by remote (Dean’s still driving, basically, just not in the car) and choosing a remaining character to be the one who hits the brakes and accelerator and swerves to avoid crashing.  I know that I wouldn’t want to drive like that, but whatever.  What really worked out for me, though, is that choosing the driver and explaining how it was going to work gave me a chance to squeeze in one last little moment in this romantic subplot I added to the revision before the two characters involved got separated, so that was nice.

So that was my most recent dubbing experience.

And if you ever want a laugh, watch Sailormoon S dubbed with the subtitles on at the same time.

Or don’t.  Those American voices and dialogue were awful.

Lots of love,

Tuesday Teaser 4/8/14

A little teaser from my write-in prompt story this week.  It was a crossover, though the part I’m about to post is all Blake and Ren.  My NaNo peeps, you’ll just have to wait for Thursday to find out who I crossed them with.

Yes, I cheated a little.  We were supposed to crossover 2 characters from different novel universes we’ve written, but Blake and Ren are a packaged deal.  And the story just wasn’t working from the other POV, so I switched to Blake.

Here goes:

“Why are you having coffee so late?  You’re going to be up all night, and you don’t even do anything at night.”

I sigh into my coffee cup and try to focus on the stupid essay in front of me. “Compare two pieces of literature from similar genres.”  I chose Neuromancer–cyberpunk: not as punk as it sounds–and I, Robot–which I was disappointed to find I couldn’t rely on the movie for.

I put down the mug and pick up the pencil, ready to write a commentary sentence when Ren’s blond head rises through the table.

“Holy crap, Ren!”

He laughs, and I avoid looking up to see who overheard me.  It’s just us and the barista, so whatever.  “This is why we never go anywhere.”

You’re why we never go anywhere.”  He flies out from the table and hovers over me, while I pick up the mug again, my train of thought completely shot.

“Your face is why we–”

The lights go out.  I’m so startled that I drop my coffee all over my essay.  “Shit.”

“Um, Blake, the lights just went out.”

Before I can throw him a no shit, Sherlock, he adds, “The emergency exit sign too.”

Yeah, so, that’s weird.

By the light of Ren, I can see my coffee’s heading for the edge of the table, and I block it with a wad of napkins.  My jeans are saved, but the essay is toast.

“Blake, I’m scared.”  Ren hides behind my chair.

Ridiculous.  My ghost is ridiculous.  “Ust-jay eep-kay ohwing-glay,” I say under my breath, certain the barista can’t hear us over the clatter he’s making behind the counter.  Sometimes I speak to Ren in Pig Latin anyway.  In Cardiff, it’s better people think you’re speaking in tongues than that you’re talking to a ghost.

Hope you enjoyed.  One of these days I’ll do a non-teaser post.

Lots of love,

Teaser Tuesday 3/25/14

Since I didn’t do a write-in prompt last week because I was busy with A PARANORMAL BROMANCE, I thought I would tease from my revision in the past week.  This requires me to type it up, so I apologize if I don’t catch any typos.

I stare at the ceiling without my glasses on, trying to figure out what I can do about Kaylee and the ghosts, but all I can focus on is the blurred pattern of the stucco.

This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks.

I can’t believe that the only way to protect Kaylee is a daily burning of sage and her invisibility. And those still fail. She had a fresh bruise on her cheek today. She can hide it from everyone else, but not me.

Why doesn’t her grandfather get off his ass and do something? Or is it arse? Whatever it is, he needs to get off it. If he stuck around her while she’s home, she’d be safe. And can’t he just order them to stay away from her? His control’s not worth anything if he can’t.

Ren flies over, throwing wadded-up paper at me. “Stop it.” He doesn’t.

“I’m aiming for your mouth. You just lie there with it open.” One pelts me between the eyes.

“I said stop it, Ren! God!” I push myself off the bed, jam my glasses onto my face, and march into the bathroom, slamming the door just in case he didn’t get the message that I’m pissed at him.

I sit on the edge of the tub, rubbing at my temples and trying to ignore Ren’s fake-whimper on the other side of the door. He thinks that if he acts like a puppy, I”ll come pat him on the head and say it’s okay. I’m not playing that game today.

Kaylee would say I’ve already reacted too much. But she should know as well as me that ignoring ghosts doesn’t make them behave. There’s only one way to ensure that.

The book’s still there in the cabinet. Maybe if I open it, that’ll be enough to get Ren to stop bugging me.

I sit on the floor next to the cabinet and open to the chapter on controlling ghosts. I haven’t given up on the idea that there might be something Kaylee can use. A working that can be done by anyone, even those not tethered to the ghost. Or a footnote about the people will inherit them.

I start where I left off in the chapter before. The first working looks complicated. It gives the occultist permanent control over ghosts through command and will. That sounds great. It starts with the usual stuff–candles, symbols, and…ugh, it requires an animal sacrifice. That was not taught to me in Occultism 101.

I turn the page for a simpler and more tasteful working. It’s temporary and allows the occultist control through command only. Richard might use this one, though he’d have to renew it constantly. If he used the other, Kaylee would be safe by his mere will, but he seems bound to commands.

I trace my finger across the list of elements needed for the working. Two candles and a few herbs is all. No wonder it’s not that powerful. The working’s so simple that I could do it.

“Blake, come out?” Ren’s voice is more pleading than usual. “I won’t pelt you with paper balls, promise.”

I sigh and put the book away. Maybe he can feel it when I open it in here. That’s not fair to him.

I walk out the door.

“Hooray!” He tosses a bunch of shredded paper into the air, and it rains down on me like confetti, passing right through him. Typical.

Hope you enjoyed.  I tried to find something fairly self-contained and teaser-sized.

Lots of love,

Revision Experiment: Completed

Long ago (in a galaxy far, far away?  Nah, right here), I started a revision experiment on A Paranormal Bromance.  It was quite an endeavor, and I actually got overwhelmed by the project and by life last year and took one full year off from working on it.

I wrote aPB during 2012 National Novel Writing Month in a flurry of words (about 75K of them, in fact) in the month of November.  When I finished, I thought that maybe I had more revising to do than ever.  The three main problems I saw were: 1) The early-middle scenes in school and during the first dates with the love interest seemed poorly written, and quite possibly, there were too many of them.  2) I had this sense that I had written both of my POV characters–teenage boys–with the same voice.  3) Related to #2, my ghost character seemed to have a maturity problem; sometimes he acted like a child, which made the times he acted like a big brother seem out of place.  Maturing his voice would help a little with this, to remind us that, in many ways, he is more mature than the human character, even while he’s goofing off.

Usually when I edit, I handle all the big problems in the document in Word (or whichever word processor), then print out a copy and go to town on it with pens, each pass receiving a different color (like pink or green or purple.  None of this red pen stuff).  I make the corrections, do some more on-screen stuff, and move on to betas.  But I know that I would not have been able to have the attention to the language I needed if I worked with a pen on printed pages.  I’m great at picking up on tightening, and from time to time I’ll improve every sentence, it seems, in a certain scene or for a few pages.  It might depend on the day or the scene.  Certain scenes can distract me with emotions or excitement, and then I’m not picking apart language use there.  I needed to pay attention to every sentence and every paragraph.  I also needed to feel free to rewrite entire scenes from scratch, I felt.  So I decided to do this one differently.

The plan was to send the “NaNo version” of aPB to my Kindle.  There I would keep the original on screen to refer to while I rewrote the novel in a notebook, using two different colored pens, one for each POV so I always would be aware of whose voice I should be using.  Writing by hand would force me to take even more time on each word and sentence because I can’t transcribe as mindlessly by hand as I can while typing.  Separating the original from the next version, I thought, would also free me up to add stuff where needed or to write a scene from scratch when I felt that the original didn’t work but was necessary in some form.

I started the revision in January or February of 2013.  I got through 20% of the original novel (less of the next version because of cuts) before two things happened.  I approached the first scene I thought I would have to rewrite and I grew intimidated, and I started working to sell my house, which took a lot of time away that I used to spend on writing.  So aPB fell by the wayside.  I picked it back up on March 1, 2014, and two days later came across an editing challenge, where I decided I would tackle the rest of the rewrite.  I finished that process today.

Here are my observations about this process:

  • Success: This allowed me to seriously focus on language. Blake’s language was simplified (maybe too much) and Ren’s was matured. There were times when I was transcribing what was already written just as I wrote it, but I looked at each word, each sentence, and each paragraph and reexamined whether there was a better way to say or describe anything.
  • Success: I was better able to recognize those places where I ramble because a) I over-explain things and b) it’s NaNo and, yay, words. Or where I think it’ll be clever to make this comment here, not realizing that it’s killing the action. Yep, there were some definite darlings killed.
  • Success: It made me really free to cut out full scenes and rewrite necessary conversations somewhere else. But, I have had success in that without this method
  • Failure: I expected to feel more free to add stuff to the book, but I didn’t. I often had to go back to an earlier part and leave a note to remind myself to add stuff in the next round.
  • Failure: At some point I planned to get off the Kindle and write scenes from scratch. But I never was able to truly depart from the original, except for the half a scene I had to add from scratch to replace a chapter I killed.

Overall: Wow, that was a lot of time, effort, paper, and ink. It took two entire blue pens (I bought these pens when I started the revision), the better part of a letter-sized notebook and 2/3 of my new notebook (though I only wrote on one side of the new one because the paper was thin). It took a lot longer than my usual editing method, and I’m pretty sure that if I had been doing it the usual way, I would have finished it last year even with the craziness that took over my life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever use this method again.  It was definitely worth it for this book because it forced me to be consistent in each POV’s language use, but for the big rewrites, it didn’t do anything.  I might even have been too scared to deviate that far from the original with this method.  However, I removed a lot of stuff I was unhappy with, and that made the scenes I planned to rewrite a lot more tolerable, and hopefully, so did what I did revise within them.

Next step is to type it up, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it, considering Camp NaNo is coming and I have TWO books bursting to be written.  I guess that’s what you get for taking a year off!

Lots of love,