Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Now Reading: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Book One of the Hunger Games Trilogy
Published December 14, 2009
ISBN-10: 0439023483
ISBN-13: 978-0439023481

I really can't believe it's taken me so long to read The Hunger Games trilogy. I remember being a Junior in college and hearing about the first novel's release and how well it was received. And that might actually be an understatement. I don't have much to say other than I'm stoked. One, to actually have it downloaded on my Kindle and ready to go, and two, to have seen the fantastic new full first trailer of the film. I can't comment yet like real fans of The Hunger Games, but I'm ready to be impressed by that film.

I would normally spiel a little bit about the book for those who haven't read it, but this time, it's the other way around. Everyone knows what it is about and I'm the one in the dark. After this comes Divergent, by Veronica Roth. I do have to say the cover is stunning. It's simple and gorgeous. I've gotten to the part early in the book where Katniss is describing the Mockingjay pin, and how it's a cross breed of two birds. I'm ready to indulge.

I did preview the book a while back, but never got to read it. Here's that day! I need a tiny break from my urban fantasy kick, anyway. I'm sure the review will be within the next month, perhaps sooner.

Peace and Writing Love,


Review: Hammered by Kevin Hearne

Hammered by Kevin Hearne
Book Three of the Iron Druid Chronicles
Published July 5, 2011
ISBN-10: 0345522486
ISBN-13: 978-0345522481

Review: 4/5

Cross reviewed on Goodreads.

So, what was thought to be the end of the Iron Druid Chronicles is being extended into another three books. I mentioned in my last review of Hexed, way back in July. Ahem...and I also started Hammered back in July when it first came out. Don't ask me why, but it's never taken me THIS LONG to read a book.

I digress. I was very apprehensive about even rating it a 4 because Hammer progresses more slowly for me than I saw in Hounded and Hexed. If there wasn't a mighty kick-ass battle in Asgard at the end of Hammered, it probably would have received a 3, perhaps a 3.5 because Atticus partakes in that battle naked...the whole time. Yeah, naked. The progression begins with him in Asgard, looking for something for a friend, a Golden Apple, just to get this friend to come along for the final throw down. Then there's this huge boring thing of recruiting allies who are strong enough to withstand the might of the Aesir, or the Asgardians. I wasn't too much a fan of it. However, hearing events of Thor's tyranny through these allies was interesting. The snag was before Atticus could plane shift all these allies back to Asgard, he had to know all about them. Not just who they were, their names, and what they could do. He needed to know their history with Thor, why they needed to get vengeance. It was both interesting and slow at the same time.

That's really it. Unfortunately, I expected a lot more out of Hammered. Some Asgardians do die, as do the allies, but there was something missing. I wanted Atticus to have a real beef with Thor. Not just him always seeing the thunder god as an arrogant prick, which seemed to be the case.

However, I am not losing faith in Kevin Hearne. He is a fantastic writer and I am all aboard for the next novel of the Iron Druid Chronicles, due out tentatively April 2012.

Peace and Writing Love,


Monday, November 28, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 28: FOR THE WIN!


After I minor heart attack this morning for not remembering where to find the "Verify Win" page was, I did claim my win for NaNoWriMo 2011. Hurrah! Can you hear the trumpets? Oh, maybe that's only on my side of the screen. The win is all the more sweet because this year's NaNo challenge was the rebirth of my first manuscript, whose plot I continued to just be "okay" with because it was always "the plot." After a brief strike of lightning to my creative noggin, a new plot was formulated and I took it full steam ahead for NaNoWriMo.

Here is the last of the excerpts.

* * *

Words written today: 1,230
Finishing word count: 50,406

Favorite lines:

It was eerie trying to find my way back to the chamber on my own. When we had Kyona to guide us, I hadn’t noticed that the tunnel under her house split off in directions other than the one she took. Things shuffling around me forced my legs to walk faster. Tiny pebbles being kicked around as if I were being followed made me put my hands of both walls. I eventually was running and found the chamber. After I put myself in the center, I spun around quickly, half expecting something to leap out at me from the tunnel. Nothing was there. I found the circle I stood on earlier and joined it again. The solitude was something entirely different. Kyona’s presence was invasive to my channel. I did not feel it earlier, but I was alone now, ready to make this work.

I spread my arms and reached out with my fingers, as if grabbing imaginary door handles. I wiggled each one, feeling the air. I didn’t give myself as much time as I would have liked to prepare, but jumping into it seemed right. I shut my eyes and opened my channel. In the absence of Elf spirits and a Chimra essence, my channel could wander the chamber. The gates spread wide and my magic flowed evenly from my body. I opened my eyes long enough to see a milky aura shifting silver around my body. Kyona compared a channel, spirit and essence in such a rudimentary way, I scowled, as if the structure of what stored our magic was just a part of our genetic makeup and nothing more.

I only recently learned what genetics means. The Mavians study broad spectrums of sciences that, until they arrived on Elyserian, the people were unaware existed. Every person and animal has a genetic signature, a trait normally found in the blood that is passed down from their ancestors. I suppose that’s what Kyona was getting at, but why didn’t she just say it?

With my channel filling the chamber, I tried to bring my mind away from everything it was touching. It was harder than I thought, because everything it came across, my brain wanted to process. Despite that challenge, I eventually found myself in a state of supreme thought. Miraculously, all else was gone from my mind. I knew what the Mavians looked like. Never saw one up close, but the documents back at our schools went in depth to their appearance. I pictured the height first. I stood at five feet, six inches. I gave myself another four heads, thinking that’d qualify for a Mavian. The difficult part would be arranging my body so my arms became longer, my body wider and my head in that strange bulbous form, like Alpha’s.

My channel wanted more attention, but I fought to keep it at bay. Once I had finally created the picture of a Mavian in my head, I gave myself a few seconds before drawing the magic back into me at full force. It’d have to be swift so it didn’t have time to settle. It needed to experience all of what I had just created so I could become it. A few seconds became more like thirty, but after that, I closed my channel like a swift kick at a door and the magic bombarded me. It rushed back and my legs trembled. I had never released so much just to try to wrangle it all back. Whenever we sent it somewhere, there was always a purpose; a destination. Not this time. My body quaked and my heart jumped started with feverish pumps. Despite my best efforts to remain standing, I fell to my knees and then to my arms. My back arched and my eyes couldn’t leave the ground.

My throat contracted and I toppled over onto my side, unable to breathe. I clawed at my neck, hoping it would do something, but I had no gain over being out of breath. I beat my chest and kicked my legs. Nothing helped. Here I was, alone in a cellar under the earth, being suffocated by my own magic. No one would know I was dead until morning.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 24 Wrap-up

So after looking at my schedule for the next, I realized I will have almost no time to write if I fall behind again. Which I won't. I plan to be posting my "For The Win," post on Saturday. I'm posting early today because I work all day and there will be little writing when I get home tonight. So this word count reflects what has been done this morning. I may update the count late this evening.


* * *

Words written today: 1,274
Finishing word count: 43,566

Favorite lines:

We started on our way, not yet knowing where to find the Chimra maiden, when we were called back.

“Be on your guard, mage,” Notch-eye said to me. “Been weird things happening here lately. Dark things.”

“Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“You’d do well to take it to heart, sir.”

We turned into a stable and let our horses rest. In a shadowed corner of the barn, we pulled Alpha’s hood off so he might inform us where to go without him seeing.

“You know where she’s at?” I asked. “These guys are spooked by something in this town, I think.”

“Last I met her, she lived by a well.”

“There are a lot of wells in a town,” Alanur said.

“You’ll know it when you see it. Can’t be more help if this thing’s going to go back on.”

“Unfortunately not,” I said.

We gathered our saddlebags and left the food and pans behind if we should stop for the evening here. We took a back door out of the stables, finding ourselves ankle deep in piles of hay and horse manure.

“Perfect,” Melana said sourly. She was the first to leap through all the hay and spring over a wall outside the stable. “Well, come on. It reeks here.”

After pulling our boots off and wiping them clean, we kept to the alleys that seemed to lead us to the business district. Each passerby eyed us scrupulously, some even slinking behind us as if to get a better look. Alanur did well to throw the followers off our backs. He need only turn around and glare at them. A big man with a temper has a tendency to do that to smaller, sickly Humes who have nothing better to do. I kept the reins in my hand, guiding Alpha, while Alanur played the role as as our guard, with his sword drawn and at ready should our prisoner try to run.

“I’m seeing wells in the market,” I said to no one in particular. Melana joined me at my side. “Too many.”

“Opals,” Alpha said muffled. “It has opals.”

We pressed on through the market, keeping to the less populated areas. Those tended to be soothsayers seeking patients and herbalists who looked like they couldn’t tell the difference between grinrich leaves and weeds. Melana tugged me back and Alpha bumped into her.

“Sorry,” he said.

“There,” she said, and pointed down an alley. At the far end, it opened into some kind of small field, like a tiny farm nestled in the middle of the market. “That well looks different from the others.”

I extended my sight. The arch over the well was high and pointed, the stones cut perfectly. Little bits of the semitransparent rock were thrown into the crevices on the arch. The well had a large lip, like a seat for the one drawing water.

“That’s the one,” I said, pulling my senses back. “A well with opals.”

We moved in that direction, but were stopped suddenly by one of the herbalists. He must have been watching us. He ran ahead of me and grabbed me up by the shirt. I was pinned against the wall after that. His face was emaciated, his sharp cheekbones like little discs trying to push their way out of his skin. His eyes were gaping brown holes, lost entirely to the reality around him. I was so frightened for how quickly he moved, I completely ignored the stench of shit, leaves and dirt coating his hands.

“Saved you, saved you I have,” he said quickly. “Life is yours if you want it. Saved you I have.”

Alanur was there the next second and yanked the blundering herbalist off me. He kicked him to the ground and the herbalist crawled away.

“Shove off,” Alanur said, stepping towards the herbalist with a threatening gesture. He growled and the man slid back.

“Fine,” the herbalist said. He sat up straight and dusted his hands. “Die today. Saved you I tried. Live you won’t. Witch she is.” He pointed to the alley. I turned. Someone was there watching us under a heavy cloak. “Witch she is, day and night. Where evil stems, day and night. Die today. Saved you I tried. Live you won’t.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 21 Wrap-up

Nine days left. YIKES!

* * *

Words written today: 3,011
Finishing word count: 37,341

Favorite lines:

Melana retired early that evening, as did the brothers. Alanur and I remained at the table, swapping stories of our distanced pasts, his understandably more vivid than my own. He had war stories, tales of conquering enemies that were seas away. He had lived longer than most veterans, he told me. He found the secret to a long life after war. Alanur leaned in close to me, his breath singing of mead, and said it was to not put your ass where it might get bitten.

I had a good laugh at that. I didn’t have friends like this back home. Patricio was a handful as a Hume, his lack of personal skills and clinginess the reason I never tried finding a girl to date. He’d ruin it one way or another, and I wouldn’t have it be him trying to give me a pep talk of where to stick my member. Alanur was great. Fatherly, hard to read at times, but he had Melana’s interest at heart one hundred percent of the time. I learned he had pushed her study a broad variety of magic while he had no training himself. He preferred barbaric combat, not of that where you could strike an enemy from afar like a coward, as he put it. I took no offense.

I stayed away from the mead that night as I tried to collect my thoughts about Melana and what I had wanted to ask Alanur. He reclined back in his chair.

“Can I ask you something personal?” I said.

He sat erect again and set his hands flat on the table. “Anything.” There was no slur of speech there, as if all the mead had suddenly drained from his body. I didn’t want to know where.

I thought putting it bluntly might be the proper way in Alanur’s company. “Are you and Melana a couple?”

He rubbed his finger under his nose as if stroked an imaginary mustache and grinned. “Do we send that signal?”

“I don’t know,” I said, instantly trying to change the subject. He seemed too well appropriated to the question.

“The answer is no,” he said. “I’ve been around her for a long time. Her body is eighteen. She is older.” He paused and rubbed his finger on the table. “I’ve seen the way you look at her.”

Part of me wanted to run from the cottage. All the sudden, the racks of weapons seemed they could have been aimed at me.

“Before you run away scared, thinking I might not approve, let me give you some advice. You’ve been with a woman, right?”

Do I say yes just to get the conversation rolling? It didn’t matter now. For however long I took to answer that, and it couldn’t have been any longer than five seconds, Alanur suspected the answer.

“Ah,” he said.

“Ah, what?” I asked.

“It’s fine, really. You’re young. Doesn’t matter.”

“You make it sound like it does.”

“Think nothing of it. Anyway, Melana doesn’t put her feelings out in the open like a normal woman you may or may not have bed.”

He put it so fine. I should have told him how she kissed me when we were alone in her chambers.

“It’s not my business to know if she’s been with anyone, either,” he added. “The last thing I want this to become is a father-son talk, for obvious reasons. Just know that she’s like an egg. You have to crack that layer to get to know her. As thin as it might be, she protects her emotions well. As you saw, she was ready to do something desperate when she confronted the polymorph. I have never seen her react so quickly.”

“I don’t want to have to force it out of her,” I said. “Are my feelings for her that far in the open?”

“It’s only the way you look at her. Believe me, when the time comes, I won’t intrude. She deserves a chance to be with someone who can respect her. I think you’ve got a shot.”

I wanted to jump out of the chair and hoot and holler. That would have been all sorts of inappropriate. Instead, I laughed inwardly and looked at the table just to play it safe. Alanur was still her guardian. Silence came between us, my thoughts stirring in all different directions. For a brief second, I imagined her naked and grinned.

Alanur cleared his throat and I instantly looked up.

“You know I’ll have to kill you if you hurt her, though,” he added.

“You are just her guardian, right?”

“Guardian. Mentor. Second father. Whatever you want to call it. I’ll always be around to protect her, but it’ll be nice to have someone else to help me out.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 15 Wrap-up

Well, it seems that while the NaNoWriMo website underwent some fixes today, my graph would not update which means it will not show my finishing word count written today. And that just sucks. Anyway, I haven't made a NaNo post in a while. Here it goes.

* * *

Words written today (but not recorded by the website @.@): 1,943
Finishing word count: 28,744

Favorite lines:

That was it. This thing, whatever it was, hinted it was one who killed my father. Lemmick lunged at us, the hand he had behind his back revealed holding the hilt of a sword, minus the blade. Before my mind could process it, an opaque yellow stone replacing the hand guard shimmered so fiercely, it made me turn away. I was pulled away, then looking over my shoulder to see it was Alanur’s doing. Lemmick had slashed downward, the blade that hadn’t been there a second earlier present and very real.

Hadrion and Hallund reacted and took Lemmick by both his arms and tossed him across the chamber with their combined strength. His back arched over a table and he fell head over heels. He did not stay down for long. Lemmick rose and in one go was in a sprint around the tether. The brothers were there again, in front of Melana and I, as was Alanur. The stone shimmered. I feared what it would mean this time around. The brothers each took a swing, but Lemmick dipped under both arms. My brain leapt ahead, seeing the sword cut them both down. Lemmick brought the sword at their head level, but the brothers were already out of its decapitating path.

I pushed Melana back instinctively when Alanur shoved me away. The guardian pushed off the ground, arms spread and he tackled Lemmick to the floor. Alanur rose to his feet, Lemmick thrashing but not deterring him, and threw the impostor through a gaping hole in the chamber wall. It was a perfect toss with precise strength to calculate the distance across the chamber. I didn’t know where it went, nor did I have the time to think about it. Lemmick crawled back through the hole, absent his sword, but his fierce smile was screaming, “I don’t need it,” in my head. He tossed off his cloak and spread his arms with a squared stance beneath him.

My channel went ablaze, reacting to everything his channel was putting out. It was too much and my eyes started watering. I backed up again, unable to focus on Lemmick. Everything in the chamber started spinning. Melana held me up straight long enough to see Lemmick cast an enormous missile that spiraled out of his hands with tails like comets. She pulled me out of its path. Alanur and the brothers were not as fortunate. They were taken off their feet, each of them as light as rag dolls in the force of the missile, and landed in motionless piles on the ground. I worked myself up to my elbows, staring at the three. I pushed out with my channel, begging they were alive.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 7 Wrap-up

I wouldn't usually make a NaNo post two days in a row, but I knocked my words out of the ballpark today. So, I just had to gloat. With another day off tomorrow and a Starbucks gift card at my disposal, I may go into another writing comatose.

* * *

Words written today: 4,009
Finishing word count: 15,110

Favorite lines:

Lucel made a sound hinting that he understood how my conversation went based on my silence. He didn’t make an attempt to talk to me about Irien, but took me by the shoulder. We waited under the breezeway that would take us into the coliseum and before the Affinity Council. For a half hour, we just waited, each in silence. Lucel didn’t leave my side. He must have sensed everything I was feeling, but he kept it all contained, trying not to instruct me what to say, but rather letting speak from the heart.

“You knew my father well, right, Lucel?”

“He was one of my best friends in school. He helped me with a great deal of my work when I began falling behind.”

I chuckled. “I would have never seen you as the type of student who fell behind.”

“When my mother passed away, all the motivation I had to do better went with her. My father wanted nothing to do with mages, the arts or the Affinity. He would not support his own son. Despite all rumors, mages can be born to non-mage parents. I’m one such mage.”

“You helped make me who I am,” I said.

“And your father helped make me who I am. You are much like him in your young age. Your brother,” Lucel said with a sigh, seeming to suddenly travel back in time, “less so.”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 6 Wrap-up

The words posted here were written yesterday, but I finished at such a late hour, I had no energy to post it to the blog. Seeing as today I won't be able to write until I get home at 6pm, these words will suffice. Also, I had to choose two sections of lines, as I was really unable to judge myself which I liked more.

* * *

Finishing word count: 10,057

Chapter 3 favorite lines:

I began crying, the facade of the strong, young man I always wore overtaken by an afraid, lonely child.

“I’m so sorry, Mother,” I said as she kneeled next to me. I buried my face in her shoulder, unable to contain anything.

Even though we thought it all to be over, with Kolin the Ironback’s family and friends around him in mourning, the ground shook more. Looking out into a fiery sky, we watched the Erishore tower sink into the chasm that had opened around it. Layer upon layer dropped, the middle of the structure then falling off the foundation. There was nothing to hold our sight after that, but still we looked and waited, each of us the shade of blood under a red dawn.

Chapter 4 favorite lines:

I stood in the field again, still unplowed. My hands were stuffed in my pockets. I was tempted to sit down in the chair, but I didn’t want to appear too nonchalant, even to mother. I left her alone, but I dared not leave home unless she asked me. My mind kept returning to the sight of my father’s body. His once strong arms had been sliced up the soft side, practically deveining him. His chest had been caved in, as if beaten with a mallet, and then slashed up for good measure. Both eyes had been blackened, his lips swollen and the bridge of his nose shattered. Whatever did that to him took its time, and took care in the process. I would reap all that and worse to the thing responsible, be it a person or creature. Part of me hoped it was a person. I never thought of myself as the violent type, but I’d gut the bastard and throw his innards to the crows.

I shook my head, trying to make myself less heated. My mother taught me better. My professors showed me how to be fierce, but upstanding. I didn’t know if I’d be able to balance that anymore.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 3 Wrap-up

Before I proceed with NaNo news, there is an announcement which must be forwarded.

My awesome critique partner, friend and writing mentor, Stephanie Loree, has finally been put in print. Her debut short story, THE SKIN SCRIPT, is now appearing in An Honest Lie Vol. 3: Justifiable Hypocrisy, by Open Heart Publishing.

I've only read the first draft before it became the published version, but I was sold. Her characters are rich and the depths you experience from them demands that the story not end. I do plan on reading it again for myself, and I urge all my blogging friends to support Steph on her debut piece. You can visit the link to Open Heart for an excerpt of The Skin Script.

Now, onto NaNo news!

Because I worked a 10.5 hour day yesterday, I did no writing, despite all my attempts and urgings that I WAS going to write at least a measly 500 words when I got home. That didn't happen. So, today on my only day off, I had to write double the words lest I be mocked by the Estimate Day of Finish displaying December 15th.

* * *

Finishing word count: 5746

Favorite lines:

He finally put his back to me, dropped his crutch and threw off his cloak. I noticed his body slumping in the direction of his good leg, but it didn’t prevent him from proceeding. My eyes went to his cotton shirt. His marks and brands were glowing through it. I didn’t know the marks had that kind of power. His shirt came off next and my mouth dropped. At least ten more brands were spaced over his back, surrounded by marks and the occasional patch of flesh tone. From black to green, they glowed. The show wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat when I watched the marks begin to move over his skin, still black and green. Kolin pursued the chanting and his marks reacted. The brands uncoiled like tiny garter snakes and slithered over his shoulders, around his ribs, and to his front. It was as if he was Hume for a moment. What I thought was a natural ink born on our skin at birth was nowhere close to what was happening: the marks rose off his body, each seeming to join with others to become the width of ribbons. When the marks attached to the shell exterior, my heart skipped a beat again and I curled my toes more tightly.

The gears inside thumped again and the ribbons became taught. Kolin pushed his arms out to his sides, his slump ever more present at this point. As the ribbons withdrew back to his skin, eventually drawing onto his back again, the shell peeked open. The power that struck the heat shield around me was instant. The chamber was a celebration of emerald light after it had been released. The surge of power continued, not yet finished, but the shield held as my father said. When the shell’s sides finally lay horizontal to the floor, the tip of each piece sparked to life. That tiny crystallized bead of energy shattered. Thread-thin beams of light converged at a point above the shell and all at once, the force that smacked the shield was that of a battering ram.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo 2011: Day 1 Wrap-up

Hailing in NaNoWriMo 2011, I was very happy to see the site didn't crash at all today. Perhaps I chose the right time to log on. Anyway, there's no particular format to my NaNo posts. I generally just share my favorite passages written today and my current word count. I came out of the gate strong today. I hope all of you do the same.

* * *

Finishing word count: 2643

Favorite lines:

I lurched forward when something suddenly butted my shoulder. A well-fed Hume, another head taller and wider than me, took me around the shoulder. The downside of being shorter than him is when he decided to be overly friendly, usually a sign of his intoxication, he would put his arm around me and grace my nose with a wonderful man-scent.

“Let’s go to Grumnach’s!” he said to me.

“Can’t now, Patricio,” I said. I took his arm off me and ducked away for a moment to catch my breath. He didn’t notice. “Although I’d say you’ve had you’re share of ale today, right? What’s the occasion?”

“Celebrating life!” He joked a couple punches at my shoulder and ran ahead, turning and proceeded to jog backwards.

“Weren’t we celebrating life a week ago when you polished that ale barrel from my father’s cellar?”

“That was last week, Valence!” Patricio bumped into a Hume another head taller than him, who shoved him away for choosing idiocy over courtesy. He sported the grumpy Hume a mocking gesture I had never seen.