Friday, December 30, 2016

Reader's Review: "Blood Ties" by J. D. Cunegan


Synopsis from Amazon:

For as long as Jill Andersen could remember, her father was a hero.

But heroes don’t commit murder, do they? The state of Maryland said Paul Andersen did just that, three times over, and was set to execute him for it. But Jill and the rest of her colleagues at the Baltimore Police Department come across the murder of a law student that leaves her hopeful that she can clear her father’s name.

While Jill and her colleagues work against the clock to clear her father’s name, new players emerge, hinting to a deeper, darker conspiracy than what was previously known. An enigmatic faction known as The Order reveals itself, and the mystery surrounding Paul’s alleged duplicity leaves more questions than answers.

Along the way, Jill must not only face the possibility that her father was not who she thought he was, but she must also face the prospect of her secret being revealed. The stakes are higher than ever in Blood Ties, the intense follow-up to J.D. Cunegan’s debut mystery Bounty.

Can Jill save her father before it’s too late? Will she even want to?

>>>>>>

My Review:

What's better than really good fanfiction written for a favorite show that is no longer on the air?

Try a whole series of original crime novels inspired by the show! This fangirl could NOT be happier!

Cunegan builds on the excellent foundation laid in the first novel, Bounty, with Blood Ties, a sequel that does its due diligence in supplying outcomes for the issues in the first book, as well as setting up further complications and consequences with implications lasting beyond the confines of this installment. Jill's father is on death row, a string of homicides are discovered with hallmarks of the murders alleged to his name—so is it a copycat, or will an innocent man pay for the crimes of another? 

My favorite part of this whole mystery, though, has to be the part that Cunegan accomplishes, setting him apart from the "canned crime genre" novelists like James Patterson, Brad Thor, and, dare I say, the "Richard Castle" ghostwriters themselves (BAD move on that last one, guys! Way to blow it... as if that finale wasn't awful enough...), and putting him solidly in Camp Baldacci (far and away my ALL TIME FOREVER favorite!) along with the greats like Anthony Horowitz, Agatha Christie, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—

Cunegan keeps the focus on relationships. Other authors get carried away with sensational scenarios or making blatant social and political statements with their characters (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) but not him. In fact, (minor spoilers) the investigations are almost sideshows to the vast importance placed on developing Jill as a sympathetic character, and her quest—since she voluntarily takes herself off the investigation because of the resemblance to her father's case—to come to terms with her only remaining family, her father and her brother. Namely, the repercussions for hiding her vigilante identity from everyone for so long—such secrets inevitably come to light, and what if she can't control the circumstances of yet revelation? How will the distance affect them? It's beautiful and I would definitely follow the series clear on through JUST for those touching and beautifully-wrought scenes! Not just Jill, though—the precinct is jam-packed with worthy characters and entertaining relationships! Ramon, Jorge, Juanita, Watson and Blankenship, Captain Richards--the list goes on! The fantastic mystery and investigations that are sure to accompany are icing on the cake that is a SOLID ensemble full of all the heart and driving soul to carry a story through the most generic arcs! 

As a sequel, BLOOD TIES accomplished everything a sequel should do, joining the main storyline and building on what the first book introduced, without slacking the pace any. It's a superb consolation for any fan of the show Castle! I give BLOOD TIES a full *****5 STAR***** rating, and I am excited to see what is in store for the rest of the series!
 
Further Reading (Paranormal/Sci-fi/Crime/Mystery Thriller/Awesome Series)
 
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey
       -The Way
       -The Truth
       -The Lie
 
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd 
 
 
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings
        -Grave Measures

The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
       -Ghost Hand
       -Ghost Hold
       -Ghost Heart
       -Ghost Hope
 
 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reading Lists 2016: Best Reads of 2016!

Whoo-wee! Is it the end of the year already? Okay, folks! You know what that means--a look back at all of the reading I did over the last year, and what I would recommend as the Best Books of the year! I will say that I did enjoy reading in batches of ten, and doing the Ranked Reading Lists--and it was rather fortunate that I only did manage to complete 5 lists (50 books total--not my best record, but decent!) because now, for my final Top 10 Reads, here are the Top 2 from each list that I enjoyed most of all! (Accompanied by a pertinent quote from the review)

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer--"The most perfect adaptation, and excellent closure I could have wished upon star for!"
Liar's Key (Red Queen's War #2) by Mark Lawrence--"How do I love a Mark Lawrence novel? Let me count the ways!"
Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater--"Once again, every time I sat down to read it (usually before bed) I could not tear myself away."
Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher--"Lovely and wonderful and thrilling and spectacular!"
Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson--"I have been pining for this book for just about a full year, and it did NOT disappoint!"
Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles #4.5) by Marissa Meyer--"OH THE FEELS THIS WAS EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED IN THE LUNAR CHRONICLES!!"
Wheel of Osheim (Red Queen's War #3) by Mark Lawrence--"Superbly satisfying ending to a spectacular series!"
Queen of the Tearling (Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen--"I am completely smitten with this book and all the promises contained therein."
The Last Mile (Amos Decker #2) by David Baldacci--"This one definitely takes the cake! I really love Amos Decker as a character."
The Last Dragonslayer (Chronicles of Kazam #1) by Jasper Fforde--"It’s fun, it’s hilarious, it’s British, there’s dragons… I loved it!"

Next up, I wanted to recognize all the indie books I've read this year! I managed to tuck away no less than 30 titles, once again SMASHING the total from last year... and from the looks of my TBR list of books I own but have yet to read... I look forward to once again exceeding that record in 2017!

Be that as it may, choosing a "Best of Selection" proved considerably more difficult than just choosing from an already-ranked list. Eventually, I had to do it by review stars—which, really, hardly reduced it at all. So here are ALL of the 5-Star reviews from 2016—do enjoy these titles, and don't forget to pick up copies for yourself!
The Truth and The Lie (Volumes of the Vemreaux #2 and #3) by Mary E. Twomey--
"If THE WAY was a bare first, clenched for a fight, THE TRUTH was the first round of that fight."
"In a word, THE LIE was PERFECTION. Twomey is an absolute wizard with words."
Street Fair and A Fair Fight (Fair Folk Chronicles #2 and #3) by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins--
"Once again, Cook and Perkins delivered on every level!"
"Every time I open a Jeffrey Cook novel, I am blown away by the magnitude of the fantasy—and characters so impossibly real that it HURTS." 

Escape From Neverland and Dance Into The Wyrd by Nils Visser--
"All urban/contemporary fantasy enthusiasts would do well to purchase a copy for themselves at once! It does not disappoint!"
"Highly recommended for teens and adult readers who grew up on fairy stories and are looking for urban fantasy of considerable depth and substance."

Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke-- "It's poignant, it's relevant, it's thrilling, and it's thoughtful."
Road Brothers by Mark Lawrence--"The same visceral, compelling prose that so drew me to devouring any story with his name attached still shines beautifully here."

Someday I'll Be Redeemed and I Still Have A Soul (Chronicles of Lorrek #1 and #2) by Kelly Blanchard--
"It's an exciting book that had my imagination firing on all cylinders the whole time!" 
"It's complex and relentless and broad and explosive all at once." 

Grave Measures (Grave Reports #2) by R. R. Virdi--"Virdi delivers on every level--and then some!"
Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr--"It's a paranormal investigator... In a toga? Yes, it is. And it couldn't be more brilliant."
Untamed (Untamed Series #1) by Madeline Dyer--"This book just about destroyed any semblance of productivity in me every time I picked it up.... That's how compelling it is." *(Plus, check out that SNAZZY new cover!)

Ghost Hold, Ghost Heart, and Ghost Hope (PSS Chronicles #2-#4) by Ripley Patton--
"I ran out of feelings by the end of it."
"It's intense, it's striking, it's maddening and awesome by turns, and it absolutely gets the job done."
"The story grows and barrels forward at a breakneck pace, but not a single character is abandoned in the wings." 
Bounty and Blood Ties by J. D. Cunegan
"I fell in love with the characters, intrigued by the mystery, entertained all the way through, and by the end, I wanted more."
"This fangirl could not be happier!"
Girls Can't Be Knights (Spirit Knights #1) by Lee French--"I am intrigued by the concept ... and I would love to read more of the exploits of a crew I have steadily fallen in love with."
A Wolf's Path (Therian Way #2) by Kimberly Rogers--"A stellar piece of urban fantasy sure to excite fans of shows like Grimm and high fantasy like Lord of the Rings, as well as those who enjoy a good mystery and vivid characters in an urban setting."
Dream Stalker (Talented Series #1) by Amy Hopkins--"Beautiful, enchanting, and wonderful from start to finish."
Skeins Unfurled (Breadth Key Cycle #0.5) by K. M. Vanderbilt--"The plot is complex and yet the Norns themselves could not have woven it better."
Angel in Training (Louisiangel Series #1) by C. L. Coffey--"Looking for something really good to read that's a little urban fantasy, a little 'buddy cop', with a great heroine and supporting characters to get obsessed over? This series is a definite win on all fronts."

How about you? What was/were the best book(s) you read in 2016? What do you recommend for me in 2017? I am always open to suggestions!
As always...
Catch You Further Upstream!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: "The Prince and The Rose", Part 3


"The Prince and The Rose": >>Part 1<< >>Part 2<<

Part 3

Charmaine alighted at the gate in front of the towering Haunted Castle. All the stories she had heard about this place leaped to the forefront of her mind and swirled there, like the fog around her ankles and leaching from the windows—or were those ghosts?

Charmaine shook her head and fixed her gaze squarely on the doors of the castle. She willed herself to think of only getting inside the castle. The breeze whipping past her increased, bringing a chill to whatever exposed skin it touched. She pushed on the heavy door, and it creaked open. 

"Hello?" She called into the stillness. Somehow the sound of her own voice in the dead quiet brought comfort, because it meant that she wasn't dreaming. "Beas—I mean, Prince Raul?" She spoke, traveling deeper still. "It is I, Charmaine—daughter of Marius." She made it through the dark, damp entryway, and into the massive ballroom that took up half the palace. Streamers hung like spectral shrouds from the ceiling, and the furniture lay cast about, many pieces raked and rent as if by massive claws.

Charmaine stopped in awe. So this was where it all began; the party she didn't get invited to—the one that had ended so badly for everyone.

A golden flicker caught her eye. In the black shadows of evening, the flame of a candle stood out like an inviting beacon. Charmaine scurried toward it.

A candle indeed burned in the hallway outside—a whole candelabra full, but who had lit them? Alcoves punctuated the long stone wall, and in each, a gilded stand of candles lit the way. Charmaine shivered at an errant gust, but followed the candles to a massive parlor, where a fire burned in the hearth, and a warm blanket draped over a soft couch. Beside the couch, there stood a table laden with a warm meal: a tureen of soup and a crusty loaf of bread, with a steaming pot of tea besides. Charmaine immediately sat on the couch and spread the blanket over her shoulders. The soup was delicious, and warmed her all over—but where had it come from? Charmaine set down her bowl and reached for the teakettle.

A flurry of movement caught the corner of her eye. She whirled to face it, almost knocking the teapot off its stand—but all she saw next to the hearth rug were a pair of slippers that had certainly not been there moments before. Intrigued, Charmaine kept the blankets wrapped around her as she padded over to trade her tired, pinching shoes for the soft, cozy slippers. Her feet fit perfectly into them. She stared in amazement at the ornate stitching, till the clink of dishes distracted her. She looked up at the table.

The magical meal, with its tasty food and pristine dishes, had vanished. Not even the crumbs are left. Charmaine blinked hard and rubbed her eyes, only realizing in that moment just how tired she was. She gave a loud, noisy yawn and stretched. Still, the only thing that moved in the room were the dancing flames in the hearth and on the candles.

"I suppose I ought to have a bed to sleep in!" She announced to her unseen host.
With a series of soft "poofs", the candles down another hallway illuminated. Charmaine held the blanket close and shuffled in the slippers. Once again, following the candles she made her way through the dark castle. 

Up a curving flight of stairs to a tower, and through a doorway, she arrived in a spacious room. There again was a roaring fire, and lavish bedclothes—but not another soul to be found.
Char dropped the blanket and changed out of her dress, slipping on the nightgown instead.
"Why," she gasped aloud. "Maybe this castle isn't haunted—maybe it's enchanted!"
It certainly seemed that way. Perhaps, if the enchanted castle favored her well enough, she would not have to so much as glimpse the Beast Prince before the spell ended. Charmaine settled into the soft bed and snuggled under the covers. She would be doing a lot of exploring the next day.

That night, Charmaine dreamed that she was home. She woke in her own bed to find her father standing next to her, apologizing profusely for the whole thing. Felice came in shortly after that, bringing with her a tall man whose face remained indistinguishable, no matter how hard she tried to see it. Charmaine felt excitement; this had to be the prince! She had never seen what he looked like as a man—now she would get her chance! She could hear him talking, but his face seemed always just out of view. Suddenly, he stopped talking and walked out of the room.
"No, wait!" Char cried, leaping after him—

Then the dream ended and she sat up in bed, wearing unfamiliar clothes—in the Beast Prince's castle. Charmaine huffed. Not even the small plate of cookies and milk on her bedside table could cheer her up after that disappointing vision.
"You had better help me be able to find a way to break the spell without seeing the Beast!" She announced to the whole castle.

Once out of bed, she glanced at her old dress. There would be no wearing it without her corset, and she could not get her corset on by herself. 
Charmaine sighed as her eyes slid to the wardrobe in the corner. Perhaps...

She strode to the wardrobe and flung open the doors. Such a fount of bright, rich fabrics graced her eyes! She even found several styles with front-lacing bodices—a bit out-of-date, but definitely nothing she would be ashamed to wear! 
"Now this is the sort of thing I like!" She cried happily, slipping on one of the dresses. 

Suitably attired, she left the room and went back down the stairs. This time, she noticed a few doors open. One led to the library, a spacious room lined with books of every sort, and high windows letting in brilliant sunshine. A pianoforte graced the dais at one end of the room.

Charmaine sniffed and closed the door. "None of that boring stuff, thank you! Stupid stories full of sloppy romance or dull histories—most definitely not for me!" She announced to the castle.

The next door led to the sun parlor, where a delicious breakfast awaited her on a small table. Charmaine sat down and helped herself, remarking to the empty room how delicious everything was. Once she finished, the young woman set about seeing what else she could find in the castle. 

Down another hall and up a flight of stairs, Charmaine discovered a sight that made her squeal with joy: an entire room of dresses and accessories, hats and boots of all sorts. 
"Now this will keep me happy, even if I have to stay here forever!" She cried. She spent hours trying on the dresses, parading in front of the mirrored wall where she could admire herself from every angle. At last, she tired of changing dresses and decided to see what else she could find. It pleased her to live so much like a princess, without having to deal with the monstrous occupant. 

"I'm lucky this castle's enchanted!" She mused, as she meandered across the great hall to another tower. "Father really has no idea what an opportunity he passed up! He must feel awful by now, thinking I am up here in terror, absolutely miserable!" She laughed. "Serves him right!"

She found a door slightly open down the hallway. Peeking inside, she saw no fire, no finery; it was altogether a miserable space. She almost closed the door again and moved on—but a rosy glimmer caught her eye. Charmaine stopped and peeked in a second time. On a lonely table sat a solitary rose, standing in a vase under a glass cover. It was so beautiful, Charmaine had to get a closer look. She glided forward, mesmerized by the glorious sight. When she was close enough to touch the table, she noticed something.

"That's odd!" She remarked, merely because she had developed the habit of doing so, "There's no water in the vase! No, it's silly, really," she snorted. "It's probably why it's wilting. The stupid beast has no idea—"

Just when she was in the act of taking the cover off, a ferocious growl issued right behind her.
Charmaine felt her heart seize in her throat—and it made her angry to be so terrified of something that she hoped would not dare risk hurting her.

"Stop right there, Beast!" She said, not daring to turn her head and look at him. "Yes, it's me, the girl who's been handed to you as a sacrifice—so if you hurt me, you'll never get another chance to break the spell! Now BACK. AWAY!"

The growl came, low and sustained, but it faded as he did what she asked. Charmaine felt the thrill of power coursing through her as she released the cover and let her hands drop to her sides.

"I'm guessing that's the rose the fairy gave you, isn't it?" Charmaine continued, waiting till she heard him grunt in confirmation. "We've all heard the story—goodness knows the poor provincial town hasn't had anything else happen worth talking about in the last year! I'll make you a deal: you don't bother me, and I don't touch your rose. If you get anywhere close to me, I will take this rose and run far away to watch it die, knowing that you'll never get what you want—But," she went on, as the growling behind her intensified, "if you do stay out of my way, and if I feel like it, maybe at some point I will decide to help you break the spell. Do we have a deal?" 

The beast stopped growling and grunted once.

Charmaine felt the flush of pride—tempered somewhat when she realized that, with the beast standing behind her, there was no way to leave the room without seeing him. 

"I'm going to leave now," she said. "I am going to close my eyes and walk out of here. Remember our deal!"

She heard his heavy panting, but he made no move. Her nerves were strung just about to their breaking point as she closed her eyes and slowly turned. Placing one foot in front of the other, Charmaine edged toward where she remembered seeing the door.

Behind her, the beast grunted and growled at her, but Charmaine fought to ignore the unsettling noise as she concentrated on getting out of the room. 

A heavy object landed on her shoulder, and she felt a sharp pain as she wrenched away. Her eyes flew open—it was the Beast, reaching out his claws toward her!

Charmaine nearly tripped over the squat statue right in front of her, but she threw her arms over her head. 

"Get away!" She whined, flailing and charging. One of his claws connected with her face and arm, a stinging slash in her terrified retreat. "Ugh! You're so ugly!" Shrieked Charmaine, nearly tripping over her billowing skirts to get away from him. Once safely out of the room, Charmaine didn't stop running till she returned to her room. In the tall mirror, she surveyed the damage: blood dripped down her cheek and arm. The dress she wore had ripped in a few places, more from her terrified struggle than the Beast himself. The pain finally registered, and she burst into tears. "YOU HURT ME!" She shouted for him to hear. "THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT! YOU MONSTER! I WILL NEVER LOOK AT YOU AGAIN!"

She heard something scrape against the stone floor outside the door. Opening it, Charmaine found a bowl of water and clean bandages. She cleaned her face and wrapped her arm, but the damage was done. There was no hope of returning to her beautiful self now. 

Charmaine spent a miserable night dreaming of her encounter with the beast, and when she awoke in the morning and checked the mirror, there it was: a wide pink scar on her perfect face. 
This was completely not what she planned. Deal or none, curse or none, she was going home. "And none of you better stop me!" She shouted to the enchanted room as she wrapped her cloak around her shoulders and swept down the stairs.

At the bottom of the tower, she emerged into the great hall—and nearly collided with the Beast. 
"Oh!" She gasped, jumping back as if he would reach out and scratch her again.

But how could he? At the moment, his huge paws with their vicious claws were full of a tray set with the same breakfast she had eaten the previous morning. Charmaine's mouth and eyes jerked wide open as she realized what this meant.

"YOU?" she gasped. "This whole time—the castle... it can't be!" She felt the sobs rising in her thrust again as her emotions spiraled out of control. "NO!" She slumped to the floor, weeping. "There... there is no enchanted castle, is there?" She glanced around. "I'm alone here... with you."

The Beast bobbed his shaggy head as if nodding. He held out the tray to her, but Charmaine scrambled to her feet. "Absolutely not!" She said. "I will never accept anything from you! Stay away from me, you monster!" She ran toward the outer courtyard, headed for the gate that led to freedom—

But the gate was nowhere to be found.
Charmaine stopped and looked from one corner to the other. She ran to every corner and searched the entire perimeter, but all she could see was one continuous wall. 
"NO!" She screamed. "NO! NO! NO!"

Charmaine ran back inside, back to her tower. The Beast had left the tray of breakfast outside her room. Charmaine ran inside and threw herself at the window, but it was no use. She could still see the unbroken wall, so high she could barely see the woods on one side, and the impossible precipice on the other. She was trapped with the Beast, in a castle not enchanted, but abandoned. There was no way out. She couldn't be sure if she would ever see her father or the rest of the town ever again. 

Charmaine crumpled to the floor and sobbed.

Further Reading:
-"Heartsong" (A 7-Part Story)
-"Arthur and The Egg"
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)
 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reader's Review: "I Still Have A Soul" by Kelly Blanchard

Synopsis from Amazon:

Stripped of his memories and told he is a criminal of the worst kind, sorcerer Lorrek must commit one last dark deed to earn back his memories. However, he has no idea his target is family or that he is about to step into a war between advanced technology and ancient magic.
 
>>>>>>>>>>
 
My Review:

She did it again! Holy smokes, she did it again! 
Sometimes it happens when the first book in a series is so wide and sweeping, the second must dither about the slow, building and maneuvering that goes on so that the third book can be a sweeping finish.
Blanchard doesn't mess around with all that. Things are happening now, almost too quickly for the heroes to keep up! Lorrek is mostly incorporeal—enough to keep him alive, but occasionally he becomes solid again. Roskelem's wanton and uncontrolled magic has robbed him of his memories. Verddra has stolen a kingdom for herself and has set her sights on that of Lorrek's brother, turning everyone against Jechorm to distract them from her maneuvering. 
Jechorm itself is in a state of high agitation, as they are preparing for the gladiator-style slaughter of many Guardians—particularly those deemed a threat to the Senate. Of course, since Vixen happens to be in Jechorm at the time anyway, this leads to her convincing the other Houses of thieves and assassins to side with the rebel Guardians and fight with them instead of joining the Hunters who are allowed to kill them. Little does she know, someone is intent on tracking her down, someone who is known as one of the most powerful magic-users in the world; someone who has been convinced that killing her would return his stolen memories: Lorrek.

I love everything about this book, including the pervading theme of family throughout. There is nothing siblings and parents alike will not do for their families. The lengths these brothers go to defend and save each other is a glorious thing. Also the definite moral stance that marks the difference between the heroes and the villains: the heroes use their powers and abilities to preserve people, while the villains invariably choose to use people to preserve their powers and abilities. It's an important lesson, and played out very well!

It's complex and relentless and broad and explosive all at once. I thought it was beautiful in the first book when Kelly brought the book's title, "Someday I'll Be Redeemed," to bear on the plot in a massively powerful way. She does it again here, because what do the heroes intend to prove to the ones who seek to control and oppress them? The Guardians, the thieves and assassins, and even Lorrek himself, all vying to prove that they "Still Have A Soul." Conversely, what do the villains like Roskelem and Verddra have in common? They have traded their souls, it seems, in the pursuit of more power.

I am an ardent fan of this series! I STILL HAVE A SOUL gets *****5 STARS***** all the way, and once again achieved an Upstream Writer Certified HEARTILY RECOMMENDED endorsement. For intricate plots full of characters you will adore, set in a world that is breathtaking in its scope and wonderful in its conception and development, and a plot that carries you high in energy clear to the last page—The Chronicles of Lorrek wins all the way!
 
Further Reading: (Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Excellent Worldbuilding/Driving Plot)
 
 
Dawn of Steam Trilogy--Jeffrey Cook
      -First Light
      -Gods of The Sun
      -Rising Suns   
Punk Anthologies--Jeffrey Cook et al.
      -Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 1: Sound & Fury
      -Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 2: Once More Unto The Breach
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings
        -Grave Measures 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Official Book Launch Announcement: "Princess of Undersea" Now Available For Purchase!



It's been a heck of a weekend!

Honestly, it's been quite the year for me. I've spent about five years telling myself, "Okay, THIS year I will actually buckle down and decide which self-publishing platform to use and which book to publish and I'll actually do it!" Whereupon I immediately second-guess EVERYTHING and chicken out and it doesn't happen.

That all changed in the summer of 2014, when the Facebook authors' group I was in put forth the idea that, as a group, we would compile and self-publish an anthology of re-told fairy tales (something I had just begun to adore, from authors like Marissa Meyer, Cameron Dokey, and Regina Doman) and--since I really enjoyed the group and there were a few unpublished members like me, so I knew I would be in good company as we all explored this opportunity together--I immediately agreed and resolved that I would meet all deadlines, I would do my best to follow the guidelines, and most of all, I would not back out, no matter what.

Which is how I ended up the "Last Author Standing" about a year later, when the whole anthology idea went to pot without even getting very far off the ground, according to the expectations of some. 

But during that year, from the initial agreement, to the abrupt and unforeseen change of plans, I learned a whole lot.
I learned that re-telling a fairy tale was a lot like the way I wrote fanfiction. (In fact, I revealed in my launch party on Facebook this weekend that, at the beginning, when the anthology of re-told fairy tales was proposed, my response was, "Well... I have this Once Upon A Time fanfiction I wrote, based on the Little Mermaid...")
I learned that, while I had basically half a plot from the fanfiction, it was going to need a lot more detail to be my own re-telling, starting with the characters.
I learned that, even when writing a fairy tale, there are some things you do not take for granted, that the reader won't assume everything, and that writing a story requires a lot more thought than just putting words together to amuse oneself.
I learned that there is a lot of freedom in not having to research--but even then, the fabricated circumstances need to follow a logical pattern.
I learned that even when you read something 50,000,000 times... you still miss that dropped "the" or the misplaced comma.
I learned that there are more important things than a princess getting her prince that make a "happily ever after."
I learned that there are ways of saying what needs to be said, without spending a whole lot of words to do it.
I learned that sometimes you have to let go of "really funny" scenes when they don't actually help the story.
I learned a lot about character motivations, and how important it was for them to be understood in the heroes as well as the villains.
I learned quite a bit about what all goes in to a Kickstarter campaign, and how important it is to do your marketing well. (Even if the bulk of one's "marketing" is Hey I am writing a story and it's going to be in an anthology with a bunch of other stories from authors I don't really know but I've read stories by a couple of them and they are really good!)
I learned that self-publishing is a really huge undertaking, and should be regarded with all seriousness and it really helps when the one desiring to self-publish can devote all their energies to it.

By the end of 2015, it was pretty clear that perhaps we as a group had been a little too unprepared and had underestimated the logistical nightmare that is publishing as a group with too many discrepancies as to who precisely is in charge, and what the project would entail. It boiled down to one of the members who offered the services of his own publishing business, but by then, even those of us that remained committed could not withstand the curveballs of life cast at everyone, it seemed, but me. It came down to the realization that the anthology wouldn't happen... Then I get an email from Bill of Endless Press, the small-press publisher who would have produced the anthology.

Him: (paraphrased) I know you were really excited about the anthology, and I'm sorry that it won't happen--but I would like to offer you the option of publishing your novella by itself. Interested?
Me: SURE LET'S DO IT!

I signed the contract in December of last year, and so began a flurry of back-and-forth over GoogleDocs and email, asking all the questions that had bugged me so much and scared me so bad about the publishing process, of defending my thought processes and discovering that maybe the parts that seemed so "clear" to me weren't actually defined very well at all, of discovering even more about the dimensions of my characters, and of being driven nearly to distraction by worrying and wracking my brain over those parts that needed to be changed--but it took almost the entire year to figure out just what needed to change and how I was going to bring it about! Through it all, Bill conducted himself very professionally, and answered all of my questions, waiting patiently as I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated.

And here at last is the fruit of our joint effort. I am so proud, I could cry.


Princess of Undersea is available on Amazon >HERE<
If you use Goodreads, you can also add it to your reading list >HERE<

Lastly, please enjoy this "sneak preview" I put together myself!



Intrigued? I certainly hope so!

Stay tuned for more to come: a BONUS SCENE epilogue, information on what I'll be working on next--there's definitely more to come!

As always, 
Catch You Further Upstream!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Reader's Review: "Angel in Training" by C. L. Coffey




Synopsis from Amazon:

After a night out turns fatal, a misunderstanding with the Archangel Michael presents Angel with a chance at Eternal Life: the opportunity to earn her wings and one day become an archangel herself.

Angel is given the task of protecting her charge, trainee detective, Joshua Walsh. There's no denying the attraction between Angel and Joshua, only Michael has pretty strict rules: no drinking, no drugs, and certainly no relationships with humans. Thankfully, she's got other things to deal with, like trying to convince Joshua that New Orleans has a serial killer who is preying on other angel potentials like herself.

Angel must quickly learn that when keeping someone safe, doing the right thing is not always the easiest, especially when you've got an archangel looking over your shoulder.

>>>>>>

My Review:

At first glance, it seems like your typical supernatural romance. I confess, going into it, that was what I feared might come of it. I won the whole series (thus far) in a giveaway, and a little part of me worried that I might be in for something typical: bad girl becomes guardian angel, falls in love with her super-hot charge, and sticks it to the man—er, archangel—when she defies the rules in the name of love.

What I got was so much more.
Coffey is now among my favorite authors. Angelina is not your typical "Skanky Sue" (like a Mary Sue, except the "perfect bad girl" instead of the "perfect good girl"); actually, she comes off as your typical, everyday agnostic: she doesn't go for "that religious stuff" and she lives for herself, for the moment, without paying much attention to her surroundings—which is exactly what gets her killed. And she proceeds to respond time and again in exactly the way "we" the readers would respond: she has all kinds of questions, no context for her new life, she's confused, sarcastic, and completely lost in all of this, thrust where she really has no business being. And there is a war coming. And people and angels alike are depending on her. And she is more conscientious of the rules now than she ever had been in life. She's not a "bad girl"; she really does want to get it right... It's just that somehow she missed "Step 1" of the whole "How To Transition From Mortality To Angelhood" so she has to get caught up somehow in any way she can. 

I loved every part of this book. The premise came off really well, without a huge info-dump except the one scene that actually knows it's an info-dump, and Angel is suitably confused by it. The characters—not just Michael, Angel, and Josh, but a whole host of side characters: Cupid (also called Kurt), Veronica the cherub (cherubim in this book are not what you're thinking...), Mama Laveau, Aunt Sarah, Leon, Maggie—each one completely unique from the rest, and all of them relevant enough to be compared to somebody we all know in our lives. These characters are realistic, vivid, and they leapt off the page in full color as I read.
The plot hustles forward at a steady pace, not too slow, but not too convoluted and bogged down by too much minutiae to justify, discredit, or re-explain, and entirely without a painfully obvious disdain for religion, or one in particular—which I definitely appreciated because then I could actually enjoy the story without feeling like I was reading a monkey trial.
The conflict itself is bigger than just Angel versus Michael (which, though it's hinted in the blurb is **SPOILER ALERT** actually not really the central head-to-head conflict of the plot, and they do actually work it out like the adults they're supposed to be; GOOD FOR THEM!) and the mystery of the enemy going around killing Angel Potentials like Angelina (trying to avoid the "Angel the angel" jokes, here!) is teased out nicely, just like in the crime novels and cop shows I like so much. Throw in a backdrop of another hurricane coming so close on the heels of the last one (it being Louisiana, they're still recovering from Katrina when another blows in) and a whole mess of Fallen angels trying to wage war against heaven itself—and this series is a definite win on all fronts.

Pretty much I am going to to give ANGEL IN TRAINING a full-blown *****5 STAR***** rating, and add to it a Upstream Writer Certified Totally Recommended endorsement. Looking for something really good to read that's a little urban fantasy, a little "buddy cop", with a great heroine and supporting characters to get obsessed over? Then don't miss ANGEL IN TRAINING and the rest of the Louisiangel series!
 
Further Reading: (Supernatural/Urban Fantasy/Excellent Female Lead/Irresistible Plot)
 
-Bounty--J. D. Cunegan
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey
      
-The Way
       -The Truth
       -The Lie  
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
    
-Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd  
The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
     
  -Ghost Hand
       -Ghost Hold
       -Ghost Heart
       -Ghost Hope 
-Dream Stalker--Amy Hopkins
    
 
      
 

Friday, November 25, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016: FINAL Recap!

 
Summary: Well, that just about does it! 50K words, and I have successfully completed roughly half of the plot. Now I can rest up for the remainder of the holiday, and enjoy returning to old projects and releasing my first publication, Princess of Undersea! Thanks for joining me on this journey, and I hope you will stick around to watch the chapters show up on Wattpad! Sign up for your free account now, so you don’t miss a single moment of this epic adventure!

Tuesday: Phew! After starting the week at 40K, I still managed to hit the requisite 1,667 words for the day and maintain my profound lead! (even if it took a bit of finagling to do it!) I tell you what, it was almost hard to accomplish the build-up after the huge break-out between the characters. I mean, writing out Janet’s complaint and the whole disconnect between Ben, Justin, and Edith was just fine, but it was the aftermath, where everything still had to stay tense, but I needed to find closure for the chapter, and it was harder than my piddly little notes let on! But I made it, Chapter 5 is ALMOST DONE, and I only have 2 more chapters to go, and then it’s back to the fun part of the story!

Wednesday: First day of Thanksgiving vacation, and I manage to pull off ALMOST THREE THOUSAND WORDS in my first writing session! Hallelujah, and let’s get this over with. Chapter 5 is officially finished, weighing in at just over 5 thousand words, compared to the others which were more like 3 thousand or so… probably going to have to restructure to even things out a bit more, but also, I believe that I know exactly how it is. The main fact of the matter is, I successfully created a plausible emergency scenario, while at the same time created an opening for my headstrong and staunchly independent group (well, some more than others) to successfully escape the masses and the traditional emergency protocols, without actually disregarding said protocols. They exist, they are happening—it’s just that my characters in particular weren’t having any of it. At the second writing session, I managed to finish off Chapter 6, clear 45K words, AND I got myself all geared up to finish Chapter 7 without too much continuity errors (it was a little hairy there for about 30 seconds when I got everyone to the boat with virtually nothing in hand… then remembered that by Chapter 8 they at least have enough stuff to set up a small survivor camp… so of course they needed personal things to start with!) and for sure start a little bit of Chapter 11 just to fill out my 50K!

Thursday: DONE. DONE. DONE-DONEY-DONE-DONE!!! Holy mackerel, that last 2K was the HARDEST FOUGHT because I was kind of more focused on getting that tiny word count than “losing myself” in the story, the method I would use sometimes in the parts where it was easy to imagine all of the little details. I would picture myself inside the scenario, or mapping out a scene from a movie, and I would just feel like I was “free-writing” but everything was absolutely a detail of the story. Who knew it would be so difficult to get people down a tropical river where there really ought to be lots to see—but how much detail? And if I do put a lot of detail, how do I know if it’s the right details? Wouldn’t want to go rambling on and on about something, only to discover later that IT NEVER EVEN EXISTED IN THAT LOCATION! But I made it through, I FINISHED Chapter 7, and now I am DONE with NaNoWriMo!!! FIFTY. THOUSAND. WORDS. And I am immensely proud of every last one of them. There has been a HUGE difference this year than in years past, since this is essentially the FIRST time I have actually WON NaNo with only ONE novel. The last two years were my first times winning ever, but in 2014, if you remember, I did the “Clay Heroes” story, but that only ended up 28K, so mid-month I had to scramble to find something else—which was actually okay, because I was stuck in the middle of “The Last Inkweaver” at that time, so I was able to use the rest of my NaNo word count to add chapters to that, and I ended up winning. Last year, in 2015, I felt like adding to the ReBible series, since I had a whole bunch of new ideas that I wanted to try out, and I hadn’t touched it in a while. So I picked four ideas and ended up getting that fifty-thousand word count between them—but, again, that was more than just one idea. The other three years, when I did have just one idea, I never made it to 50K. (Well, 2011 and 2013 for sure—but 2012 was the year I wrote “A Writer’s Tale”… a month too early, so I really couldn’t know whether or not that would have been a win or not!) This time? This time is different. This time, my win is legitimate. Of everything I wrote, it all boils down to just the one novel, The Amazon Triangle, and I FREAKING DID IT. I’m going to go have my Thanksgiving dinner now, and I am going to really enjoy the rest of this month.

So What’s Next?
What’s “Further Upstream” for me? Well, releasing Princess of Undersea, for one thing, like I mentioned. As for writing projects, I know I only have a few more chapters to the end of “Commander’s Courage”, so there is finishing that up… Also I am going to get back to writing “The Water-Man” on Wattpad, while I’m posting the chapters of “The Amazon Triangle” for your enjoyment. (For those who are not aware, you’ll be able to see updates more frequently from me on the development of my new phase as a published author, and updates from other writings not on my blog if you go to Facebook and “Like” my Author Page, “Leslie Conzatti—The Upstream Writer”) And, coming in the new year, it looks like I’ll have to find something to do… Meanwhile, please could you, Person Reading This, follow this hyperlink to the Serial Saturday series I was doing in the months leading up to NaNoWriMo, called “Clan of Outcasts”, and if you could, just read it and PLEASE leave a comment to let me know if you want me to continue it? I can’t help feeling like maybe it just didn’t get very much notice when I was first posting it, but if it really isn’t interesting, I would very much like to know that feedback, too! I’ve only heard that one person enjoyed it… if there are any more, please let me know, and maybe I will post more, if not in December, then starting in January! Thanks a bunch for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy what you see here!

Catch you Further Upstream!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reading Lists 2016: Ranked Reading List 5


Here we are at the fifth and (probably) final Ranked Reading List of 2016! Have you enjoyed having the books ranked like this? Would you like to see them like this next year, or more like I've done it in years past--Monthly lists, Seasonal lists... How frequently would you like to see the lists? Let me know in the comments! Meanwhile... On with the show!

 
#10. Ancillary Justice 
Ann Leckie

I had been looking to pick up this book since a friend recommended it to me on Goodreads. I had also seen it in the runnings for a Summer Indie Book Award competition a few months earlier, so I figured I would give it a go and see how it would fare. The blurb looked fascinating, so I started reading. Bottom line: I was confused by the time I started the second chapter. It starts out innocently enough: the narrator, a girl, finds a body frozen in the snow on a wintery planet. From there it goes to a flashback where I slowly began to realize that the “girl” was actually multiple people—multiple consciousnesses, each doing “her” own thing at any given moment. Additionally, the body—to which “she” had referred in feminine pronouns, was identified by another character as actually a “he”—but the more I read, the more this multi-personified narrator constantly used feminine pronouns for everyone, which made it hard for me to keep track of who precisely was speaking, as they didn’t really have a “voice” when I couldn’t figure out the difference of gender! I would have to say that this was the most distracting thing about the book, and it really kept me from enjoying an otherwise rich, deep, and intriguingly twisted plot. Not that I have anything against an author choosing to remove genders as a factor—but, as with Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan, the fact that the author chose to make such a big deal out of it, and constantly reiterate it over and over again, kind of made it hard to immerse myself in the story.

#9. The Maze Runner
James Dashner

This was one of several books on this list that I chose to read because of the movie—but in this particular case, I actually saw the movie first (the other two are recently-released movies, so of course I haven’t seen them yet.) I rather liked it, actually. I will say that the casting was very well done—I could easily imagine each actor in the roles from the book. It’s amazing how, actually, races are never really described in the book (since the narrator, Thomas, has little to no memory, and thus no basis to identify other nationalities), but it was the particular way each character spoke that makes the reader go “Ah, this is the country of origin for the character.” This information, then, must have played a part in the casting choices, which is why they fit so well with the accents they chose. (Of all the non-American actors, only one—the obviously-British character in the book—got to use his natural accent) As for the story, however… Meh. It was okay, it just kind of ruins the suspense, I guess, seeing the movie first, because I already know how it all turns out—and while normally, spoilers don’t bother me, I really can’t seem to shake the disappointment over the outcome of the series. Hence, it really lessened the propensity for sympathizing with the characters the book really wants the reader to sympathize with. Bummer.

#8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 
Ransom Riggs

For as much as I’m looking forward to the film, it’s really a surprise how low on the list this one ended up. It has all the hallmarks of a great adventure: the fact that Riggs took actual photos and crafted such a fantastic story around them kind of reminds me of my own endeavors in doing the exact same thing—but at the same time, it was also kind of a little bit less impactful than the others. No less enjoyable, and I’ll probably (most likely) end up reading more of the series—but it’s Number 8 so that’s a thing. I love the creativity, there were some very endearing character moments, and good development.

#7. Dream A Little Dream  (Silver Trilogy #1)
Kerstin Gier

I admit I was very surprised to find this one! I had no idea that she had other books besides the Ruby Red Trilogy (which I loved so much I bought the boxed set!) but there it was! And, despite being seventh on the list—don’t get me wrong, I really loved it! The characters were wonderful and flawed without making a too-huge deal about their flaws. The theme of “dreams” echoed throughout the entire narrative. Oh, and she also has a dog that was originally named Dr. Watson (good choice!) until they found out it was a girl, and so they changed the name to Princess Buttercup. (another excellent choice!) Now that I think about it, this story is kind of like an easy-read version of Raven Boys: not so dark, steeped in heady lore, and running with adult themes, but still: young girl has a remarkable ability she’s not sure of, but this ability unwittingly throws her in with the most popular and notorious boys in the school—and at once, the whole group is plunged into peril that none of them see coming. Well-played, intriguing, and funny by turns, this was a wonderful find, and I can’t wait to read the next one! (Apparently it still has to be translated, I think; at any rate, I could only find the original German version on Goodreads… so you can BET I went and entered the whole thing on Google Translate to find out what it’s going to be about!)

#6. The Girl on The Train 
Paula Hawkins

Yet another book I picked up because I saw the trailer for the film adaptation and was very intrigued by the premise. My feelings now that I’ve read it? Holy buckets, I don’t know whether I should be excited to see Emily Blunt do an amazing job at portraying the lead character… or terrified to actually see such a chilling book brought to vivid life. I think it might have been worse to see the film without having read the book… maybe I can actually enjoy the film now that I know the outcome… but, considering that the central characters are all very messed-up individuals, like the manipulative pathological liar, the alcohol addict, the floozy, the abusive husband… should I enjoy a film like that? Who knows? But the book was absolutely great and all the twists just kept coming at me with no warning. Definitely a mind-trip!

#5. The Whole Truth (A. Shaw #1) 
David Baldacci

On the one hand, I enjoy that Baldacci is so prolific, because I really enjoy his style and I love discovering his new characters. On the other hand—a prolific author means that the library closest to my house doesn’t always reliably have the first book in a series, and those who know me know that I always like to start a series on Book 1! But finally, I found at least one “series starter” that I hadn’t read yet—and man! It was a doozy! And, considering the State of the Union right now, very timely. The main protagonist is a contract hitman who is trying to grow a conscience and actually managed to find someone who makes surviving his suicide missions worthwhile—but his boss won’t let him quit. For the “antagonist” side of this story, Baldacci chose to delve into the concept of “perception management”—the “spin doctors” hired by politicians and government agencies to blow events out of proportion and control media attention, putting visuals and “virals” into place, to make the general public believe and “see” a certain way—when in fact the truth is that the whole thing is a sham, a hollow display of smoke and mirrors, a “public outcry” with no substance, a “protest” of a “tragedy” that never actually happened, though there are people in place who will swear up and down that it did—and most people would rather follow a new hashtagging trend or a blog post with a sensational headline than actually bother fact-checking just what the hashtag or blog is really saying. Sound familiar? Yeah, anyway, that’s all I will say on that. The book was really good and I really liked Shaw as a character, and YAY, I have a new Baldacci series to follow!

#4. Sabriel (Abhorsen Trilogy #1) 
Garth Nix

Another recommendation from a friend—and this one was quite the winner! Garth Nix is kind of like a combination of Gaiman (like Stardust, there is a magic realm, and a not-so-magic realm, separated by a capital-W Wall) and Sanderson (like Mistborn, a young girl inherits a terrible duty from her father, and she must see it through, even if it kills her). Since I really liked both of those concepts from those stories, I was already most of the way to liking this book as soon as I started—and Nix delivered a sound and wonderful story on every level. The “Charter” magic is more of the traditional sense, where the users are tracing symbols in the air and speaking words of power (kind of like the variety Doctor Strange uses) and it’s Sabriel’s job, as “the Abhorsen”, to not only find her father who has been wrongfully drawn into Death, but also find out who has been breaking the Charters and allowing the Dead to pass into Life. An intriguing mission that rings consistent throughout, and very much interesting all the way to a spectacular end. Definitely going to read the rest of this series!

#3. The Raven King (The Raven Boys Cycle #4) 
Maggie Stiefvater

For all the series I am starting in this batch, I also happen to be finishing one as well. And what a finish! Holy mackerel. From the very beginning, the narration (by Blue) has reminded us time and again about how kissing would result in death, so she’s always been afraid of falling in love (because falling in love means kissing, duh)…. But then she meets the Raven Boys and sparks fly so neatly, and then there’s also the Hunt for Glendower that kind of comes along and overtakes the whole objective of the story—and through it all, the reader becomes so closely acquainted with each and every one of these characters that we are invested in their lives… even though there hasn’t been much in the way of actual backstory until this, the final book. All I can say is: if this was a typical YA series, you would expect everything to begin and end with (of course) Blue and (of course) Gansey/Adam… BUT it’s Ronan. From beginning to end, it’s Ronan. And kisses are definitely things to treasure, and not to trifle with. And this series wrecked my feels again.

#2. The Last Dragonslayer  (Chronicles of Kazam #1)
Jasper Fforde

Okay, so this one wasn’t exactly recommended, but I have a few friends whom I saw reading Fforde’s books on Goodreads, and besides—there were dragons, and if I’m not gonna get anymore Mediochre Q. Seth (BOOHOO!!) by golly, I need to get my dragon-fix somewhere! So, the Chronicles of Kazam, it is! Jennifer Strange (HA!) is a foundling who runs an employment agency for magicians, but in a world where magic is rather a mundane thing, like a handyman skill more than a “mystical and awful art.” Plus, the agency is not doing so well currently because magic is actually fading away—and what is a magician without magic? The famed Last Dragon is the only beacon of hope for magic-users of the world—but at the same time, the Last Dragon is predicted to die at the hands of a Dragonslayer, and rumors are flying about some kind of Big Magic coming, but what it is and what it does is still unclear. All Jennifer cares about is keeping her job and keeping the magicians gainfully employed… Whose idea was it to add “Become a Dragonslayer and Slay The Dragon To Fulfill The Prophecy” on top of all that? It’s fun, it’s hilarious, it’s British, there’s dragons… I loved it! 

#1. The Last Mile (Amos Decker #2) 
David Baldacci

For how many books he already has out, I’m surprised (and pleased) Baldacci is still churning new ones out at this rate! It seems less than a year ago I saw Memory Man (the first Amos Decker book) hit the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble… and now here’s the second book already at my library! (For as long as I sometimes have to wait for a Mark Lawrence book… Oh well, I guess the library staff has different priorities! At least I haven’t missed a book!) And of course, for as many Baldacci books as I have read… one of them was bound to nab the Number 1 spot on a Ranked Reading List at some point, and this one definitely takes the cake! I really love Amos Decker as a character—he’s “cursed” with hyperthymesia, which means he can’t forget, and also synesthesia, which means sensory cues are associated with other senses, like emotions having a certain colored aura, or certain sounds or smells being associated with numbers. The “Last Mile” refers to an inmate on death row taking the last walk to the lethal injection—and in this case, Amos happens to believe that the inmate is innocent, because the “confession” is remarkably similar to the canned confession of the initial suspect in the murder of his family in the first book. But some very powerful people desperately want this conviction to go through—so Amos and his friends in the FBI need to work together to make sure that the right perpetrator receives the punishment. It was a very deep and moving narrative, with glimpses into Amos’ back-story with glimpses into his relationship with his own family. Like him, the convict is a football player—but the loving family this young man always thought he had may not have been as caring and honest as they appeared. I really loved it, and definitely this was my favorite out of these ten I read!

On to the next stack of books!

Previous Ranked Lists:
List #1
List #2 

Monday, November 21, 2016

NaNoWriMo2016: Week 3 Recap!

 
Summary: Holy buckets! I will be honest with you, I almost didn’t make it. Week 3 had a rough start of it—I hit so many of the difficult transitions all at once, PLUS work kind of ramped up on me, since we’re leading into the Thanksgiving holiday, coming up here soon. But, by jingo, I made it! I survived—and I AM STILL AHEAD!! For The Win, I’m not even kidding!

Tuesday: Grrr—Blah! Busy day, only about 500 words written, which is the smallest amount I’ve had all month! But, let me tell you, that 2-day lead is STILL in effect, and I’ve STILL got a bunch of time to make up for these rough days, and stay ahead so that I can STILL finish early! Today on the “Conflict Radar” is not only the difficulty between Ben and the Amazon Neyri—building up to when she reveals about the Japanese soldiers trapped in the space with them—but also earlier in the story, where I need to finally paint the picture of the brewing split between Ben and his dad—due to fictional schedules and timelines being what they are, I need to find some way to keep the characters from absolutely taking off at each others throats until the NEXT day, when reality surfaces—but how to take a phrase like “they avoid each other” and actually write it out so that the characters DO seem like they are passively (or actively) avoiding each other—how to do this? I mean, there are only so many places they can go. I do have an idea of how to make it work—now I just need to keep myself motivated enough to write it!

Wednesday: YESS. Successfully achieved tomorrow’s word par, so now all that remains is staying ONE day ahead, until the Write-in on Saturday, when I can really let loose and do my best to have a fantastic “make-up” day like I did last Saturday. Still gunning for being able to FINISH NaNoWriMo in the 5-day break I have around Thanksgiving! (Which will likely be more of manically writing on alternating days over that whole time, since I know for sure Thursday and Saturday I will very likely not have ANY time to write!)

Thursday: Still a day ahead! I made it to 30 thousand words by the skin of my teeth, let me tell you. I just feel like I need to get these chapters 4-7 DONE so that I can just move to the furthest point I’ve written and just continue on from there. The skipping around really worked back when I had a BUNCH of words to make up, but anymore it’s just making more tedious work, since I’m finding more and more places where references to previous events would really develop the characters in the conversation—but they are events and conversations they haven’t had yet, because I haven’t reached that point in the earlier chapters. Good grief! These characters are ending up wonderfully unique and very distinct, though, which helps a LOT in crafting a scenario with multiple perspectives. Ben is really inquisitive, but also obsessed with reconnecting with the rest of his group, Edith doesn’t entirely trust Justin, but at this point he’s the only familiar thing she has, so she’s kind of showing her “weaker” side by clinging to him more and constantly second-guessing herself. As for the parents, Hank is more interested in the wealth of exploration this (apparently) deserted corner of the world affords, while Frank is just mad that he’s so dependent on his two “inferior” friends, and Janet is just more irritated, the longer they wander. Of course, it won't be long now till the moment at which they won't have to wander--because the Amazons will take them captive and force them to march to whatever kind of area they use to keep prisoners in. (I still have to decide what it will be... On the one hand, a cage is always highly useful, and rather public so they might not like that very much; on the other hand, I'm also picturing kind of a deep pit... but how to get Frank and his wounded leg into a pit...)

Friday: Tee-hee… So this was not a very “productive” day, per se—but I was already a day ahead so in my opinion, any amount of progress I made on this day would still be contributing just as much to finishing early as ever. I reminded myself that the more I wrote today, the less I would have to write to get MASSIVELY ahead on Saturday! I’d planned on getting all my chores and stuff done in the morning, or at least soon enough that I would be able to actually arrive earlier than 2 o’clock, so that would give me plenty of time to just write for at least a minimum of two hours. My goal is to have chapters 4 through 7 DONE by the end of Saturday. As long as I can manage that, I’ll be good for the rest of the book. Here goes nothing! I am so excited to be so close to finishing!

Saturday: HALLELUJAH. I had seriously the BEST day of writing I’ve ever had this WHOLE month! THREE THOUSAND WORDS just in this day ALONE! I finally finished that bothersome Chapter 4, and while the middle got a little muddled, as far as finally getting Justin, Ben, and Edie all together while sending their parents off in separate directions, it all culminated in that one shell-shocking scene where Janet discovers exactly why Justin looks so familiar… PLUS in the later series of chapters, most notably Chapter 10, which was originally devoted to Ben being revived by Neyri and she would be very forthcoming about the Japanese platoon that is trapped along with the mermaids… You know, I tried stretching that scene out as long as I could, I tried coaching Ben with obvious leading lines and pressing questions, but Neyri didn’t bite. So then there was that part that was originally on Chapter 9, where my notes just said “adults are captured by another tribe”… but the way that chapter turned out, Edie and Justin kind of took up the whole word count with their own issues and whatnot, so I couldn’t exactly transition as well as I expected to… BUT turns out it fit so much better at the end of chapter 10 because Ben kept mentioning and wondering about the parents anyhow, so to then transition to focus on them after that whole thing made a lot more sense. Well, then, since I needed to finagle a reference to the Japanese anyway, and the tribe that’s going to capture them is by far the most aggressive… It just makes sense that an aggressive tribe trying to catch a group of adults unawares would decide to use a wounded soldier (whom they hate, anyway) as bait, right? So there is Chapter 10 finished, and I am SO READY TO BE DONE, IT’S NOT ALL THAT FUNNY ANYMORE!

Sunday: Another day… and I’m STILL two days ahead, and only now I have finished Chapter 10, instead of Saturday like I thought I would. (That’s the trouble with writing these updates “live”, is that sometimes I can assume too much about the strength of my motivation… oh well!) At least now I can say that it’s done for sure, and the three parents are well and truly captured, and everybody’s tucked away where they’re supposed to be. (Oh, and by the way, I went with a pit under a gently-sloping entrance; of course it knocked Frank out, but at least it didn't break his leg!) There was even some time today where I decided I wanted to use some Japanese phrases—but, Google Translate being what it is, I wasn’t getting the right translations (I thought) so I hopped on Facebook and asked the NaNo group, and somebody responded with almost the same replies I was getting from Google Translate (but when I would try to back-translate, take the Japanese text and feed it back through to English, the translation was all messed up, so that’s what scared me! Good to know I can still use it with impunity and hopefully it won’t confuse anybody!) PLUS this was the day that I started Chapter 5, so I think what I can do is pull back and focus on finishing up the big gap of chapters 5 through 7 over Monday and Tuesday (because, being the only two days I work this week, I am pretty sure I won’t have time to do much write, just like last week) and then when the holiday begins on Wednesday, I can resume on Chapter 11 and away we go! It feels so good to be so close to the end.

Monday (Today): Huzzah!! I made Wednesday’s word count, and I made it through Jan’s account of her and Frank’s relationship! That was a bit of a sticky conversation to have, so many details and emotions to deal with. Because Edith has always known Jan to be the “serial girlfriend” and she’s seen plenty of boyfriends who end up dumping her mom for stupid reasons, or she ends the relationship because the other guy is treating her unfairly—but in this case, the guy is Justin’s dad, and Edith has always considered Justin to be fairly harmless. Her mother’s reaction to the sudden reappearance of Frank seems to indicate otherwise, and Edith needs to figure out if her trust in the Dillards is misplaced. It took several unexpected turns, but I think it came out all right, and it definitely set the animosity in motion—I’m going to have fun writing that out tomorrow! Meanwhile, I am fairly certain that I will actually manage to successfully complete the 50K by the end of the week, and then it’s back to writing all the projects I’ve had to set aside to focus on this one! (Maybe after some other projects are finished, I will come back and finish this one off, but until then, I don’t mind taking a little break and revisiting some of my old characters!) 40K HERE I COME!!

So, coming up next week… It’s the home stretch! Join me for the helter-skelter race to the finish line, as I wrap up my LAST 10K right in the thick of the holidays, and revel in the joy of finishing off chapters 6 and 7 at long last!
Catch you Further Upstream!