Tag Archives: romance

Writing: Thoughts on Love Squares and Other Shapes

Maybe it’s because I was sucked into Miraculous Ladybug Season 1 like the sappy nerd I am, maybe it’s the fact that Caley (through no fault of her own) ends up in a love-shape drama. But I’ve been pondering on this trope, and why it is awesome and yet awful all at once (because it can be both!).

Why are these things so friggin’ popular? Well, some of it is that I believe we (both the writers and the audience) like to see the characters suffer before they get their chance at happiness. Otherwise, there isn’t much investment in what happens in the end. There is also the fact that no matter how well you do your job to convey the characters, they are still moderately malleable to the reader, who may see the protag better with Love Interest A or Love Interest B or the random character in the diner in chapter three–which is how shipping wars are born. It is the reader’s prerogative and can’t really be argued with (George Lucas tried).

The hardest part about writing a love-shape comes in two parts. On one hand, you have to keep the feelings conveyed as being sincere. If the reader/audience stops believing the love interest really cares for and about the protag, the ship is sunk. This can, however, be a useful tool for the second part–resolving all sides of the love-shape-of-choice. No one can be left hanging alone and heartbroken, but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. You also have to either ease the audience into getting in the same OTP boat (fat chance) or use a shocking event to drive a big wedge between participants.

I am very cautious about the shocking event part of the trope. It can be a good plot point, or it can come out of left field entirely. A good example of the latter is the original Star Wars trilogy, thus my digs at Lucas. The shippers weren’t letting Luke/Leia go, so she was turned into his twin sister (and the writer has since tried to retcon this as being his original intent, which makes it worse really). Did it make Han/Leia easier? Yes. Did it make a  lot of sense? No, but it’s Lucas. Lucas can’t keep any of his shit straight.

As much as it kills me to give the series any good press, the sparkle-vampire series actually did a better job of the surprising event. The wedding put a nail in the werewolf-shippers’ coffin, and while its way of resolving all the sides was full of ick, she did resolve them. This doesn’t comment on any of the other numerous problems, but the writer knew how to manage the relationships to milk the drama. I will say her stand alone book (last I checked it was stand alone, anyway), The Host, actually handled the resolving the sides a lot neater, and in a way that was both sad and satisfying.

This gives shows like Miraculous an interesting twist. One of the sides is suddenly two, and makes things so much more complicated. But this can quickly go from humerous and cute to stressful and frustrating for the characters and audience members alike. I think ending the love-shape is a clear sign the series is ending as a whole, because it resolves a plot-line and eases some of the tension. But you could phase it into new drama, depending on the situation, making it more of a season-ender than series as a whole.

Now we get to the worst example of that. Comic books. I don’t care if it’s DC or Marvel, they are notoriously bad about breaking up characters in established relationships on a whim, whether it’s by killing characters for emotional impact, moving the survivor on, and then bringing the victim back to life, or just causing really dumb out of character responses to drama, it’s a vicious cycle. Now, I will say that some of the characters, they make it actually work–Remy and Rogue have never exactly been “easy to handle” in terms of personality, and both are hot-heads. Them going hot-and-cold makes sense. And if the Bartons had divorced much earlier (rather than the shitty timing of it, especially with Bobbi coming off of a form of PTSD and the list is a mile long on the bad set up here), they also would have made sense–they got married within days! Obviously that didn’t happen, but you know, benefit of the doubt here this once.

But others are just flash fiction for no reason. Why? Because some writers just don’t know how to keep the tension going if they are in a long-running series. And that’s fine! If you don’t know how to handle them, you don’t know. But that’s what blogs like this for, and others who are more knowledgeable than me. My biggest advice is this: remember that love squares are tricky to manage, so plan accordingly. Know how it’s resolving, and when and in what way/fallout if you can. If you get an unexpected extension, evaluate what happened previously with your love square. Are there still underlying trust issues? Did someone go from attracted to one person to another, because that’s grounds for serious jealousy problems. Does someone have bad habits or experiences that are coloring the relationship? Falling in love and winning their affections in return isn’t the solution to your problems–it’s only the beginning.

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Review: Mistress of Thieves

Hey everyone, sorry there was a bit of a delay on this one. (Check out my social media for the full story.) I was a little unsure where to start in the Kindle Store, to which the answer is not on the app if you are looking for the self-published section, but I stumbled upon this one after a lot of digging among the traditionally-published crowd, and thought it was worth a shot!

In Mistress of Thieves by Carrie Summers, Myrrh is an up-and-coming freelance thief who’s lost her only true friend. The city guards finally captured her mentor, an aging rogue and the closest thing she had to a family. He’s dead now. She’ll be next if she doesn’t figure out who betrayed him. As she begins her search, she’s double-crossed by a fellow freelancer and sold out to a shadowy new crime syndicate. With a sack over her head and wrists tightly bound, she’s delivered to the lair of the syndicate’s boss, a man named Glint. Certain he intends to kill her, Myrrh is surprised to learn that he has other plans. An unrepentant scoundrel, Glint is as charismatic as he is complex. And he has information about her mentor’s disappearance that will upend everything she thought she knew about the city’s underworld.

So this was a surprising amount of fun! It seemed like it was going to be super dark and grim, but the writing found ways of inserting some humor that made me grin without making the main character an idiot–actually, she’s rather brilliant, if impulsive at times. The second person point of view was sort of iffy for me, I don’t particularly like it, but it was done well enough that you eventually tune it out. It wasn’t as strongly fantasy as my usual taste, but there was enough that I can see how it ended up in this section rather than anywhere else.

The characters’ backstories were well-done, as was the balance of the cast. Myrrh was fun to follow, though I’m disappointed we didn’t learn her real name yet. Considering the crap that went down, I think if she had told Glint her real name, it could have had a deeper emotional wound…but the writer might also be saving that for later, so you know, I’m okay with it. Nab was friggin’ awesome. I was like, “Oh, little kid to look after, the cute bait.” And then he actually appeared and was a smart brat and I was like, “Okay, not what I expected, but BETTER!” I love realistic kids, especially when Myrrh gave it right back at him. Glint’s backstory was a lot…smaller I guess?…in terms of scale than I was expecting, but it worked, and I totally get it if the world is meant to stay focused here.

The romance was actually done well. It wasn’t something that started in the story, it felt organic in terms of how it built, and when the plot twist is revealed, it added another stab to the heart without having gone to super cliche levels. I also didn’t feel like it took over the story, and it didn’t completely eat up Myrrh’s goals. That thrills me to death. In fact, I think it hurt Glint more than it did Myrrh, which is a nice role reversal. In a similar vein, the female characters were more plentiful than usually shown in thieves’ guild type settings, and I loved the variety. We had more than just the geisha assassin (as the trope is called) and the girl thief, and what we saw was fun. I hope we see more of them.

My only complaint is so minor, and relates entirely to the fact I bought the book on Kindle. The large city that the book was set in was broken down by districts, bridges, and a river. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the layout right in my head (it’s not numerical like you’d think!), and that left to me getting a little confused. Now, Tamora Pierce’s Provost Dog series is very similar for the first two books, and I had less of a problem. That’s because I own physical copies, and it was a lot easier for me to toggle to the map in the front. The Kindle version of Mistress of Thieves not only sticks the map in a kinda weird spot, but I don’t have a Kindle-Kindle, I use my Android phone (which is not the biggest thing ever), so setting bookmarks sucks. As a result, it was halfway useless to me as a reference.

This was a fast but fun read that I enjoyed. It kept the plot simple without getting really convoluted or losing itself down subplots, and it kept true to its characters, even if that meant the ending wasn’t your typical Happily Ever After. Overall, I highly recommend it, and I hope the sequel that comes out next week is just as good!

…Just get the physical copy. 😛


Writing: Thoughts on Querying…

I feel like preemptively labeling this part one, I’m sure I’ll have more as the process continues for me. For those curious, yes, I am still querying. I sent my full draft to an interested agent, but seeing as how staying in contact with her over the last six months became…difficult…I am actively seeking other options. Query Tracker, btw, is a great tool. I was reluctant to use it because I wasn’t sure it was verifying the agents, but nope! It’s safe!

So some funny (or annoying) things that have happened or I’ve seen, and my reactions.

One agent actually had a note on submissions: “No more vampires, sorry.” That made me laugh, and it also made sense? I wish more agents did that. Like rather than giving us broad genres, they specifically said, “I am sick of seeing this, I want to see this.” And no, telling me you want “strong storytelling” and “books I can’t put down” doesn’t tell me anything. That’s super subjective. If you are sick of first person narratives, say so.

I ran into two rather curious things, too, that gave me an amused rant to put on Twitter if no where else. I saw a lot of agents listing interest in LGBT fiction. And my immediate thought is, “Errr, you’re missing a letter?” A is important, especially for my books. In addition, romance tended to run through extremes–either EPIC or don’t bring it to me, it has cooties! Which all of that makes me laugh, since my main character is so far down the gray scale of demi-sexuality she is almost ace. (Which is the A.) It definitely shows room for growth, at least in my opinion.

Another thing I’ve noticed is there’s a mixed situation to the flooding of inboxes that agents get. There’s basically three things going on, and all of them have their pros and cons. Though to be honest, one super annoys me more than any of the others.

One solution is the no response means no. Ugh, that’s harrowing. Because of their work schedules, agents can’t guarantee when they will get to a book outside of a pretty long time frame. I get just wanting to hit the delete button and move on to the next, but I wish they would at least have a form they sent back to end the misery. But again, that takes time, and it’s time they may not even have. Others do have a form response that they send, and they guarantee replies within a certain window. Obviously as a writer, I love that, but I wonder how much it pulls away from the writer’s work.

The third solution is the one that cheeses me off if it’s not handled properly. Having an intern help with the slush pile of new submissions. On one hand, if it’s used as a tool, I feel like it’s the perfect solution here. The agent can go through the queries while giving notes out loud to the intern who is keeping track themselves, and then the intern can go generate the responses while the agent moves on. My issue is when its the intern who is going through the slush pile themselves and determining what the agent even sees. (What I have dubbed “intern-gating.”) I know one agent who does it of the ones I’ve done so far and even stuff that she has requested in a contest or conference to see gets turned back. Thankfully those people email her directly and get told to send it to her, but ugh, what a waste of people’s time.

The amounts of material requested also run the friggin’ gambit. Could we not come to a consensus, particularly one that doesn’t handicap the writers involved? The more pages there are, the more the agents have to read, I get that. I just think five pages isn’t enough. Ten, at a minimum, can at least get you to the action…or if it doesn’t, the writer has bigger problems. (There is a reason Sun’s Guard: Ten went through so many drafts, I was desperately trying to get to Moonshine faster.) I mean, I’d prefer the first three chapters, but I know that’s a lot for some to get through too.

I’m on the fence about a synopsis. On one hand, I think it is a handy tool for agents. On the other, I think it also can be very misleading? I tried to keep mine focused, but that was hard. Ginny had to hold me in from going down some of my subplots, partly to save space and partly to keep agents from getting distracted by seeing what isn’t there. I can’t imagine the trouble that other people went through. My professors weren’t much help, I remembered talking to Chester about not knowing what I was doing, and she said no one does when it comes to synopsis.

So there are my funny stories/observations. If you’ve got anything of your own you’d like to share, give a shout. As it stands now, I’m going to keep poking away at things. Hopefully someone will take the bait…


Character Study: Selenay

Selenay is what happens when I get bored and go looking for a different group of RP partners. The original idea was a retelling of Night Circus, supposedly not following the books…and yet I felt like the two people who started it had a clear railroad they wanted to go on and the rest of us were sort of…sunk. That or Night Circus has severe world building problems. (I hadn’t read it, perhaps that was my mistake.)

Selenay, however, is a wonderful little souvenir to have from it. I was given a very broad template to work off of. The Fortuneteller was manipulative, with the passive power of being able to see the future and react accordingly to shape it, and in league with the Ringmaster. Well, I loved the idea of the two of them having previous history, and that being a relationship that she ran away from. Why? Because she didn’t like what she saw in their future. I made her petite and with a friendly, out-going personality that hid her self-centered and manipulative personality, and bam, Selenay was born.

Before the RP fell apart, the Ringmaster’s player and I started working on backstory, and eventually went down an original idea. It didn’t end up working out due to different ways of RPing and the site we used dying, but it did end up fleshing this character out a lot to the point that I love her so much in all her flawed glory, I’d love to do something else with her, whether that’s taking another try at an RP or trying original or what.

So, yes. This character is selfish, self-centered, and manipulative. It’s part of who she probably would have been anyway, and then it got ramped up to eleven because her father abandoned her at a rather awful orphanage after her mother died with cancer. That leaves scars, and it shows. But what was fun was when something wiggled in enough to actually make her feel guilt about her actions. Enter her relationship with the Ringmaster. We ended up making it start as friendship, and an uneasy one at that, which eventually turned romantic until Selenay ran away out of fear of being left first (she has issues trusting men).

I did find something that this character valued more than herself, enough to give up her own comforts and secrecy–her daughter. Yep, she ran away and found out she was pregnant later. Leorna was Selenay’s biggest weakness, because she’d do anything to keep her safe. It was interesting to transition from the selfish brat into the mother that Selenay was. She was very doting, very affectionate, and yet kept secrets from Leorna in the name of protecting her, to the point of contracting a type of magical contamination that was killing her as surely as cancer. Even worked with another magician to try and protect them, which is saying something.

The only thing that I really couldn’t get consistent was her powers. Part of that was because of the way I was trying to give her some level of agency in the RP, which made things a royal tangle. I tried to fix it belatedly, but, well, issues. If I ever do anything again with her, I am definitely going to work out a consistent magic system. Her magic was always passive, though, as she wasn’t able to directly change anything. She saw it, she was compelled to tell it, but she couldn’t change it with magic. She could only change it by forcing different actions a la the diverging time lines effect. It was how the powers affected her physically, and how she used them, that I was horribly inconsistent. The Tarot cards were roughly what I used, but since I don’t know much about fortune telling, there was a lot of fudging going on.

Selenay is possibly the second-most flawed character I ever wrote. (I wrote a sociopathic serial killer once, it was short lived and that makes me sad, I was having fun.) It was part of what made her fun. I didn’t have to make the right decision or the hero’s decision. I go to make the selfish, what benefits this character, decision. It was almost like playing the villain, only without some grand master plan in mind. Normally I play on the sides of the angels, but this time… Well, the best comparison I have is the Lady of the Lake. Neutral, focused on her own goals, and screw anyone who got in the way.


Review: Boycotts and Barflies

…Okay, some background. I read this story when it was still a fanfic, specifically Twilight fanfic back when I thought the books were silly fluff reading for the age demographic that I still technically was in (a.k.a. before the train wreck that is the last book) and I loved it for what it was. Now that it’s original… Well, I’ll get to that. But now you know there’s history.

Bella Swan Grace Parks and her three friends are sick of endless dates with men who don’t meet their standards. Their solution? A boy boycott, for six weeks until the New Year. Well sort of, they are still allowed to flirt and go on group dates (so the bet is sort of pointless). It’s all in good fun, until Grace meets Edward Michael Andris and his friends meet hers. Surprisingly, the boys are also on a bet of their own–this time to meet “nice girls” and no longer allowed to date the girls they meet while bartending, casually referred to as barflies. Hijinks ensue as everyone remains determined to win the bet…or are they?

Okay, so romance novel: likelihood of some of this happening is non-existent. It’s merely a tool to set the two main protagonists against each other so they have conflicting goals. And between it and family interference, it actually works for…most of the book. She even had a really good idea for the bet exploding in everyone’s faces. The problem that no one caught in the fic’s transition to real publication, is that the ending just sort of…coasts. The conflict at the end where we find out not only what the boys have been up to but supposedly Grace’s two best friends just blows over in favor of a romantic night out. There’s no satisfaction with that. These girls lied to her, the boys lied to her… It shouldn’t end that easily, even if it was supposedly to help Grace realize her own worth.

Speaking of self worth, there are some good points and there are some bad points to characters in this book. On one hand, the dialogue and the banter between characters is hysterical. I’m not completely sold that the ages fit the dialogue, but I am willing to hand wave it because it is funny. And there is good chemistry between all of the characters, and delaying any actual sex scenes means it avoids the trap of being so heavy with them that it’s uncomfortable to read. I even appreciate the fact that the fact most singles can’t afford to live by themselves is acknowledged, so unlike most romance novels finding places to be together is a real challenge.

On the other hand… A lot of the issues with the Twilight characters carried over, even with the filing off of the serial numbers. The friends aren’t fleshed out enough or given enough flaws to make sense. The fact Grace is so insecure isn’t ever really explained well besides pretty fish in a small pond that got transplanted and hasn’t moved on yet. (BTW, this sort of insecurity is common in teenagers, but we tend to grow out of it in our twenties.) And maybe this is me knowing the source material like I do, but I don’t think the serial numbers were filed off enough. They tried, I give her credit for trying, but I could still see what it once was. Considering how she had set up the fic, it was hard to take it to original fiction and leave it still intact enough for her fanfiction audience while being separate enough that no one saw the original fandom unless they were looking.

The thing that I think irks me the most is the way the guys treat the girls they pick up at the bars and the way they are written. It’s painful and horrible disrespectful to women in general. It was sort of nudged at being inappropriate by the fact the girls were sort-of-sort-of-not barflies by definition and the guys were forced to re-evaluate it, but still. The term itself bothered me. As did the way these girls treated the boys they went out with. It’s one thing to find the date boring, but really, a dinner date is hard to be entertaining if you aren’t an entertainer by nature. One of the girls is admittedly shallow and won’t go on a date with someone who isn’t high on her personal taste list. Both sides were equally painful, at least from my standpoint, and really had the potential to cause a lot of hurt feelings and didn’t because the author didn’t want them to.

Much like its source material, Boycotts and Barflies ranks as a good lighthearted read that is amusing as long as you don’t look at it too closely. It suffers some from being prior fanfiction that transitioned over to original fanfiction, but it did so to hold on to its humor. The more you reread it, the more it starts to wear, so maybe save it as a once every three or four years thing.


Writing: Genres Part 3

Coming back from being lost in illnesses/fair induced stress and then injuries/wrapping up the print version of Ten with an update to my genre writing series. Now, this one is considered the easiest genre to write and break into as a new writer…I could argue about it being easy to write, but it is easier to get into but for different reasons than people think: Romance.

Romance books have their cliche images: the bodice ripper, sex scene heavy books with half-naked characters on the cover that is sold for about six bucks at the grocery store. However, if you go into the actual romance section at a book store, you’ll find a little more variance on the price, but the bodice rippers will be accompanied by some less provocative look books that still center around a romance, just with another genre as a side dish. Usually fantasy or action/thriller, some are also mysteries or something in that vein.

Here’s the reason why these books are the easiest to get published…if you do your homework. These publishing houses have contracts and lists where they send out so many new titles a month–more than any other genre. They make their money through quantity, not quality, and by appealing to a very specific formula. By keeping things within a certain parameter, they are able to produce the books cheaply, keeping actual costs down so they can sneak into as many sellers as possible. They don’t pay as well as other genres, but you also have a higher chance of paying back your advance and getting royalties. And if you can pick up the rhythm, there are writers who make their living just by turning out a new book every month or so.

These books have to be within a certain range of word count/print pages (varying a bit by publisher, so be prepared to add fluff or cut it away if you have to bounce between them), they have to have a certain number of beats to them, and obviously need to focus on the romance and have a happy ending for the couple involved. Most create a common enemy to bring these two people together, others just put two people into a situation where they have to work together to achieve a goal–whether or not its a common goal is up to the writer, but either way they have to work together to achieve it. There is a heavy focus on the characters being in their twenties to thirties–rarely do they cross over any older than that, despite the main readership for these books being in their forties and fifties, but I digress.

The really tricky part when it comes to writing romances is what you have to keep in mind–no matter what, your primary antagonists…are your protagonists. I know this is weird, so hear me out. The formulas mean that publishers are looking for the main conflict to be between the hero and the heroine. Whether its because they are constantly fighting with each other, one side of the equation is trying to fight the urge to be together, or there are circumstances keeping them apart a la Romeo and Juliet, the central conflict needs to be what is keeping your couple apart.

That said, your characters still have to be likeable. Ever wonder why the characters are so simple, cardboard cut out like? It’s because this way, the writer can easily flip them from being a jerk to being the nicest guy ever without seeming to contradict themselves. The girl can go from a whiny crybaby to the bravest woman in the world, and its waved away as character growth. There are some writers who are good at making this work for them, for creating a strong character and showing real growth. But those who are milking the system for money only, well, they use the formula and go with it.

There are a few beats that are particularly important for a story. You’re going to have to write a sex scene, unless you are in a subset aimed for younger readers or ultra-conservatives. Sometimes you’ll end up writing more than one, if your plot goes that way. There’s going to be a big-bad-break-up fight at least once. Sometimes there are multiples, but if so each one is bigger and worse than the one before it. (I never said this genre showed healthy relationships, did I? Cause it really doesn’t.) And then the last one is going to depend on what sort of story you are dealing with. If you are writing something with outside forces, this is where they seem to get the upper hand and the two have to come together to finally overcome it/solve the problem/whatever. If you are focused purely on internal conflicts between the couple, whoever was the biggest butt is going to “see the light” and save the other character from their misery without their other half.

If you want to write just for making money, don’t turn your nose up at romance novels. They are the easiest to make money and live off of, and they do pay well in the long run if that’s what you are after. However, if this happens to be the genre that you just want to write it, stay away from the ones who are famous for publishing in romance because you aren’t likely to fit their patterns. Really work on fleshing out your characters, and if you play with what the audience wants from the tropes and give them a good story besides, you’ll appeal to both the long-standing members and those like me who just browse the section of the book store occasionally.

Recommended romance novels (because I actually read these things): The Goddess Rising series by PC Cast, The Accidental Werewolf by Dakota Cassidy


Review: Age of Adaline

I remember being intrigued by the trailers for this movie but never getting around to seeing it theaters. Well, I’ve rectified that, and what do you know, a romance movie that doesn’t make me want to drill my brain out!

Due to an accident when she was twenty-nine years old (the first time), Adaline has stopped aging. Her daughter now has to pass as her grandmother. Her only friend who she has been able to keep through identities is only possible because she is blind. Adaline lives in fear of being discovered, but is she truly living? She starts to question that when she meets Ellis, who reminds her of what she once had. But there are complications with being immortal, and sometimes they come to catch up with you in the most unlikely of places.

The genre for this one is a little weird to nail down. Normally when you are dealing with immortals, some level of fantasy is involved. But this time, there’s an annoying little voice over guy who goes, “Noooo, there’s science involved!” Not real science, my sort of soft science that sounds technical and doesn’t rip me out of my movie experience by making me go, “Really?” and is from far enough in the future they may manage to avoid getting called out on it…maybe. (After self-tying shoes and hover boards happened on time, I can’t exactly argue against it.) So it’s sort of straddling the line between urban fantasy and soft sci fi with a heavy reliance on the butterfly effect.

This movie is a loving ode to San Francisco. The setting just breathes life and is almost a character in and of itself. They really took the time to find all these little historical nuggets of information and to portray them in such a way that we the audience could see why they were so loved by Ellis and Adaline. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but I love a movie that acknowledges the past and the touches it leaves behind for all of us to discover. Plus they wove it into to Adaline’s history, and her own personal struggles, that you just felt like this movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else and been the same.

The characters are quirky and I love them. Adaline never stops learning, and she is so much fun to watch her use that knowledge to beat the ever loving tar out of the boys. I love how she holds on to her routes back in time but isn’t living in the dark ages of technology either. (I made a comment to Ginny about pluses of being a vampire, you hold on to your stuff until it becomes vintage and in and then you just have to refurbish/adjust it.) And Ellis doesn’t try to change her, he doesn’t want her to be anything less than who she is. And he can stand on his own too, as proven by his date choice, and he’s just as stubborn as she is which is probably a good thing. Even William hit you close to home because he was trying to grapple with this thing he thought he had dealt with and now it’s coming back at the absolute worst possible time.

I am a known hater of most modern romance movies, but this one is a smart one. There is definite humor, but it’s smart humor, not people being gross or overly sexual or idiotic. It’s little things like Adaline making the joke that she was reading Norwegian in Braille just to screw with Ellis, or really the entire Trivial Pursuit game, that was priceless. And what this allowed you to do was really focus on the emotionally moving parts of the movie. About Adaline still trying to mother her daughter, only to get the tables flipped. About the past, and how there are several great loves in a person’s life. Just…ugh. I could gush forever about this story. Is some of it really annoyingly vague, like what Flemming is supposedly doing in her life or has done in her life, and who the men who came for Adaline at one point were working for? Yeah, but at the same time, it kept its focus on what it wanted. On conquering fears and remembering the past without being afraid of it, to truly live.

As someone who has held on to parts of her past and struggled with healing, this movie really spoke to me on a personal level. I’m not surprised how hard it was for Adaline to stop running because I’ve been there myself. And she got a happy ending, which puts this movie about a couple of others I can think about that do similar things but go all tragic at the end. If you haven’t seen Age of Adaline and you like some smart, gentle romance, I highly recommend it.


Book Top Recs and Why

Due to me being a pudge this weekend while getting over bronchitis (again), I have a list for this week’s post, one I’ve been wanting to post for a while. My bio has some of my favorite writers listed, but that doesn’t really explain some of my favorite books. I cheat and do a few series, just because sometimes it’s hard to break a single away from the whole (those who remember my Top 10 Favorite Movies will remember this trait of mine). Otherwise, well, welcome to my influences. Not calling this a top 10 list because…well, I had to narrow myself down, and I wasn’t paying attention to count.

Goddess of the Rose by P. C. Cast
As much as I love to flambe The House of Night series (and ohhhh, do I love to use that as bonfire starting fuel), Goddess of the Rose will always hold a special place for me. Not only was it my first adult romance novel, but it combined so many of my own personal quirks that it still has a pride-of-place position on my bookshelf. If you’ve read too much of Cast’s work, the magic system is going to seem painfully familiar, and there are obvious romance tropes that are just going to have to be suffered through, but it still remains a personal favorite for the characters and plot.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I use a specific book, because I am surprisingly apathetic about a large chunk of the rest of the series at this point in my life, but Half-Blood Prince for some reason hits this perfect balance of the personal problems that are always on Harry’s mind at the same time as trying to save the world from an evil wizard. It helps that Voldemort finally gets some much needed back story and character fleshing out that he becomes a real villain to my mind. The characters are also at a more relate-able age, rather than being pre-teens or very young teens. It isn’t an easy book to just jump into the series with, but if you’ve been in it for the long-haul, it hits you right in all the emotional weak spots.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The first classic to find its way on my list, yes, you are going to have to wade through literature language to get through it. (Give these poor folks a break, they were paid by the word.) But Mary’s and Colin’s character growth will make it totally worth it, as you watch these two children find family in each other and grow beyond what is expected of them. The ending is a tear-jerker, and just brings it all together. At times the spoiled behavior in the beginning and the cold attitudes of the adults can be really wearing, but the moments of goodness makes up for it in my mind.

The Dragon Chronicles by Susan Fletcher
So far a quartet (though I suspect this is a come-back-to-when-I-have-ideas series for Fletcher), there’s a lot to like about this series in my opinion and a lot to be irked about it. It’s sort of a pick-and-chose thing. I wish the romances were better written, since sometimes those plots feel forced. It does this weird jump from medieval, high fantasy to urban fantasy from book three to book four, which takes some twisting of the brain. But at the same time, it’s dragons. I’m easily pleased by dragons.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain
See my review for a more thorough review, but yes, this makes high on my rec list. Just so many moments I love in this book, and the character growth is awesome.

The Unicorn Chronicles: The Last Hunt by Bruce Coville
This series was the one that got me into fantasy and my big unicorn kick. The relationship between Cara and Lightfoot in Song of the Wanderer just struck me for some reason, and The Last Hunt is the conclusion I’ve been waiting for half my life for (literally in two senses: it took him a while to finish, and omg, my eleven year old fanfic idea actually came true, I died when I found out, just died). I feel like there’s a lot more to this world that could be fleshed out, but at the same time it gives a sense of completion to things that I don’t want him to mess with. (Okay, I want Lightfoot/Cara fluff. But I’m a sap, this is a given.)

Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce
Female power figures are sort of my jam, and Kel is a perfect fit. The first girl to publicly go for her knighthood after the king passed the law allowing it, she faces bullying and sexism while she goes through the physically and mentally exhaustive process of being a noble warrior. She faces the trials of war, and proves her character when everyone sane would have turned back. But don’t let that fool you, there are moments of pure  humor in these books, particularly Squire, that always make me giggle.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Classic number two, and if you are surprised to see it here…do you read this blog? Because I think my horse-obsession is pretty clear, and it actually used to be worse before I was a teenager (if you can imagine that). I’ve read multiple versions of this story, seen multiple films, and all of them have at least a touch of the charm that makes the whole thing so enjoyable. There’s some preachy moments and getting used to the narrator being a horse, but I think it is an excellent story with heart.

Rangers Apprentice by John Fletcher
Speaking of heart, ugh, this series. This is the series that I actually ordered a dinky little book from New Zealand for an outrageous amount of money because I couldn’t wait for the American print of the next one in the series. I read the stories in chronological order, so short stories before the last book, and that made the knife to the heart that much harder. I was crying, I was throwing things, Ginny can testify that I did not handle this well…because that’s how hard Fletcher makes you feel. I haven’t read any of his other works (I’m still nursing my broken heart, okay?), but I highly recommend this one, obviously.

White Fang by Jack London
The last technical classic, I don’t know why this book jives with me as much as it does. I’m not a dog person, I’m not a wilderness person…I’m a snow person, but only if I don’t have to drive in it. Maybe it’s because it’s the exact opposite of Black Beauty, and makes no apologies that it’s central protagonist is an animal who doesn’t understand humanity. Maybe it’s watching White Fang grow, and change, and adapt. I don’t know, but I recommend reading it.

The Immortals by Tamora Pierce
…She’s my favorite writer, she’s going to be on this list twice. Deal with it. 😛 Daine was actually the first of her characters that I read, and hooked me on the whole world. It combines this whole magic-and-animals-and-character-growth theme I’ve been having on this list. Emperor Mage has my big moment of heartbreak, Realm of the Gods has my moment of squee, but without Wild Magic and Wolf Speaker, we never would have gotten there, and it’s so important to see the growth and change that happens. Also, Daine is sassy and Numair gives as good as he gets, it’s hysterical.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
I loved the movie, I’m gonna love the book. I have the special edition with the short story that serves as a sort of epilogue, which I think helps with my satisfaction level. Everything I love about the movie is still true about this book, though I feel like the plot is a little heavy with the additions that text allowed him (such as all the business with Lir and the prophecy and whatnot). The extra fleshing out is great if you are already familiar with the story, but might be a little hard on those coming in blind.

Brightly Burning by Mercedes Lackey
Another first for me as far as this being the book that introduced me to Valdemar (boy, that was a mistake), I picked it up on clearance and never looked back. Lan really just resonated with me at the time. I hadn’t dealt with the bullying history I had in an emotionally healthy way, and Lan went through such a similar experience that it almost made me cry right from the beginning. Then just when things start to get better…war came, and ruined everything. Just all the feels. All of them. I wouldn’t call the ending happy…but it is satisfying even in the tragedy, which is all I can ask of it.


Review: The Green Rider

…ACK! I saved this as a half-finished draft and forgot to finish it and post it and… I had a major brain fart, sorry! But you know what, I actually really liked this book. It has it’s flaws, but it’s a great stand alone book. (My thoughts on the series as a whole at the end, though.)

The Green Rider by Kristen Britain is the story of Karigan G’ladheon, a young girl determined to run from what feels like her latest mistake that isn’t actually her fault. Her plans are foiled, however, when a messenger, in his last dying breath, charges her with finishing his duty–delivering his messenger’s bag and the letter inside it to the king. But mysterious forces are right on this rider’s tail, and a coup is in process for the young king’s throne. Kari has a much bigger part to play, as she finally finds her place in the world…now if only she wouldn’t stay so stickin’ blind to it!

Like I said, I really liked this book. The characters were vibrant, and well-fleshed out. In particular, I loved the female ex-Weapon-turned-mercenary, who remained loyal to the prince she was assigned to guard until he finally broke that loyalty. And then Kari herself, who was headstrong and stubborn, but still showed her vulnerability and age at times. Her relationship with her father was refreshing, and I love how her intelligence and ruthlessness is reserved for when it is needed most. There wasn’t a romantic role so much as a slight hinting at what was to come in later books…but more on that later. It was nice for the book to focus on friendships, family, and duty rather than romance, though, since it isn’t seen often enough with female protagonists.

Male characters didn’t get left out of the character love fest either. I think our two royals, both King Zachary and his brother Prince Amilton, were written well, and while there were elements of both that felt contrived, we don’t see enough of them for it to be a concern to me. Zachary’s are easy explained because a) we don’t see him for long enough, and b) a lot of that is when he has his “public” face on. I know Amilton in particular is going to seem really tropey, but he was the secondary antagonist, and I was always more concerned about Shawdell, who was less reliant on tropes. (Revealing too much about Shawdell is spoilers, sorry!) These were the forces who controlled either the protagonist or antagonist forces, and there were plentiful other characters.

…Maybe too many characters. I think there could have been some pruning, just for the sake of pacing, which is the only real flaw. The plot was there, Kari was getting into plenty of trouble, getting out of it, only to land in more, all of it staying relevant to the main plot. During her peaceful breaks, we got to see inside some of the more deplorable minds of the antagonists, to see some of what was going on that she couldn’t see (yet) that still raised the stakes for Kari. But there is a lot of story here, and I feel like some of it could have been cut or merged with other scenes to get the word count down and help the pace so the reader didn’t feel slogged down.

I had some moments of confusion about where magic existed in this world and how commonly was it known about. It seems like magic was mostly forgotten, except for strange enthusiasts, the Rider Corps’s broaches and those who know about them, and the elves (she calls them something else…they’re elves). This is acceptable, I just wish there had been clearer reasons for why this had happened when obviously this hadn’t always been the case. Was it because the old war had done something to drain magic or lessen it’s impact? I’ve read so much fanfiction at this point, I can’t remember if it was ever stated in the book or not, but I can say that it wasn’t in the beginning when I could have really used that explanation.

Overall, great stand-alone. The problems come in later books…

I got about halfway through the second book, maybe a bit farther, and had to stop. The pacing was killing me. At that point, the characters were literally just running around like chickens with their heads cut off and not making an inch of progress to resolve any of the problems, just wallowing in their misery. There was also some plot rails going on that I suspected were going to get worse. The magic of the rider’s broach, I will go ahead and say, will pretty much force the bearer to serve in the Rider Corps until they are released. This does not bode well for later. Also, random ghost? Since when are there ghosts?! Yeah, the magic part of world-building continued to have issues.

And the killer for me… Okay, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I’m a sap. I mean, I want my fluffy romances, and if there is angst, yay, but it has to resolve itself so my babies can be together! But there are some writers who love this tragic romance thing, which I respect, it’s just not my jam. And in the second book, there are moments of fluffy cuteness between Kari and Zachary that makes me squee and so excited for later books. STOP! MAYDAY! DO NOT CONTINUE MY FELLOW SAPS! Because I have done the wiki-diving and reading commentary of the fans. The rest of the series proceeds to nosedive in the romance department in the direction of the tragic. Unless I ever hear from the readers who are willing to push through the serious pain Britain is putting us through, that things do work out in the end for Kari and Zachary, this just isn’t a series I can force myself to read.

But I will totally read the first book again. So just ignore the rest, focus on the good. (And if you want fanfic recommendations, I have a list, so send me an e-mail!)


Review: Night Myst

…I really wanted to start the week with a good one for my birthday, but I’m going in the order of my migraine-reading. (Next week will be a good one though!). And Night Myst should have hit all the right buttons for me. There’s a lot of fantasy elements in it that also factor into my own series, Sun’s Guard, and that I just like seeing played with in new and interesting ways. And in that sense, this series didn’t disappoint. But for the rest… Well, let’s get into the meat of things.

Night Myst by Yasmine Galenorn follows the return of the Indigo Court into a world where vampires, were-creatures, fae, and magic users are in an uneasy truce… a truce the new Court is about to break. Enemies of the vampire’s Crimson Court (and for good reason), they aren’t afraid of ruining the lives of humans or fae to get their revenge. Enter Cicely Waters, a witch with a crappy past who is finally feeling the call to return home. But her childhood/teenage sweetheart, the fae prince Grieve, has changed because of the new Court returning in his woods, and it is going to get Cicely involved in games of politics that will threaten her physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Okay, let’s get the ugly out of the way. I had severe, and I do mean severe, issues with the Crimson Court’s dealings with Cicely in the book, in particular the ending-up required blood giving. It was rape. Pure and simple. And the way Galenorn handled the aftermath of it was just as atrocious as her writing it to begin with. I expected better, I really did. I’m pretty open minded and have the philosophy that as long as your lifestyle isn’t hurting me or embarrassing the crap out of me, do what you will. And as a writer, I’ve got more curiosity than my moral senses are sometimes comfortable with. But the way this writer portrays the BDSM community is just as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey, only without any stupid attempts at redeeming, it’s just evil. This is further enforced by the rape scene. And having sex with your lover immediately afterward is not an instant band-aided, especially with the screwy relationship Cicely and Grieve have. Nothing like what you expect when the protagonist is of an alternative life style herself.

There. That’s done. To turn this into a more positive note, I did think the way the vampire and the ousted-fae court tried to manipulate Cicely was perfect. So many times, vampires or fae are humanized, even if the book tells us that these races are manipulative bargainers, we don’t see it. This book showed it, over and over and over again. It was impossible for Cicely to stay ahead of them, and she didn’t really bargain well with them, usually getting scared to the point of being dumb. Or being dumb on behalf of Grieve (I’ll get to this). It eventually got overwhelming, and not in a good way. Scene questions, from a writing perspective (have I talked about this, I should check) should end in, “No,” or, “Yes, but,” until the very end of the book. If there had been a couple more, “Yes, but,” endings to scenes, it would have been perfect, with us seeing the manipulative factors to the races, but less dumb reactions on behalf of our protagonist.

Characters time…only, there isn’t much to say. There was a decent sized cast, but so much of the focus was on being afraid, both of outside and inside causes, and Cicely kept running off to be alone or with Grieve, we didn’t see much of our motley crew, outside of the cousin’s boyfriend possibly being a butt-munch, and the cousin herself being messed up via ignoring her powers (which is always bad). Mostly by ways that don’t balance with the impression we’re supposed to have of deceased/missing characters. (Lots of characters are mentioned, then are revealed to be dead, missing, or otherwise not involved, get used to this.) Similarly, the other courts are so cluttered, it’s a constantly rotating image that is difficult to keep up with. In the end, the only two who are really solid…ish…as characters are Cicely and Grieve. This works for romance novels, but if that is where the focus is supposed to be, the side cast needs pruned down.

Cicely and Grieve. Oh lord. Okay, let’s establish this: I am okay with the reincarnated lovers thing. Believe it or not, this is a trope I like. I’m also okay, if it is written well, with immortal men watching a girl grow up and falling in love with her as an adult. But that’s not what happens here. Grieve loves Cicely…even if it is how Cicely will be as an adult..when she’s a child. And really starts the manipulation early. This is a particular kind of child offender, so while other people are cooing over it, I can’t get over that bit of backstory. It’s a delicate balance to write, I know (this is spoken as someone who ships Thor’s daughter with Fandral in MCU, trust me, I KNOW), and this one just strays too far. Grieve as a character is so bipolar and confusing, all it does is feed my image of him as this creepy man who needs cut out of Cicely’s life immediately. Some of this is plot related, but it again, wasn’t handled well.

Cicely herself is very much a power-fantasy, wish-fulfillment character (which makes the rape scene even creepier, actually, in a way). Judging by author pictures, it might even be a case of author insert, though that could also be wrong. Regardless, I don’t have problems with these characters, as my hatred of the term Mary Sue can attest to, and outside of her plot, I like most of Cicely well enough. I have to say most. Her background got hella-complicated with the half-fae, reincarnated vampiric fae, thing she ended up having, which irked me to have dumped all in one book, and her love for Grieve made her dumb to the point of being a complete idiot who I couldn’t like for that reason alone, levels. But if those had been toned down, and the writer didn’t steal any agency her character had with her plot, this was very much a character I could have gotten behind. Seriously, if she had focused on the reincarnated thing for this book and left the half-fae part for the second book and just foreshadowed, I’d be okay (as long as it doesn’t go too far beyond this). Similarly, I know love makes you do crazy things, but Cicely was having all the markers of an abusive relationship, which is not cool. But if she gets slapped out of it later, this could work. So not a bad character overall.

Here’s the really good note: the world building was well done. Cramped, but well done. Seriously, when the only problem I have is everything is too conveniently located in the same town for no real reason, that’s a good sign. This writer has good ideas, has a good knowledge base, and builds accordingly. The antagonists aren’t just evil for no reason. Myst has valid reasons for what she is doing, completely valid, and they are explained well. When it comes to things like being too cramped, usually why things are happening in a particular place can be explained in a future book, if there just isn’t room without making things clunky, so it’s something I’m pretty quick to forgive. Now, did the ice spider things freak me the crap out? Yes, but I’ve got serious arachnophobia. I can’t even handle dead Aragog from Harry Potter. Again, free pass (except okay, I wish we’d seen earlier hints of spiders, but maybe I had blinders on and missed them. It happens).

Will I read more of this series? No. I can’t. The vampires left too big of a sour taste in my mouth, as did Grieve. Unless the very next book involves some character deaths of a very specific nature, this series is unsalvageable for me. I honestly can’t even recommend this series to others to read. But, and this is a big but, I am willing to give this writer another shot…with a different series.