Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mistwood by Leah Cypess Review + Interview

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwod.

But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty--because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.

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If you guys follow me on twitter, you saw my immediate reaction after I finished reading Mistwood. It was something along the lines of...

"Just finished Mistwood by Leah Cypess--- WOW! This book was absolutely amazing! Just, wow. Wow again. And one more wow."

I did not see this book coming! There were so many twists and turns, and while I'm usually pretty good at predicting outcomes, I didn't guess anything right at all. The best part was, it was so well written and so well put together that despite all the shocking twists it was never hard to follow what was going on. It also wasn't what I was expecting. The cover art and the premise of shape shifters made me think it would be more paranormal fantasy with werewolves or something, but this was more like Graceling in all the right ways.

In fact, I liked it so much I decided to contact Leah and let her know, and she was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog!

ME: You started Mistwood seven years ago. At what point in the writing process did you decide to purse publication?

LEAH: That was my goal from the beginning. In fact, Mistwood was the fifth manuscript I submitted to publishers seeking publication.

ME: Mistwood has so many twists and turns! Did you plan them out ahead of time? Did anything in your story take you by surprise?

LEAH: I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I started the story without knowing anything about what would happen or how it would end. Some of the plot twists I discovered while I was writing them. Others I had an idea of ahead of time, but I wouldn't say I planned them... I just
kind of waited for the right time to spring them.

ME: What is the hardest part of writing for you? The easiest?

LEAH: The actual writing is both of those things, depending on the day. Some days the words fly from my pen and I barely feel like I'm making things up... it's almost like the story already exists and I'm just taking transcription. Other days, I can't figure out what comes next or who my characters are or why I ever thought I could be a writer in the first place.

ME: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

LEAH: Well, the first step is obviously to hone your writing. I wrote on my own for many years before I joined critique groups, and I think that was valuable, because it allowed me to find my own voice and build confidence in my writing before submitting it for criticism. Once you've reached that level, though, a critique group or critique partners is extremely helpful.

If you're ready to send your work to agents or editors, my main advice would be (1) to not give up and (2) to not pin your hopes too much on a single manuscript. Like I said, Mistwood was the fifth manuscript I submitted for publication, and I truly believe some of the earlier ones were also publishable (and maybe I'll manage to resurrect them someday), but they didn't hit the right editor at the right time. Having the best manuscript you can is important, but there is also a large element of chance involved. So while you're submitting that first manuscript, you should be working on the second -- and the second probably shouldn't be a sequel. It should be something you can send out fresh.

ME: What are you working on next?

LEAH: I'm currently revising a companion novel to Mistwood, which is scheduled for publication in 2011.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

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Thanks again to Leah for taking the time to answer my questions! And you guys all be sure to check out Mistwood-- it debuts TODAY!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Revision Diaries (8)

I caved. I'm taking a break from The Temper.

I'm a little bummed that it's going to take that much longer, but really, this is the best thing for me right now. I'll set it aside for a couple weeks and come back ready to work!

It was just getting too tedious. Editing the thing was like a chore, and not a fun-ish chore ike doing laundry but a chore that you dread like scrubbing the toilet and the shower. I really didn't like having negative feelings about my novel. And you know what? I'm already liking it better. I'm still thinking about it, but a break from the words is going to do wonders. When I read it with fresh eyes, I'll see the problems I couldn't see before.

I do worry a bit that I'll set it down and never come back to it, but I'm not too worried. The story still makes me happy, it just needs a little work, and I just need a little break before I can work it anymore.

I am debating on starting a new story or not. There's always THE INFECTED, my zombie novel. And then there's BLOOD TIES, the castles + magic novel which is already standing at a solid 60K. Not to mention the very long list of other ideas I have (currently brewing on an alien/sci-fi idea). Still undecided though, so we shall see.

How's your writing project going right now?
How do you decide what to work on next when you have many ideas?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Revision Diaries (7)

Lately, I've been working on a time line for The Temper.

This is it.
As you can see, it took some scribbles and revisions to get it all right.
The circled dates are important scenes.

The story starts on Friday, June 1st, which is the only date given, so I had to work out the rest on a calendar. A calendar I had to make up because June 1st is not a Friday until 2012 (which is funny, because if The Temper gets picked up, it could be published in 2012.)

Anyway, chapter one starts on Friday June 1st, chapter two takes place Mon the 4th, chapters three four and five take place on the 5th. Chapter six covers a couple of weeks, starting on the 6th and ending on the 18th. And I probably don't need to detail every chapter here (this is probably only interesting to me *grins*) but the last chapter takes place on Friday, July 20th. So the entire novel takes place over 7 weeks during June and July.

I had to figure out all the important scenes, and which days they fell on, and I had to make sure nothing happened in the wrong order, and that the pacing was all good. It was a fun activity, and it really helped me sort the time line out so I wouldn't make any continuity mistakes (like saying Connor's first day was a Monday, when in fact it was a Tuesday.)

It does make me wonder though: I know the dates, but if someone read my book, and really tried to figure it out, could they make up a calendar from the information provided? I mean, I give the day the story starts, and to pass time I say things like "the following Monday" and "the Tuesday of his third week at Hero Headquarters".

It also makes me wonder if I could figure out a time line for another novel. Maybe I'll try it sometime...

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind lately. And if this sounds like a diversion post because I don't want to talk about how revisions are *actually* going, well... you may be on to something. Ha. Okay, really, it's not that bad. I still think I'll finish revisions by the end of the month. If I really buckle down and work at it, I could finish them a lot sooner! But we shall see.

Have you made a time line for your current project?
(If not, I recommend trying it!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Revision Diaries (6)

Still plowing through revisions... just very, very slowly. Other story ideas are looking shinier than ever, and for some reason the idea of reading and revising some of my older projects is sounding pretty good. Which is strange, because they're in way worse shape than Temper. I think the main problem is that I'm starting to get sick of Temper. I've been thinking about the story and focusing on it for so long, the whole thing seems blah. Boring. Like it's all been done before.

A part of me knows it's not. But another part of me would be glad to never read or write another word about superheroes ever. A part of me thinks I should take a break. Set it aside. But then I get scared that I'll never pick it back up again. I'd rather work on it now, while it's still priority. If I let it go will I be able to rekindle the passion for it?

It's hard to say. I love my WiP Blood Ties, but I left it at 60K and haven't gone back. As of now, I don't have a real desire to. I mean, it's still in my mind that I'll go back to it someday, but when I think about setting Temper aside for something else, I don't even consider going back to Blood Ties. I consider starting a new project (I have a very long list of ideas) or maybe even going back to a old idea (like one I worked on before I became serious about writing) .

It's tempting... but I don't think I'll be swayed. I remember how it felt to finish the draft, and finishing revisions has got to be like a hundred times better, right? I've come so far, I can't quit now.

It's Kat vs. Temper, and I'm determined to win.

Do you take a break between draft and revision?
Have you ever set a novel aside and never gone back?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Revision Diaries (5)

I never give myself enough time. I like to set deadlines-- I will be done with the draft by this day, or I'll send it off to betas by that day-- but I never give myself the proper amount of time.

I had a secret goal that I would be querying by the middle of April.

(Pause for laughter)

Now I can see ridiculous that is. I'll be happy to finish revisions by that time. And then, after I get beta feedback, I'll have more revisions. Then, after the story and characters are solid, I'll go through another round or two of line edits and focus on the language and words and sentence structure.

So, yes. Lots of time before I'm ready to query.

Just today I realized I'll have to rewrite chapter two. Again.

I was never very happy with it. It did what I wanted it to. It moved the story from the new ending of chapter one to the beginning of chapter three. But it wasn't very good. Now, thanks to a great epiphany, I know exactly what to do to make it work.

That's the thing about revisions. You can't rush it. Sometimes you just need time to pass-- days, weeks, months-- for the solution to make itself known.

But the catch, of course, is that this epiphany involves deleting about half the chapter and writing a whole new scene from scratch.

Which is hard. I don't like deleting scenes and starting over. It's a lot of work. But the story will be so much better for it. And, as daunting as it seems, I feel like I owe it to my story and my characters. I have to do the best I can, not the best I care to do as long as it's easy.

At this point, I'm happy with most of my story. But there are bits and pieces I'm not pleased with, and I don't know how to fix those. Yet. I'll just keep working on it until I know. I get closer every day.

Do you set unrealistic deadlines for yourself?
How do you stay sane in the face of all this daunting hard work?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them.

But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter­actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unraveling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?

In her young-adult debut, New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn presents a distinctly twenty-first-century tale of myths and machines, and an alliance that crosses a seemingly unbridgeable divide.

* * * * * * * * * *

I love the premise of this book. I haven't seen a lot of YA fantasy involving dragons, so this instantly caught my eye. The story of the dragons is truly fascinating-- the atomic blasts from World War II brought the dragons out from their underground hiding spots and a war between people and dragon ensued. It ended with a treaty: the dragons were given land and both sides promised never to cross the border.

The world building was fantastic, and the dragons were really well drawn. Carrie Vaughn is already a NYT bestselling author though this is her first novel for young adults. I think she did a great job at capturing the YA spirit, but it did seem that a couple scenes (like the homecoming dance) were just there to make it feel more teen. It did provide a nice contrast though, as to how simple life was before the war. Once the battles between human and dragons started, I couldn't put the book down!

The tension over the war was gripping, and the way it escalated was very well done. Vaughn definitely has a way with words and her descriptions are beautiful. I really admired the way she handled something so large as a brewing war while all keeping it centered on Kay. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger though it still manages to wrap things up in a satisfactory way. Regardless, I can't wait for the sequel!

The book came out last month, so no waiting if you want to pick it up. If you're not yet convinced, the awesome people at Harper have the first 60+ pages on their website right here. So go check it out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April Goalsies

These recap and goal posts are coming later and later in the month. I'm such a slacker.

(Heh heh, I said 'goal posts'. Like soccer.)

Moving on...


1. Finish revising Temper and get to betas!
I'm about halfway through my first pass of revisions, so I want to finish up then send it off to betas to get some feedback!

2. Write three chapters on new project!
It's true. I've started a new project. I'm not doing word count for this one because I'd like to see if setting goals to get to a certain spot in the story works better than word count. Also, I'm writing this one out in a notebook. That's right, actual PEN and PAPER. How old school. I don't want to say too much about this story yet, but it's about FORBIDDEN LOVE and ZOMBIES. The current title is THE INFECTED and I already have a pretty awesome opening.

3. Continue to blog a lot and comment a lot!
The online blogging/writing community is totally awesome. I like being more active, even if it takes up a bunch of my time. It's a fun way to procrastinate! :)

4. Read books!
I'm not setting a number, but ideally I'll read about 6 so I don't fall too far behind. I think I'm going to read a book a day in whatever month I choose to query. Not only will it get me away from the internet and stop me from checking my email 800 times, but I'll get way ahead on the 100 books in 2010 challenge!

What do you hope to accomplish this month?

Friday, April 2, 2010

March Recap

Bye March!

So last month my goals were really straight forward.

1. Finish Temper

What happened: Win! I finished the draft and am about halfway through my first pass of revisions.

2. Blog

What happened: Win! I posted a lot! It was a great way to procrastinate!

3. Comment

What happened: Win! I commented a lot! It was also a great way to procrastinate!

4. Read

What happened: Winish! I read four books, which isn't great, but I was busy with writing and revisions. I'll make it up when I'm querying. I'm thinking about dedicating May (or whatever month I spend querying) to reading a book a day. Best Idea Ever?

* * * * * * * * * *

Books I read in March

1. Heist Society - Ally Carter
My first Ally Carter book! I really liked it. It was fun and interesting, with lots of cool scenes and a great cast of characters.

2. The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting
An awesome and creepy book. Find my full review here.

3. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
A re-read, of course. I watched the movie and felt the need to read the book again.

4. Voices of Dragons - Carrie Vaughn
A really cool YA debut from an established adult paranormal author. I'll have a full review up soon!