June 22, 2011

Everyone Loves a Critic

A good beta reader:

-can recognize incorrect grammar and punctuation
-can point out specific instances where language or diction changes
-lets you know if there’s anything lacking in the resolution of all subplots or if there are plotholes
-looks for a taut, climax and satisfying ending
-is able to point out specific instances where the emotional connection is lost.
-identifies specific scenes, paragraphs, or passages that don’t seem credible
-can point out anywhere the voice or POV has been lost or violated.

One of the features often under appreciated in a beta reader is a cynical point of view.  This critical and logical style happens to be my way of critiquing. I interpret most everything literally and am prone to searching for flaws rather than allowing myself to be drawn into the story fully.Mind you, I don't do it to be mean or harsh, but nothing draws me out of a story more than plotholes.

This literal video translation of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is the sort of thing I look for when reading a manuscript, and I’m sure my critique partners will appreciate that I would never have let them go through with a production of this sort.

(Even if you're not familiar with the song or artist, it's funny if for no other reason than it was made in the 80’s.) 

For some reason, I could not get this to directly link from Youtube. The original video can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj-x9ygQEGA

So what things draw you out of a story, or what things do you look for when giving a critique?

June 17, 2011

Cover Parodies

Hosted by Brenda Drake and Cassandra Marshall

This was so much fun I couldn't stop at just one cover. 





This one is a quick redesign for my unpublished novel. 
(The original can be viewed on the "Note to Self" page on the left sidebar.)


June 13, 2011


Vigna caracalla "Corkscrew Flower"

I have loved flowers almost as long as I’ve loved fairies. Sometime in the spring of 2004, I was looking through a flower catalogue for reference images for a fairy sketch, and found this flower.  I immediately knew I had to try growing one myself. Seven years later, and with over $200 wasted on various plant soils, seeds, seedlings, containers, plant food, fertilizers, etc. I have finally succeeded.

 Summer 2004- I ordered three plants. The plants that arrived were miserable and died shortly after. I called the company to put their 100% satisfaction guarantee to the test. They told me it was too late in the growing season for them to send me that plant again and I’d have to wait a whole year before they’d send me some new plants.

Spring 2005 (9 months later)- The new plants arrived. They died, again.

Summer 2005- I order some more plants through another company. These died too.

Winter 2005- I get married and move from California to Texas. I order a plant start from someone on Ebay. This dies a week after we move to Colorado in the summer of 2006. I’m blaming the altitude.

Summer 2006- Another Ebay plant. It dies indoors, over the winter.

Vigna caracalla "Snail Vine"
Spring 2007- By now I’m sick of buying plants that keep dying. I order a bunch of seeds through another catalogue so that I can be growing three at once. I buy a plant light and keep the seedlings protected over the winter.

Spring 2008- The plant  blooms and… It’s the snail flower, not the corkscrew flower. (They are different cultivars of the same plant species.) I complain to the seed company for misrepresenting their product.

I hope it gave you indigestion.

Spring 2008- I order seeds online from an Ebay seller for the correct flower. The plant  survives the winter, but not the freezing temperatures which continue through the spring.

Summer 2009-Another plant. The cat eats this one.

Spring 2010- I move with my husband to North Carolina. I start another seed.

Summer 2010- Another move, this time to Florida. My husband tells me, “Hey, at least your plant should do well.”

The vine looks very good through the fall, except it goes without water for two weeks over the winter holidays and looks pathetic when I get home.

Spring 2011- I move it outside because I feel guilty when I see it in the house.
It takes over the trellis and blooms the first week of June. I think this flower is just so gorgeous, and I'm sorry I can't share its fragrance. It's sweet, like honey suckle, lilies, and sweat pea.

I can't think of any other experience that has taught me patience more than this...

...except maybe querying my novel. (I don't have any children yet.)

And after seven years, I’m sitting at my computer, looking at the pictures and all I can think is, “Now what?”

Tacca chantrieri
Feel free to share your own stories of perseverance in the comments--whether it's writing a novel, graduating school, or growing a silly flower.

Or post the longest time you've waited in a line for a particular event. (EX: The premier of a new movie, a ride at a theme park, or waiting at the DMV.)

June 12, 2011

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne Review

 Goodreads: "I liked it"

Premise: Finley Jayne knows she's not 'normal'. Normal girls don't lose time, or have something inside them that makes them capable of remarkably violent things. Her behavior has already cost her one job, so when she's offered the lofty position of companion to Phoebe, a debutante recently engaged to Lord Vincent, she accepts, despite having no experience. Lord Vincent is a man of science with his automatons and inventions, but Finley is suspicious of his motives where Phoebe is concerned. She will do anything to protect her new friend, but what she discovers is even more monstrous than anything she could have imagined…—Amazon.com product description

Cover: Not a lot of effort went into this cover. An image of gears takes one repeat to fill the space. Where the two pictures are joined at the center, the image is smudged and shows all the signs of a lazy photoshop gaussian blur.

First Thoughts: It was free, and therefore I’m predisposed to like it. This was a very short read which I finished in an hour. I really enjoyed Lady Morton and Pheobe as characters. The story came around full circle and tied up all loose ends which is great for anyone who wants to dive right into The Girl in the Steel Corset. As for the whole story, aside from the obvious references to Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, I’m strongly reminded of Soulless by Gail Carriger.

Setting: The setting was very easy to picture although I did struggle with visualizing the characters. Plenty of mechanical creations tossed in, but I think the story could have existed even if they were removed, which means I’m inclined to label this gaslamp fantasy rather than traditional steampunk.

Characters: Characters who seem evil, are evil, but that is not something I will hold against a teaser book. I found Finley to be likeable and loved her internal dialogue with the darkness inside her.

Plot: The story is very predictable. Things become more interesting and the pace picks up with the introduction of Lord Vincent.

Romance: I expect The Girl in the Steel Corset will have more interactions between Finley and the (handsome duke?) character. Phoebe's boyfriend seemed extraneous.

Random Thoughts: The pacing reminds me more of an adult novel than YA.

The “normal girls don't lose time” pitch confused me since the only reference I could think that fits with the theme is that Finnley recovers from injuries at an abnormally fast rate.

In England, an eggplant is called an aubergine.

Final Comments: This is everything I could hope to expect from a free prequel, digital download. I am definitely interested in reading The Girl in the Steel Corset now, which in the grand scheme of things, is the only real thing that counts.

June 4, 2011

The Hidden Messages in Water

Dr. Masaru Emoto is the author of The Hidden Messages in Water which recounts a series of experiments he conducted regarding his claim that if human speech or thoughts are directed at water droplets before they are frozen, images of the resulting water crystals will be "beautiful" or "ugly" depending upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative. These experiments were conducted through prayer, music, or by attaching written words to a container of water, such as a water bottle.

For example:
Left: Water before prayer  Right: Water after prayer
Left: Biwako Lake (Polluted)  Right: Shimanto River (Clean)

Words typed: Left: "Adolph Hitler." Right: "You make me sick, I will kill you."
Words typed: Left: "Love and Appreciation."  Right: "Thank you."

The results of these experiments conclude that water stamped with positive energy is considered to be more symmetrical and therefore aesthetically pleasing.

Some may say that this could be the work of biased photographers or biased photo selection by Emoto. 

While going to college I completed a class centered on giving sales presentations and so I know the power of manipulating data and marketing.

The Journal of Scientific Exploration did several follow up case studies with varying results. These problems are attributed to the fact that any experiment involving intention, cannot have the results  cleanly isolated from the intentions of the invesigators and the participants. (Journal of Scientific Exploration. 4 22: 481–493. 2008.)

Regardless, I’m a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, and I think Emoto’s findings fit in well with the philosophies of Rhonda Byrne’s best-seller, The Secret.

Now, here’s something to think about… The average human body is 60% water.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? 

Pictures of water crystals sourced from: http://www.highexistence.com/water-experiment/

June 1, 2011

Coloring Contest Winners!

And the Winners are:

Rather than having Random.org pick a number between 1 and 2, I've decided to go ahead and give out two gift cards! Congratulations Jackie and Sarah Ahiers! I will do my best to contact you both and find your preference if you'd like your Egift card for Barnes&Noble or Amazon.