Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow Camp NaNoWriMo begins! I plan on waking up early, getting a shower, and then sitting down to write (with coffee, of course). Here's how I plan to make April a success.


First off, I have my writing binder and notebook. They've got notes and glorious stuff in 'em, so I keep them secret and safe.

Just kidding. If you ever see me with them, I'll probably let you take a peek.

I also have my (or rather, my dad's) water bottle and box of pens, both to keep my fuel going. I have ever color pen imaginable, except yellow.

Next come my comfort stuff: candles and a sweatshirt. Although, I need these every month, not just in April. Candles help keep me focused because I hate it when rings form on the sides, so I have to sit still long enough to let the whole top layer melt.

Then I have homemade handle lotion and chapstick. I also have hand sanitizer, but that's not homemade.

Not to be forgotten,of course, I also have Mahershalalhashbaz, the laptop my sister and I share.

I wanted to name it Bob.

I was overruled.

By the way, Mary, the longest name in the Bible is Pelejoezelgibborabiadsarshalom. I think it's more of a title than a name though. According to Wikipedia, it's translated as "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace".
It's a very efficient language. You can write  a whole book on a napkin. -- Lord of the Beans, Veggie Tales
Anyway.

I might also reference Storyworld First and Go Teen Writers. Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill have tons of great advice.

And there you have it. If you're doing Camp NaNo this year, feel free to friend me! Good luck, everyone. :)

What are your writing essentials?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scarlet

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scarlet's grandma is the ultimate cool old lady, just sayin'.
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the best-selling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison — even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life.

When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
I'm so torn about this book. On one hand, so much was cliche. Thorne is your classic Han Solo type--apparently he's going to be Flynn in the Rapunzel retelling. Ugh. I like Flynn much more than Thorne. Also, half the diologue was forced, cheesy, and redundant. The other half was awesome though! There's some really good banter within the couples (Scarlet + Wolf and Cinder + Thorne, even though theirs isn't romantic).
Walt Disney Animation Studios animated GIF

Not much happens plot-wise, just a lot of traveling, because for some reason Cinder decides to go to France instead of Africa, where nice Dr. Erland is waiting. Okay, yeah, he likes to withhold secrets as long as he can, and sometimes he believes the ends justice the means. But at least he's not out to kill her, right? Unlike EVERYONE IN FRANCE except Scarlet. C'mon, Cinder.
Walt Disney Animation Studios animated GIF
She's supposed to stay hidden!
The "wolves" were so cool though! I read this book after reading The Queen's Army, which is free online, so I already knew Wolf's backstory. How did he manage to keep his...sweetness, despite everything he went through? That isn't really explored.

And Kai...oh Kai. He made an awful decision at the end which cannot possibly fix anything. He's only putting off a larger war, instead of a sooner, probably easier World War 5 that won't end in the imminent destruction of every country like what he's advancing toward now. Gah. :P He is in a hard place though, and when his POV started I was like, "No! My baby!" Poor Kai.
I really hope Kai doesn't have facial hair. That would destroy my image of him.
Despite my teetering, I'm still going to read the rest of the series, since Kai and Cinder are so awesome. And yes, I also just want to be in on the hype. And when Marissa Meyer isn't being cliche, I really love reading her books. Her writing is mostly to the point, and I appreciate that. It turns out that the last book probably won't actually be 800 pages, so...yeah. Thank goodness. No book needs to be that long.

By the way, I absolutely recommend the audio book version--I've always had good luck with narrators, and Rebecca Soler's voice was no exception.

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Grading:
Violence: B or C
Language: B

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ergo, I Quit

That moment when you quit on a book you've worked on for about a year.
Running Through the Stars

I'm referring to my Jane Eyre retelling. You know, the one I blog about all the time.

Some people call their books their babies. I love babies. I do not love my book.

The only reason why I began it at all is because I liked the idea and I knew it could sell. Retellings are "the thing" this year, just like dystopians were super popular before (and still are, of course, but now retellings are claiming the fame). A modern Jane Eyre retelling? A moral protagonist within a fresh setting? Yes please! It's a book I would read, so I made it a book I would write.

I do like my main character, Josie, a little bit. She's independent and proud, but in the end she learns to say she's sorry while not losing her confidence in herself, even if she reacted too strongly that one time. But I really don't care that much about her. If she went at my school, we probably wouldn't be besties. She'd be fun to hang out with, but not someone to really talk to.

I had a lot of fun transitioning the old English setting into a modern American one. Instead of being a governess for Mr. Rochester's child, Josie is a foster kid at the Fairfax-Rochesters'. So that was fun.

There's a thin line between simply not getting the fuzzy feelings for something and truly not caring. I don't get super emotional about many things (and when I do, I usually shouldn't), but that doesn't mean I don't care. I may not be as enthusiastic as my friends are about their plans, but that doesn't mean I don't support them. It can be hard to get me excited.

There's a thin line between the two, but I think I crossed into apathy toward Permanent Ink a long time ago, even though I like the title. I don't owe my book anything. I don't need to apologize for not writing. It's like apologizing on your blog when I haven't updated it in a while. You own your blog, you blog should not own you. Take a break if that's what you want! Your readers won't get angry, I swear. Although I do feel bad for wasting the time of my critique partners, but I guess I can remember what they pointed out and apply it to whatever I do next.

Because this doesn't mean I want out of the publishing industry--heck no! I have put too much interest in it to sever my ties. I'd love to be an editor at a publishing company. I'm good at noticing flaws, getting emotionally invested in other people's characters, and staring book covers (yep). And I'm not done writing either. I have a Swan Lake retelling I might like (I haven't touched it since I finished the rough draft last November, so I don't remember. I did at the time though). I have another idea dancing in my head.

Come to think of it, listening to Owl City's "This Isn't the End" while writing this post was prooooooobably not the greatest idea. I may get back to Permanent Ink some day (maybe tomorrow--my brain is fickle), but for now, I think I'll take a break. And that's okay.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Finding the Rebelution

Thanks to Go Teen Writers' Linky Party, I looked around at the different blogs who entered their favorite posts. One that stood out to me was Rcubed's post asking why the junior section at Kohls wants teens to dress as hippies. I'd found one of Rcubed's blogs before, but for some reason I didn't follow. Maybe I thought I was following plenty of blogs already? Ha! I'm following a ton now and I'm glad to add Random Rants to the list.

Anyway, I checked out her "Writing Creds" page and found out that she'd written posts for The Rebelution. I'd heard about it before, although at the time I had only gone to the front page and didn't take the time to read anything. I just got the gist of it and got out of there.

A website about teens doing big things? Yeah right. It was probably full of kids saying, "Look what i did!!!! i'm da bomb" for doing the smallest things. It's was probably very patronizing too--"Aw, look at all these teens, trying to rise above people's perceptions about them! How cute."

This time around though, I actually checked it out, because Rcubed mentioned that one of her posts was more controversial--and lets's face it, humans love controversy. It's called I Go to Public School, and I Like It. Check it out, since it's awesome.

After reading a post like that, I decided to look for more good ones. I soon discovered that the "good ones" encompassed basically their entire website. Have you ever wondered what's the difference between working hard and being obsessed? Does Jesus love you? And when should you stop helping a person? Also, one of my favorites: Forget everything you know about the teen brain.

So it turn out I'm not the only teen who actually wants to make her own decisions. It often feels like that though. After all, I'll be going to college in the fall, and I'm only fifteen. While this doesn't necessarily make me smarter than everyone else in my sophomore class, it does mean I'm not drinking the kool-aid. (By the way, I hardly know what the phrase means. I think it fits this situation, but don't take me totally seriously. And if you know why it's affiliated with Kool-Aid instead of lemonade, please let me know.) I'm moving out a kid-like atmosphere! I'm moving foooooorward and I'm scared and excited.

And yet, when I first found out about other teens who want to do "older" things, I made the same freakin' assumptions about them as people do to me. I'm a teen too! I am not in my thirties. People think I'm an idiot because I'm a teen, and I thought teens were idiots because they were teens. I excluded myself, of course. After all, surely I'm an exception to every rule.

Yeaaaah...no.

If someone didn't do the homework, I got annoyed. Like, toughen up. It's not that hard. But then when there was homework I struggled with or just plain didn't like (such as timelines in history--blah), surely the problem wasn't with me! The kind teacher just accidentally assigned something very stupid.

And that's probably not true. Definitely not true.

I have a lot of things to work on in the school area (how do people study, anyway? Figuring that out before college may be helpful. Simply remembering everything can only go so far.)

I clearly also need to look past first impressions and my own preconceptions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hitler's Daughter

Hitler's DaughterHitler's Daughter by Jackie French
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If someone wronged you, is it ever right to take it out on their family members?
Her name was Heidi, and she was Hitler's daughter. 

It began on a rainy morning in Australia, as part of a game played by Mark and his friends. It was a storytelling game, and the four friends took turns weaving tales about fairies and mermaids and horses. But Anna's story was different this time: it was not a fairy tale or an adventure story. The story was about a young girl who lived during World War II. Her name was Heidi, and she was Hitler's daughter.

As Anna's story unfolds, Mark is haunted by the image of Hitler's daughter. He wonders what he would have done in her place if he had known his father was an evil man leading the world into a war that was destroying millions of lives. And if Mark had known, would he have had the power and determination to stop him?
For being less than 150 pages, Hitler's Daughter packs a punch. Can you ever blame the family of someone who hurt you? Does it depend on what they did? How could their children have changed things?
captain america animated GIF
This is Heidi! Hitler keeps her out of the way, so she hardly knows what was going on. She just wants people to be safe.
There were some obvious plot holes that were never addressed, particularly about Hitler. What did he expect to do with Heidi when she grew up? Since her face had a huge birthmark and she walked with a limp, did he just expect her to hide out with Fraulein Gelber forever?

Not much happens plot-wise, but there's a sense of urgency that makes it hard to stop reading. Since Hitler's daughter was obviously a secret (or, ya know, fictional), what could happen to her at the end of the book? The answer turns out to be pretty anticlimactic. Spoiler: Heidi is Anna's grandmother. I got to admit, I was expecting some more...personal, like Heidi being Anna herself. She never mentioned her grandma until the very end.

Despite all that, it's a really good story. I was reading it during choir, and so was the guy next to me! I hope he gets it from the library to finish it.

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Grading:
Language: A
Violence: A. Heidi barely knows a holocaust is going on, so there aren't many details.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

DIY Recycled Candles!

A few days ago, my one-year-old brother broke one of my favorite Yankee candles. I wasn't really mad though, because it had gotten to the last inch or so and I never used it. Then I thought, "Why don't I melt it down and make a new candle?"

So I dug it out of the trash and stabbed the wax out of it using a knife (carefully, of course--there was broken glass). Then I dumped it into a mason jar.

Since one inch of broken wax wasn't going to make me a full candle, I looked around the house for more ideas. One of my favorites is "ring removal".


See how we hadn't burned the candle evenly? Wax rings formed and stuck to the sides. I pressed on some, used scissors on others, and added those to my jars. To get even more wax, I had to kill a few more candles that were too small for me to really use. I even went to the dollar store and bought a 3 oz candle for a dollar and some WAX MELTS??? for two.

Then I divided them up into two 8 oz. mason jars--one for "Christmas" smells, such as hot chocolate, vanilla, peppermint, and coconut. The other one had some lemon, lavender, and Sun and Sand from Yankee candle.
In the Pyrex is the Christmas wax, the mason jar has the summer scents, and I have a little extra wax melts in the plastic box.

Here are my other utensils:


Clean jars and lids, crayons for coloring the candles (I ended up using the purple and brown ones near the end), and these wicks from Joann Fabrics. Note: When I make candles again, I'll be using different wicks. These ones don't work well.


I didn't really plan to follow any candle making instructions, but I'm glad I at least looked around. Apparently wax can catch fire if it's too hot, so don't put it directly on the stove, and don't set it past medium heat.
I poured about two inches of water into a pot, and then stuck the Pyrex into that. I didn't have to call the fire department, so I guess I did something right.
Then I stirred it a lot. Don't ask me up what the purple stuff is on the burner--I have no idea. Here I'm melting the Christmas candle, so there's no purple wax involved.
After it was completely melted, I poured a tiny bit into the clean jar, which was waiting with the wick.


I taped two chopsticks around the wick to keep it steady, and then I poured in about half an inch of melted wax to hold the wick straight for when I poured in the rest of the wax.

Actually, I didn't figure that out until the second candle. For the Christmas one, I used too little wax, and that wasn't strong enough to keep the wick in place. Try to pour in enough wax so cover the whole bottom of the jar.
In the purple candle, you can see the first layer I poured. That worked much better than the dab I put into the brown one.

After it hardened, it imploded. My dad said the same happened when you pour plastic into a mold--since the outside hardens faster, is make a hole.

I had kept a little wax in reserve for when it would implode, but I didn't save nearly enough. Then I had to melt down more wax, which I colored with the purple crayon (or the brown one, for the winter candle).

Ta-da! Hot Coconut and Lavender.
Unfortunately, these are not the finished products.

When I lit the Hot Coconut one, the wax pool was tiny.

This is as big as it got, no matter how long I burned it. This may have been because the wick was for a candle with a slightly smaller circumference, or maybe because my wax came from lots of different companies. Anyway, I melted them down again and put them into medicine bottles with no-stick spray on them, so I could pull them out of the molds. Here is the real finished product:


Small Hot Coconut, large Hot Coconut, and small Lavender. The large Lavender broke, so I need to melt it down again.
And there you have it! They smell pretty good. I recently ordered more beeswax, some dyes, new wicks, and empty chapstick containers. Expect more posts on what I do with those. ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Seed

SeedSeed by Lisa Heathfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Until learning what S actually stood for in the cult leader's name, I though it could have been Satan. That guy was messed up.

Thank you, Netgalley and Running Press Kids, for this free book to review!
All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.

At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S’s companion. She feels excitement... and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community — particularly the teenage son, Ellis — only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. 

Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.
Other reviewers said Seed brought nothing new to the table of cult books, but as this is the first one I've read, I was thoroughly scared the whole time and thought the pacing was fine. Lisa Heathfield does not waste her words! Every scene had something big going on. I can't stop thinking about how Papa S said the honey was poisonous and only the heathens had the antidote, so the cult members weren't allowed to have any. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but it adds another layer to the deceit.
.
I love honey. I want to keep bees someday.
Pearl sure took a while to realize what was going on, but who wouldn't? If you discovered that everything you knew was a lie, wouldn't you cling to any shards of it that still seemed true and try to dismiss the doubts as everything falls away?

I absolutely cannot wait until the nest book comes out. Unfortunately, I have a wait a while for the sequel!

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Grading:
Violence: B or C
Sexual Content: B or C
Language: B?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Down From the Mountain

Down from the MountainDown from the Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is arguably the most terrifying book I have ever read.

Thank you, Netgalley and Albert Whitman and Company!
Eva just wants to be a good disciple of the Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she and her mother are among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekial, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder--a purpose she'll serve until she becomes one of Ezekial's wives. 
But a college student named Trevor and the other "heathens" she meets on her trips beyond the compound are different from what she's been led to believe. Now Eva doesn't know which is more dangerous--the outside world or Brother Ezekial's plans.
Elizabeth Fixmer obviously knows her stuff, since she's a therapist for ex cult members. She portrays Eva's thought process so well, I was basically terrified throughout the entire book. And while some people think the ending is tied up too nicely with a bow, I loved being able to breathe for a minute!

I love how every once in a while, Eva would realize something true about God, which is incredibly brave. Even after everything she'd been through, she was able to make a distinction between Ezekiel's God (who was basically a bigger version of himself) and a God who is more like Aslan.
film animated GIF
I don't quite know why I'm not giving this five stars, since I can't pinpoint anything wrong with it. Maybe the dialogue was a little stilted at times? I just didn't get that "oomph" moment to boost its rating, but I'd still recommend this book to anyone who wants a super fast paced novel that you cannot put down. I highly suggest only reading it in the daylight.

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Grading:
Violence: B or C
Language: I don't remember, but it was probably A.
Sexual content: B or C

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

If Only This Book Were Silent

SilenceSilence by Deborah Lytton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I gave up at 50%.

Thanks anyway, Netgalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing!
Love is blind, but it's also deaf. Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she's only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a "cool kid." But everything changes when a tragic accident renders her deaf. She can't hear herself sing not to mention speak. She can't hear anything. Silence. What happens when everything you've dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment?

Enter Hayden, the boy with blond curls who stutters. He's treated like an outcast because he's not "normal." And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she can't explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound, his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl who's deaf ever find a happily-ever-after? Silence is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes it takes a tragedy to help us find and appreciate beauty and love in unexpected places.
I tried, I really did. But I just can't handle it any more. Stella is so overdramatic; she's deaf, not mute! She can talk just fine, so why does she say that she can't sing? Going to Broadway sure wouldn't be easy, but since she gave up on her dream right away, I didn't get the impression that it actually meant that much to her. Just because she may not be able to make money off her singing, doesn't mean she no longer has vocal cords.

And then there's Hayden. Apparently, Stella can read his lips (and no one else's, not even her mom's or sister's) because he stutters, causing him to speak slowly.

Wouldn't stuttering make him harder to read though? It just didn't make sense, and because they had such normal conversations, I never got the impression that she was actually deaf.

Also, their "connection" when they first met was so strong I was seriously wondering if this was actually a paranormal novel.

Hayden is so...girly. Being sensitive doesn't equal acting like a girl! Also, since when do guys smell good? Grant it, I don't usually sniff people (she was able to smell him because Hayden LEANED ACROSS HER in the car, just so he could roll down her window. Back off, idiot), so maybe I wouldn't know. But he smells like coconuts, has a perfectly clean car, and analyzes texts the way a girl would. I'm not saying guys can't do these things, I'm just saying nothing about him felt realistic. Seriously: guys do not smell good.

Even though I couldn't stand this book, it did keep me hooked and I stuck out for half of it. Plus, I'm the first reviewer to say anything negative, so maybe you would like this book, even though I didn't.

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Grading:
Language: I think A
Sexual content: A